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Appleton’s Founding

These web pages were prepared by the staff of the Appleton Public Library, based on a pamphlet created by Library staff in 1991 entitled “A History of the Founding of Appleton.”

No attempt was made to furnish a comprehensive history of the City of Appleton. Instead, this work was meant to provide a summary of the best currently available information, and to highlight the resources maintained at the Library.

Founding and Early History

The earliest known residents of Wisconsin were the Menominee Indians, who settled along the western shore of Green Bay. According to their ancient lore, the Menominee descended from a great bear and other spiritual beings at the mouth of the Menominee River, and took their name from the wild rice that served as a main part of their diet (Menominee means “wild rice eater”). Archeological evidence suggests that the Menominee are actually part of the Algonquin speaking Indians of what is now northern New York, and that they had been chased into Wisconsin by the Iroquois hundreds of years before Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere.

The closest Indian settlement to what is now Appleton is believed to have been a village of the Winnebago Tribe, located on Doty Island, between Menasha and Neenah. Some historians say that the Winnebago are part of the Sioux nation, from the eastern part of the United States (where Virginia and the Carolinas are today), but the evidence remains inconclusive. Nearby were the Fox, or Outagamie Indians, possibly from Lower Michigan. Like the Menominee and Winnebago, they may have been driven from their original homelands by the Iroquois.

Despite the wide extremes of weather, northeastern Wisconsin was an inviting place, covered by thick forests, fertile soil, lakes and streams for fresh water, rivers for easy travel, and abundant wildlife for food. The Indians had no way of knowing that, by the early 1600s, their land had been claimed for the French king and that it was considered, with Canada, to be a part of New France.

The first European to see Wisconsin was Jean Nicolet, a prominent French explorer who had passed many years living among the Indians of Quebec, learning the language and gaining their trust. In 1634, Samuel de Champlain, the Governor of New France, sent Nicolet west on a journey to explore the great interior, and to accomplish two important tasks. The first task was to stop the warfare between the Ottawa and Winnebago tribes, which was hurting the valuable fur trade between the French and the Indians. The second task for Nicolet was to find a water route through the North American continent to the Orient.

According to the records of the Catholic Jesuit missionaries, Nicolet and his seven companions traveled from Quebec via Lake Huron, through the straits of Mackinac into Lake Michigan. Stopping at the shores of what is now Green Bay, Nicolet expected to encounter Chinese or other Orientals, and donned a Chinese damask robe to greet them. But instead of Orientals in elaborate costumes, Nicolet and his crew were met by a small group of Menominee Indians. Believing that Nicolet was a son of the gods, the Menominee celebrated with a great feast in his honor. They told him about their own lands, and of a great body of water that lay farther to the west. Hoping that this was the long-sought water route to China, Nicolet and his party, accompanied by a few Indian guides, headed up the Fox River. Sometime during the spring or summer, they became the first Europeans to pass through what is now the city of Appleton. The expedition proceeded the source of the Fox River, crossed overland to the Wisconsin River, and continued their journey. Within only three days of reaching the Mississippi River — that great body of water the Menominee had told him about — Nicolet decided to turn back in order to report his findings to Champlain.

Nicolet never did find a water route to the Orient, but he was able to conclude a peace treaty with the Menominee, promising friendship and cooperation. Following Nicolet’s trip, a few fur traders ventured into the area, but their presence had little lasting impact on the Indians. The important visitors were the missionaries who believed it was their moral duty to bring Christianity to the Wisconsin natives. Primarily through the efforts of Father Claude Jean Allouez the Menominee were converted to Catholicism by the late 1600’s.

In the years that followed, the French were frequently engaged in warfare with the various Indian tribes of Wisconsin. In 1717, the Fox Indians began to demand payment from any white men passing through the area. In retaliation, the French gathered an expedition of 800 men, consisting of French soldiers and Indian allies. This huge force surrounded two Fox settlements near present-day Menasha and received a quick surrender. To keep a military presence available, the French then established the first permanent fort at La Baye Verte, the French name for Green Bay.

Sporadic fighting between the French and Indians continued throughout the early 1700s. One report is that sometime around 1730, the French carried out an elaborate ambush of the Indians, hiding soldiers in trading boats and opening fire upon Indian villagers near Butte des Morts. The accuracy of this story remains uncertain, but after continued harassment by the French, by the middle of the 1700s, most of the Fox Indians had fled south to Illinois. Within a few years, peace treaties were signed and the Indians became the allies of the French against a common enemy, the British. Between 1754 and 1763, Great Britain and France fought what became known in America as the French and Indian War. Unfortunately for the Indians of Wisconsin, the French lost that war, and were forced to turn all of New France over to the British.

Only twenty years later, the Indians again found themselves on the losing side when they supported the British in the American War for Independence. According to the Treaty of Paris, which ended that war in 1783, the British were to turn over all their forts south of the Great Lakes to the new United States government. Instead of doing that, however, the British remained in America, using their forts to help the Indians in fighting the American settlers who were moving into the area. The U.S. protested, but the new government was too weak to force the British to comply with the terms of the treaty. Under the Jay Treaty of 1794, the British once again promised to leave their forts along the Great Lakes, but once again they broke their promise and remained.

Partly due to the prompting of the British, many Indians resisted the white settlers who were crossing the Appalachian mountain range and moving into the vast area then known as the Northwest Territory. In the early 1800s, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh tried to unite America’s Indian tribes against these intruders. Along with his brother, Tenskwatawa (known as “The Prophet”), Tecumseh led an Indian revival throughout much of North America. The Winnebago Indians joined in Tecumseh’s movement, but the Menominee did not. In 1811, Winnebago Indian braves participated when Tenskwatawa led an attack on settlers in the Indiana Territory. In the famous Battle of Tippecanoe, the settlers, led by Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison, crushed the Indian revolt. Harrison became so famous and popular from this battle that Tippecanoe became his nickname. When Harrison ran for President in 1840 along with running-mate John Tyler, their winning campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”

When war broke out between the United States and Great Britain in 1812, the Indians of Wisconsin supported the British. Once again, they backed the wrong side. Though the war had no real winner or loser, under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, the British finally abandoned their American outposts and left the Indians under the authority of the United States government.

The last Indian battle in Wisconsin came in 1832. After the Fox and Sauk attempted to prevent a village in Illinois from being taken by white settlers, the Indians were pursued north into Wisconsin. The few skirmishes there became known as the Black Hawk War. That war also ended with the defeat of the Indians, and is famous today primarily because Abraham Lincoln served as a young volunteer soldier, although he later said that the only fighting he did was with the mosquitos.

