By Julie Flemming
This is the first in the series of 12 stories on Dodge County. The county is celebrating its 175th Anniversary, dating from 1838-2013.
In 1837, the area of Fox Lake was lush and unsettled. There existed a fringe of log-cabin settlements in the Wisconsin Territory of which Milwaukee was one; another along the border of Lake Michigan; a few similar settlements in the Fox River Valley near Green Bay; and a few more along the Mississippi northward from Prairie du Chien. Between these sparse settlements lay vast stretches of virgin forest and unbroken prairies with various Indian tribes as the principal human inhabitants. In the area of Fox Lake, it was the Winnebago Tribe (Ho-Chunk) that populated the lakeshores and stream shores. They had already had some contact with the white man and were not overly hostile.
Before 1832, in the area there were few roads, which really could only be called trails. However in 1832, the Army Engineers set out to survey and construct a road along a route from Fort Howard at Green Bay to Fort Winnebago at Portage and Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien. At first this military road was only a plowed furrow to mark the route, but later trees were cut, swamps were corduroyed with logs and bridges built. The road followed the east side of Lake Winnebago to Fond du Lac, and as it swung west it passed just north of Lake Maria near the Dodge-Green Lake County line. It is due to the closeness of this road that Fox Lake became the first permanent settlement in Dodge County.
Then in 1839, a road was constructed that roughly followed the present highways of 151, 68, and 33 through Fox Lake to Fort Winnebago at Portage. This route gave Fox Lake the first bridge over the outlet of the lake on the west end of what is now State Street.
As when anything new begins, there are always changes - and where Fox Lake was concerned, the changes in the name of the new community were many. Beginning when the first white settler Jacob P. Brower appeared in 1838, the name of the area (Fox Lake Township) was "Hash-a-rac-as-tah," which was the Indian name for the lake. It only took one year and a second name was chosen. On July 27, 1839, a post office was established under the name of Frankfort. It was the first post office in Dodge County and was located in the Sheboygan House.
With the arrival of some additional settlers, the Hamilton Stevens family, the name was again changed to Waushara, which one source says it means "Fish Spear," but another source says that it comes from the Indian word "Ti-wau-sha-ra," the Winnebago word for Fox Lake meaning "Good Land." Wherever the name came from, on April 24, 1840 the name Waushara was given the settlement (where City of Fox Lake is now) and that name remained in effect for 16 years. The mail was brought once a week by horsemen as they traveled from Fort Howard at Green Bay to Fort Winnebago at Portage.
On May 5, 1856, the name changed to Fox Lake and the post office was made a money order office on Sept. 9, 1867. It was during this time - 1856 to 1867, that the settlement of Fox Lake changed from being under the jurisdiction of the Town of Fox Lake. A charter was secured and an election took place at the American House, making it the Village of Fox Lake.
All was fine and good until on Jan. 10, 1895, when the name was written Fox Lake by the postal department, due to objections by Fox Lake, Illinois. Finally in 1938, the name, the sixth change was officially changed back to Fox Lake and it has been that ever since. It is interesting that it took 100 years for Fox Lake to finally have its permanent name and now the community celebrates 175 years.