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Founded in 1839 by Seymour Wilcox who chose to stake his claim in the Rock River Valley, part in Fond du Lac County and part in Dodge County, Waupun grew up out of the lush wilderness lands inhabited only by Indians. An ethnic mix of Irish, English, Scots, German, Norwegian and Dutch settlers soon followed.

In 1851, Waupun was chosen as the site for a state penitentiary because of the great abundance of limestone and the close proximity to the proposed Rock River Valley Railroad. Seymour Wilcox donated 20 acres of land to the state for the construction of the prison that opened its doors in 1852. This magnificent structure is located in the heart of the city with all of the original building in use today.

The railroad reached Waupun in the mid-1800s. As a result of the railroad’s arrival, Waupun became a prosperous hub of commerce and industry. The man who made the most significant impact on industry in Waupun was Clarence Addison Shaler. Shaler was an educated farmer who turned into an industrial mogul. With his innovations, foresight and leadership Shaler brought economic progress to the city. Umbrellas, vulcanizers, golf clubs and rivets were all a part of his manufacturing successes. Today, National Rivet stands in downtown Waupun, a tribute to Shaler and his contribution to Waupun’s industrial success.

A visit to Waupun Heritage Museum, located in the Carnegie Library building built in 1904 will take you back to Waupun’s roots with photos, displays and literature.

On the National Register of Historic Places are: Waupun Correctional Institution (also on the State Register of Historic Places); Waupun Heritage Museum; the post office; the Dahl residence and two of the city’s sculptures — “Recording Angel” and the “End of the Trail.”

Waupun’s rich history gives it the character and substance that is evident today in the ethics, principles and values that drive the progress of the city.

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