Wisconsin (oldest cities and towns) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Wisconsin (oldest cities and towns)

Wisconsin (oldest cities and towns) | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


City of Appleton, ca. 1930 (WHi-28385)

Determining the date at which a community was founded is problematic. For thousands of years, Native Americans occupied the sites of most important Wisconsin cities and towns; perhaps Aztalan would rank as the oldest Wisconsin community. Even if one limits the question to the year that the first white person settled in any locality, was the town founded by someone conducting the first seasonal fur trade post, filing an official plat, erecting the first public building, or some other action? Like so many historical questions, the answer depends on how one defines one's terms.

Listed below are places that 1) still exist today and 2) were established by 1836, the year in which Wisconsin became a territory.  Their founding is dated from the arrival of the first permanent, year-round, white settlers rather than from the establishment of a seasonal trading post:

1765 Green Bay
ca. 1785 Prairie du Chien   
ca. 1795 La Pointe            
ca. 1820  Shullsburg            
ca. 1825 Platteville (post office established 12/31/28)

1827 Dodgeville          
1827 Mineral Point    
1827 Cassville (John Marsh letter, 1/14/27)
1828 Gratiot's Grove (post office established 2/20/28)
1828 Portage              
1829 De Pere              
1830 Paris (post office established 3/31/30)

1831 Helena (post office established 2/10/31)
1831 Kaukauna (post office established 5/5/31)
1831 Elk Grove (post office established 9/17/31)
1832 Sinsinawa (post office established 4/26/32)

1834 Menomonee (post office established 7/10/34)
1834 Racine    
1834 Waukesha    

1835 Lancaster (post office established 1/19/35)
1835 Milwaukee (post office established 3/16/35)
1835 Wiota (post office established 3/23/35)
1835 Butte des Mortes (post office established 9/5/35)
1835 Kenosha             
1835 Appleton      

1836 Janesville            
1836 Beloit     
1836 Oshkosh             
1836 White Oak Springs (post office established 1/26/36)
1836 Sheboygan (post office established 4/18/36)
1836 Savannah  (post office established 5/19/36)
1836 Wingville (post office established 5/23/36)
1836 Belmont (post office established 5/9/36)

Wisconsin Historical Collections; "The Territorial Post Offices of Wisconsin." (Oshkosh, Wis.: Wisconsin Postal History Society, 1963)

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