Winneconne, 1849-1949 : The History and Anecdotes of a Typical Wisconsin Community
Winneconne's location has helped dictate its history. An 1849 Oshkosh newspaper article recognized the importance of the site as follows:
"Last week we were up to Winnekona, a new town just laid out a little above the junction of the Fox and Wolf rivers. Everything is entirely new. Evidences are that it will grow rapidly. It is a beautiful site. Several men of responsibility are taking hold. The country around it is rich and well settled, and the place must thrive."
The pioneers who settled the area included Yankees, Germans, Norwegians and the Irish. Census figures show a pattern of settlement. In 1855, there were 839 residents. The arrival of the railroad in 1868 was an impetus to growth; however, in 1920, Winneconne recorded its lowest population total as 745. Today's population is over 2,500.
Winneconne was in a unique position because of the narrows of the river. It also had a unique name. it was WINNECONNAH, WINNEKONA, WAU-NAU-KO and WINNIKNING. The Indian interpretations of the name ranged from land of dirty water to land of skull and bones, as well as feasting place from ween (marrow) and kaning (deer bones). In 1851, the town board officially named the village WINNECONNE.
Winneconne expanded settlement after The 1852 Treaty of Poygan with the Menominee Indians when land west of the river became available. This created a need for a means of crossing the river. The first crossing was provided by the Indians in canoes.
Four bridges have spanned the Wolf River (849 feet). A float bridge, was built by J.D. Rush in 1853. It provided an exciting crossing when it sometimes sat beneath the water on a windy day. Tolls were collected to pay for the bridge -- a forerunner to the Sovereign State toll bridge of today. The second one was built in 1871. it was a wooden draw bridge built by the Winneconne Village and Town at a cost of $20,000.
In early years sawmills, planing mills, shingle mills, and a sash and door factory lined the river. Commercial fishing was a thriving business. Several shipyards built and repaired boats. The "men of responsibility" who took hold also provided services needed by settlers and travelers. The river and lakes provided bountiful fishing and hunting, and Winneconne became known as a "Hunting and Fishing Paradise." Resorts and tourist services became an integral part of the village's economy -- as they are today.
Today Winneconne has a new municipal center which houses all the governing personnel, a large beautiful library, and meeting rooms for the public. It is attractively situated looking over the Wolf River and one of the new parks. Winneconne has added two parks allowing for many new recreational facilities. The village is growing in size and in population.
The Winneconne Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is
an affiliate of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Council of Local History