Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
Waupun from an illustration by
Beck and Pauli, 1885. (Library
This town, by the act of 1842, was made one of the towns which, for some time thereafter, constituted Fond du Lac county--Fond du Lac, Waupun, and Calumet--the first election being held at Seymour Wilcox's house, located within what is now the north Ward of Waupun city. But the organization of Alto, Metomen, Ripon, and other towns cut it down to its present limits--the land embraced in Township 14 north, of Range 15 east.
The good judgment of the pioneers who first settled in Waupun cannot be doubted, for it is now one of the wealthy and desirable towns of the county--healthful, productive and beautiful. Originally, the town contained some marsh with its rich, warm prairies, fine oak openings and splendid belts of timber. The three all-desirable attributes for a successful farming community, of wood, water and soil, were admirably distributed in Waupun. The two branches of Rock River unite in this town, after one of them has crossed its entire eastern portion, forming very good water-powers--excellent, in fact, before the destruction of timber reduced the streams. Grain-raising, fruit-growing, dairying and stock-raising are all profitably carried on in Waupun.
The first settlement of the town was begun in what is now the city of Waupun, in which, also, were the first mills, hotel, post office, church, school and store, and the early history of the city will furnish the early history of the town.
The first settlement on Wedge's Prairie was April 23, 1845, by Benjamin Cheeney. That same season, J. C. Wedge and Warren Florida entered lands on the same beautiful prairie, which has since borne the former's name. Deacon James Judd settled with his family in the western portion of the town October 6, of the same year.
Early in 1845, Solomon White entered land and began farming operations on another prairie, which has ever since been called White's Prairie. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway crosses the town on the west, and was built as the Milwaukee & Horicon Railway in 1856. Its only station in the town is at Waupun City.
There is but one post office in Waupun, except Ladoga, which is on the line between Waupun and Springvale.
Growth of the City of
In these early days, the location of but a few families in one locality was necessary to form a nucleus for others, and, in this case, but few years had passed before a small store was opened, a mill erected, and it became evident that a village must eventually grow up. To facilitate that result, Mr. Ackerman, in 1846, laid out into village lots, platted and recorded as the village of Waupun, about ten acres of land on the southeast corner of Section 31, in the town of Waupun, Fond du Lac County, since known as the "upper town." The year following, Mr. Wilcox, whose farm lay about three-quarters of a mile to the eastward, unwilling to see the prospective village grow up without sharing in its benefits, proceeded, with others, to lay out and plat into village lots about fifty acres of land, lying across the county line, partly in Dodge and partly in Fond du Lac County, and called their village East Waupun. Then commenced a lively but friendly contest between the rival villages, to determine which should be the future city. This rivalry continued until the location of the Wisconsin State Prison, adjoining East Waupun, in 1851, and the completion, to this point, of the Milwaukee & Horicon, now the Northern Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, in the year 1856. These events practically settled the question, and the "upper town" reluctantly submitted to the inevitable, and, in 1857, the rival villages were united, under the name of the village of Waupun, by a special charter, granted by the Legislature, and approved March 6, 1857. By this act, the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 4, the north half of Section 5, and the northeast quarter of Section 6, taken from the town of Chester, in Dodge county, and the east half of the southeast quarter of of Section 31, the south half of Section 32, and the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 33, taken from the town of Waupun in Fond du Lac County, was incorporated. The village lying thus in two counties, special provisions were required and granted in the charter, among which, jurisdiction in both Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties was conferred upon Justices of the Peace, and the Village Marshall was given authority to serve process in both counties.
The growth of the place had been so rapid, that at the first charter election in April, 1857, three hundred and twenty-three votes were cast, indicating a population of over sixteen hundred.
In 1858, and again in 1865, the charter was amended to provide more fully for laying out and opening new streets. In 1871, the original charter, with its amendments, was revised and consolidated by an act of the Legislature, approved March 21, 1871.
The steady growth of the place was such, that in 1878 it was considered advisable to incorporate as a city, with a charter entirely re-written, adapted to the peculiar geographical situation of the place. A city charter was accordingly granted March 5, 1878, including within the city limits additional territory, the residents of which, having observed the economy and good judgment displayed in the management of the affairs of the village, desired the advantages to be derived from a city rather than a town government. This additional territory was taken partly from each county. The southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 4, and the north half of the south half of Section 5, a total of 200 acres taken from the town of Chester, and the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 23, from the town of Waupun.
The growth of Waupun has been steady and constant from the beginning. Very few commercial failures have intervened, to retard its general prosperity. Its business men have, as a rule, been honorable and enterprising tradesmen. Its professional men and other citizens have generally been public spirited and liberal in everything tending to build up the place. The tone of its society and government was originally imparted, and has since been maintained, by the sound judgment and strict integrity of its earlier citizens, many of whom still remain prominent and influential in social and business affairs, among whom W. H. Taylor, who came in 1846, Dr. H. L. Butterfield, Eli Hooker, Edwin Hillyer and B. B. Baldwin, in 1847, John Bryce, M. K. Dahl and R. L. Graham, in 1849, and M. J. Althouse, about 1853, have done much in giving direction to the management of affairs, and making the city what it now is, while many other useful and valuable citizens, who were among the first to come, having performed their full share of the builder's work, have crossed the river to their homes upon the other shore.
The prudent and conservative policy pursued by its earlier citizens has produced its natural result. No municipal debt has ever been created, and while Waupun possesses superior railroad facilities--both the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & North-Western Railways competing for its trade--and has a thoroughly equipped fire department, and all necessary buildings for a city of its size, it is entirely free from debt, and by the terms of its charter must ever remain so. Its numerous churches, schools, fine business establishments, elegant private residences, and valuable public library of about 3,000 volumes, together with its general healthfulness and the natural beauty of its situation, are constantly attracting new residents to aid in its further development. The name is itself suggestive. The Indian word "Waubun" signifying "early light," changed to Waupun is emblematically represented by a device on the seal of the city, showing the sun just rising over a low range of hills, which may well be taken to represent the well-known "ledge" which lies just a few miles to the eastward.
History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin,
* From W. T. Coneys, Map of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin,
Bogert & Haight: 1862 (Copied and Indexed by Sally Powers Albertz, Wisconsin State
Historical Society library Pam 93-3904 Mss Sect)
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