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.