Early European Settlement

The first European to settle in Wisconsin was Augustin de Langlade, heir to a family of French nobility. De Langlade had been part of the military campaigns against the Indians of the Fox River Valley in the 1720s. Impressed by the physical beauty and the opportunities of the New World, de Langlade remained at the French outpost at Mackinaw (in what is now Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) and became involved with the thriving fur trade. In 1728, deLanglade married Domitelle, the sister of Chief La Fourche, the leader of the Ottawa Indians. Their son, Charles, was born at Mackinaw in 1729. As fur traders, father and son traveled frequently on the Fox River, often passing through what is now Appleton.

During the French and Indian War, Charles de Langlade, like his father before him, served as an officer of the French army. Following the British victory in that war, Charles transferred his loyalty to the winners and served the British as the superintendent of the Indians and leader of the militia in Green Bay. When the American Revolution began, Charles was commissioned as a captain in the British army. His brave service in that conflict was rewarded by the government of Great Britain with an annual pension that continued even after the Americans took control of the region. In 1754, Charles de Langlade married Charlotte Bourasse, the daughter of a retired French explorer.

According to some reports, Augustin de Langlade and his wife and son were living in Green Bay as early as 1745. Those reports cannot be confirmed, but it is known that by 1764, Augustin, Charles, and their wives had established a permanent home and farm in Green Bay. Many believe that a daughter was born there to Charles and Charlotte. Named Domitelle, she would have been the first person of European descent born in Wisconsin. In 1773, when she was only 13 years old, Domitelle married another fur trader, Pierre Grignon. Their seven sons and two daughters became the most important family in the Fox River Valley, and one of their sons became the first person to live where Appleton is today.

Throughout this time, the fur trade was the dominant activity of the region. Muskrat, fox, otter, and mink were some of the animals trapped for their fur, but the really prized pelt was that of the beaver.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, a felt hat made from the fur of a beaver was the epitome of male fashion. Only men of great wealth and station could afford the hats, which were so valuable that they were often passed down in wills. It was the popularity of the beaver hat more than anything else that brought Europeans to Wisconsin and the Fox River Valley. The beaver trade was so important that the pelts became a primary unit of exchange. In the late 1600s, one beaver pelt could be traded for one pound of tobacco, or four pounds of shot, or one kettle. Twelve beaver pelts were worth a rifle.

The first person of European descent to live in the Fox River Valley was Dominique Ducharme, a French Canadian fur trader. In 1790, Ducharme built a wooden house and trading post on the north bank of the Fox River, where the city of Kaukauna stands today. Three years passed, however, before Ducharme purchased the land from the Menominee Chief, Tobac Noir. In a written agreement that became Wisconsin’s first deed, Ducharme paid two barrels of rum for a tract of several hundred acres. This land was later purchased by Augustin Grignon, one of the sons of Domitelle and Pierre Grignon, and a grandson of Charles de Langlade. Augustin enlarged the original Ducharme house, and went on to build Wisconsin’s first gristmill and first sawmill. In the late 1830s, Augustin’s son, Charles, constructed the Grignon Mansion, an elaborate three-story frame house. Among the features in the house is a long stair railing made of cherry wood, which was shipped from New York City and brought up the Fox River in canoes. The Grignon Mansion still stands today, as an historic site open to the public.

While one branch of the Grignon family settled in Kaukauna, another branch continued working along the Fox River as fur traders. Hippolyte “Paul” Grignon, Augustin’s brother, knew the river well from serving as an agent for the American Fur Company of Milwaukee. All who worked the river were familiar with the series of rushing falls known as the Grand Chute. A common landing spot for river travelers was a small piece of flat land just slightly upstream of the falls, on the river’s north bank. It was here, beneath the towering bluffs, that Paul Grignon chose for the site of his home and business. Just to the west of what is now Appleton’s Lutz Park, Paul, in 1835, built a trading post which he named White Heron. He then brought his family from Green Bay: his wife, Lisette, and their two young children, Minor and Simon. Years later, Simon would recall making that trip, walking with the family’s possessions through grass taller than his head. When settled in their new home, the Grignon family became the first people of European descent to live in what is now the city of Appleton.

The “Lost Dauphin”

It was at this point that the history of Appleton became interwoven with the life of Eleazar Williams, one of the colorful figures that appear throughout America’s early years. Williams was a soldier, a spy, an explorer, a linguist, an Indian leader, a Christian, and one of many who claimed to be the Lost Dauphin — the rightful heir to the throne of France. William’s dream of founding a great Indian empire in the western territory led directly — and accidentally — to the creation of Appleton.

Eleazar Williams’ ancestors have been traced back to the Deerfield Massacre of 1704. In that year, a party of Mohawk Indians and French soldiers raided the small town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and captured more than 100 people, including the minister, John Williams, his wife, and seven children. Over the following two years, most of those captured were returned, but Eunice Williams (who was seven years old when taken), continued to live with her Indian captors. When grown, Eunice married an Indian chief who took the name Williams as his own. Eleazar Williams was their great-grandson.

No one knows for sure when Eleazar Williams was born. He claimed to have no knowledge of his own life before the age of twelve or thirteen. Other sources quote him as saying that he was born in Canada about 1789. It is known, however, that in 1800 Williams was taken to live with relatives in Massachusetts, and that he attended Dartmouth College. By his own account, he served in the War of 1812 as a scout and spy for American forces on the northern border of New York. After the war, he became an Episcopal missionary and was sent to the Oneida Tribe of upper New York State. He proved to be successful there, converting many of the Oneida to the Episcopal faith. He also translated the prayer book and hymns into the Iroquois language and revised and simplified Mohawk spelling.

With the continued growth of the country, land agents were eager to gain control of the valuable New York Indian reservations. Thomas Ogden, a key man in a powerful New York land corporation, approached Williams with the idea of persuading the Algonquin speaking tribes — the Stockbridge, the Munsee, and the Oneida — to move west, enabling Ogden’s company to exploit the Indian’s New York land. Williams liked the idea; he envisioned himself as the leader of a vast Indian empire in the unsettled wilderness. He hoped that the U.S. government would support his scheme as a way of dealing with “the Indian problem,” as it was called in those days. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun had no intention of allowing Williams to set up any kind of empire in America’s western lands, but Calhoun was happy to encourage Williams in any plan that would remove the Indians from New York. In 1820, Calhoun sent a commissioner to investigate sites in the Fox River Valley, which was then part of the Michigan Territory.

