Waupun was founded in 1839 by Seymour Wilcox, the first settler along the Rock River in what was then deciduous forested land. Wilcox chose the land on recommendation of John Bannister, the first surveyor of Fond du Lac County, who reported to the government office in Green Bay that “the Rock River Valley was the most beautiful and fertile he had ever seen.” Wilcox surveyed the land himself in late fall of 1838, returning to Green Bay for the winter. In February 1839 he returned to the plot he laid out accompanied by two men, John N. Ackerman and Hiram Walker, whom were interested in the powerful river and fertile land. They quickly nailed together a shanty to four burr-oaks and began building a suitable cabin for the Wilcox homestead. Leaving Ackerman and Walker to finish, Wilcox returned to Green Bay to bring his family to their new home. They reached Waupun on March 20, 1839.
Waupun comes from the Ojibwe word “Waubun” which means “the east,” “the morning,” “the twilight of dawn” and “dawn of day.” In fact, Waupun was originally supposed to be named “Waubun” but the State of Wisconsin made a spelling error, and Waupun never bothered to change it. An adjacent township with the same name was changed along with the village.
Something you might not know…In 1851, the city was chosen for the State Penitentiary, owing to the abundance of limestone for construction. The main building, constructed in 1854, is still in use.
More stuff of interest…Waupun is actually in two counties: Dodge and Fond du Lac. The population was 11,344 at the 2020 census. Of this, 7,795 were in Dodge County, and 3,549 were in Fond du Lac County. In Fond du Lac County, the Town of Waupun abuts the city of Waupun.