As we discussed in the previous blog post (go read it if you haven't yet. I'll link it here.) Cedarburg was founded by German and Irish immigrants who came looking for land and a new life. Let's dive into that a bit more and see how it shaped this little community in southeastern Wisconsin.
I'm referencing Ryan Gierach's book A History Set in Stone from the Cedarburg Library (have you been to the library lately? It's a great place to spend a bit of time and reading is such a nice break from all the screens). Immigrants came to this area with dreams of freedom and better lives for their families. They built homes, churches and businesses to last. Our Cedarburg downtown is only 7 blocks long, it is one of the most homogenous collections of stone and brick buildings in the country. In. The. Country. Virtually all of them were built before 1920. Names like Hilgen, Schroeder, Groth, Ritter and Fischer worked to create a community based on their shared ideals.
Now, it is important to recognize that these German settlers were not the first to discover the many natural resources in this area. The Native American tribes settled here, finding the land that was carved out by glaciers 12,000 years ago had fresh springs and rivers and land rich with all types of flora and fauna. Tribes like the Winnebago (now called Ho-Chunk), Potawatomi, Menominee made use of the river and ample hunting. In 1833, the tribes granted the lands the Cedarburg stands on now to the United States.
Irish immigrants came to this area during the Great Irish Potato Famine looking for land and fertile soils to farm. They settled in the area now known at Hamilton, naming it New Dublin at the time after their homeland.
Plank roads were becoming popular in the 1800s as they realized how much faster they could travel on the roads, especially with wagons filled with supplies. This area was settled by German and Irish farmers, but also by workers who were building these roads over the top of Indian trails. During war time, these roads were critical to move troops and supplies. The Green Bay Road which extended from Green Bay to Chicago shortened the time it took for mail carriers to travel from 30 days to 11 days.
These communities were built on the backs of hard working immigrants who desired freedom and land. Perhaps if we look, we will see the shadows of their steadfastness in the stone buildings that remain so many years after these people walked this Earth.
Hope you liked learning a bit more about the history of this area. The next time you're in town, you can look at the buildings with more appreciation for how and why they were built. Comment below if you'd like to chat more....