Thiebeau Point

Date in History: c. 1830 Thiebeau Point on the southern shore of Lake Koshkonong was named for Joseph Thiebeau, a French-Canadian who was possibly the first white settler to live on Lake Koshkonong. By the early 19th century, a number of French fur traders – most of them married to Indian women – were living on the Lake trading their small stock of goods with the Native people in exchange for furs. The most notorious of the fur traders was Thiebeau who was a buyer of furs for Solomon Juneau, the founder of Milwaukee. Thiebeau was still living on the Point when white settlers first came to the area in 1836, but he mysteriously disappeared during the winter of 1839. Legend has it that he was murdered by the younger of his two Indian wives and his 12-year-old son Frank because he refused to allow his family to move west in the direction that most of the Native families were then going. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...

Savall & Wiring Laundry

Date in History: 1895 – 1927 “White as snow, smooth as glass, clean as innocence,” was the slogan for the newly opened laundry business of Savall & Wiring in downtown Fort Atkinson. Opened in 1895, the laundry occupied a 28 x 60’ brick building on S. Water Street East. By 1910, they employed 12 people with delivery and pickup available throughout the city. The business was so popular that the local newspaper touted that home washing could become a thing of the past for many families. Savall & Wiring sold the laundry in 1921 and the name was changed to Fort Steam Laundry. The original building burned to the ground in 1927, taking with it 75 baskets of family laundry due to be delivered the morning of the fire. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...

Robert Street Bridge

Date in History: 1909 In the late 19th century, the citizens of Fort Atkinson began arguing over whether they needed a second bridge over the Rock River. Some on the northwest side of town were opposed to the idea, fearing it would destroy the exclusiveness of their neighborhood. Other, more practical sorts, were in favor of a bridge, pointing out that though they lived with a stone’s throw of the railway depot, they had to get to it by way of Main Street – a long walk if you were carrying luggage. Perhaps the most interesting argument for why the town needed a second bridge was that it would help promote neighborly feelings and alleviate the North-South rivalry that sometimes flared in town. Whatever the reason, a second bridge over the Rock River was finally built in 1909. It received periodic repairs and improvements until 1974 when it was torn down after the Robert Street bridge was built just to the east of it. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...

Ralph Park

Date in History: 1944 Ever watch a softball game at Ralph Park in Fort Atkinson and wonder who Ralph was? Benjamin Ralph was born in Vermont and came to Fort in 1853 at the age of eight. Over the next two decades he helped his family run a general store, but in 1875 he struck out on his own, buying a 60-acre farm on the near northeast edge of town. Here he kept some cows, delivered milk into the city, and frequently rented his land to the traveling circuses. The circus boss would always give the Ralph kids tickets to get in free – not a cheap proposition as Ralph had seventeen children, nine by his first wife who died at age 38, and eight more by his second wife. In 1944 those children sold part of the old homestead to the city to be used as a park. Now, eighty years after Benjamin Ralph’s death, almost a thousand softball players run around his old fields every week, and children play on his pastures. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...

Railroad Depot

Date in History: 1906 In 1906 the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad built a handsome new depot in Fort Atkinson. This stately red brick building with stone trimming was located along the track near the intersection of Janesville Avenue and South Third Street. The depot was an impressive structure for the time, equipped with electric lights and bathrooms, including a spacious ladies restroom with its own separate waiting room. All the interior rooms – the main waiting room, the bathrooms, the ticket and telegraph offices – were finished in oak with tile flooring. At the time of its construction in 1906 as many as 16 passenger and freight trains arrived in Fort each day. Passenger service winked out in 1950, though freight continued for a while longer and still runs on the northside of town. The lovely little train depot was demolished in 1973. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...

Municipal Swimming Pool Opens

Date in History: 1955 On Father’s Day 1955 the city fathers of Fort Atkinson gave a wonderful gift to their children when they formally dedicated the long awaited new swimming pool in Rock River Park. Discussions about a municipal pool had begun back in the 1930s, but referendums to finance a pool were defeated in 1938 and 1947. Appeals from Fort Atkinson children and community leaders turned up the heat in the early 1950s, and the third time was the charm as the 1953 referendum was successful. The pool actually opened on a warm Thursday afternoon in June of 1955 and the first one in was 14 year old Ronnie Tesch. Ronnie had arrived a half hour early and was first in line when the doors opened. He quickly changed and, at the prodding of the photographers present, he ran and jumped into the water despite a rule against doing so. This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on...
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