Historic Events

  • 1860 Election in Jefferson County - Date in History: 1860 In 1860, in the most divisive and consequential election in American history, Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States, defeating the two Democratic candidates. In Jefferson County the election issues had been fought in the pages of the two local partisan newspapers – the Republican Standard of Fort Atkinson and […]
  • 1904 – A Look Back - Date in History: 1904 As we approach the year 2004, lets take a look back to 1904 to see what will soon be one hundred years old. In 1904, New York City opened its subway and the first Olympics ever held in the United States opened that summer in St. Louis. There were 82 million […]
  • 1906 - Date in History: 1906 In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was in his fifth year as President of the United States and was the first American to receive the Nobel Peace prize. Among the major legislation passed that year, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were inspired by Upton Sinclair’s book “The […]
  • 1939 Fish Removal - Date in History: 1939 In September of 1939, members of the Fort Atkinson Wisconservation Club had a big task before them. Working with the County Game warden, they had to move quickly to remove almost 600,000 fish from two small Fort Atkinson ponds that were in danger of drying up. First up was Pritchard’s pond, […]
  • 1945 Plowing Contest - Date in History: 1945 The 1945 Plowing Contest was held at the Hetts Farm on the west edge of Fort Atkinson on a fine Friday in October. At 10 a.m. the husking and plowing contests began with both senior and junior divisions being contested. The plowing was judged not by speed but by the quality […]
  • Alice in Dairyland - Date in History: 20th Century In 1948 the Wisconsin State Fair had a special exhibit to celebrate the state’s centennial. The dairy industry’s contribution was a display using the theme of Alice in Wonderland. The display was so well received that the annual “Dairy Queen” title was changed to “Alice in Dairyland” and the display […]
  • Bettersox and Princess Elizabeth - Date in History: 1947 About to be married in devastated, post-war Britain, Princess Elizabeth planned a conservative trousseau. Taking pity, a woman from Wisconsin wrote to the princess asking if perhaps there was something she could send from the states. Elizabeth, answering in her own hand, replied she’d be pleased to accept some nylons – […]
  • Breweries in Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 1850 to 1950 In 1850 the first commercial brewery in Fort Atkinson was started by Canadian-born Henry Pritchard. Pritchard’s Ale was produced and bottled in buildings located on the south bank of the Rock River just west of the current Robert Street Bridge. In the years to come many breweries would operate […]
  • Broom Brigade - Date in History: 1882 After the Civil War, patriotism in America was at an all time high. Men formed veteran’s organizations complete with parades, music and uniforms, providing a source of fellowship. During the 1880s, women decided to form their own patriotic units in the form of broom brigades. These units became extremely popular with […]
  • Broom Hockey - Date in History: 1931 In early 1931, the Jefferson County Union noted that the ten young ladies who composed the Fort Atkinson Blues Broom Hockey Squad were “the happiest group of feminettes in the land.” Apparently since they had taken up the new winter sport of broom hockey, the girls had been creating quite a […]
  • Butter Moulds - Date in History: N/A Wooden butter moulds, once used in old dairy farm kitchens, are now very popular collectibles. Many of these moulds had a one-of-a-kind, hand-carved design that left an attractive decorative print after the butter was pressed into the mould. During the 19th century, it was possible to order moulds with specific designs […]
  • Chicago Northwestern Railroad - Date in History: 1856 There was a lot of excitement in Fort Atkinson in 1856. The Chicago-St. Paul-Fond du Lac Railroad Company had built a line from Chicago to Janesville and another one from Fond du Lac to Watertown. All that was left was to link Janesville and Watertown – a rail line that would […]
  • City Manager System - Date in History: 1930 During the 1920s, Fort Atkinson endured a bitter dispute when the mayor pushed through a plan to sell the city-owned gas and electric utilities to finance a new city hall. After the controversial municipal building opened in 1929, petitions began to circulate to change Fort Atkinson’s municipal government from the Mayor […]
  • Class Mottoes - Date in History: 1893-1919 Over the years every Fort Atkinson High School graduating class has adopted a class motto. One can only wonder what the parents and school administrators thought of the student’s choice in 1893 – “Behold! We Know Not Anything.” Despite our landlocked location, a nautical theme managed to dominate the early 20th […]
