Historic People

  • Angela Kumlien Main- Date in History: 1883 – 1952 Born on the Kumlien homestead in Sumner WI, Angela spent her childhood exploring the shores of Lake Koshkonong. She later taught in Fort Atkinson schools until she married Herbert Main. Angie adored her paternal grandfather, the famous naturalist Thure Kumlien, and she inherited his love of nature. A keen […]
  • Benjamin Ralph- Date in History: 1845 – 1921 Ever watch a softball game at Ralph Park and wonder who Ralph was? Well, here’s the inside scoop. Benjamin Ralph was born in Vermont and came here in 1853 with his parents, Eusebia and Isaac Ralph, and a brother and sister. Like many pioneers who headed west, they were […]
  • Betsey Seelye Sears- Date in History: 1813 – 1901 “On the 22d of October, 1843, we left our former home in the town of Camden, County of Oneida, State of New York, with our four little children, to go to the Far West” So begins the poignant account written by Betsey Seelye Sears of her young family’s journey […]
  • Billy Sullivan- Date in History: 1875-1911 Professional baseball player Billy Sullivan was born in Oakland Township in 1875 just a few miles west of Fort Atkinson. He grew up on a farm, worked in a creamery and spent summers playing baseball for local amateur teams. In 1899 he broke into the big leagues as a catcher with […]
  • Caroline Barrie- Date in History: 1796 – 1886 In 1837 Caroline Barrie of upstate New York said goodbye to her two sons – twenty-one year old William and nineteen year old Robert – as they headed west toward a brand new settlement on the Rock River in Wisconsin Territory. Upon arrival here in what’s now Fort Atkinson, […]
  • Charles Jeremiah Lee- Date in History: 1821 – 1914 “To any enterprising young man, America threw out the most tempting promises. So, in the hopes of bettering my condition in life, I sailed for the United States, making southern Wisconsin my goal. There we lived in log cabins, ate venison and other wild game, shook with the ague, […]
  • Charles Rockwell- Date in History: 1830’s-40’s One of Fort Atkinson’s earliest settlers was Charles Rockwell, a carpenter by trade who settled here in 1837. Like most pioneers, Rockwell first tried his hand at farming, claiming land along the Bark River. However, he soon transferred his land over to his brother and moved into the village of Koshkonong, […]
  • Chester Mittag- Date in History: 1904 – 2001 Chester was born in Columbus, WI in 1904 to Emil and Margaret Mittag. The family moved to Fort Atkinson in 1910 when his dad opened a tailor and dry cleaning business out of a barn at their new home at 604 North Main Street. By 1912, Mittag’s Dry Cleaners […]
  • Chicken Picker Ernie Hausen- Date in History: 1877-1955 Born on the 4th of July 1877, in the same house on Clarence St. where he would live his whole life, Ernie Hausen was destined to become Fort Atkinson’s only world champion. Using the techniques he perfected while working as a butcher at McMillen’s Meat market, Ernie won the 1922 Chicken […]
  • Cordelia Harvey- Date in History: 19th century In the years after the Civil War, an elderly widow moved to Fort Atkinson and taught Sunday school at the Congregational Church. This unassuming woman was Cordelia Harvey – better known by soldiers everywhere as an Angel of Mercy. After her husband, the Wisconsin Governor Louis Harvey, drowned while on […]
  • Craig Rice- Date in History: 1908 – 1957   When Craig Rice, nee Georgiana Randolph Craig, appeared on the cover of Time Magazine (January 28, 1946) she was recognized as “virtually the only woman” working in the distinctly American genre of whodunits. And yet her own life story, including her Fort Atkinson connection, is as interesting as […]
  • Crawford Thayer- Date in History: 1921 – 1986 Crawford Thayer’s interest in the Black Hawk War began in 1971 when he was asked to direct the first Black Hawk pageant at the newly constructed replica of Fort Cosconong. The historical drama was a huge undertaking and an even bigger success. Already interested in history and surprised by […]
  • David Curtis- Date in History: 1833 – 1897 On November 16th, 1860 two days after his 27th birthday, Vermont native David Curtis married Jane Howard and looked forward to a quiet life farming the homestead in the town of Jefferson (near Curtis Mill) that he and his family had claimed back in 1845. But after 1860, everyone’s […]
  • David McKee- Date in History: 04/09/1968 Thirty-five years ago, on a cold and overcast Tuesday morning, Fort Atkinson Police Officer David McKee dove into the cold and muddy waters of the Rock River to rescue a frightened boy who had fallen into the river from the railroad bridge. McKee reached the boy and was bringing him to […]
  • Dwight Foster- Date in History: 1836 The first white family to settle in what is now Fort Atkinson was the Dwight Foster family. Dwight Foster was born in Connecticut in 1801 and grew up in upstate New York. In the 1830s, he headed west to join the Rock River Land and Claim Company, a group of men […]
