Township History - 1880
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin

(From the "History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin" published by the Western Historical Company, Chicago, IL. - 1880)


This is a rich, prosperous and pleasant town. It was erected into the town of Limeby an act approved February 2, 1846, and the name changed to Oakfleld February10, 1847. The extensive and rich quarries of limestone afforded by the "Ledge,"in Township 14 north, of Range 16 east, suggested the name of Lime, and thebeautiful oak openings suggested the present name of Oakfield. It is about equallydivided between the high oak openings arid prairie. That portion of HoriconMarsh which extends into Oakfield has been drained, and is now mostly tillableland. The "Ledge" is very prominent in this town. It furnishes lime, buildingmaterial, delicious springs and picturesque scenery - "Darlings Gap," a wild spotnear the village of Oakfield, being the most notable and attractive. Its windingcrevices, deep caverns, overhanging precipices and vast domes of disintegratedrocks attract thousands of tourists and picnickers.

The first settlement was begun in 1840, south of the present village of Oakfield, byRussell Wilkinson, who came with his family from Rensselaer County, N. Y.,early that year, and built a log house. The Winnebago Indians were very numerousabout the "Ledge" then, owing to the abundance of game in its retreats, and werehighly displeased by the invasion of the paleface. They stole nearly everything hepossessed that was movable, and finally burned his home with all its contents. Mr.Wilkinson then procured a yoke of oxen and removed his wife, who was indelicate health, to the house of Edward Pier, at Fond du Lac. The Indians thenheld undisputed sway in that section until October, 1843, when Mr. Wilkinson andhis brother Robert returned to the farm and made a permanent settlement. Theywere for some time the only white denizens of the town, but were joined not muchlater by John Wilkinson, John Beirne, S. Botsford and Messrs. Silvernail, Hubbardand Hazen. When once the richness and warmth of the soil, the beauty of thelocation and the healthfulness of the climate became generally known, the townsettled with wonderful rapidity, and has always maintained itself in the front rankof prosperous and populous towns.

The first town election was held in April, 1846, at Russell Wilkinsons house, atwhich C. T. Rich was chosen Supervisor, and Lorenzo Hazen, Clerk.

In 1844, Lorenzo Hazen was one of the leaders in forming the WashingtonianSociety, the first regularly organized temperance society in the county.

The first birth was Martha, daughter of Robert Wilkinson, in May, 1844.

The first death was that of John Wilkinson, killed by the fall of a tree in 1846. Theneighbors, meager in numbers and poor as they were, massed their means, andpaid for the "forty" which Mr. Wilkinson had entered, but not paid for, and gave itto his stricken family. Russell Wilkinson died suddenly May 4, 1847.

The first marriage was Thomas Burns to Elizabeth Stene in 1844.

The first school was taught in 1845, by Mariah Moore, afterward Mrs. A.Hubbard, in a schoolhouse built that year on Section 14. The town now containseight schoolhouses.

The first sermon was preached in February, 1845, by Rev. Harvey Bronson, atRussell Wilkinsons house. The first church was not erected until 1852, by theCongregationalists, on Section 22.

The first post office was established at Avoca, one mile east of what is now thevillage of Oakfield, on Section 13. Isaac Orvis was the first Postmaster. HenryCornell is the present Postmaster of Oakfield, as it has many years been called.

The first mill was a saw-mill, built in 1844 by J. Allen. In 1851, Col. HenryConklin built the first flouring mill, at a cost of $12,000, on the East Branch ofFond du Lac River, near the village of Avoca.

The first store was opened in 1845, on Section 22, by William I. Ripley.

In 1869, Strong & Hammond built the first cheese factory in the town.

In 1852, the Chicago & North-Western Railway was built through Oakfield. Itmaintains two stations in the town - Oakfleld and Oak Center.

The town of Oakfield never granted license to sell liquors of any kind as abeverage.

Oak Center is the geographical center of the town. It has a post office, store andelevator.

The Journal of September 15, 1848, said: " A fragment of a bowl or vase waspresented to us last week, which was found in the town of Oakfield, ten inchesunder ground. It is about a quarter of an inch thick, marked with parallel lines anddots. The curve indicates the vessel to have been fourteen inches in diameter. Thesubstance appears to be a brown clay burned." Many other similar relics havebeen found in the town.


The first village in the town of Oakfield was called Avoca, and was situated onSection 13, on the "old plank road." Here were opened the first mill andestablished the first post office. When the Rock River Valley Union Railway wasput through the town the center of trade was transferred to the present site ofOakfield, one mile west of Avoca. It is one of the most pleasant inland hamlets inthe county. From the residences on the hill, Fond du Lac, Lamartine, MountCalvary Monastery, the whole sweep of Lake Winnebago and a stretch of thirtymiles of hill and prairie can be seen, and the Ledge, only a few rods back of thevillage, is a resort of all pleasure parties in the vicinity.

The most prominent industry, Putnam & Blairs sash, door and blind factory, wastorn down and removed in 1879, after years of prosperity.

The cheese factory, built by Strong & Hammond, in 1860, now owned by Bristol& Orvis, is prosperous.

The Vermont House, so named because its builder came from Vermont, is ownedand managed by William H. Brown. It is the only hotel in Oakfield. Since cominginto possession of the house in 1876, Mr. Brown has enlarged and improved it.

The physicians are William Moore, J. W. Burns and G. B. Durand. Burns Bros.,of which firm Dr. J. W. Burns is a member, have the only drug store.

The general stores are by W. S. Russell, Bristol & Worthing and H. Cornell.

Bogie & McDonald have the only meat market.

