Welcome to Madison
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The four lakes region was formed by the glaciers when they retreated about 13,000 years ago. Between 300 and 1,300 AD Native American "mound builders" occupied the area. Of the thousands of effigy mounds that once surrounded the lakes only a few remain to remind us of this unique culture. By the time the Yankee settlers began to arrive, the Winnebago Nation called the area home and continued to camp near the lakes into the 1940's.
James Duane Doty, a territorial Judge and land speculator, traveled through the Isthmus in May 1829 and liked the site so much that he bought 1,200 acres for $1,500 and platted a grid of streets. In 1836 he persuaded the territorial legislature meeting in Belmont WI to designate his paper city as the site for the new Capital. Doty named the city Madison for James Madison, the 4th President of the U.S. who had died on June 28, 1836 and he named the streets for the other signers of the U.S. Constitution. In April 1837, Eben and Rosaline Peck moved to the Isthmus from Blue Mounds and built a log cabin boarding house near S. Butler St. to accommodate the workmen who came from Milwaukee to build the Capitol.
Nine years later when the Village of Madison was incorporated the population had reached 626. Wisconsin became a state in 1848. Madison became a city in 1856 and boasted a population of 6,864. The first settlers were Yankees from the eastern states. They were soon followed by German, Irish and Norwegian immigrants. Italians, Greeks, Jews and Blacks also found a home here after the turn of the Century.
King St. and the E. Main/S. Pinckney Street sides of the Capitol Square were the first commercial districts. The first residential districts were north of the Square along Gorham, Gilman and Langdon Streets. The growth of state and county government, the University of Wisconsin and a few industries such as Oscar Mayer, French Battery Co. (Ray-o- Vac) and L.L. Olds Seed Co. (and businesses that are gone such as the Gisholt Machine Tool Co. and the Fauerbach Brewery) provided employment and stimulated Madison's growth.
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