  • Emily Frissell- Date in History: c. 1863 – 1886 In 1863 Fort Atkinson resident Emily Frissell was notified that her husband Charles had died fighting to save the Union in America’s great Civil War. Thirty-one-year-old Emily was now alone – the sole support for her five young children. At a time when women had very few careers […]
  • Florence Ramsey Vosburg- Early in her married life, Florence Vosburg of Fort Atkinson began making suits for her young son. These handmade creations caught the eye of her friends, who asked her to make some for their children. Before Florence realized it, she was making extra garments to sell. The Smith sisters who ran R. C. Brewer’s, recognized […]
  • Fort Atkinson- Date in History: 1832 The city of Fort Atkinson takes its name from the General who led the US forces during the 1832 Black Hawk War. Headquartered in St. Louis at the Jefferson Barracks, General Henry Atkinson was in charge of the Western Department of the Army. In April 1832 when Black Hawk and his […]
  • George Marston- Date in History: 1850 – 1930s George Marston, the man who helped shape the civic and cultural development of the beautiful city of San Diego, California, was a Fort Atkinson boy. Born here in 1850, George grew up at the home his dad built at 323 Merchants Avenue, later the home of Arthur Hoard. When […]
  • George Pounder- Date in History: 1844 – 1936 During the 19th century, Fort Atkinson developed a nationally known manufacturing base with industries like Northwestern Manufacturing and Cornish, Cornish & Greene on the north side of town. Though not employing nearly as many men, another industry on the south side of the Rock River was earning a national […]
  • George Prestidge- Date in History: 1817 – 1883 For some early immigrants, the rigors of life on the frontier paled in comparison to the trip that brought them there. In the spring of 1846, 28-year-old George Prestidge and his 34-year-old wife Elizabeth sailed from London with their two children – young George who was two years old […]
  • Halbert Hoard- Date in History: 1861-1933 Never was the Jefferson County Union a more vibrant and interesting paper than from 1918 to 1933 when Halbert Hoard held the editorial reins. Halbert was born in 1861, the eldest son of Agnes Bragg and William Dempster Hoard. He took over his father’s paper in 1918 upon W.D. Hoard’s death, […]
  • Hannah Swart- Date in History: 1913 – 1984 In 2004, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of former Curator Hannah Swart, the Fort Atkinson reprinted some excerpts from the remarks made by Hugh Highsmith at a memorial service in her honor on July 30th, 1984. t is my privilege to speak at this service […]
  • Howard Woodin- Date in History: 1911-1973 Did you know that a Fort Atkinson man is in the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame? Howard “Whitey” Woodin grew up on South Fourth Street and played on the dominant Fort Atkinson High School Football teams from 1911 to 1914. Woodin’s 1911 Fort football team was not only unbeaten – […]
  • Howie Weiss- Date in History: 1917 – 1997 Howard Weiss was born on October 12, 1917 in Fort Atkinson. He went on to be one of Fort Atkinson’s all time football greats. It all began in 1934 when Weiss – handling the running, kicking and sometimes even the passing duties – led the Fort Atkinson Cardinals to […]
  • James Baird- Date in History: 1946 In 1946, James Baird, then a junior at Fort Atkinson High School, entered a piece of his artwork in a national art contest for high school students sponsored by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg and Scholastic Magazine. Jim’s picture, which he titled “Home Town,” depicted the Fort Atkinson skyline in pencil, […]
  • Jeremiah Swart- Date in History: 1861-64 In 1861, young Jeremiah Swart left his parent’s farm on the shores of Lake Koshkonong to join Company A of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry. He never returned home. Below are excerpts from five letters that he wrote to his parents, Martin and Amanda Swart. The spellings and punctuation remain as they […]
  • Jerry Slechta- Date in History: 1990 The Lincoln Era Library and Exhibit at the Hoard Museum houses over 1,400 books on Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War. The great majority of these books come from Jerome Slechta, a Jefferson attorney and Civil War buff who donated his impressive Civil War collection to the Fort Atkinson Historical […]
  • Jim and Ann Ellis- Date in History: c. 1850 – 1914 In Fort Atkinson’s Evergreen Cemetery, a simple gravestone notes the lives of James E. Ellis (1849 – 1911), and his wife Ann (1857-1914). Nothing sets it apart from its neighbors—just ordinary names and dates. But as a young black couple living in Fort Atkinson after the Civil War, […]
  • Johanna Powals Clark- Date in History: 1878 – 1969 She was small in size but large in everything that mattered. She was quiet in manner but commanding as an advocate for children. She was modest in character but at her death the Jefferson County Union’s editorial page called on our local school board to name a future school […]
