Kaukauna is located on the Fox River between Green Bay and Lake Winnebago in Outagamie County. The three waterfalls in the area made the spot a natural way station, transportation hub, and settlement point. Jean Nicolet (1598-1642) was the first white explorer to see Kaukauna in 1634, pushing his canoe up the Fox River from Green Bay and making allies with the Ho-Chunk he found in the area.
Thousands of furs were carried over the falls near Kaukauna during the fur trade era. Log homes were constructed to house the traders and travelers, and by 1760, Charles de Langlade (1729-1801) had a fur trading post at the falls.
The first land deed ever recorded in Wisconsin was filed for land in Kaukauna by Dominique Ducharme (1765-1853), who purchased 1,282 acres from the Chippewa and Menominee nations in1790, built himself a substantial log cabin, and opened a trading post. Augustin Grignon (1780-1860) obtained a land grant of 1,000 acres, and established the first grist mill in 1818, and was joined by his son, Charles (1808-1862), who built a mansion for his new bride in 1837. The “Mansion in the Woods” still stands, and is open to the public today.
A settlement known as Statesburg began on the south side of town, populated with members of the Stockbridge tribe that had fought for the Americans during the Revolution. A series of treaties in 1831, however, resulted in the relocation of the Stockbridge settlements, substantially reducing the population in the area.
The 1836 Treaty of Cedar opening the area to settlement and led to the city’s growth. In 1850, George W. Lawe (1810-1895) arrived and soon created the first plat of the north side of town, which encouraged canal building activities in the area to connect Green Bay to the Mississippi River.
The arrival of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad encouraged flour milling and lumber processing in the 1860s and 1870s. A second railroad boom in the 1880s brought Irish and German workers. New water power canals were built to supply Kaukauna’s industry, earning Kaukauna the nickname “The Electric City.” These railroad and canal builders also helped start the city’s paper industry, which remains important to this day.
For the City of Kaukauna website, click here.