HISTORY OF KAUKAUNA
(Information Obtained from City of Kaukauna Budget
Kaukauna is one of Wisconsin's oldest communities. The first
white explorer to see Kaukauna was Jean Nicolet, who pushed his
birch bark canoe up the Fox River from Green Bay in search of a
water passage to the Orient. Nicolet made allies with the Winnebago
Indians that he found in the region. Trappers, hunters,
missionaries, and merchants soon followed with additional
expeditions to the new territory.
Because travelers had to carry their boats and cargoes over the
three waterfalls at what is now Kaukauna, that spot was destined by
nature to become a way-station and settlement on this important
waterway. When Father Claude Allouez paused there on April 18,
1670, he noted in his journal, "we passed the portage called by the
natives KeKaling, our sailors dragged the canoe among the rapids:
while I walked on the Riverbank, where I found apple trees and
vine-stocks in great numbers."
Thousands of bales of furs were carried over the KeKalin Falls
during the ensuing fur trading period and log dwellings were
erected at the site to house the portagers and travelers. By 1760,
Charles de Langlade had a fur trading post at the falls.
Dominique Ducharme was the first permanent white settler and
built a substantial log house in 1790 in KeKalin (Kaukauna) and
began trading with the Menomini and Chippewa Indians. At the time,
1,500 Indians lived in the village of Kaukauna.
The north side of the City was the first to be settled, with
Dominique Ducharme's land deed of 1793. The Ducharme deed was
Wisconsin's first recorded deed in which he obtained several
hundred acres of land for the initial payment of two barrels of
rum. In 1818, Augustin Grignon moved from Green Bay to take up
residence in Kaukauna on a government grant of 1,000 acres of land
on the lower rapids. On this property, but closer to the river,
Augustine's son Charles built the "Mansion in the Woods" in 1837.
The Charles A. Grignon Home is the oldest home in Outagamie County
and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A settlement known as Statesburg began on the south side of what
is now Kaukauna. The Stockbridge tribe had fought on the side of
the Americans in the Revolutionary War, and were rewarded with
western land to be held with the native American groups already in
In 1831, a new series of American treaties resulted in the
relocation to the Stockbridge settlements. The departure of the
Stockbridge from Statesburg substantially reduced the population.
The Grignons were left in the wilderness in the company of a small
group of French farmers.
Two factors led to immediate growth: the 1836 Treaty of the
Cedar opened the Fox Valley settlement through U.S. territorial
land offices, and George W. Lawe arrived in 1850 to create the
first plat on the north side of town. The plat of about 17 blocks
created the "diagonal" French-oriented street system which still
prevails on the near north and south sides of Kaukauna.
A small north side business district developed during canal
building activities in the 1850's. The Chicago and Northwestern
Railroad's north side line encouraged local industry such as flour
milling and lumber processing in the 1860's and 1870's, but before
1880, the north side remained a modest settlement and the south
side had reverted to scattered farms.
The second railroad boom of the 1880's brought Irish and German
workers who created the south side Village of Ledyard. In 1881,
Milwaukee Lakeshore and Western Railroad relocated its district
office from Manitowoc to Kaukauna's south side. First Street was
vacated and the railroads sprang up. Company housing for the
railroad workers was developed in the south central area known as
In 1885, the Village of Ledyard joined with the north side to
form the City of Kaukauna. The 1880's railroad developments
coincided with the creation of new water power canals to supply
Kaukauna industry. The men who built the railroad and power canals
stayed to create the paper industry which is so important to
Kaukauna today. The construction of five municipal hydroelectric
generating plants gave Kaukauna its nickname, "The Electric
Today, the City of Kaukauna is a growing community of 15,519.
The City has its own Police, Fire and Rescue service available to
our residents. Kaukauna is well-maintained with regular garbage
collection, street cleaning, well-lit and well-paved streets and
other services vital to keeping our community safe and attractive.
Kaukauna boasts a 350 acre Industrial Park Network, complete with
rail and heavy truck access. Kaukauna also affords its residents
with numerous recreational opportunities such as the Historic
Grignon Mansion, the 1000 Islands Environmental Center, fourteen
private parks, eight sports fields, a public swimming pool,
Downtown Farmers Market, and a public library. With such a
variety of activities available, it should not come as a surprise
that Kaukauna is also known as "The Friendly City."
Walking Tour Through Old Kaukauna, Dept. of Planning and
Community Development, City of Kaukauna (1983).
Charles A. Grignon Mansion Pamphlet, Outagamie County
Historical Society (1988).
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