Also in 1820, with funds supplied by the Ogden Land Company, Williams led a group of Oneida Indians west to see about buying some land. In August of the following year, Williams met with the Winnebago and Menominee chiefs of the Fox River area. The chiefs have been described in some accounts as being rather reluctant to part with any of their land, but, with the support of Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass, Williams persuaded the chiefs to sign a treaty surrendering some of their property. Under the terms of that treaty, Williams and the New York tribes were granted a four mile-wide strip across the Fox River, just south of Green Bay, with Little Chute in the center. In exchange, the Menominee and Winnebago were paid with goods valued at $3,950.

Back in New York, many of the Oneida opposed the move to Wisconsin and asked the Episcopal Church to remove Williams as their religious leader. However, with the Church and the War Department backing Williams, the Oneida had little say in the matter. With no other choice, the first groups of Oneida and Stockbridge Indians began their long journey to Wisconsin. In 1822, they established a settlement at Duck Creek, about eight miles northwest of Green Bay. In the following years, more New York Indians joined the first group, and the settlement grew. With the influx of these new arrivals, many Menominee and Winnebago came to regret having sold their land.

Ignoring the concerns of the Indians, the U.S. government pressed on, seeking even more land concessions from the Menominee and Winnebago Tribes. At a meeting at Little Lake Buttes des Morts in August, 1827, Governor Cass negotiated a treaty that transferred almost the entire Fox River Valley from the Winnebago, the Menominee, and the former New York Indians, to the U.S. government. This treaty upset many of the Indians involved, and led to the brief “Winnebago War” of 1827, which consisted of a few isolated raids on white settlers. Governor Cass acted quickly, sending Colonel Henry Dodge and the militia to crush the revolt. Once again the Indians were defeated.

In the mean time, things were not going well for Eleazar Williams. Still seeing himself as the leader of the New York tribes, Williams had made his home in Green Bay. He opened a school for the children of Indians and white settlers, but the school was a failure. In 1823, he married a former student, Madeleine Jourdain, a descendant of both French trappers and Menominee Indians. From her Menominee relatives, Madeleine inherited a large tract of land on the Fox River, near De Pere. It was there that Madeleine and Eleazar built a home and raised their three children.

Despite his new family responsibilities, Williams traveled extensively throughout the midwest, trying to persuade new tribes to join his planned empire. In 1830 he visited Washington, D.C., looking for government support. Instead of support, however, his plans were thoroughly rejected by the government. His dreams of an empire in ruins, Williams returned to Wisconsin to find himself unwanted there as well. In 1824, the Episcopal Church had replaced Williams as the missionary of Green Bay, and by the early 1830s most of the Indian groups, tired of his lies and schemes, refused to have any contact with him. Short on funds, and with few prospects, Williams left his family in Wisconsin and returned to New York.

In 1844, while looking for financial help, Williams contacted Amos Lawrence, an early leader in the New England textile trade and a wealthy Boston philanthropist. Amos Lawrence was willing to work out a loan agreement with Williams, but poor health forced him to turn the arrangements over to his son, Amos A. Lawrence. Mortgaging over 5,000 acres of his wife’s property along the Fox River, Williams made two separate loans, one for $1,697.80, the other for $1,800. Unfortunately for Williams, his financial condition did not improve, and he was unable to buy back his wife’s property. Years later he would claim that the younger Mr. Lawrence swindled him out of the land.

After that, Williams continued to drift from one scheme to another. No one is quite sure when he first claimed to be the Lost Dauphin of France, but an editor in Boston heard the story from Williams as early as 1839. Ever since the revolution that overthrew the French monarchy in 1789, rumors had circulated that the Dauphin, or young prince, had escaped from the revolutionary guards. Historians today believe that the Dauphin died in jail shortly after his parents, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, were beheaded. At the time, however, many chose to believe that the Dauphin had been smuggled out of France and taken to America. Williams was aware of his physical resemblance to the French royal family, the Bourbons, and that may explain his decision to claim that he was the Lost Dauphin. Apparently, few people at the time took him seriously.

In 1841, Williams saw a chance to bolster his claim to royal birth. In that year, Prince de Joinville was making a tour of the United States. Prince de Joinville was the younger son of Louis Phillip, the reigning King of France. Keeping his plans a secret, Williams arranged to meet the Prince while he was passing through the Great Lakes, and then to accompany him to Green Bay. Later, Williams would claim that the Prince had come to Green Bay specifically to see him. Further, Williams said that the Prince had offered him a vast estate if only Williams would renounce his claim to the throne. The Prince denied this story as soon as he heard of it, saying that his only interest in Williams was as an Indian missionary. Still, the story did not die. In July, 1849, The United States Magazine and Democratic Review carried an anonymous article stating that Williams truly was the Lost Dauphin. Only after his death was it learned that Williams apparently wrote the article himself. A few years later, in the February 1853 issue of Putnam’s Magazine, J.H. Hanson, an Episcopal minister, published an article entitled “Have We A Bourbon Among Us?” That article also supported Williams’ claims. Serious historians immediately refuted Hanson’s speculations, but many others believed him and, for a while, Williams was something of a minor celebrity.

Despite that brief flurry of attention, Williams remained unsettled until 1850, when he accepted a position to preach to the St. Regis Indians of Hogansberg, New York. There he remained, living in quiet obscurity until his death in 1858. He was originally buried in New York, but in 1947 his remains were moved to the Holy Apostle Cemetery at Oneida, on land he had once hoped would be part of his great Indian empire. Williams’ widow, Madeleine, continued to live in her house on the Fox River until her death in 1886. The papers of the Williams family are currently maintained at the Neville Museum in Green Bay.

The Final Treaties

Not content with the land already acquired from the Indians, the U.S. government continued to press for additional land grants. Under the terms of a treaty signed in 1831, the Indians who had moved from New York to the Fox River Valley were given about 500,000 acres. A few years later, the government decided that the 1831 treaty gave the Indians too much land. A new treaty in 1838 took most of that land away from them and returned it to the government. The Oneida and their fellow tribes were then limited to 100 acres per person, which gave them about 65,000 acres in all. Today that plot is the site of the Oneida Indian Reservation, at the intersection of Outagamie and Brown Counties.

An even more extensive treaty had been negotiated in 1836. In that year, at a place called The Cedars, near present-day Little Chute, Wisconsin Territorial Governor Henry Dodge met with Indian representatives led by Menominee Chief Oshkosh. Their six days of negotiating ended on September third with the signing of the Treaty of the Cedars. That treaty transferred about four million acres of northeastern Wisconsin to the U.S. government at a price of $692,110, or about 17 cents an acre. After the treaty was officially proclaimed on February 15, 1837, the Menominee were moved out of their traditional homeland to a place west of the Wolf River.

