History of Waunakee

Hoocakra (Ho-Chunk Nation)

The land the Village of Waunakee currently occupies is Teejob, ancestral territory of the Hoocakra (Ho-Chuck Nation), People of the Sacred Voice. The Ho-Chuck Nation lived in this area for centuries prior to the European migration. Six Mile Creek and the adjacent woodlands and prairies provided an ideal environment for gathering and cultivating food, and building homes. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Native American interaction with the land in the Waunakee area dating back thousands of years, including keyhole dwellings, pottery sherds, tools, and projectile points. 

The Railroad

Trains thundering across the golden Wisconsin prairies opened the door for development in Waunakee just after the Civil War. When the Chicago and North Western Railroad expanded its line from Madison to St. Paul, it also opened the opportunity for a local supply center and a market for shipping farm produce.
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The Packham Mill, in operation for 10 years, seemed a logical spot for the location of a new and potentially prosperous village. Located just 2 miles from the present Waunakee depot, railroad officials had already decided it was an ideal location.

Change of Plans

But 2 early settlers, Louis Baker and George C. Fish, owned land along the new railroad line and plotted a village on their property instead.

In exchange for $1,500 and 2 miles of right of way, railroad officials changed their original plans and trains roared to a stop in what is now known as Waunakee. Native American in origin, the name Waunakee (Wanaki) aptly describes the village’s location in a "fair and pleasant valley" just north of Madison.

Continued Growth

The innovative spirit and dedication of early settlers continues in the Village of Waunakee today.

Today, more than 100 years after its founding, the Waunakee community continues to grow. Descendants of early settlers work side by side with new residents to retain the best of the old village while ensuring growth and prosperity well into the future.

If you would like to view more historic photos and information, please check out our album.

Waunakee History Tour

You can now take the Waunakee History Tour. The Waunakee History Tour was created by Waunakee High School Students in a class entitled Exploring Wisconsin. The project, coordinated by Jeannine Ramsey and Eric Huttenburg, was completed in spring 2012.