Village History

As Menomonee Falls celebrated the 125th anniversary of its incorporation in 2017, the Village took stock of its rich history. In review of the Village's 125 year journey (and its pre-incorporation history), there were 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.

Share Your Memories

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 Village Planner Tyler Zwagerman.

Click to view the following history resources: a timeline summary of Village history (PDF), a collection of historical narratives (PDF), a detailed timeline of Village history (PDF), and a summary of Fussville history (PDF)

To learn more about local history follow these links.

1960s Postcard of Main Street
  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, Chippewa and Algonquin origin. 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.

William Barnes Log Home, originally built in the 1840s
William Barnes Log House

A view of the Eagle Hotel, established in the late 1840s

1880s Eagle Hotel Photo

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 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’s Catholic Church was constructed in 1867 creating an institution and landmark which characterizes that area to this day. At the FourCorners, the Coates and Ostrander store (now Nino’s Italian Bakery) was completed in 1869.

Main Street looking west in 1869

Main Street in 1869