Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

La Fontaine Railroad and Winnebago City

Menasha might never have been founded if Governor Doty had had his way during the early years of the Wisconsin Territory.  In the late 1830's, Doty eagerly eyed the upcoming railroad charters and coveted one for the Fox Valley to encourage development and economic growth.  His idea was to link the village of La Fontaine near Kaukauna with the projected village of Winnebago City, on the north shore of Lake Winnebago.  This railroad of 16 miles would eliminate the need to navigate through the Winnebago Rapids (today's Neenah) and Little Lake Butte des Morts and the extra mileage encountered on the Fox River up to La Fontaine.  Eventually, the whole scheme fizzled as a result of the Panic of 1837.  It was also said that Doty's partner, Morgan Martin (who also happened to be his cousin), had a falling out with the bankers in Green Bay who were nervous about his speculative enterprises.   

March 17, 1837 Wisconsin Democrat (Green Bay)
A curious footnote is that my research about the village of La Fontaine begins and ends with the connection to this proposed railroad. I've never seen other mentions of this place.  Kakalin, as mentioned on the map, is a former name for Kaukauna, so I at least thought I'd find La Fontaine mentioned in the same breath as Kaukauna, or in connection with the Kakalin Rapids.  Any thoughts, readers?
maps courtesy: Wisconsin Historical Society, viewed online at on 15 Apr 15

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing that La Fontaine is Doty's place name for Kaukauna. Kind of like how he called Wisconsin, Wiskonsin and the Fox River, the Neenah River. They didn't stick the way Neenah (the village) stuck.

    More Congressional doings that appear to have Doty's fingerprints all over them:

    Act 19 from 1839 was for appropriating $500 for a pier at the northern extremity of Lake Winnebago. Washington Globe Mar 6, 1939.

    A bill from 1841 asked for, among other things, $2000 for a road from Milwaukee to Two Rivers to Lake Winnebago and $2000 for a portage road from Lake Winnebago to La Fontaine. Southport Telegraph Feb 2, 1841.

    Don Nussbaum

    Question: Is Winnebago City the same place that was later called La Coup?