Our history

About Winneconne Historical Society

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.

Several bridges have spanned the river over the years. A float bridge was constructed in 1853. Prior to that some Indians operated a ferry and it was the only means of crossing the river. A wooden bridge followed and served until 1888 when work began on an iron bridge. The key that turned that bridge may be seen hanging on the wall of the depot that is part of the Winneconne Historical Society Museum complex at Marble Park. The Merritt F. White Bridge dedicated to Senator White was completed in 1936 and was the only bridge in the state of Wisconsin from which fishing was legal. Early in 2018 construction of a new bridge began and was opened for traffic in the fall of that same year.

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.

Winneconne’s municipal center which houses administration offices, police department, library, and meeting rooms for the public. It is attractively situated looking over the Wolf River and Waterfront Park. Winneconne has four parks. The park system totals over 73 acres of land with many recreational facilities.

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