Village History

As Menomonee Falls celebrates the 125th anniversary of its incorporation in 2017, the Village is taking stock of its rich history. In review of the Village’s 125 year journey (and its pre-incorporation history), there are many stories to tell, people to appreciate, and moments to share. This page offers a framework for exploring Menomonee Falls history by breaking down the story into six distinctive eras. The selected details below are meant to provide a few highlights from Menomonee Falls’ past.

If you or someone you know would like to share your memories and add to the historic resources that we have collected for this web page please contact Tyler Zwagerman at tzwagerman@menomonee-falls.org.

Click to view the following history resources: a timeline summary of
Village history
, a collection of historical narrativesa detailed timeline of Village history, and a summary of Fussville history
  
To learn more about local history follow the links below.
   - Menomonee Falls Historical Society
   - Falls Cable Access - see "I Remember...Menomonee Falls"

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  1. Early Settlement
  2. Becoming a Village
  3. Welcoming Modernity
  4. Suburban Community
  5. Economic Engine
  6. Recent Milestones
In the early 19th century the area that is now recognized as the Village of Menomonee Falls was inhabited by native groups including people of Menomonee and Chippewa origin. The area is named after the native phrase MIH-NO-MIN-EE SEEPE which means "wild rice river". For generations, these groups kept seasonal camps near the Menomonee River, maintaining their way of life despite intermittent encounters with European trappers and traders. The European American settlement of the area began in 1836 when Garrett Vliet surveyed and mapped the area around the Menomonee River in anticipation of land sales within the newly created Wisconsin Territory. An Irishman named Patrick Raferty came to the area in 1837 and is said to be the first white settler in the future Town of Menomonee, and Hollingsworth S. Smith (who operated Garrett Vliet’s sawmill) is said to be the first permanent resident of the settlement that would become the Village of Menomonee Falls.

The 1840s were a decade of many firsts in the area. The first meeting of the Town of Menomonee was held in 1842 and the Town’s first post office, church, school (1843), lime kilns (1845), tavern and a plank road (1846) were built shortly thereafter. Three distinctive settlements were established in the 1840s: Menomonee Falls, Lannon Springs and Fussville. By 1845, the settlement of Menomonee Falls boasted several homes and businesses and a population of roughly 100 people. 

           The Barnes House - built 1842                             The Eagle Hotel and Tavern - built late 1840s                  
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By 1850, the population of the Town of Menomonee was estimated at 1,340 persons and lands around the intersection of Fond du Lac Road and Waukesha Road (now known as Appleton Avenue and Main Street) had been platted into a few dozen parcels which were eventually developed as the “Four Corners” commercial area. Development highlights during the 1850s included a new dam and flour mill as well as new churches and the first Menomonee Falls public school building. As lands were settled, the population of the Town of Menomonee increased by nearly 70 percent to 2,267 persons.

During the 1860s, the settlement of Menomonee Falls continued to grow as a center of trade serving the surrounding agricultural areas, and new homes along Water Street created the Village’s first residential street. There were dozens of businesses in the settlement by the 1860s and at least half of these were operated by German immigrants. To the southeast in Fussville, St. Anthony the Hermit Catholic Church was completed in 1867 creating an architectural landmark which characterizes that area to this day. To the southwest in Lannon Springs, the congregation of St. James Catholic Church celebrated the 20th anniversary of their church's construction in 1868. At the Four Corners, the Coates and Ostrander store (now Nino’s Italian Bakery & Deli) was completed in 1869.
 
            Looking west on Main Street in 1869
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