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History

History

Prior to the arrival of European and American Yankee settlers, Native American peoples, including the Chippewa, Fox, Kickapoo, Sauk, Sioux and Winnebago, lived in the rolling prairie and marshlands that became Beaver Dam. Native Americans hunted and fished the area, and paid a special reverence to a source of natural spring water that they called the “Sacred Springs” found in what is now Swan Park. A number of archaeological sites have been discovered throughout the area and are being excavated and preserved, when possible.

In the spring of 1841, Thomas Mackie and his family became the first permanent “Yankee” settlers to the area, coming from the new community of Fox Lake to the north. The Mackie’s built a log cabin, and were soon joined by other settlers. Beaver were abundant along the streams and river, constructing dams to provide their own habitat and food source. The Mackie’s and other Yankee settlers decided that “Beaver Dam” would be a fitting name for the new settlement and the river.

Beaver Dam is proud of its history and is fortunate to have private citizens and civic leaders who have recognized the value of preserving the architectural heritage of the community. A number of outstanding buildings have been preserved and restored throughout the community for use as homes, businesses and public facilities. The 1880 “Spring House” pavilion built for the Vita Park resort (now Swan Park) has been lovingly restored. The 1901 Downtown Train Depot, owned by the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce was restored/renovated in 2013. The city’s former library building, the Williams Free Library, was built in 1890 and today is maintained as the Dodge County Historical Society Museum, where a full history of the community is on display. Many private Victorian era homes, particularly along Park Avenue and surrounding downtown, have been maintained, restored and preserved as residences for over 100 years. Several downtown Beaver Dam landmarks have also been continuously maintained as businesses since the late 19th Century.

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