The last tribe to surrender its land was the Winnebago. Under the terms of a treaty dated November 1, 1837, the Winnebago were to move to a reservation in Northeast Iowa. The tribe, however, declared the treaty a fraud and refused to leave. U.S. government troops were called out to force the Winnebago off the land. The issue was finally resolved when the Winnebago were compelled to go along with a treaty dated October 13, 1846, in which they ceded “all claim to the land” and those Indians who refused to abide by the terms of the treaty were forcibly moved to Minnesota. With most of the land under government ownership and control by the late 1830s, settlers and land speculators began to move in. It was the start of a new era for the Fox River Valley.

Amos A. Lawrence & Reeder Smith

When Amos A. Lawrence took over the loan agreement between his father and Eleazar Williams, he had no way of knowing that the result would one day be the city of Appleton. Like his father, Amos A. Lawrence was a wealthy Boston merchant, engaged in the manufacture and sale of textiles and knit goods. The younger Lawrence, born on July 31, 1814, was a staunch abolitionist who worked tirelessly to end slavery in the United States. He is credited with the success of the Emigrant Aid Society, which helped anti-slavery forces move into Kansas and make it a free (anti-slave) state. In addition, the Kansas State University system began with a school financed by him in Lawrence’ Kansas. Mr. Lawrence and his wife, the former Sarah Appleton, had seven children.

Amos A. Lawrence had made the mortgage agreement with Eleazar Williams solely as a business arrangement. The land served simply as collateral for the loan, to be held only until Williams could repay the money that he borrowed. But, when it became clear that Williams could not repay the loan, Mr. Lawrence suddenly found himself with over 5,000 acres in the wilderness of the Wisconsin Territory — land he never wanted. Looking for a way to increase the value of his holdings, Mr. Lawrence wrote to his Green Bay agent, a Mr. Eastman, that he wanted to “establish an institution of higher learning or college on the Williams land.” Mr. Lawrence was hoping that a college would attract other settlers, enabling him to sell the land at a good profit. Mr. Lawrence wrote to Eastman that he preferred a school organized by the Episcopal Church, “but that is out of the question, as our form of worship is only adopted slowly and will never be popular in this country.” Instead, Mr. Lawrence thought that the Methodist Church would make a good sponsor, for he had a “high opinion of the adoption of principles of the Methodism to the people of the West.”

At about this time, as if sent by fate, Mr. Lawrence was visited by the Reverend Reeder Smith, a Methodist minister, who was to have a lasting impact on the city of Appleton. Reeder Smith was born on January 11, 1804, in Pittston, Pennsylvania, the son of the Reverend Newton Smith, who was originally from Connecticut. Little is known of Reeder Smith’s first years, other than his early association with the Methodist Church. In 1840, as an ordained minister, Smith moved to Michigan where he served as a circuit preacher for 15 years. On July 6, 1846, he married Eliza Pierce Kimball of Rockport, Massachusetts. Eventually they had five children, two boys and three girls.

By 1845, Smith had accepted a job with the Wesleyan Seminary of Albion, Michigan. As the seminary was facing financial problems common to most new schools in the west, Smith was sent to Boston in search of wealthy donors. Like Eleazar Williams before him, Smith sought out the well-known philanthropist Amos A. Lawrence. Mr. Lawrence, however, was not interested in a Michigan seminary. Instead, he told Smith about his idea of establishing a college on his property in Wisconsin, and made Smith a proposition. If the Methodist Church would raise $10,000 for a college to be built on his land in Wisconsin, Mr. Lawrence would provide an additional $10,000 of his own. That was good enough for Smith. He resigned his position with the Wesleyan Seminary and headed for Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, Methodist Church leaders were delighted to hear of Mr. Lawrence’s offer, and immediately pledged the necessary amount. A committee was then appointed, consisting of Smith, George H. Day, and Henry R. Coleman, to prepare a charter for the new school. Following a request by Mr. Lawrence, the charter granted religious freedom to the school’s officers, professors, and students, and forbade the indoctrination of any religious sect. Mr. Lawrence was less pleased with a provision that the school should teach both men and women, a rather radical idea at the time. Nonetheless, Mr. Lawrence reluctantly agreed to that provision, making his school the second co-educational college in the United States (after Oberlin College in Ohio). On January 17, 1847, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature granted a charter to the school, which was named the Lawrence Institute.

Another committee, consisting of Smith, Coleman, and the Reverend William H. Sampson, began to search for a site for the new school. One of the committee’s first decisions was against the land that Mr. Lawrence had acquired from Eleazar Williams. Smith wrote to Mr. Lawrence, telling him that the property was not appropriate for the institute. One reason Smith gave was that river access would be too difficult, but the more important reason was that the school would be too near the French and Indian settlements in the area. The property is “too far from the land upon which Yankees settle,” Smith wrote. He and the committee preferred a site farther from what they saw as the improper influences of Green Bay.

Back in Boston, Mr. Lawrence was not happy with the reports he was getting, After all, the original agreement with Smith called for a construction of a college on the Williams property. That was a main reason for funding the school in the first place, to increase the value of that property. Nevertheless, Mr. Lawrence was patient, and waited for further word from Smith on the committee’s selection of a new location. Looking for a site on the Fox River, Smith’s committee located what they felt was the ideal spot at Grand Chute, less than a mile downstream of Paul Grignon’s home and trading post, White Heron. In a letter to Mr. Lawrence, Smith called the site “one of the most romantic and enchanting spots I ever saw.” Smith was impressed by the land’s unspoiled beauty, the ease of transportation, the fertility of the soil, and the potential for water power from the rushing rapids. Apparently Smith’s enthusiasm was persuasive, for Mr. Lawrence agreed to the Grand Chute site and reaffirmed his financial support.

Land Sales

By this time, with the Indian tribes either forced out or restricted to reservations, the U.S. government began surveying Northeastern Wisconsin. The area that became the city of Appleton was surveyed and sold at two different times. The first survey, in 1834, covered the land south of the Fox River. The greatest portion of that land was purchased in 1835 by Walter L. Newberry, a prominent Chicago real estate investor, Two smaller portions were bought that same year by Joshua Hathaway, Jr., a land speculator from Milwaukee.

