Culture and History
Love Where You Came From
Since the earliest Paleolithic camp sites along Lake Koshkonong to the modern city of today, citizens have called the Fort Atkinson area “home” for thousands of years.
In July 1832, General Henry Atkinson directed his troops to build Fort Koshkonong here on the banks of the Rock River where it joins the Bark River. The Black Hawk War had begun a few months earlier when the Sauk warrior, Black Hawk, and his followers crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois in an attempt to return to their ancestral homeland. After clashing with the Illinois militia, Black Hawk led his people north along the Rock River into what is now Wisconsin. He was pursued by federal and militia forces commanded by General Atkinson, who complained that finding the elusive Black Hawk in the Wisconsin wilderness was like “hunting a shadow.”
Stopping in what is now Fort Atkinson, a weary Atkinson decided to build a fort to serve as a supply post. Soon after it was built, the fort was abandoned as the war moved quickly to the west when Black Hawk made a desperate dash for the Mississippi River.
Yankee land speculator, Dwight Foster, recycled some of the logs of this stockade into one of the early log homes in this area. A state historical marker indicates the approximate location of Fort Koshkonong and is visible on East Milwaukee Avenue within city limits. A reproduction of the log stockade is located at Rock River Park, off of Riverside Drive, west of Fort Atkinson.
Hoard Historical Museum
Visit the Hoard Historical Museum
The museum has grown to include not only the Frank and Luella Hoard House, but the National Dairy Shrine Museum, the Mysteries of the Mounds Gallery, the Lincoln Era Exhibit and Library, the Knox Research Library and Archive, the Dwight and Almira Foster House, and several other changing galleries and gardens. Thousands of visitors from around Wisconsin, the United States, and the world visit the museum and Fort Atkinson each year.
Hours Tuesdays through Saturdays: 9:30am - 4:30pm
Located at 401 Whitewater Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
Call (920) 563-7769 or visit hoardmuseum.org
Water Tower Tour
Historic Water Tower Tour
1901 Water Tower Open Houses are held the first Saturday of the month (Weather Permitting). Other tours are by appointment. Please contact Tammy Doellstedt at (920) 563-7769 or email@example.com to reserve your spot.
Age and height restrictions apply, for those wishing to ascend the 120 steps to the viewing platform. The 1901 Water Tower is not wheelchair accessible. The tower is located at the corner of South High Street and South 4th Street. Parking available on the street or in the Fort Atkinson Middle School parking lot. Tours conducted by Fort Atkinson Historic Preservation Commission.
Foster House Tour
Foster House Open for Tours
The Foster House is open the first Saturday of month from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. during the months of May – September, during special events, and on request.
Step inside the Foster House to see how 19th century Fort Atkinson residents lived, and learn about how the community grew. A friendly guide will be available to answer questions and show visitors around the first and second floor of the house.
Built in 1841 for the princely sum of $2,000, the Foster House was the first frame house constructed in Jefferson County.
Dwight and Almira Foster were the first permanent non-Indian settlers in Fort Atkinson, arriving in November 1836, with their young daughter, Celeste. After four years in their rustic log cabin near the banks of the Rock River, the Fosters moved into this frame house built by fellow pioneer, Charles Rockwell. This two-story, five-room home, with window glass shipped from New York via the Erie Canal, was then called a “mansion in the wilderness.”
In 1969, Major Arthur Langholff donated the house to the Fort Atkinson Historical Society and it was moved to its current location on Foster Street, adjacent to the Hoard Historical Museum complex. After a two-year restoration process, the Foster House opened to the public in 1971.
Please Note: The Foster House is available for touring by advance reservation. Please call the museum at 920/563-7769 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoard's Dairy Farm Tour
Hoard's Dairy Farm Tour
THE HOARD'S DAIRYMAN FARM was purchased in 1899 by the magazine's founder, and former state governor, William D. Hoard. A major motivation to his purchase was to prove to university people throughout the north central and northeastern states that alfalfa was a practical and desirable forage crop for dairy cattle.
Hoard had been experimenting with alfalfa on a lot in the city of Fort Atkinson. In 1898, Dean Henry, of the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture, sternly warned Hoard not to promote alfalfa as a forage crop. Current belief among university people was that alfalfa could not overwinter successfully, and was poorly adapted to area soils.
Hoard demonstrated on this farm that alfalfa could be raised successfully with proper management and was indeed a superior forage crop for feeding dairy cattle. Following his experiments, his recommendations for crop management have carried through to today: Acid soil must be limed, careful seeding practices followed, and the crop must be rested after the first frost for winter hardiness, particularly after the first seeding.
From this time forward, the farm operated in a pioneering spirit, as a testing ground for new ideas. Around 1940, the farm's milking herd became the first - very possibly the first in the world - to be cleared of trichomoniasis, a disease causing abortions, by instituting A.I. Years later, this farm hosted the first long-scale trial to control parasites in five years of University of Wisconsin-sponsored experiments. A more recent effort has been the heifer facility.
Through these experimental efforts as well as in day-to-day operation, the farm serves as a vital source of credibility for the Hoard's Dairyman magazine. The magazine editors are actively involved in managing the farm, authors of regular columns in the magazine provide input toward this management in their specialties of cattle breeding; feeding; housing and health.
Several magazine surveys by independent investigators have shown Hoard's Dairyman magazine to have the highest credibility of any agricultural magazine, in the opinion of farmer readers. The Hoard's Dairyman Farm shares a large part of the credit for this achievement. This is probably the only teaming of farm and magazine in the U.S. or Canada for the purpose of providing reliable information for readers.
In welcoming several thousand visitors each year, the farm also presents itself as a model of a working, commercial operation. In years to come, it's hoped the Hoard's Dairyman Farm will continue to provide the readers of Hoard's Dairyman magazine a sense of trust and confidence.
Farm Tours available upon request. Please call ahead. No self guided tours available. For farm tours email Karen Kutz at email@example.com or call 920-563-5551 ext. 102. Hoard's Dairyman Farm
N2856 Hwy. 89
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
Visit "The Fort"
Located at Rock River Park, 151 Sinnissippi Drive, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
The Fort is the scene of the annual Memorial Day event, The Buckskinner’s Rendezvous, a reenactment of fur-trading days in the 1830s, complete with authentic costumes, food, music, and competitions such as knife and axe throwing. Held in the 113-acre Rock River Park.
Did you miss the Rendezvous? Don’t worry, you can visit the fort anytime that Rock River Park is open.