  • Colonel the Dog - Date in History: 1944 Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. In 1944, a hero from Fort Atkinson came in the form of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever known as Colonel. Born to local breeder Joe Wagner, Colonel made his way to new owners in New Mexico before enlisting in the Army. As a member of […]
  • Creameries - Date in History: 1880 to 1938 The production of butter was once a cottage industry throughout Wisconsin with each dairy farmer converting their excess milk into butter and cheese. Butter making was considered women’s work and the quality was dependent on the skill and cleanliness of the maker. As this cottage industry grew into a […]
  • Downtown Parking - Date in History: 1940s The Retail Committee of the Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce met with the city manager to discuss the parking problem downtown. That sounds timely doesn’t it, but actually that meeting took place in June of 1940. The chamber was concerned that employees were using the choice parking stalls and parking there […]
  • Early Automobiles - Date in History: Early 20th century Art Hoard attempted to build the first horseless carriage in Fort Atkinson by using two discarded bicycles and a gasoline engine. His attempts at automaking were, according to all reports, unsuccessful and it did not take long for him to purchase a manufactured model. In 1903 only one automobile […]
  • Esterly Reaper - Date in History: 1844 America’s first successful harvesting machine was invented right here in Whitewater, Wisconsin by an ambitious, energetic man named George Esterly. Esterly came to the area in 1837 and was soon operating a large wheat farm. Harvesting his huge crop, however, was such a back breaking and expensive proposition, he became determined […]
  • FAHS Literary Society - Date in History: 1880s In the fall of 1884, students at Fort Atkinson High School began a debating society, taking on some of the pressing social issues of the day. At their very first meeting in October they wasted no time, taking on the proposition that “dancing is not a safe and reliable amusement” and […]
  • Farmers and Merchants Bank Robbery - Date in History: 1929 At noontime on Nov. 7th, 1929, a white Cadillac pulled up in front of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Jefferson. Three men with machine guns boldly ran into the bank without disguise, ordered everyone on the floor and robbed the bank in broad daylight. Though an alarm sounded when the […]
  • Firemen Lost - Date in History: 12/17/1923 Though firemen with the Fort Atkinson Fire Department have sometimes incurred serious injuries on the job, the only fatalities in the history of the Department occurred on December 17, 1923. Responding to a call, the Fort firefighters were speeding toward Cambridge on what’s now Highway 12, when the driver lost control […]
  • Fireside Dinner Theatre - Date in History: 1964 Every year, hundreds of buses arrive in Fort Atkinson, making it the number one bus tour destination in all of Wisconsin. They all come here because of a dream that began in 1964. The Fireside Dinner Theatre was started by Dick and Betty Klopcic who wanted to build an intimate restaurant […]
  • Fireside Sculpture - Date in History: 1970 The distinctive orange sculpture located by the entrance to the Fireside Dinner Theater in Fort Atkinson was unveiled in the summer of 1970. Designed by Fort Atkinson art teacher Bob Hase and built by Ferdinand Kutz, the unusual sculpture is comprised of 70 pieces of steel metal that are attached to […]
  • First City Golf Tournament - Date in History: 1931 It was back in August of 1931 that the Jefferson County Union first sponsored a city-wide golf tournament out at the course on Lake Koshkonong. Open to all male golfers, the tournament offered trophies for the winners and other, slightly off-beat, prizes provided by some local businesses to those who did […]
  • First High School - Date in History: 1866 – 1888 South High Street in Fort Atkinson has been the site of public schools for almost 150 years. In 1859, a cream brick two-story schoolhouse was built on the corner of South High Street and South Fourth Street. The lower level was a public grammar school and the upper floor […]
  • First School in Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 1839 The very first school in Fort Atkinson met in 1839 in a primitive cabin that belonged to the young pioneer William Barrie. The teacher was fourteen-year-old Jane Crane who lived with her older sister Sally Crane Jones, and Sally’s husband Milo Jones. Jane had six young students – Newton and Amelia […]
