10 Oldest Cities In Wisconsin

We scoured the internet to determine the towns and cities in Wisconsin that have been around the longest.

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You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.

That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.

That’s older than America for those playing at home.

So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Wisconsin? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?

Because even if your Wisconsin city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.

And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.

These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Badger State according to their ‘date of foundation’:

  1. Sheboygan (Photos)
  2. Kenosha (Photos)
  3. New Berlin (Photos)
  4. Milwaukee (Photos)
  5. Beloit (Photos)
  6. Fond Du Lac (Photos)
  7. Superior (Photos)
  8. Appleton (Photos)
  9. Rice Lake (Photos)
  10. Menomonie (Photos)

For being 238 years old, Sheboygan doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Wisconsin? That would be Brookfield — a brand spanking 64 years old.

Read on for a look at the oldest places in Wisconsin or feel free to check out the best places to live in Wisconsin or the safest.

How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Wisconsin… Or Is It Settled?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.

So what did we do instead?

Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!

For the majority of cities in Wisconsin, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):

  • Founded
  • Settled
  • Incorporated
  • Approved
  • Chartered

And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.

If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.

All in all, we were able to collect data on 109 out of 145 in Wisconsin with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 75.2% completion rate.

We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Sheboygan turning out to be the matriarch of Wisconsin at the ripe old age of 238.

Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.

1. Sheboygan

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Source: Public domain

Population: 48,560
Founded: 1780
Age: 238
Before settlement by European Americans, the Sheboygan area was home to Native Americans, including members of the Potawatomi, Chippewa, Ottawa, Winnebago, and Menominee tribes. Migrants from New York, Michigan, and New England were among the pioneers to this area in the 1830s. One very early settler remarked ‘Nearly all the settlers were from the New England states and New York.’ Lumbering was the first major industry, as trees were harvested and shipped to eastern markets through the Great Lakes. Sheboygan was officially founded in 1846. Much of the town was platted in 1836, when property investors laid out more than 1,000 lots.

2. Kenosha

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Source: Public domain

Population: 99,623
Founded: 1835
Age: 183
Early archaeological sites have been discovered in the Kenosha vicinity; the discoverer of two sites believes they antedate the Clovis culture, making them contemporaneous with the ice age. Paleo Indians settled in the area at least 13,500 years ago.

The Potawatomi originally named the area ginoozhe (also transcribed kenozia, kinoje) ‘place of the pike’.

3. New Berlin

New Berlin, Wisconsin

Population: 39,779
Founded: 1840
Age: 178
The first settlers, Sidney Evans and P.G. Harrington, arrived in the northeastern part of what is now the New Berlin in 1836. The area first came under local government in 1838 as part of the Town of Muskego, which at the time was composed of New Berlin and Muskego. The area that is now the city of New Berlin was separated from the Town of Muskego in 1839 and named the Town of Mentor.

4. Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Population: 599,086
Founded: 1846
Age: 172
The name ‘Milwaukee’ comes from an Algonquian word Millioke, meaning ‘Good’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Pleasant Land’ (cf. Potawatomi language minwaking, Ojibwe language ominowakiing) or ‘Gathering place [by the water]’ (cf. Potawatomi language manwaking, Ojibwe language omaniwakiing).

The first recorded inhabitants of the Milwaukee area are the Menominee, Fox, Mascouten, Sauk, Potawatomi, Ojibwe (all Algic/Algonquian peoples) and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago, a Siouan people) Native American tribes. Many of these people had lived around Green Bay before migrating to the Milwaukee area around the time of European contact.

5. Beloit

Beloit, Wisconsin

Population: 36,733
Founded: 1846
Age: 172
Twelve men in Colebrook, New Hampshire created the ‘New England Emigrating Company’ in October 1836 and sent Dr. Horace White to find a suitable region of Wisconsin in which to settle. The level fields and the water power of Turtle Creek and the ‘unlimited gravel’ in the area around what is now Beloit fixed the site of the intended village and farms. White purchased the land. At the same time as the Colebrook settlers, six families from Bedford, New Hampshire arrived and settled in the region. They said that the Rock River Valley had a ‘New England look’, which made them feel at home. The village was platted in 1838 and was planned with wide streets which built on the New England model.

6. Fond Du Lac

Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin

Population: 42,910
Founded: 1847
Age: 171
Native American tribes, primarily the Winnebagos but also the Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and Mascoutin lived or gathered in the area long before European explorers arrived. Although the identity of the first white man to explore the southern end of Lake Winnebago is uncertain, it was probably Claude-Jean Allouez, followed by French fur trappers.

7. Superior

Superior, Wisconsin

Population: 26,473
Founded: 1854
Age: 164
The first-known inhabitants of what is now Douglas County were Mound Builders. These people appeared on the shores of Lake Superior sometime after the latest glacier receded. They mined copper in the Minong Range and at Manitou Falls on the Black River. They pounded this metal into weapons, implements, and ornaments, some of which were later found buried as grave goods in mounds with their dead. Their civilization was eventually overrun by other tribes, mainly of Muskhogean and Iroquois stock, and they disappeared as a distinct culture in late prehistoric American times.

8. Appleton

Appleton, Wisconsin

Population: 73,832
Founded: 1857
Age: 161
Fur traders seeking to do business with Fox River Valley Native Americans were the first European settlers in Appleton. Hippolyte Grignon built the White Heron in 1835 to house his family and serve as an inn and trading post.