The land to the north of the Fox River was surveyed in 1843-44, and about 900 acres were sold over the next two years. It was at this time that Paul Grignon finally purchased the property where he and his family had lived for the previous decade. Paying the standard government price of $1.25 an acre, Grignon purchased 10.66 acres. In 1843, another settler, Jean Bapiste Benoit, had built a home on a small piece of land just down the river from Grignon, near what is today the north end of the Appleton Memorial Bridge. Benoit also purchased his land from the government in 1845, but he then sold it one month later to Paul Grignon’s brother, Augustin, and to Daniel Whitney, a Green Bay businessman. Augustin Grignon and Daniel Whitney were speculators, who bought the land for later resale in hopes of making a profit. With the exception of Paul Grignon and Jean Benoit, all of the first landowners in the Grand Chute area were speculators; none of them ever lived in Appleton.

The site that Reeder Smith’s committee had chosen for the Lawrence Institute was in two properties, each owned by Wisconsin speculators. John F. Meade of Green Bay owned nearly a quarter section of this land, centered in what is today the main business district of downtown Appleton. Meade’s brother-in- law, George W. Lawe of Kaukauna, owned the adjacent land to the east, extending to the river. Several other speculators also bought riverfront property, including Amos A. Lawrence. In a letter dated August 9, 1847, Mr. Lawrence instructed Reeder Smith to hurry to “the Grand Chute” and purchase “as much land in that vicinity as shall be necessary,” both for the school and for investment purposes, before the price of the land increased.

Like Amos A. Lawrence, John Meade and George Lawe knew that having the Lawrence Institute nearby would make their land more valuable. With that in mind, each man offered to donate 31 acres to the school. Lawe’s gift was a strip of land next to Meade’s property, running north from the river. On a current map of Appleton, that strip would lie between Drew and Union Streets, and just a little past North Street. This land would eventually become the center of the Lawrence University campus, and is now the site of the Main Hall and the Memorial Chapel, as well as Appleton’s City Park. Meade’s gift of 31 acres was included in a deed by which Mr. Lawrence purchased the remainder of Meade’s property. That deed provided an additional 149.18 acres, at a price of $4.00 an acre. In September, 1847, still working as an agent for Mr. Lawrence, Reeder Smith contacted Daniel Whitney and purchased nine more acres of riverfront property adjoining the Meade land on the west. As an example of how land prices were rising, a plot that sold for under $200 in 1846 cost Mr. Lawrence almost $600 just one year later.

The First Residents

Despite all the financial dealings and property exchanges, the land itself remained essentially unchanged throughout these years. Until the mid-1840s, Paul Grignon’s White Heron was the only building for miles around. Everything was forest then, thick with oaks and maples and elms, looking much as it had for thousands of years. Small ravines cries-crossed the area, some with tiny, trickling streams, others overgrown with brush. The river was still clean and fresh, and the power of the rapids — the grand chute — still unharnessed. It was a new land, open and empty, But it wasn’t to remain that way for long. The Wisconsin Territory was organized by Congress in 1836, and settlers soon began pouring in.

The first farmer to settle in what is now the city of Appleton was Bela Murch. Originally from Essex County, New York, Murch had traveled throughout the Midwest for many years, working as a teacher and carpenter. He spent some time in Cleveland, Ohio, where he met and married Sarah Boynton. Two days after their marriage in June, 1846, Bela and Sarah set off for the Wisconsin Territory with dreams of starting their own farm. Less than a month later, they had selected a plot of land near what is now Prospect Avenue on the Western edge of Appleton. The couple registered their claim at the land office in Green Bay and then passed the summer in Wrightstown as they prepared for their move in the fall.

On November 6, 1846, hauling a small load of boards, some bedding, and one week’s worth of provisions, Bela Murch set out for his new home. Three days later, Sarah followed with a wagonload of household supplies. The trip was a difficult one, for the trail was narrow and rough. At one point, the wagon got stuck in a ravine and Sarah had to walk ahead to get her husband’s help. That night, Bela and Sarah slept in a lean-to, open on one side. They maintained a fire all night, both for warmth and protection from the wolves that still roamed the area. That weekend, with the help of a neighbor from Winnebago County, they constructed a small shanty. “At sundown,” Sarah recalled many years later, “the roof was on, the floor down, a pig pen built, and a stove up, so we got tea by it.” It was “Saturday night and we were in our own house, on our own land, and though we had neither chair, table, nor bedstead, we were comfortable and happy.”

The rest of their possessions arrived from Wrightstown two days later, and by eight o’clock that Monday evening, Bela and Sarah Murch opened their home as a boarding house for travelers. In the first few weeks, they always had between one and five boarders, as well as additional customers who stopped for a meal or a night’s lodging. The most frequent request of the travelers was for directions to the road, directions they could not provide because there was none. The closest thing was an old Indian trail that ran along the river.

The Work Begins

With the site of the college chosen and the land dealings complete, the next task for Reeder Smith and the Methodist Church leaders was to raise the money necessary for the new school. Mr. Lawrence had placed his $10,000 donation in trust with the Church, but that money was only available if the Methodists could match it with $10,000 of their own. In May, 1847, a meeting was held at the tiny, ten-by-twelve foot Methodist parsonage in Oshkosh, and the congregation was asked for donations. Despite the hardships they faced in the Wisconsin wilderness, the people were generous. One who was there at the time recalled that his father gave $100, “which was a fifth of all his worldly possessions, and the rest did likewise.” Mason C. Darling, who was president of the Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Institute, mortgaged his property for $3,000. William Sampson felt compelled to sell his property in Fond du Lac. “I had to sell at a great sacrifice,” he wrote, “but risked all, reputation and property, on the success of Lawrence.”

Despite these generous gifts, the fund-raising did not go smoothly. At one point, church leaders were so far from their goal and so discouraged that they considered dropping the agreement with Mr. Lawrence. As an alternative, they discussed the possibility of accepting an offer by an anonymous “Mr. Jones” who promised 40 acres of land if the school were located in Neenah. But before that became necessary, Mr. Lawrence granted a time extension for matching his gift, which enabled the Methodists to raise the full amount. By July 18, 1848, one and a half years after the Lawrence Institute was chartered, $11,000 had been pledged (though only about half that sum was cash at hand). The next day a letter was sent to Mr. Lawrence informing him that work on the school was about to begin.

Two weeks later, Reeder Smith and William Sampson, accompanied by Joel S. Wright, a surveyor, and Henry Blood, a Methodist volunteer, moved to the the Lawrence Institute property. On August 4 and 5, 1848, they surveyed the land and began laying out plots. This was a necessary first step in the construction of the college, but it also served an important part in developing Mr. Lawrence’s investment in the adjacent property. On October 7 of that year, work began on clearing a square for the school building. This was block number three, bounded by College Avenue, Durkee, Lawrence, and Morrison Streets, and currently the site of the Appleton YMCA. Hearing that help was needed, workmen drifted into the area and, by the end of 1848, five shanties had been constructed.

