Founded in 1878 by Francis Deleglise and George Eckart, Antigo was then known to local Native Americans as “wild woods” (a term still applicable given the area’s bountiful wilderness areas). Though that attractive aspect of the region remains relatively untouched by human hands, Antigo embarks on the 21st century with a progressive yet balanced outlook.
Langlade County was designated two years later in honor of Charles de Langlade, a noted officer in the French, Indian and Revolutionary wars.
Vast expanses of timber spawned the county’s first major industry for German, Czech, Polish and Scandinavian immigrants. Oxen needed to haul logs created a second industry, farming, which remains a mainstay of the area today. Antigo’s rich soil, silt loam, fueled farming growth and is recognized as the state soil of Wisconsin.
Two years after Deleglise and Eckart’s arrival, Antigo’s population was 635 and within a decade, it had mushroomed to 9,465 given the impact of the burgeoning timber and railroad industries. The Chicago, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, later the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, ran tracks to Antigo and further north in 1882. The railroad’s depot was renovated within the past decade to offer an appealing accoutrement of offices in downtown Antigo.
With the closing of many logging camps in the early 1900s, farmers turned to dairying to provide sustenance, spurred by the county’s first agricultural agent, E.G. Swovadam. With financial assistance from the Chamber of Commerce, he initiated the formation of breeder organizations that helped improve the county’s dairy stock. Antigo quickly became the center of Langlade County’s dairy processing, a footnote in Antigo’s becoming the leading producer of Italian cheese in Wisconsin.
On the athletic side, Antigo High School’s Red Robin football team was considered among the state’s elite teams for decades, winning three state titles under Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame coaches Gordie Schofield, Dale Peterson and Dennis Schmidtke.