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First Plan of Wisconsin Dells Drawn For the Wisconsin Hydraulic Company

First Map of Wisconsin Dells

Fine large plan of Kilbourn City (now Wisconsin Dells) on the Wisconsin River.

Located on the west side of the Wisconsin River, the town is laid out on a grid pattern, with minor deviations to accommodate the line of the La Crosse and Milwaukee Railroad to its depot on the river and a small area north of Fremont Square, not doubt named for the explorer John C. Fremont.

A photocopy of W.M. Spear's original hand drawn plat (about 51 x 30 inches on a different orientation) is in the Wisconsin Historical Society.

 Kilbourn City was platted in the 1850s and received a boost when the La Crosse and Milwaukee Railroad bridged the Wisconsin River there.   The town was established in 1856 by the Wisconsin Hydraulic Company, a dam-building and real estate investment business. The town was originally named for Byron Kilbourn, the president of the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad Company, which was then preparing to build a railroad across the Wisconsin River to connect Milwaukee and La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Local newspaper reports suggest that the town was originally named Newport, but was changed by June 13, 1856 (Milwaukee Daily Free Democrat, citing the Newport Mirror)The article noted that "our new town plot has been surveyed, neatly mapped, and named Kilbourn City; and the maps will be put on record to-day (Tuesday, June 10, 1856)."

In 1859, lumbermen destroyed the Wisconsin Hydraulic Company's new dam at Kilbourn City because it blocked the flow of timber rafts down the river. This led the company's main creditor, Byron Kilbourn, to foreclose on its property and take ownership of most of the city's real estate. 

The town name was changed to Kilbourn in 1895 and to Wisconsin Dells in 1931. 


OCLC locates 1 copy -- Wisconsin Historical Society (also linen backed).

Condition Description
Linen backing. Old folds. Evidence of soiling and abrasions at fold intersections