One of those first shanties was owned by John F. Johnston, who had moved from Menasha with his wife, Janette, and their two children, William and Marion. The Johnstons were the first family to live in what would become the village of Appleton. They were also the first to start a business, the Lawrence Hotel, which served as a lodging house for the men working on the school. In a letter. William Sampson assured Mr. Lawrence that the Johnston establishment was run “strictly on temperance principles,” and that church services were held there every Sunday.

It was in the next year, 1849, that the community really started to grow. On January 6, William Sampson moved his family from Fond du Lac, and the Reeder Smith family arrived by the end of that month. By August, just one year after the initial surveying was done, thirty families were clustered around the rising school.

Because of the time taken in clearing the land and putting in roads, actual construction of the Lawrence Institute building did not begin until July 3, 1849, on the site of the present YMCA. By evening, the main timbers of the four-story building were in place, and a temporary floor was laid. The next day was given over to celebrating the Fourth of July, with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, patriotic speeches, a large dinner, and gunshots in the sky. The design for the first college building came from Boston, but the builders in Wisconsin considered the design “too plain” so they added four gables. According to one story, Mr. Lawrence was enraged when he received a picture and learned of the alterations. Although the $7,000 building was not completed until the following year, the first classes at Lawrence began on November 12, 1849, with 35 students. Classrooms, offices, living quarters for both students and teachers, as well as headquarters for the Methodist Church, were all contained in that one building. Also in 1849, the name of the school was changed from the Lawrence Institute to Lawrence University.

The cornerstone for the second Lawrence building was laid in 1853. Mr. Lawrence had written that he hoped this new structure would not be “unsightly or objectionable to refined taste.” Heeding that warning, school leaders were careful to design a graceful, dignified building. It was constructed with gray stones taken from the bed of the Fox River and, when completed, became a source of tremendous pride for all connected with the school, This building became the Lawrence Main Hall, and still stands today as a symbol both of Lawrence University and the City of Appleton.

Samuel Appleton

Until 1848, all of what is now Appleton was called Grand Chute, after the rushing falls of the Fox River. Reeder Smith was the first person to use the name Appleton to describe the community surrounding the Lawrence Institute. He chose the name to honor the wife of Mr. Lawrence. She was Sarah Elizabeth Appleton, the daughter of William Appleton, a wealthy Boston merchant and member of Congress. Appleton was an important name in Boston, belonging to many prominent figures. One of these was Samuel Appleton, a cousin of William, who came to believe that the tiny village in Wisconsin was named for him. Samuel Appleton was born in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1766. He had a hard, frontier childhood, and received only a few years of schooling before becoming a teacher himself. After trying farming in the new territory of Maine, he worked as a storekeeper and went into business with his brother, Nathan Appleton. Their Boston enterprise was a success, and Samuel traveled for many years between America and Europe on business. As their worth increased, the brothers invested in the new cotton industry, in real estate, and in railroads. Eventually, Samuel became one of the leading men of New England finance. He also played a small part in politics, serving in the Massachusetts state legislature from 1828 to 1831, and as a presidential elector for Daniel Webster in 1836.

When he was 53, Samuel Appleton married a widow, Mrs. Mary Gore. They had no children, but their niece, Frances, became prominent as the second wife of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was after her tragic death in a fire in 1861 that Longfellow wrote what many believe to be his greatest poem, “The Cross of Snow.”

At age 60, Samuel Appleton retired from business to devote his life to philanthropic activities. He gave his time and money to hospitals, colleges, museums, and historical societies. Among his many gifts is the Appleton Chapel at Harvard University, which is named for him. Upon his death on July 12, 1853, Samuel left a fortune of nearly one million dollars, which was divided among his family, friends, and favorite charities.

Always looking for a new source of funds, Reeder Smith was well aware of Samuel Appleton’s generosity. Contacting Mr. Lawrence, Smith suggested telling Samuel Appleton that the little community on the Fox River was named for him, rather than for Mr. Lawrence’s wife. By deceiving Mr. Appleton in this way, they hoped to get some money for the Lawrence Institute. In a letter to a friend dated October 1, 1849, Mr. Lawrence explained that “Mr. Smith has had a number of interviews with old Sam Appleton for whom the town was named. He is a very liberal and a very rich man and eighty-five years old. He is very interested in the town and I hope may do something for the Institute.”

Reeder Smith’s plan worked, and Samuel Appleton gave $10,000 to the school as an endowment for the library. As a gesture of appreciation, for many years all the books in the Lawrence library were marked with a bookplate taken from a portrait of Mr. Appleton. The original painting from which the bookplates were made now hangs in the Boston Atheneum.

Township of Grand Chute

As the little community of Appleton was growing around the Lawrence Institute, other villages were springing up in the same area. In 1849, George W. Lawe plotted a village on his property to the east of Appleton, which he named Lawesburg. Another group of investors, Morgan L. Martin, Theodore Conkey, and Abram B. Bowen, purchased the western part of Jean Benoit’s land, just east of where Pierce Park is today. This property was platted in 1849 with the name of the village given as Martin. The next year, when the official plat was recorded, the name of the village had been changed to Grand Chute. In this way, by 1850, three tiny villages — Grand Chute, Appleton, and Lawesburg — were all nestled in a row along the Fox River.

While those three villages were being established, the government for the area was exercised by the Township, which was also named Grand Chute. Townships then, as now, existed to provide services and collect taxes for areas that are not part of incorporated villages or cities. Because the villages of Grand Chute, Appleton, and Lawesburg were not yet incorporated, or officially recognized by the state of Wisconsin, the government for the people of those villages, as well as for the surrounding farmland, was provided by the Township of Grand Chute.

The first official meeting for the Township of Grand Chute was held in Appleton on April 3, 1849, in the home of W.S. Warner. The first order of business was the election of town officers. Henry L. Blood was chosen as town chairman and assessor, Ezra L. Thurber as town clerk, John Stevens as inspector of schools, and Hiram Polly as treasurer and tax collector. In addition, two supervisors were selected, along with three constables, and four justices of the peace. After the election of officers, a budget of $200 was adopted. To raise the money for the budget, a tax of $2.50 was imposed on each quarter section of deeded land. Any landowner unable or unwilling to pay the tax had the option of giving the township two days work instead.

