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History of the Fox Cities

Appleton: With a population of about 72,600, Appleton is the largest of the Fox Cities, located at the northernmost point of Lake Winnebago in Outagamie County. Appleton shares its history with Lawrence University. With the financial backing of Amos Lawrence, the Lawrence Institute was chartered in 1847. Appleton was incorporated first as a village in 1853 and later as a city in 1857. The first free public school was established in 1850 and the St. Mary Catholic Church opened the first parochial school in 1864. The first four-year high school began operating in 1876. Today there are 24 public and 13 parochial schools in the city.

Area business has been responsible for Appleton’s economic prosperity and progressive attitude. The paper industry, beginning with the building of the first paper mill in the city in 1853, drove economic development. Retail trade has also contributed to the area’s progress. A major convention center, the Paper Valley Hotel, was opened in 1982 and a shopping complex, The Avenue, commenced operations in March of 1987.

Neenah is located just south of Menasha on Lake Winnebago in Winnebago County. Neenah began as an industrial and agricultural mission for the Menominee Indians in 1835. By the 1870s, paper mills began to take over the industrial landscape, an industry that remains important to this day. The Kimberly-Clark Corporation was founded in Neenah in 1872 and quickly became Wisconsin’s largest producer of paper products. Kimberly-Clark helped turn the Fox River Valley into the Midwest’s paper manufacturing center and Wisconsin into one of the nation’s leading producers of paper.

Menasha is located at the mouth of the Fox River on the northern tip of Lake Winnebago in Calumet and Winnebago Counties. Per the 2010 census, the population was listed at 17,353. The city nearly surrounds all of Little Lake Butte des Morts.

The Village of Combined Locks has its origin as a mill town, linked to the pioneer paper industry of the Fox River Valley. The farming community changed into a village when the present Combined Paper Mills, Inc. was organized as the Combined Locks Paper Company in 1889. Both village and mill were named for the combined boat locks that skirted the river shoreline.

Kaukauna is located on both the north and south shores of the Fox River. Pierre Grignon, Sr. originally from Quebec, Canada, was a fur and Indian trader in the Lake Superior region. In 1776 he married Domitelle Langlade from Green Bay. From this union seven sons were born. When his father died, Augustine and his brother, Pierre, Jr. continued the operation of the Green Bay store and traded during the winters. In 1837, on the land acquired by his father, Charles A. Grignon built an elegant Mansion as a wedding gift for his Pennsylvania bride, Mary Elizabeth Meade. Countless travelers knew this stately home as “The Mansion in the Woods.” Restored to the time period of 1837-62, when Charles and his family lived there, today visitors may also browse through the Mansion’s historic apple orchard.

Kimberly is located on the south shore of the Fox River, just to the west of the Village of Combined Locks. It was founded in 1889 and was named after John A. Kimberly, one of the co-founders of what is now the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Today Kimberly has approximately 6,515 residents.

Little Chute is located on the north shore of the Fox River and six miles east of Appleton. The Winnebago and Menominee Indians were the original settlers of the lower Fox River Valley.

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