Although officially part of Racine County, much of the Burlington area also lies within Walworth County.
Burlington is situated at the confluence of the White and Fox Rivers, where Honey Creek also joins the White River. Like many early settlements, the availability of water power to run saw and grist mills determined its location.
The first "jack-knife" claim was made about December 15, 1835, when Moses Smith and William Whiting carved their names and date on trees near the present Standard-Press building o Commerce Street. They then left the area, later returning with Lemuel Smith and Benjamin Perce a week or so later. The four built a shanty on the east side of the Fox River in what is now Wehmhoff-Jucker Park, while they explored the area looking for water-power sites and farming land.
In 1836 Daniel Rork made a claim to land on which much of the early settlement was built, selling the claim later to Silas Peck. In 1837 Moses Smith was appointed postmaster of the settlement, then called Foxville.
In early 1837, Pliny Perkins and his father, Ephraim, moved to Foxville and bought the unfinished dam and "up and down" sawmill that Moses Smith and Samuel Vaughn had begun. They soon completed the dam and sawmill and also built a small, frame, grist mill, which ground the first flour shipped from Wisconsin to New York.
Also in 1837 the townsmen built a wooden bridge, the first bridge to span the Fox River, to enable grain and other products to be hauled to Southport (now Kenosha).
The name was changed from Foxville to Burlington on July 15, 1839.
In 1843 Pliny Perkins built a woolen mill, which made the first roll of cloth turned out in Wisconsin and later made cloth for Civil War uniforms.
The first German inhabitants, Francis and Joseph Wackerman, arrived from New York in 1848, and by 1876 Burlington and nearly 2,000 residents. Incorporated as a village in 1886 and moving to city status in 1900, Burlington has continued to grow to the community of over 10,000 that it is today.
Delavan, with a population of over 11,000 serves as the focal point for thousands of visitors to the area. It is a clean, friendly place, located in a region of sparkling lakes and rolling Wisconsin farmland. Rustic roads wind through the countryside past ducks and Canadian geese, delicate wildflowers, stately trees and quiet pastures. Delavan is surprisingly different, with a unique circus history, outstanding recreational and educational facilities, prosperous agricultural, commercial and industrial firms. Delavan exhibits a cosmopolitan and metropolitan flavor seldom found in smaller cities.
On January 2, 1838, the town of Delavan was formed. This region steadily grew around the settlements that are now the towns of Darien, Sharon, Walworth and the present town of Delavan.
Brothers and explorers, Henry Phoenix and Col. Samuel F. Phoenix found the lush green hillsides, ample water supply from Delavan Lake, and the rich surrounding soil were perfect for their needs.
Delavan has a storied history steeped in circus myths and legends. By the middle of the 19th century, the nation was continuing its west-ward expansion, bringing circuses from the east to the young territories in the upper Mississippi Valley.
In 1847, Edmund and Jeremiah Mabie, proprietors of the U.S. Olympic Circus, then the largest traveling show in America, chose Delavan for their winter quarters, a year before Wisconsin attained statehood and 24 years before the Ringling Brothers raised their first tents in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
The Delavan circus era ended in 1984 when the E.G. Holland Railroad Circus folded its tents. Today, more that 250 member of the old circus colony are buried in Spring Grove and St. Andrew's cemeteries.
Downtown streets are made of brick and continued restoration ensure that Delavan will retain much of its 19th century look and charm.
The East Troy area was settled in 1836, when a man known as H. Roberts began construction of a saw mill on the shores of Honey Creek. The area quickly grew and in the span of only four years, there was also a hotel, general store, blacksmith, chapel, school (held in the chapel), post office, doctor, lawyer and justice of the peace.
Originally the entire territory was known as Troy, named after Troy, New York, an area from which many of the settlers originated. In 1843, it was determined that Troy was too large an area for one township and the state legislature split the territory. The western part was named Meacham, after an early settler, Jesse Meacham, and the eastern part retained the name of Troy.
The arrangement was not suitable with the "westerners," including Meacham, who set out for the state capitol to reclaim the name of Troy. As legend has it, Jacob Burgit, another early settler and representative of the eastern territory, heard of Meacham's trip and he too set out in his wagon to the capitol to argue his case for keeping the name of Troy for the east.
However, he was too late as Meacham was successful in keeping the name of Troy for the western party of the territory and the the eastern part was named East Troy.
In 1847 when the village was officially platted, all the land south of the main street belonged to Burgit, who had purchased Roberts' claim in 1837, built the saw mill and later a grist mill, developing a flourishing business as the surrounding countryside began to settle and build. Austin McCracken owned all the land north of the Main Street, as he came to East Troy in 1836 and built the first public inn in Walworth County. It was a log building on the site where the East Troy House now stands.