Between the second and tenth of September 1850, the United States government took the first census of the Town of Grand Chute. The census showed 619 people living in the township, within 120 families. There were 113 houses, including some lodging houses and small hotels. The population was young, with a median age of 21. One fourth of the citizens were children under the age of nine, only 55 were over the age of 40, and only 20 were 50 years old or above. This was a common pattern on the frontier. Older people were left behind in the East as the young sought their fortunes in the open, wild west. Another pattern was for families to move frequently. Of the 619 people listed in the 1850 census, only 102 were still there in 1860. Meanwhile, of course, thousands of others had arrived.

The census revealed that only 89 of the township’s 619 residents had been born in Wisconsin, and that most of those were children. Of the 392 born elsewhere in the United States, most came from New York or the New England states. Another 49 came from Canada, primarily the province of Ontario. Of those from Europe, 35 came from England, 20 from Ireland, 9 from Scotland, 12 from Germany, 12 from Holland, and one from Norway.

The economic activity of the township can be determined from the occupations listed on that first census. Fifty men described themselves as farmers, 32 as carpenters, and many more as laborers. There were six shoemakers, four tailors, ten merchants, and seven who worked in lumbering. Of the professional occupations, there were several teachers connected with Lawrence University, five lawyers, three physicians, and four clergymen, all with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Many of the men at the time were occupied with the construction of a canal and four locks on the Fox River. Between 1850 and 1852, about $32,500 was spent on that project. Similar construction was underway down the river at Little Chute.

Outagamie County

The Township of Grand Chute was not the only government for the people of the Fox River Valley. As Lawrence University was rising from the wilderness, other changes were underway. On May 29, 1848, the Territory of Wisconsin was dissolved and Wisconsin officially joined the union as the thirtieth state. With statehood, the men of the Grand Chute area could elect representatives to the state legislature (women would not get the vote until the next century). In 1851, one of those legislators, State Senator Theodore Conkey, introduced a bill to divide Brown County in half, east to west. From the western part, Conkey proposed a new county to be called “Utaghamie.” This was a common practice at the time. As settlers moved into Wisconsin and created their own little communities, counties were being carved out across the state. Conkey’s bill passed through the legislature easily, although at one point the name of the county was changed from “Utaghamie” to “Fox.” Then, against Conkey’s wishes, the name was changed again to “Outagamie.” In that form, with the Town of Grand Chute listed as the county seat, the bill was approved on February 17, 1851.

That April, the first elections were held for county officers. The first county board met on April 18, 1851, in Appleton, at the home and hotel of R.P. Edgerton. From the six elected supervisors, George Robinson was chosen as chairman and Lorenzo Darling as clerk. George Grignon was elected county treasurer, and Charles Turner as county surveyor. The first business was an official request to Brown County for all records of the land that was now in Outagamie County.

Plans were also discussed for the first county courthouse and jail. That building was finally constructed in 1855, on the same site as the present courthouse (which was built in 1942).

The Outagamie County government of the mid-1800’s dealt with many of the same problems that it faces today. In that first year of the county’s operation, votes were taken on taxes, salaries, and the purchasing of equipment. Debates were held on the condition of roads and bridges, other public improvements, and disputes between townships. There was even a payment of $40.12 to assist the poor in Kaukauna. Some things have changed, however. In that first year, the county established a ten dollar bounty for the scalp of each wolf killed in Outagamie County. By 1855, with bears added to the bounty list, the county was paying out $270 a year for animal scalps.

The Village of Appleton

With the county established, the state government operating, and the township providing basic local services, Appleton in the early 1850’s was set for the tremendous growth ahead. Those early years were filled with firsts for the community: the first sawmill in 1850; the first dams and canals in 1852; the first newspaper, The Crescent, in 1853. The population was also increasing at a rapid rate. By 1853, it was estimated to be 1,500. In that year, the community had at least ten stores, five hotels, four sawmills, and a paper factory. Lawrence University had 190 students.

Appleton was clearly the center of all this activity, and the names of the neighboring communities of Grand Chute and Lawesburg had already begun to die out. That fact was acknowledged early in 1853 when the village of Appleton was officially incorporated, with borders that included all of what used to be the three unincorporated villages of Grand Chute, Appleton, and Lawesburg. The three were now one, with the former village lines serving as the new ward lines for Appleton. What used to be Lawesburg became Ward One, the original part of Appleton became Ward Two, and the former Village of Grand Chute became Ward Three. Of course the Township of Grand Chute remained, but it was now limited to the area outside the village limits, primarily farmland.

On April 14, 1853, the first Appleton village meeting was held at the Clifton House, one of Appleton’s hotels. The first village president was John F. Johnston, who had started the Lawrence Hotel back in 1848. The first village treasurer was James M. Eggleston, the first assessor James Gilmore, the first clerk James M. Phinney, and the chairman of the committee on bylaws was Samuel Ryan Jr. The trustees were Cyrenius E. Bemet (or Bennet), Waitt Cross, George Lanphear, and William H. Sampson.

Village business at that time was very simple. The first leaders decided that a general tax on the citizens was not needed. All expenses of the village could be paid from the income generated by fines, licenses, and permits. A fine was a part of the first ordinance, or law, passed by the village trustees in the spring of 1853. That ordinance imposed a one dollar fine on the owner of any pig or hog found running loose on village streets. An additional charge of six cents was to be paid to the keeper of the village pound for each day that the animal went unclaimed. A ten dollar fine was the penalty for letting a pig or hog escape from the pound. Other early ordinances provided fines or fail terms for such crimes as public drunkenness, public fighting, speeding in carriages, littering, and vandalism.

The new village, which had been founded primarily by Protestant New Englanders, believed strongly in the evils of alcohol. In 1854, the village council passed an ordinance prohibiting the possession, use, or trade of any alcoholic beverage within the corporate limits of Appleton. As the years passed and a greater variety of people moved in -particularly Irish and German settlers — the ordinance was ignored until finally repealed in June, 1856.

The City of Appleton

With incorporation, the pace of Appleton’s growth increased. People were moving in at such a fast rate that the value of land was skyrocketing and lumber became increasingly expensive and scarce. In the summer of 1855, nearly 100 new houses were constructed, and even that wasn’t sufficient to satisfy the demand. Despite this progress, however, problems of the wilderness remained. In the mid-1850s, Appleton was plagued by bears that wandered into the village, eating pigs and scaring children. A few years later, thieves and burglars became a problem and a special night watch had to be established.

Meanwhile, industry was also growing in Appleton. On February 13, 1855, the Appleton Manufacturing and Water Power Company was founded, and the amount of work on the river increased. At times that work proved dangerous. Two men lost their lives in April, 1855, when a lower dam gave way and they were swept down the rapids. In the downtown area, whole blocks of brick buildings were going up. One of these buildings was the Outagamie County Bank, the first bank owned and operated by Appleton citizens.