Oakfield Lodge, No. 158, A. F. & A. M., was granted a dispensation February 22,1866, and a charter June 13 of the same year, with the following charter members:William Moore, N.Filby, H. Cornell, 0. Hatch, S. G. Pickett, D. H. Spencer andTheodore Conklin. The first officers were: S. G. Pickett, Master; H. Cornell,Senior Warden; N. Filby, Junior Warden; T. Conklin, Secretary ; and D. H.Spencer, Treasurer. The Lodge now has fifty members; rents a hall in H.Cornells building. The present officers are: J. W. Burns, W. M.; WilliamMoore, S. W.; H. A. Burns, J. W.; H. A. Ripley, Secretary; William Worthing,Treasurer. The first officers elected after the charter had been granted were: H.Cornell, W. M.; William Moore, S. W.; and N. Filby, J. W.

Oakfield Lodge, No. 174, I. 0. 0. F., was organized December 24, 1869, with thefollowing charter members: John Hubbard, E. A.. Hubbard, Thomas Burns, A. H.Odell, Michael Foley, J. E. Collins. The first officers were: N. Filby, P. G.; J. H.Hubbard, N. G.; E. A. Hubbard, V. G.; M. B. Dille, P. S.; Treasurer, A. H. Odell. The present officers are: A. A. Swan, P. G.; E. T. Hitt, N. G.; W. S. Orvis, V. G.; L. R. Wells, R. S.; J. W. Burns, P. S.; Thomas Burns, Treasurer. The Lodge is ingood working order, and has forty-two members. Meetings are held in MasonicHall.

The Sons of Temperance organized along in the fifties, but disbanded when thewar broke out. H. D. Hitt was the first Worthy Patriarch.

Wide-Awake Lodge, No. 504, I. 0. G. T., was organized in September, 1879, P. E.Gilson being the first Worthy Chief. The Lodge is wide-awake in more thanname. It now has thirty-five members, with frequent additions. P. E. Gilson stillholds the office of Worthy Chief.

Oakfield Grange, No. 55, was organized in 1872 with H. D. Hitt as Master. Thelodge has a fine hall over the cheese factory, and holds regular meetings at whichall farm, fruit and dairy topics are discussed in their season. The lodge nownumbers forty thrifty farmers, with Levi Large as Master. The Patrons AidSociety is a branch of the Grange, which secures for the family of any member athis death an assessment of $1 from each member in the State. H. D. Hitt, who isone of the Directors of this branch, was also one of its originators.

The Union Church was built in 1867, by a stock company, at a cost of $4,000 forbuilding, site and furniture. The organization consists of about one hundredmembers who are stock-holders. The building is free to be used by anydenomination, and was erected with that plan in view. The first officers were: H.D. Hitt, President; J. T. White, Treasurer, and E. A. Putnam, Secretary. Thepresent officers are: H. D. Hitt, President; William Worthing, Secretary, andHenry Cornell, Treasurer.

Grace Episcopal Church had its origin in an Episcopal Sunday school started in1857 in District No. 10, by Mrs. L. Russell and T. J. Wood. A school teachernamed Palmer then began lay-reading, and a sermon or two by Rev. George B.Eastman, of Fond du Lac, increased the interest, and Mrs. Russell and Mrs. N.Filby began the collection of funds for the erection of a church edifice. They wereaided by Mrs. Robert Kinninment, in Brooklyn, N. Y. Finally, a meeting fororganizing the church was held, and the gathering lacking one of the numberrequired by law to complete the legal formation, Mrs. L. Russell crossed the fieldand asked in William Butler, who then donated the site for the edifice. Theconsecration of the building, erected on Section 13 but moved to its presentlocation in Oakfield Village in 1868 or 1869, took place in 1861, by BishopKemper. The first Pastor was Rev. Turner; present Pastor, Rev. W. F. Wright,residing at Waupun. The first officers were N. Filby, Senior Warden, and RobertPalmer, Junior Warden.

Avoca Cemetery, platted in 1856, on Section 13, by H. D. Hitt and N. Filby,covers two and one-quarter acres of ground, and is an unusually neat and well-keptburial place. It is beautifully shaded by deciduous and evergreen trees. The firstofficers were H. D. Hitt, N. Filby and Jacob Avery. The present officers are W.W. Wheeler, H. D. Hitt and A. H. Steen.

The first elevator in Oakfield was built in 1868 by George W. King. It burned,and he erected in its place the present fine steam elevator, which some seasons iscompelled to run night and day. The proprietors are George W. King & Son.

M. R. Hubbard & George W. King erected a large steam hay-press which began athriving business early in 1880. It is the only steam press in the county.

Willard & Morgan built a steam saw-mill in the winter of 1879 - 80. It is alsofitted with machinery for turning out materials for various kinds of hardwoodwork.

The Henry Conklin mills, built in 1851, run now by H. Hanson and owned by C.K. Pier; the Avoca mills, built by Mr. Large and run by Charles Frensel, and theStroup mills, built by Isaac Orvis, are flouring-mills near Oakfield Village, allsituated on the East Branch of the Fond du Lac River.

0. W. Willard has a large stone wagon factory, the only one in Oakfield.

The school is graded and very thorough, although managed on the district plan.

Thanks to Ron Friedel for preparing these pages in html format.

last modified:
27 Dec 2003
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** Ruth Shaw Worthing, The History of Fond du Lac County, as told by its Place-Names, 1976.
** The History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880.

** Portrait and Biographical Album of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Acme Publishing Company, 1889.
** A. T. Glaze, Incidents and Anecdotes of Early Days and History of Business in the City and County of Fond du Lac from Early Times to the Present, Fond du Lac: P. B. Haber Printing Company, 1905.
** Maurice McKenna, ed., History of Fond du Lac County, Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912. 
** Wisconsin Volunteers: War of the Rebellion 1861-1865 
** Plat Book of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, C. M. Foote & Co.  1893