  • John K. Purdy- Date in History: 1866-1872 Ever gone to a Christmas Concert at Purdy School in Fort Atkinson and wonder who the heck Purdy was? Well John K. Purdy was the principal of the very first public high school built on South High Street in Fort Atkinson back in 1866. Up until that time, Mr. Purdy ran […]
  • John Wolfgram and Apollo 11 Mission- Date in History: 1969 As NASA renews its space exploration, it’s a good time to recall a mission from its past. In the summer of 1969, the Apollo 11 mission sent into space the first men to walk on the moon. Fort Atkinson was represented at the spaceship’s splashdown by 1967 Fort Atkinson High School […]
  • Leon Perscheret- Date in History: 1930’s Whitewater artist Leon Pescheret was born in England in 1892 and immigrated to Chicago just before World War I. In 1933 he began working in the medium for which he is most famous – the difficult process of color etching on copper plates. It took weeks to etch a plate as […]
  • Lorine Niedecker- Date in History: 1903 Monday May 12th, 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fort Atkinson poet Lorine Niedecker. Perhaps best described as a poet of place, Niedecker’s work is closely linked to her environment and experiences on Blackhawk Island where she lived most of her life. Her precise and frugal use of […]
  • Lucien Caswell- Date in History: 1827 – 1919 Lucien Caswell was an early mover and shaker in Fort Atkinson. Born in 1827 in Vermont, Lucien lost his father Beal at age 3 when his dad was crushed by a falling tree during a community wood cutting bee held to gather wood for each neighbor. At age 10 […]
  • Mariette Snell- Date in History: 1850s One of the first married women in Wisconsin to own property in her own name was from the Fort Atkinson area. In 1838, Mariette Snell and her husband Erastus came to Fort Atkinson, eventually settling seven miles west of town on Red Cedar Lake in Oakland Township. Erastus worked in Fort […]
  • May Family- Date in History: 1830s – 1860s The cream brick home that sits at 407 East Milwaukee Avenue in Fort Atkinson is the May House, built in 1863 for Eli May. Young Eli came to this area in 1839 with his family. His dad, Chester May, was a contractor who had worked on the great Erie […]
  • Milo Jones- Milo Jones Date in History: 1830s Milo Jones was born in Vermont and grew up on a dairy farm there. In 1832 he traveled west to Michigan Territory to work as a government surveyor, and by 1834 he was in Milwaukee surveying the future Blue Mound Road. A few years later he was surveying in […]
  • Museum’s Doll Collection- Date in History: early 20th century The Hoard Museum has over 300 dolls – many of them from Fort Atkinson resident Jane Curtis who began collecting at a young age and under difficult circumstances. Born in 1900, Jane contracted polio at age 10. Unable to play like the other children, Jane began collecting dolls, a […]
  • Oakland Ladies Aid Society- Date in History: 1867 to present One of the oldest charitable organizations in the county, the Oakland Ladies Society was formed in 1867. The society began as the Oakland Missionary Society of the Freewill Baptist Church in Oakland Center. In 1913 when the church services where discontinued, the members changed their name to the Oakland […]
  • Oscar Simonson- Date in History: 1879 – 1957 Oscar Simonson brought a state championship home to Fort Atkinson. Born in Iowa in 1879, he moved to Fort Atkinson with his wife Anna in 1923. He worked for the James Manufacturing Co. for 33 years, living at 1105 West Sherman Ave. A lifelong checker enthusiast, Oscar was a […]
  • Oscar Simonson Checker Champion- Date in History: 1926 In 1926, Oscar Simonson brought a state championship home to Fort Atkinson. Born in Iowa in 1879, Simonson moved to Fort Atkinson with his wife Anna in 1923. He would work for the James Manufacturing Company for the next 33 years while living at 1105 West Sherman Avenue. A lifelong checker […]
  • Rosette Smith Brewer- Date in History: 1850 – 1909 Mrs. R. C. Brewer: Millinery and Ladies Furnishings. “This exclusive millinery and ladies’ furnishing store as conducted by Mrs. Brewer on Milwaukee St. attracts the general attention of the women of this community. And justly, too, for it is one of the leading stores of its kind in this […]
  • Sergeant Gerald Endl- Date in History: July 11, 1944 On July 11th, 1944 Staff Sergeant Gerald Endl of Fort Atkinson had to make a difficult decision and he had to make it fast. His platoon in the jungles of New Guinea had run into heavy enemy fire and twelve men in his unit- including the platoon leader – […]
  • Soldiers Leaving Home- Date in History: 1898 to present This past August, the Army National Guard unit stationed in Fort Atkinson was given a heartfelt sendoff by the citizens of Jefferson County. Unfortunately this was not the first war that called the young men of Fort Atkinson to foreign soil. In the old days, the site of many […]