With prosperity came some legal complications. In January, 1857, the original Lawrence University building burned down while the entire community was attending a church service with a two-hour sermon. By that time Main Hall had been completed and the school trustees saw no reason to replace the destroyed building. Instead, they divided the land into lots, which they then sold. At this point Edward L. Meade, the heir to John F. Meade, sued the school. He pointed out that the original deed between Meade and Mr. Lawrence dated September 7, 1847, called for the Lawrence Institute to be “permanently located upon said lands,” and for at least $5,000 to be spent on improvements. Unless those terms were followed, the land was to revert back to the original owner. By not rebuilding after the fire, Edward Meade maintained that the terms of the deed had been violated and that all of the original Meade land now belonged to him. That land included all of Appleton’s downtown business area, the most valuable property in the village. In response, the leaders of Lawrence University insisted that they were not violating the deed at all, and that they were within their rights to divide and sell the property. The court battle was long and complicated, and eventually went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which finally ruled against Edward Meade’s claim in 1869.

As that lawsuit was moving through the courts. Appleton continued to grow and prosper. Early in 1857, the state legislature approved Appleton’s request to incorporate as a city. Under the new city charter, Appleton remained divided into three wards, with future plans for a fourth ward south of the Fox River. Each ward was to elect two aldermen, a justice of the peace, and a constable. Each ward also voted its own taxes for ward improvements. The city as a whole elected a mayor, a director, and a marshal. Special city taxes could be voted for waterworks, fire engines, and other city-wide improvements.

The first city election was held on April 21, with Amos Story chosen as the first mayor. With a population of approximately 2,000, Appleton officially became a city on May 2, 1857.


Books in the Wisconsin Collection

WR 378.775 Schu
Creation of a Campus
Marguerite Ellen Schumann

WR 917.753 Wel
Welcome to the Fox Cities
Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry

WR 917.7539 App
Appleton City Directory

WR 917.7539 Out
Outagamie County Directories

WR 917.756 Val
Valley of the Lower Fox: historical, descriptive, picturesque

WR 920 Hol
Badger Saints and Sinners

WR 970.3 His
The History of the Hochungra People (Winnebago Tribe) of Wisconsin

WR 970.3 Law
The Winnebago Tribe
Publius V. Lawson

WR 970.3 Our
The Menominee Indians
Patricia K Owrada

WR 970.3 Oxl
A History of the Menominee Indians
Shelley Oxley

WR 970.3 Oxl
The History of the Oneida Indians
Shelley Oxley

WR 970.3 Rit
The Oneida Indians of Wisconsin
Robert Eugene Ritzenthaler

WR 970.477 Rad
The Winnebago Tribe
Paul Radin

WR 970.4775 Lur
Wisconsin Indians
Nancy Oestreich Lurie

WR 970.4775 Mor
Early Indian Tribes of Wisconsin
W. E. Morton

WR 970.4775 Rit
Prehistoric Indians of Wisconsin
Robert Ritzenthaler

WR 977.5 Sta
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin
State Historical Society of Wisconsin

WR 977.5 Wis
Wisconsin Magazine of History
State Historical Society of Wisconsin

WR 977.539 App
Appleton Review

WR 977.53 App
Appleton’s 75th Anniversary Celebration and George Washington Bicentennial
Appleton Review

W 977.539 App
Our First 100 Years
Appleton Centennial Inc.

WR 977.539 Pho
Photo Portfolio
Appleton Free Library

W 977.539 Hel
Appleton, Wisconsin: The Early Days
Olga L. Heller

WR 977.539 His
Historic Building Survey, Appleton, Wisconsin

W 977.539 Ire
I Remember, I Remember
Outagamie County Historical Society

W 977.539 Kel
College and Oneida
Carolyn Kellogg

W 977.539 Kor
The Fox Heritage
Ellen Kort

WR 977.539 Nel
Appleton in World War II
Evelyn Edyth Nelson

W 977.539 Out
Land of the Fox

WR 977.539 Out
Outagamie County, Yesterday and Today

W 977.539 Rya
History of Outagamie County
Thomas Henry Ryan

W 977.539 Spe
The Pioneers of Outagamie County: containing the records of the Outagamie County Pioneer Association, also a biographical and historical sketch of some of the earliest settlers of the county and their families, their children, and grand-children
Elihu Spencer

WR 977.53905 Fox
Fox Citian

WR 977.56 Gla
Historic Tales of the Fox River Valley
Giles Clark

WR 977.56 MacL
Pioneer Life in the Fox River Valley
Annie Susan McLenegan

WR 977.56 O’Ke
Story of the Fox River Valley, 1634-1880
Mary A. O’Keefe

WR 977.56 Tit
History of the Fox River Valley, lake Winnebago, and Green Bay Region [Three Volumes)

WR 977.561 Voy
Brown County Historical Society

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Wisconsin Files

Many pamphlets, articles, and state documents can be found in the Wisconsin Files in the Wisconsin Collection.

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Post Crescent Index

For many years the library maintained an index of The Post-Crescent newspaper providing dates, page numbers, and headlines of articles. The index is online and the newspaper is available on microfilm.

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The library has the following local newspapers on microfilm:

  • Appleton Crescent 1853-1920
  • Appleton Post 1856- 1920
  • Appleton Motor 1859-1966
  • Appleton City Times 1870-1871
  • Evening Times 1874-1875
  • Volksfreund 1874-1929
  • Appleton Post-Crescent 1920-1965
  • Post-Crescent Since 1965

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The library owns bound copies of Outagamie County plat maps, located in the 912 area of the Wisconsin Collection, which provide information on land ownership. Holdings are from various dates.

Another plat map, showing the original land owners of Outagamie County, can be found in the Wisconsin Files under “Outagamie County, Wisconsin.”

Additionally, you can search by name in APL’s Platbook Index to see if property is listed under that name in one of the older platbooks. Some of these search results link to digitized versions of the plat maps that are part of the State of Wisconsin Collection for the University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections program. APL has also contributed items other than platmaps to the digitization project that can be viewed online.

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Other Sources

A unique source of local history is provided by the yearbooks published by Appleton high schools. The library owns a nearly complete collection for the public high schools and a few from parochial schools. The books are located in the Wisconsin Collection 371.8 App.

In the 977.5 section of the Wisconsin Collection are many books devoted to the general history of Wisconsin. Consult the index of each book for references to Appleton.

Census records for Wisconsin maintained on microfilm are also available at the library.