In order to encourage growth of the community, Burgit and McCracken offered a lot free to anyone who would build upon it. They also set aside land for the churches. The public square was deeded in perpetuity to the village and the park was divided into quarters on the straight and on the diagonals with Main Street encircling it so that no one would benefit more than any other. Later a wooden bandstand was built on the square and served East Troy until the 1930s when a new brick bandstand was constructed as a WPA project during the Great Depression.
Today, the village square continues to serve as the centerpiece for the community and hosts festivals and band concerts, as well as the residents and visitors who stop to enjoy its historic charm.
Elkhorn, the county seat for Walworth County, is a fast-growing community with a population of over 8,500. It is a city rich in history and tradition the the warmth and friendliness of a small town.
Elkhorn Prairie was crossed by an Army trail in the 1800s and had been surveyed a year earlier. Its name already had been given by Col. Samuel F. Phoenix who had spied an elk's antlers in a tree, perhaps placed there by earlier travelers.
Three men, LeGrand Rockwell, Hollis Latham and Horace Coleman, searched for and located the stake which denoted the center of the four central townships.
The original town was one of five organized by an act of the territorial legislature in January 1838, and included the four towns in the northwestern quarter of the county. These are now known as Whitewater, LaGrange, Richmond and Sugar Creek.
Elkhorn enjoys the honor of being known as "Christmas Card Town." It all started back in World War II days when a program of festive holiday decorations was initiated which transformed the downtown area into a Christmas card cover scene.
In 1952, Elkhorn received national recognition when the old March of Time television series chose Elkhorn as the setting for one of its shows, a program which depicted a small American town during the Christmas season. The show was seen by millions of viewers nationwide and was rerun for several years.
Then, in 1858, New York artist Cecile Johnson was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company to create a series of six watercolor paintings to illustrate an article for their magazine, the "Ford Times." Again, Elkhorn was chosen as the locale. Five of the six paintings were later used by a major publisher as artwork for Christmas cards - cards which were subsequently printed and reprinted into the hundreds of thousands, which found their way into virtually every corner of the world.
Currently carrying on the tradition is well-know Wisconsin artist Jan Castle Reed. She has created 10 wonderful paintings and continues each year with another beautiful scene of Elkhorn, frozen in time for all the world to see and enjoy.
Shaw-nee-aw-kee is the Potawatomi Indian word for "friend" and was a salutation given the John Kinzie party at the first visit of any white person to the village of Chief Big Foot. This is the site of today's Fontana.
Situated on the west end of beautiful Geneva Lake with a background of tree-covered, glacier-formed hills, Fontana welcomes you. As in the time of the Potawatomi, Fontana is the friendly village with a myriad of opportunities for a memorable vacation or to live with nature's beauty.
Fontana is home to The Abbey Resort, one of the area's finest resorts, and heaven to fishermen and water sport lovers. It is enriched with three churches, and excellent school system, a comfortable library, and is home to the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce. There are parks for relaxing and a beautiful sand beach. There are small shops with shopkeepers eager to assist you. The modern, efficient police, fire and rescue departments keep order and minimize emergencies.
Any season of the year Fontana awaits YOU - Shaw-nee-aw-kee-Friend.
Lake Geneva Downtown BID 262-248-4637
Nestled on the northeastern shores of Geneva Lake in southeast Wisconsin, Lake Geneva has been a resort community since just after the Civil War when wealthy Chicago families discovered the site and began building summer homes there. Today, the elegant, often historic estates still ring the unspoiled waters of Geneva Lake.
The beautiful natural surroundings, laid back attitude, lively downtown and understated opulence is apparent, but it's the wide variety of events, expansive nature preserves, outstanding dining and lodging options, scenic walking and biking trails and top rated golf courses designed by such icons as Trevino, Player, Palmer, Nichlaus and Dye that help secure the Lake Geneva area as one of the region's top getaway destinations for both day trippers and overnight guests.
Located just 90 minutes from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 45 minutes from Milwaukee's Mitchell Field, visitors will find the region easy to navigate with a wealth of lodging options ranging from cozy bed and breakfasts to quaint inns to luxury spa resorts offering every amenity under the sun.
Geneva Lake, the largest of the area's three lakes and the second deepest in the state, is a busy place as visitors flock to its pristine waters for rest and recreation. Watercraft rentals are plentiful with the menu ranging from ski boats to sailboats to wave runners. If fishing is your game, local guides stand ready to help you take home your "prize" catch. And if you prefer to take it easy, there's nothing like a summer's day at one of the area's beautiful beaches.