  • First Telephone - When the first telephone was installed in Fort Atkinson in 1883, just seven years after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell, many thought it was a mere novelty. The phone was located in Dexheimer’s Drugstore on South Main Street and was linked to a telephone in Jefferson, making it our first long distance line. The […]
  • Flying Saucers - Date in History: 1947 During the year, the Daily Jefferson County Union keeps us up to date on bird sightings but in the summer of 1947, the Union reported on a flying object of a different kind. Sightings of flying saucers were news across the nation and Jefferson County was no exception. In July, a […]
  • Fort Atkinson City Manager - Date in History: 1929 In 1929, citizens of Fort Atkinson petitioned to change their local government from the Mayor system to a new form of government that only a few communities in the nation had then adopted – the city-manager system. In this new system, a professional manager would be hired by a five-member council […]
  • Fort Atkinson Electric Light & Power Co. - Date in History: 1889 to 1905 In 1889 Arthur Hoard brought the first electricity to Fort Atkinson by installing a generator at Hoard’s Creamery located on the south bank of the Rock River. To allow his family to take advantage of this new found luxury, he then ran a single wire to his home on […]
  • Fort Atkinson Waterworks - Date in History: 1901 Throughout the nineteenth century, residents in the growing community of Fort Atkinson got their water from the Rock River or from private wells. By 1900, however, many Fort citizens were agitated that our slow town was still without a public waterworks to provide pure water and adequate fire protection. In February […]
  • Guernsey Breeders Association Picnic - Date in History: 1922 In June of 1922, the Jefferson County Guernsey Breeder’s Association celebrated their annual picnic at the farm of E. H. Kiesling. Located three miles northwest of Fort Atkinson, the Kiesling’s new modern barn was decorated especially for the event. Over 260 people attended the day long celebration, bringing along a basket […]
  • Hoard’s Dairyman Magazine - Date in History: 1885 – Present Hoard’s Dairyman Magazine, the only national dairy magazine in the United States, has been published in downtown Fort Atkinson for the past 120 years. First issued by William Dempster Hoard as a supplement to the Jefferson County Union newspaper, the magazine made its debut as a stand-alone publication in […]
  • Hollywood & Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 1931 Fort Atkinson was recently the setting for a movie, but Hollywood first invaded Fort Atkinson over 70 years ago. The Hollywood director known as S. Cudia traveled the country during the 1920’s and 30’s making films to promote the movie industry. He used local talent and news to create his film […]
  • Jefferson County - Date in History: 1836 In 1836, when a new county split off from Milwaukee County it proudly took the name of the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. The county consisted of 526 square miles and was sectioned off into sixteen townships. Hebron was the site of the first permanent settlement in 1836, though other settlements […]
  • Jefferson County and World War I - Date in History: Pre 1920’s Over 1600 men and women from Jefferson County served in the armed forces during World War I. Most of the men from the Fort Atkinson area served in the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division, which had a very distinguished war record in France. Eleven of our soldiers never came home from […]
  • Jefferson High School Eagle - Date in History: 1967 As school gets underway and fall sports commence, we will be hearing more about our favorite school teams. A symbol of school pride is the school mascot and one mascot in Jefferson County has a particularly interesting story. Jefferson High School students are known as the Eagles, and anyone who has […]
  • Main Street, Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 19th century The oldest street in the city of Fort Atkinson is Main Street. It was originally part of a military road that connected Fort Dearborn in Chicago to Fort Winnebago in Portage, Wisconsin. After the first white settlers arrived in the 1830s and settled on both sides of the Rock River, […]
  • Marble Tournament - Date in History: 1927 In early May 1927, a group of young boys gathered after school to take part in the Fort Atkinson grade school marble tournament. After a number of early rounds, the two marble sharks left standing were William Papke of Caswell School and Roy Larson representing Hoard School. The final round saw […]
  • Married Names - Date in History: N/A Everyone probably knows, or has heard of, someone who married themselves right into an unusual name. For instance, in 1919 a young woman named Golden Ward married Fort Atkinson dentist, Dr. Orie Gates and wound up with the bridge-like name of Golden Gates. Staff at the Hoard Museum frequently run across […]
