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West Bend History

Milwaukee River Dam in Historic BartonA Short History of West Bend

Before the arrival of European settlers in southeastern Wisconsin, the Potawatomi and Menominee Native Americans inhabited the land now occupied by the City of West Bend.

In 1845, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature authorized the building of a road connecting Fond du Lac and Milwaukee. Byron Kilbourn, one of the highway commissioners and Jasper Vliet, a surveyor, were responsible for determining the route of the highway. They were also assigned to identify a halfway point for travelers, and that road is now US 45 and that rest stop is present-day West Bend.

Many people utilized the rest stop and eventually it became a popular area. Part of the attraction of this land to the settlers was the Milwaukee River. Settlers used the river to produce energy to power the saw and gristmills located next to the river.

West Bend Train DepotThe railroad arrived to the area in 1873 bringing with it more settlers and industrialization. At this time West Bend experienced rapid growth.

The City of West Bend was incorporated in 1885.

In 1845, early settler Barton Salisbury, while on a surveying trip of the Milwaukee River, found a rapids which he believed would be a good source of power for a sawmill. He built a log hut on the west side of the river and the Village of Barton was born.
On November 1, 1961, the city annexed the Village of Barton.

The Founding of West Bend
By Carl Quickert – 1945

Halfway between Milwaukee
And Fond du Lac, or so,
Three men stopped in a woodland
A century ago.

Their mission was to measure
And carefully stake out
Between the two points mentioned
The shortest wagon route.

A lovely day of autumn,
A cool and grassy glade,
Overhead the tinted foliage
That furnished sun-flecked shade;
Near by the famed Milwaukee
Rounding its greatest bend –
Such was the scene the trio
Found at their half-way end.

Such as the scene that prompted
The thought to come atop,
To build a town and make it
A restful half-way stop.

Then Wolcott, Kilbourn, Kneeland,
The trio, at the end
Of some discussion named it
From the river’s course, West Bend.

But thousands since have made it
A place that few can top,
A home that freely offered
A fortunate full-way stop.
Source: The West Bend News Aug. 1945

  

 

 


West Bend City Hall
1115 S. Main Street
West Bend, WI 53095
(262) 335-5100