The Lake Geneva area also boasts a number of one-of-a-kind attractions including Black Point, a painstakingly restored estate offering public tours spring through fall; Yerkes Observatory, home to the world's largest refracting telescope; Geneva Lake Museum of History, housing a treasure trove of information and artifacts dating back to the 1880s; and the U.S. mailboat tour, carrying on a tradition since 1870 of delivering the mail by boat.
One of the region's greatest assets is the Geneva Lake shore path that rings the lake. Created by the region's earliest settlers to connect the many Native American camps, the 21-mile walking trail can be navigated in segments; all offering a backyard view of the many historic estates that dot the shoreline.
Dining in the Lake Geneva area runs the gamut from quaint sandwich shops to nationally renowned cuisine. And as in most resort communities, the Lake Geneva area is home to a wealth of fine local eateries located off the beaten path.
Known as the "Newport of the West" and showcased as the setting in best-selling author James Patterson's New York Times bestseller, Sam's Letter to Jennifer, lake Geneva is the ideal destination for the daytripper, overnight guest or for those looking for a romantic escape.
Lake Geneva is also the newest member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The trust refers to Lake Geneva as one of the "Midwest's most beautiful natural wonders" and picked the city because of its long history as a vacation destination with its abundance of recreational activities.
Lake Geneva - It's Always Been the Place.
Sharon is a quiet little town just a mile north of the Illinois border and six miles west of Highway 14 on Highway 67 that has a small town charm from the past that brings up images of Mayberry from the television series. Old men sit on benches near the hardware store discussing solutions to the world's problems. There are no stop lights in the town, and the traffic on the main business area-Baldwin Street-is very light. There's plenty of relaxing country roads with very little traffic.
A few things have been modernized, like the hardware store and coffee shop, but many prefer the more old-fashioned draft root beer and thick hamburgers in the hometown restaurant. And don't forget to visit the ice-cream shop.
A variety of events are held throughout the year. The Sharon Main Street Association, the help of PAC (Pacific-Atlantic-Cycling) Tour, a cross-country bicycle touring organization headquartered in town - has developed a series of six bike routes, ranging from 15 to 39 miles long, for bicyclists to enjoy. A number of businesses in the town give out the free touring packets with durable plastic-coated maps and route sheets.
Whitewater received its name from a tribe of Potawatomi Native Americans that had settled along the Whitewater River (known today as the Whitewater Creek). The name Wau-be-gan-naw-po-cat, meaning "white water," was given to the area due to the white sands that lay at the bottom of the creek.
The Whitewater area was first settled in 1836, when Alvin Foster made his stake on the land by marking his name on a tree. In 137, Samuel Prince built the first log cabin near the current site of Whitewater's Indian Mounds Park. It was not until 1839, with Dr. Trippe's donation of money for the Old Stone Mill, that Whitewater started to grow. The mill helped to create the new industrial hub of Whitewater.
In 1852, the first railway to cross Wisconsin laid its tracks through Whitewater, spurring industrial growth, Winchester and DeWolf Plow Factory (1850), Esterly Reaper Works (1857), and Winchester and Partridge Wagon Works (1860) were some of Walworth County's first and largest industries.
In 1855 the population of Whitewater was 2,224. By 1888 it had grown to 3,621. Esterly Reaper Works was the largest employer in the 1880s, employing 525. Esterly employees built homes close to the factory on the east side of the city; hence the surrounding area became known as "Reaperville." Various industries fueled Whitewaters growth until 1892, when the Esterly Reaper Works moved to Minnesota and the Wagon Works shut down, thus marking the end of Whitewater's first industrial era.
With the loss of two major industries, Whitewater lost one quarter of its population and did not regain its 1890 population level until 1950.
Owing to its location along one of the finest lakes in the state and its award-winning lakefront development, Williams Bay is an attractive summer resort. It is the home of Yerkes Observatory, a facility devoted to research in astronomy and astrophysics and the world's largest refracting telescope ever constructed and used for astronomical observations. Gage Marine, which runs the excursion boats on Geneva Lake, is headquartered here. Aurora University, a full-service educational conference center offering challenge courses, environmental programs and year-round lakeside recreation, has made its home in Williams Bay.
In the summer Williams Bay grows to nearly double its population with tourists ready to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and leisure walks around the lake. Winter brings ice boating, ice fishing and snowmobiling to "the Bay," helping to create a village for all seasons.