  • Mary Hoard Portrait - Date in History: 1974 In 1974, Fort Atkinson resident Mary Hoard traveled to New Mexico to have her portrait painted by Henriette Wyeth, the sister of Andrew Wyeth. By that time Henriette was a renowned portrait painter in her own right, with many of her works in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery […]
  • Merci Train - Date in History: 1940s In 1948, when news reached ordinary Americans about the personal hardships that the French continued to suffer in the wake of World War II, American citizens acted, delivery 700 railroad cars of supplies to the people of France. A year later, the French responded in kind as the Merci Train arrived […]
  • Methodist Church Quilt - Date in History: 1885 Quilts have warmed many a winter night and provided an heirloom for generations. In 1885, when the ladies of the Methodist Church in Fort Atkinson created a red and white basket quilt, their purpose was to raise money for the church’s building fund. After creating the piece they energetically solicited autographs […]
  • Museum Quilts - Date in History: 1830 to present The Hoard museum has over 150 quilts in its collection dating from 1830. Designs range from patchwork to Victorian crazy quilts to original appliques. The museum’s first quilt was donated in 1946. This quilt is a basket design with over 700 signatures of the citizens of Fort Atkinson made […]
  • Northwestern Manufacturing Co. Fire - Date in History: January 1906 In January of 1906, a spectacular nighttime fire completely destroyed the Northwestern Manufacturing Company in Fort Atkinson, which had been making furniture, wagons and buggies since 1866. Overnight, Fort’s largest industry was wiped out. Almost all the Northwestern buildings just off of West Sherman Avenue, where Johnson Bank and the […]
  • Oleo Wars - Date in History: 1895 to 1967 Most of us think of margarine as yellow, but actually that’s a fairly recent development. In 1895 the Wisconsin Legislative passed a law declaring that oleo, or margarine, purchased in Wisconsin was not allowed to have yellow coloring added since they did not want it to appear like butter. […]
  • Panther Intaglio - Date in History: 1850 In 1850 when Increase Lapham published his Antiquities of Wisconsin he documented a remarkable series of Indian mounds that ran along Riverside Drive in Fort Atkinson. At the end of the group was the most interesting one of all – an effigy mound in reverse or cut into the ground. This […]
  • Passenger Pigeon - Date in History: Late 1800’s. Just five hundred years ago, passenger pigeons comprised about 40% of all birds in North America. Literally billions of these birds lived throughout the eastern half of North America. The name “passenger pigeon” comes from the sense of being a “passer-through” in reference to the wide area traveled by the […]
  • Pauline Pottery - Date in History: c. 1900 In 1883 Pauline Jacobus [jukO’bus] founded the Pauline Pottery Company, the first art pottery company to open in Chicago. Just five years later Jacobus moved her studio to Edgerton, Wisconsin where a high quality white clay was available. At the height of its production, Pauline Pottery employed 40 people and […]
  • Polio - Date in History: 1955 Fifty years ago, in 1955, the Salk vaccine for polio was given to school children for the very first time. Despite the vaccine, the disease still threatened young people throughout the nation. Fort Atkinson reported its first case of the season on September 1st and within a few days two more […]
  • Post World War II - Date in History: 1945 At the end of 1945, life began to return to normal after four long years of war. Although 260 Fort Atkinson men and women were still serving overseas, the stories and advertisements in the Jefferson County Union reflected the changing times. Employment ads encouraged veterans to apply and Victory Bonds replaced […]
  • Prohibition in Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 1917-1919 The local temperance movement flexed its muscle in 1917 when Fort Atkinson voted to become a dry town, joining 40 other communities statewide. Eleven towns, including Jefferson, voted to keep the taverns open. “Jefferson saloonkeepers are getting ready for one big carouse,” the newspaper reported after the election. “Boozers don’t need […]
  • Prohibition Raid - Date in History: 9/26/1924 In 1921 a young Bavarian immigrant named Carl Ebner purchased the Spaeth brewery on South Water Street in Fort Atkinson. Since prohibition was then in force, Ebner changed the name to the Fort Atkinson Beverage Company and bided his time making carbonated drinks. But, apparently that’s not all they were making. […]
