The forest known as Fond du Lac, Wisconsin was pure and undisturbed for centuries. Although a permanent white settlement began in 1836, the original inhabitants of the Fond du Lac area were Native Indians.

About 15,000 years ago, the first tribe of Indians lived in Wisconsin. These tribal people were known as Mound Builders.

The mound builder’s legacy is the mounds of effigy he built. The mounds were in the shape of animals, birds and reptiles on round and oval shapes. The burial mounds date back to 500 BC.

The height of the effigy mound building was around 700 A.D. And it was after that. The platform mounds were rectangular with a flat surface on top. These were used as bases for important public buildings, such as temples and chieftains’ houses. Early French explorers saw the use of the mound during Indian religious ceremonies and the burial of their dead. The burial mound contained several wooden chambers in which a body was placed, and the chamber was then covered with dirt.

No one really knows what happened to the mound builders as they mysteriously disappeared from the area. Many anthropologists and archaeologists believe that they evolved into other Indians in the region, such as the Winnebagos and Algonquians.

The Indian name for Lake Winnebago is Okavanu. It translates to “end of the lake”. It is actually a corruption of the name Winnebegogue, which it was sometimes called.

The Winnebago Indians were the dominant tribe to occupy the Fond du Lac area. He controlled all the rivers and streams that flowed into the lake. Their homes were dome-shaped wigwams, made from the basswood plant, and covered with woven mats. They were about thirty feet long and twenty feet across.

Colvert and Fanna (Kendall) Pear were the Winnebago Indians to welcome them upon arrival at Fond du Lac House in 1836. He stood on the bank of the Fond du Lac river.

The area was first explored in 1618, when Jean Nicolet and Samuel de Champlain were on an expedition to explore the upper Great Lakes. It was early explorers such as these, and French voyagers (fur trappers) named the area Fond du Lac, which is French for “the bottom or far end of the lake”.

The French occupied the area and no records seem to exist for a period of about 20 years. Control of the area was transferred from the French to the English. The first recorded person to inhabit the Fond du Lac region who was not an Indian was a French merchant named Laurent Ducharm, who immigrated here in 1785. He found that a cabin was already here. He lived in this area from 1785 to 1787.

In 1787, a man named “ACE” or Mr. Jacob Franks came to the area with his wife and children and nephew, John Laws. He traded with Indians, some of whom were friendly, but some were hostile to the white man. Mr. Franks was seduced from office and assassinated by the Indians. Mrs. Franks, along with her children, fled the post, and found refuge with a tribe of friendly Indians. The trading post was abandoned again. No one knows what happened to Mrs. Franks, although some think the Indians took her by canoe to nearby Oshkosh.

Around 1790, a man named Chavodreville, who was half French and half Canadian Indian, occupied this position indefinitely along with two clerks. These men were also at the mercy of the Winnebago Indians and were murdered and the post fell vacant again. After 1800 the original post was completely abandoned, almost completely ruined. In 1801, Augustine Grignon and Michel Brisbois built a new post near the same site along the Fond du Lac river. He ran a thriving business with the Indians along the banks of rivers and lakes.

In 1832, James Duane Doty appealed to Congress in Washington, DC to build a road between Fort Howard and Prairie du Chien via Fort Winnebago and Fond du Lac, Wis. Later that year he was called to Washington, DC where he was appointed to be in charge of building such a road. The Fifth Infantry Regiment at Fort Howard was the actual backbone that built the road from Fort Howard to Fort Winnebago.

The road was quickly and poorly built. Trees were marked along the way through the dense forest, and many were removed to make a wider path. The trenches were cut and filled with brush and branches. The road was marked by two bullocks plowed on either side of the road, on open fields.

On May 28, 1836, Colvert Pier left Green Bay on horseback along the Military Road to prepare a “Fond du Lac House” for his wife’s arrival. Mrs. Pierce took a safer route, as there were rumors of an Indian war. He followed Mr. Pear in a Durham boat on Lake Winnebago. It had several stops along the way before reaching the site of the Fond du Lac house. The boat was captained by Samuel Irwin.


