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The city of Fond du Lac,
illustrated by A. Ruger, Chicago Lithographing Co., 1867 (Library
of  Congress
  -  G4124.R7A3

1867 .R8 Rug 198)

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The Fountain City Park Polka,
composed by Ransom K. Dye
and published by C. W.
Hitchcock, 484 Main Street, in
1872 (Library of  Congress)

 

FOND DU LAC TOWNSHIP
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin

 

1860 Census, First Ward, City of Fond du Lac
1862 Town Plat Map*
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Civil War Veterans Credited to the Town and City of Fond du Lac
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Early Photographers in the City of Fond du Lac
History of the Fond du Lac Police Force


As the first settlement, first birth, first village, first death and many other first things in the county were in the town of Fond du Lac, its history will be found elaborately recorded elsewhere. It has, however, some interesting town history. It once, by act approved January 2, 1838, comprised the entire county of Fond du Lac. A year later, it contained all the territory in the county, except the towns of Calumet and Butte des Morts, the first election being held at the house of Edward Pier, and the second, in 1839, at the house of Mason C. Darling. In 1842, it was made one of three towns - Fond du Lac, Waupun and Calumet - in the county, but it now contains only the territory in Township 15 north, of Range 17 east. The City of Fond du Lac, however, does not belong to the town in any matter of local government, and Lake Winnebago cuts off a small portion of its territory on the north. The town territory, therefore, is a mere shell. In June, 1835, Nehemiah King, Deputy Surveyor, made the following report as to what now constitutes the town of Fond du Lac:

This is a fine township. The prairie and woodland are good and deserving the attention of the farmer. The merchant and mechanic will soon find it for their interest to invest capital here. Its location is such it cannot fail of becoming a place of considerable business. It commands a handsome view of the lake, and abounds in streams of water sufficiently large and rapid to drive mills. Along the shore there are evidences of Indian habitations. From the fertility of the soil and abundant supply of fish in the lake and streams, it is presumed this has been a favorite residence of theirs. In short, from the location of the Green Bay and Portage road, and the probable location of other important ones leading to and through it, its future prosperity is rendered almost certain. Along and near the margin of the lake, however, there is some marsh, but it is not without dry and solid ground for buildings.

On the 21st day of April, 1837, Colwert Pier and his brother, Edward Pier, turned the first furrow in the county, and town of Fond du Lac, breaking some sixteen acres, about one mile south of the spot where the court house now stands, probably in the northeast quarter of Section 22. Six days later, they sowed wheat, oats and peas. A log house was erected on Section 22, east of the river, and occupied by Edward Pier and his family July 4, 1837. This was the second house built in the county, and the first in the town outside the present city limits. When first occupied, the structure had neither doors nor windows. During the fall, the first winter wheat was sown in the county and town, by Colwert Pier. He brought five bushels on his horse from Green Bay. From this wheat he raised enough to furnish his neighbors seed for the next year. The yield was abundant. The first school in the county was taught by Harriet Harding, in Edward Piers residence. The first mill of any kind in the county was erected in the town of Fond du Lac.

On the 29th day of August, 1836, James Duane Doty, as trustee for the Fond du Lac Company, sold for $240 to John Drake, of Warren County, N. J., and Charles C. Pinckney Arndt, of Green Bay (afterward shot dead in the Legislature at Madison), the land and water privilege situated in the town of Fond du Lac, known afterward as the "Clark Mill," and described as the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 20 in that town. The contract had a proviso which required Drake & Arndt to finish the mill within a specified time, which they failed to do. On account of this failure and the strength of the proviso, after giving proper notice to Drake & Arndt, the Fond du Lac Company sold the mill site and water privilege, together with whatever improvements had been made thereon, to Mason C. Darling, on the 21st of May, 1838. He completed the mill and sold a one-half interest in it to Bannister & Clark (John Bannister and A. D. Clark), August 15, 1838, for $300. This mill, which has nearly or quite disappeared, cut the first lumber in Fond du Lac County, with a "sash saw."

The first house built by an actual settler in the county, was erected in the town of Fond Lac; the first burial was also in this town.

At a meeting of the West Fond du Lac Temperance Society, held at the house of Joseph Stowe, on the third Tuesday of January, 1848, it was

Resolved, That the prairie situated between the north and south (east and west branches) of Fond du Lac River, and between Deacon Humistons on the east and Quincy Hall's on the west, be named Temperance Prairie. That we will use all honorable means to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors, and the vomit of the inebriate from polluting its virgin soil.

A. C. Everest was President of the meeting which adopted this resolution, and E. Humiston, Secretary. Thereafter for many years, the locality was known as Temperance Prairie.

At the election held in May of that year, the town gave a majority of thirteen against granting licenses to sell intoxicating liquors.