  • Riverwall - Date in History: 1930’s In 1931, Fort Atkinson city engineer Elmore Klement made a survey of the Rock River as it traveled through the city with the idea of building a river wall to tidy up the messy shorelines. Happily his plan coincided with the depression-era government’s plans to hire the unemployed, and Klement got […]
  • Rock Lake Sea Serpent - Through the years, many folk stories have centered on Rock Lake in Lake Mills. Some concern pyramids at the bottom of the lake and others sound similar to the story of the famous Loch Ness monster. In 1882, after being quiet for 15 years, the Rock Lake serpent apparently reared its head at two boaters […]
  • Rural Schools - Date in History: 1840s to 1950s The life of a rural school teacher was quite different than that of their city counterpart. Due to limited housing and transportation, teachers often lived with their students’ families. Their days began early with a walk to work and upon arrival they had to prepare the building for the […]
  • Second High School - Date in History: 1888 to 1926 Fort Atkinson’s second public high school opened in December of 1888 after a fire completely consumed the first one in April of that same year. Built on the same site on South High Street as the first one, this more elegant building had a girl’s entrance on the left […]
  • Senator John F. Kennedy Visits Fort Atkinson - Date in History: 02/16/1960 On February 16th, 1960 Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie visited Fort Atkinson during the campaign for the Wisconsin Presidential Primary. Kennedy walked up and down both sides of South Main Street, stopping in at each business and stopping traffic as motorists shook his hand. Kennedy knew he was […]
  • Sunday Night Dances - Date in History: 1927 The following article appeared in the September 9th, 1927 edition of the Jefferson County Union. “The dance hall committee of the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors met in the office of the District Attorney last week and agreed that Sunday night dances be allowed in Jefferson County in so far as […]
  • Tchogeerrah - Date in History: 1917 The very first Fort Atkinson High School yearbook – the Tchogeerrah – was publishing in 1917. “In moments stolen from the classroom,” the editor reported, “we have wrought this book hoping that it may lighten the burden of some weary hour or recall a pleasant memory in time to come.” Well, […]
  • The Home Town Folks - Date in History: World War II The Home Town Folks was an organization created in Fort Atkinson during World War II to support our servicemen and women who were far away from home. Every holiday and birthday throughout the war, these kind folks sent a card to the troops, and at Christmas they mailed off […]
  • The Settlement Cookbook - Date in History: 1900 In 1900, the Milwaukee Jewish Mission opened a settlement house to assist new immigrants to America. One of the more popular events held at the house was a class on the preparation of simple nutritional meals using American products. The women teaching the class created a workbook to go along with […]
  • Train Crash of 1859 - Date in History: October 1859 In September of 1859 everyone in the county was celebrating the new Chicago-Northwestern railroad line that had just opened for service. This excitement quickly waned, however, after the first train wreck occurred just a month later. It happened on special train that was carrying 600 passengers on a promotional trip […]
  • Trash Collection - Date in History: 1830s on TWhat did the citizens of Fort Atkinson do with their garbage before garbage trucks and recycle plants? Early settlers did not have the amount of material goods (and hence garbage) that we now have so they often simply buried it in the backyard and fed kitchen scraps to the family’s […]
  • Uncle Sam on the Rock River - Date in History: 1898 The Rock River travels 310 miles from Horicon’s glacial lake deposits to Rock Island, Illinois where it meets the Mississippi River. One hundred years ago the Rock River was a great source of recreation for the people of Fort Atkinson. A number of passenger boats plied its waters, including the steamer […]
  • Woman’s Suffrage in Jefferson County - Date in History: 1920 Tuesday, September 7th, 1920 was a new day for Jefferson County women as they voted for the first time in their life. The nineteenth amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote had just been ratified on August 18th of that year as Tennessee became the 36th and final state to pass […]
  • Women’s Suffrage - Date in History: 1920 In 1906, the great American feminist, Susan B. Anthony, died. As president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association she had fought tenaciously for the right of women to vote. In 1920, fourteen years after her death, the nineteenth amendment was finally passed giving woment that right. Wisconsin was the first […]
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