On June 6, 1836, Mrs. Pierre arrived at the outlet of the Fond du Lac River on Lake Winnebago. The boat traveled down the stream and met hundreds of Indians along the river. Mrs. Fanna (Kendall) Pierre was greeted by her husband, Captain Samuel Irwin writing these words about Pierce: “I said goodbye to Mrs. Pierr, not with grief with emotion. She did us with her equal kindness. Loved himself for all. He assisted us with our cooking, and pleased us with his looks and words through all the difficult scenes of the nine-day journey. When we dropped him on the banks of the Fond du Lac river , which was a lonely area surrounded by hundreds of Indians, who had no one but her husband to protect us, we all felt sad.”

Another writer had this to say, “She once told me that when Captain Irwin’s boat went out of sight, she and her husband were left alone—realizing that they were the only civilized men in the whole area. Resident, she sat down on the ground and cried for a long time, then wiping her tears, she stood firm and went to the house where she was supposed to be, and looked at the quiet scene around…”

The two cabins were combined in the Fond du Lac house; There was a hall between the dining room and the sitting room and a kitchen at the rear of the cabin. There was dirt on the floor, but before Mrs. Fanna Pear arrived, her husband had replaced it with a wooden floor and the cabin had two windows and a door.

Within half a day an Indian squash appeared at home. Through sign language, Mrs. Pear understood that the lady wanted to trade some feathers for some flour, and she did. Within half an hour the house was filled with squash, who wanted to trade the pork and feathers for flour. All piers contained one barrel of pork and 2 barrels of flour. By the end of the day, Mrs. Pear had enough wings to make two large wing beds. He remained the only white settler from 6 June 1836 to 11 March 1837. On horseback from Green Bay, Wis., his brother Edward Pierre and his wife Harriet (Kendall) Pierre, sister of Mrs Colvert Pierre, and their two arrived. Daughters, youngest only 4 weeks old. Slowly and unevenly, people entered the area.

The first mail was brought to Fond du Lac House on February 18, 1838, by the French-Indian half-bred Willie William Lalon, who moved from Green Bay. The mail arrived regularly, every week, on foot.

Tragedy struck the small settlement with the death of Mrs. Fanna (Kendall) Pearce on March 1, 1838. His funeral took place on March 3, 1838.

In May 1838, Gustave Deneuve arrived with his wife, Madame Harriet (Dousman) Deneuve. At this time there were only five houses, or cabins, in the entire county; Home of Colvert Pier, Edward Pier, Luke Laborde and Mason C. Darling. Deneuve was the fifth to be picked up.

Mason C. Darling and his family arrived in the area on June 14, 1838. He had brought about 15 people with him from the Sheboygan area.

On September 10, 1838, a public meeting was held for all the citizens of the Fond du Lac region. They wanted to organize the area as a county, but the area had less than a hundred inhabitants. The first marriage took place on September 26, 1838, in Fond du Lac County, between Calvin and Esther (Everarts) Pierre and Miss Harriet Pierre, daughter of Mr. Alonzo Raymond. The Justice of the Peace, Mr. John A. Bannister married at the House of Fond du Lac.

With the completion of a plank road between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac in 1837–38, many more people came to the area. By the winter of 1839, a road connected Vaupun and Fond du Lac and Madison.

The first federal population census for Fond du Lac County was taken by John Bannister on July 1, 1840. At this time, there were exactly 139 persons spread across the county.

As more and more people came to settle in the area, this area started taking the form of a small village. The first gristmill was built near the river in 1843 to help refine the many grains being grown in the county.

In March 1843, the people of Fond du Lac wanted to create their own county. This will be the third attempt to do so. An act was brought before legislators and the act passed on January 22, 1844, and Fond du Lac, the first Monday in March, would become a full county of Wisconsin Territory.

In 1847 the population of the village of Fond du Lac was 519 persons and became a incorporated village that year. The first village president was Dr. Mason C. Darling.

When the federal census was conducted in 1850, only three years after it became a village, the town had over 1940 individuals. This was an increase of 1,321 in just three years, and on March 19, 1852, the city was incorporated as a full city, with over 2,000 persons living in the city.

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