  • Stout and Skavlem- Date in History: 1908 In 1906 a young teacher from Albion named Arlow Stout set out to make a comprehensive survey of the Indian mounds and village sites around Lake Koshkonong. To assist him, he enlisted the help of Halvor Skavlem, an older man who had lived his whole life on the lake at Carcajou […]
  • Theodore Notbohm- Date in History: 1869 – 1950 Perseverance in the face of tragedy and a willingness to take on new adventures characterized the life of Theodore Notbohm, a native born son of Wisconsin with the spirit of a pioneer. Theodore Notbohm was born in Rome, WI in March 1869 to German immigrants Herman and Friedrieka Reap […]
  • Thomas Brayton and Aztalan- Date in History: 1836-7 The first white pioneers to settle in Aztalan near Lake Mills were Thomas Brayton and his family who left New York in September 1836 and arrived in Milwaukee at the end of October. While his wife and two daughters spent the winter in Milwaukee, Brayton headed out with Timothy Johnson, the […]
  • Thomas Crane- Date in History: 1843-1870 Thomas Crane was born in Massachusetts in 1822 and came to Fort Atkinson in 1843 to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Milo Jones. Crane was a trained mechanic with a creative mind who would receive over 20 patents during his lifetime. In fact, his 1867 knitting machine led to the […]
  • Thure Kumlien- Date in History: 1843 to 1888 The naturalist Thure Kumlien was born to a Swedish aristocratic family. He migrated to this country in 1843. He was drawn to the Koshkonong area by letters he read from a minister of a Koshkonong parish. When he came to the county to buy land, he bypassed farmland and […]
  • Thurlow Weed Brown- Date in History: 1850’s A native New Yorker, Thurlow Weed Brown came to Fort Atkinson in 1854, bringing with him his newspaper, The Cayuga Chief. He began publishing that paper here in 1856, making it Fort Atkinson’s very first newspaper. Brown used the paper as his primary weapon in the great battle against the evils […]
  • W.D. James- Date in History: 1900’s This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 12/08/2003. One hundred years ago in a small blacksmith shop on a dairy farm in Wales Wisconsin, William James built an adjustable cow stall featuring a rotating stanchion. The stanchion allowed the cow to turn her head and also […]
  • Walter Pelzer- Date in History: 20th century In the 1920s, Fort Atkinson teenager Walter Pelzer often sat in a downtown storefront rapidly and skillfully sculpting animals from the clay that he had dug from the banks of the Rock River. Large crowds gathered to marvel and watch the young man work. After graduating from Fort High in […]
  • William Hoard Sculpture- Date in History: 1922 Widely considered to be the father of the Wisconsin dairy industry, William Dempster Hoard also played a prominent role in the early development of the School of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. To honor his contribution, in 1922, four years after his death, the University proudly unveiled a handsome […]
  • William Jennings Bryan- Date in History: 1905 Just over 100 years ago, Fort Atkinson was visited by the great populist William Jennings Bryan. Following failed presidential bids on the Democratic ticket in 1896 and 1900, Bryan decided to hit the lecture circuit to promote his ideas. Over the next two decades, he would be one of the most […]
  • William Noel- Date in History: 1845 – 1933 William Noel was born in a log cabin in the Koshkonong area on September 24th, 1845. After the Civil War broke out in 1861, an eager 16-year-old Noel ran away from home to join the Union troops. His dad tracked him down, however, and had to pay $125 to […]
  • William Spaeth- Date in History: 1883 – 1921 When German-born William Spaeth came to Fort Atkinson in 1883, he immediately began brewing beer, first on the north side of the river near the railroad bridge, and then, in 1886 he began City Brewery on South Water Street just west of the current Café Carpe. He started small, […]
  • William Tecumseh Sherman’s letter- Date in History: 1890 In 1890, William Dempster Hoard, received a letter from the Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman thanking him for the birthday wishes received from Governor Hoard and expounding upon the wonderful State of Wisconsin. General Sherman was partial to our state, enjoying not only its topography but its excellent hunting. Sherman […]
  • William Weld’s Grippe Remedy- Date in History: Early 20th century In 1927 when the Mayor of Fort Atkinson – the Honorable Dr. William Weld – died in office, he was best known, not for his politics, but for a remedy. William Weld was born in New York, but grew up in Fort Atkinson after coming here with his mother […]
  • Zida Ivey- Date in History: 1884 – 1967 Eliza Pierce Caswell Ivey was born into a prominent Fort Atkinson family in 1884. Her paternal grandfather, attorney and U.S. congressman Lucien Caswell, had founded the First National Bank (now PremierBank) back in 1863, and her father, Lucien Caswell Jr., continued in the family banking business. But though she […]
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