Appleton was settled in 1847 and incorporated as a village in 1853. John F. Johnston was the first resident and village president. Home to Lawrence University, Appleton grew along with the school. With the financial backing of Amos A. Lawrence, the Lawrence Institute was chartered in 1847. Samuel Appleton, Lawrence’s father-in-law from New England who never visited Wisconsin, donated $10,000 to the newly founded college library, and his name was given to the community in appreciation.

9. Rice Lake

Rice Lake, Wisconsin

Population: 8,302
Founded: 1887
Age: 131
Rice Lake was named in 1870 after nearby Rice Lake. A post office has been in operation in Rice Lake since 1872.

10. Menomonie

Menomonie, Wisconsin

Population: 16,222
Founded: 1902
Age: 116
The earliest known residents of the area were people from the Trempealeau Hopewell Culture of the Middle Woodland Period (1-400 AD). Evidence from their culture includes a mound from the Wakanda Mounds Group in Wakanda Park, along the western shore of Lake Menomin. Most of these mounds are thought to be from Effigy Mound cultures from this time period. Artifacts from the Late Woodland Period (400-1000 AD) have also been uncovered. It is theorized that agricultural villages supported the population during summer months, transitioning to hunting and gathering from fall through spring. The next known population group is the Santee Dakota in the 1600s and 1700s, who engaged in conflicts with the Ojibwe people, who migrated west as refugees. Armed with European weapons, the Ojibwe pushed westward, eventually winning at the Battle of Kathio in 1770. The two tribes continued their warfare, eventually signing the 1825 First Treaty of Prairie du Chien, which made a border between the two just north of Menomonie, with the Dakota claiming the southern lands.

Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Wisconsin

So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Wisconsin. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Wisconsin.

And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Badger State.

And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Wisconsin:

  1. Brookfield (Founded in 1954)
  2. Holmen (Founded in 1954)
  3. Monona (Founded in 1954)
  • 10 Best Places To Live In Wisconsin
  • 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In Wisconsin
  • 10 Safest Places In Wisconsin
  • Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Wisconsin

    City Rank Age Year Founded
    Sheboygan 1 238 1780
    Kenosha 2 183 1835
    New Berlin 3 178 1840
    Milwaukee 4 172 1846
    Beloit 5 172 1846
    Fond Du Lac 6 171 1847
    Superior 7 164 1854
    Appleton 8 161 1857
    Rice Lake 9 131 1887
    Menomonie 10 116 1902
    Kaukauna 11 114 1904
    Platteville 12 114 1904
    Cudahy 13 114 1904
    Prairie Du Chien 14 114 1904
    Howard 15 114 1904
    Portage 16 114 1904
    Cedarburg 17 113 1905
    New Richmond 18 113 1905
    Sturgeon Bay 19 113 1905
    Little Chute 20 113 1905
    Waupun 21 113 1905
    Merrill 22 113 1905
    Grafton 23 113 1905
    Burlington 24 113 1905
    Tomah 25 113 1905
    Sussex 26 113 1905
    Sparta 27 113 1905
    Two Rivers 28 113 1905
    Oregon 29 113 1905
    Elkhorn 30 113 1905
    Port Washington 31 113 1905
    Reedsburg 32 113 1905
    Marinette 33 113 1905
    Sheboygan Falls 34 113 1905
    Pewaukee 35 113 1905
    Richland Center 36 113 1905
    Evansville 37 113 1905
    Slinger 38 113 1905
    Berlin 39 113 1905
    Milton 40 113 1905
    Twin Lakes 41 113 1905
    Lake Hallie 42 113 1905
    Kimberly 43 113 1905
    Fox Point 44 113 1905
    Sturtevant 45 113 1905
    New London 46 113 1905
    Altoona 47 113 1905
    Delafield 48 113 1905
    Mount Horeb 49 113 1905
    Kronenwetter 50 113 1905
    Mukwonago 51 113 1905
    Rhinelander 52 113 1905
    Ripon 53 113 1905
    Hobart 54 113 1905
    Antigo 55 113 1905
    Jefferson 56 113 1905
    Plymouth 57 113 1905
    Brown Deer 58 113 1905
    Glendale 59 113 1905
    Verona 60 113 1905
    Caledonia 61 113 1905
    Neenah 62 113 1905
    Mount Pleasant 63 113 1905
    Stevens Point 64 113 1905
    Fitchburg 65 113 1905
    West Bend 66 113 1905
    Sun Prairie 67 113 1905
    Manitowoc 68 113 1905
    Oak Creek 69 113 1905
    Muskego 70 113 1905
    Menomonee Falls 71 113 1905
    Wauwatosa 72 113 1905
    La Crosse 73 113 1905
    West Allis 74 113 1905
    Janesville 75 113 1905
    Oshkosh 76 113 1905
    Eau Claire 77 113 1905
    Waukesha 78 113 1905
    Green Bay 79 113 1905
    Madison 80 113 1905
    Greenfield 81 113 1905
    Baraboo 82 113 1905
    De Pere 83 113 1905
    Mequon 84 113 1905
    Plover 85 113 1905
    Fort Atkinson 86 113 1905
    Mayville 87 113 1905
    Stoughton 88 113 1905
    Shorewood 89 113 1905
    Hudson 90 113 1905
    Chippewa Falls 91 113 1905
    Pewaukee 92 113 1905
    Greendale 93 113 1905
    Hartford 94 113 1905
    Watertown 95 113 1905
    Whitewater 96 113 1905
    River Falls 97 113 1905
    Oconomowoc 98 113 1905
    Beaver Dam 99 113 1905
    Ashwaubenon 100 113 1905
    About Chris Kolmar

    Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

    He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

    If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

    You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.