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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Transportation, industry and Prohibition changed Fond du Lac, Wisconsin's history

Lake Winnebago
In 1835, the new Military Ridge Road would pass through Fond du Lac and connect forts in Wisconsin to Fort Dearborn in Illinois. The next year an Act of Congress established the Territory of Wisconsin.

By this time sturgeon had inhabited the earth for approximately 100 million years. The Menominee had fished on Lake Winnebago for several hundred years before European settlers arrived. In 1835, the new Military Ridge Road would pass through Fond du Lac and connect forts in Wisconsin to Fort Dearborn in Illinois.

The city's location at the head of Lake Winnebago took advantage of the natural harbor and industry skyrocketed. Transportation routes by water, rail and wagon served the needs of manufacturing companies.

Horicon Marsh
The first school was built in 1843 and the first railroad came to the community in 1852. By the early 1900s, the city had seen the rise and fall of major railroad, construction and milling businesses. Fond du Lac once led the state in the production of barley for the flourishing brewery industry even though by 1915, Prohibition was nipping at its heels. Carrie Nation spoke at a tavern in Fond du Lac where she proclaimed that every German in Wisconsin should be blown up with dynamite.

On a lighter note, in the 1920s, the city negotiated with the New York Yankees to come to Fond du Lac to play an exhibition game with a local team. Unfortunately, they never reached a deal. Adults enjoyed frequent boxing matches at the armory.

So what did kids do? They flocked to the circus when it came to town. In 1924, the Moose Circus gave a birthday party for Babe, a twelve-year-old elephant, on the steps of the courthouse.

After the stock market crash, life changed for all Americans. Banks closed, businesses failed and people lost their jobs. According to www.fdlpl.org, about half of the city’s families were on some form of relief. By 1933, nearly one-fourth of the country was out of work. Fond du Lac and the state of Wisconsin suffered. Wisconsin reported 269,000 out of work in 1932.

After WWII, Fond du Lac grew and  thrived.  Today Mercury Marine is its largest manufacturing company and the city brings many tourists to town through a busy calendar of events. Whether it's the hiking, birding, water activities, children's museums, eating or shopping, you'll find plenty of great experiences in Fond du Lac.

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