The records of the town officers from 1838 to 1848, are not extant. The following are the Chairmen and Clerks from 1849 to 1879, inclusive: 1849, John C. Lewis and Frank McCarty; 1850, Edwin Flint and Hiram Walker; 1851, Isaac Brown and William C. Brown; 1852, Edward Pier and Eric Tallmadge; 1853, Edward Pier and Henry R. Colman; 1854, Sewell N. Hawes and George H. Clark; 1855, Seth A. Chase and George H. Clark; 1856, Seth A. Chase and Lewis M. Darling; 1857, Seth A. Chase and H. Spafford; 1858, Charles Brown and David Crofoot; 1859 and 1860, G. K. Stanchfield and D. Crofoot; 1861 and 1862, S. A. Chase and D. Crofoot; 1863 to 1870, both inclusive, G. K. Stanchfield and D. Crofoot; 1871, Dana C. Lamb and David Crofoot; 1872, Henry Van Allen and D. Crofoot; 1873, Dana C. Lamb and D. Crofoot; 1874 and 1875, Dana C. Lamb and S. B. Stanchfield; 1876, 1877 and 1878, Henry Van Allen and S. B. Stanchfield; 1879, L. B. Dunham and Henry Landreman.

Four lines of railway cross the town of Fond du Lac - the C. & N. W., Air Line, Sheboygan & Fond du Lac, and Narrow Gauge; but they maintain no stations within its limits outside of Fond du Lac City. Both branches of Fond du Lac River flow through its territory, furnishing limited water-powers on Sections 27, 22 and 16. Four toll roads are in this town, the Empire Gravel Road, extending southeast from the city to Empire, one extending on Main street south, one extending east through Taycheedah, and one southwest toward Waupun from the city. During 1879, a lively agitation was made against them; indignation meetings were held, and the question of surrendering their charter was submitted to vote in Fond du Lac City, that corporation holding a majority of their stock, but the move failed of accomplishing its purpose. The Poor House and Farm are on Section 21 in this town. There are several fine sand-pits, two good brick-clay beds, two hay marshes, two good stone-quarries and one small peat-bed in Fond du Lac Town, but no timber of any account.

Fond du Lac Fire Insurance Company. - This insurance company, composed of farmers in the towns of Fond du Lac, Empire and Friendship, was organized April 24, 1875, and issued its first policy May 20, 1875. with the following officers G. K. Stanchfield, President; J. L. Colman, Secretary; A. T. Germond, Treasurer. The Directors were, for town of Fond du Lac - G. K. Stanchfield, H. Van Allen and J. L. Colman; Empire - A. T. Germond, John Meiklejohn and Benjamin White; Friendship - Joseph Kinsman, Charles Carberry and F. Rondeau. The present officers are as follows President, John Meiklejohn; Secretary, John J. Brayton; Treasurer, William Adams. Directors, for Empire - John Meiklejohn, Richard Kaye and William Adams; Fond da Lac - R. C. Wilson, J. J. Brayton and H. Van Allen; Friendship - Robert Shiels, Horace Hodgkin and Joseph Kinsman. The last formal report of the Company was made in September, 1879, when the total amount of the policies in force was $466,l10. The losses from incendiary fires and by lightning have been heavier in this than in other similar companies in this county, but they have all been paid so promptly as to render the Company a favorite one. The three assessments made for losses aggregate $5,991.50 - not including expenses.

History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin,
Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880
**

Origins of the city of Fond du Lac
Mr. Royal Buck, editor in 1854, of the Fountain City Herald, says that he first visited Fond du Lac in 1845 when it was a mere 'neighborhood,' counting not more than 35 souls and having a taxable valuation of about $10,000. On a second visit, in 1847, he found a lively village of 400, with an active business and two newspapers. [Fountain City Herald, March 7, 1854] This accords with what is said in the Whig of April 8, 1847: 'Within three years has sprung up, as if by magic, our thriving village of 400 inhabitants where three years ago stood one solitary log house.' By the time of Buck's third visit, in 1849, the population had more than doubled. In 1850 it stood at 1,600 and had taxable property valued at $455,914.
     If we inquire why a city germinated at that precise location rather than at Taycheedah or some other point on Winnebago lake, the explanation is perhaps symbolized by the presence at Fond du Lac in early times of an Indian trading post which served not only the natives living around the south end of the lake and on Fond du Lac river, but also those on the upper waters of Rock river and to some extent the lower Rock river also. Judge Duty, having laid out a town plat at Fond du Lac, at once asked the territorial legislature to charter a company to build a canal connecting Fond du Lac river with Rock river.
     Here is the evidence of what far-sighted men were thinking. Upper Rock, with its numerous branches, rich prairies and openings, was destined to be tributary to the natural waterway, Lake Winnebago and lower Fox river.

Joseph Schafer, The Winnebago-Horicon Basin:
A Type Study in Western History
, Madison:
State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1937.


* 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)

**Like many similar publications of the period, Western's 1880 history relies heavily on interviews with early residents conducted many years later. Narratives were subject to selective, sometimes creative recollection, and the resulting work should be appreciated for the historical publication that it is but viewed with a critical eye as a history. We caution viewers to verify the data contained in these early stories.

Appreciation to Ron Friedel for transcribing the 1880 text.


Last updated 3/4/99

This site represents an ongoing effort to collect information related to the history of the town of Fond du Lac. If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at rmschust@facstaff.wisc.edu or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716 (608) 221-1421.