Waukesha County was home to prehistoric Indians, including the Effigy Mound Builders and Potawatomi people, and was prized by fur traders in the 1700’s. When settlers from the east arrived in the mid-1800’s, they found four to six foot earthen mounds in the shape of birds and turtles, along with conical and linear mounds. Three conical mounds are visible today in front of the City of Waukesha Library. Increase Lapham, considered founder of the U.S. Weather Bureau, surveyed the mounds. The highest point in Waukesha County is named for him.
As far back as the 1700’s, the native people told fur traders about the area’s mineral springs. In 1868 Col. Richard Dunbar promoted what he believed were healing properties of Waukesha’s water, which launched Waukesha County’s “Springs Era”. Through 1910, people traveled cross-country to drink the water. Accounts tell us that up to 25 passenger trains arrived daily. Elaborate “springhouses” were built above the natural springs. Today’s visitors can see the last of the original springhouses on the Moor Downs Golf Course, Frame Park and Springs Park.
In the late 1800’s, many cities experienced devastating fires that destroyed early wood frame buildings. Waukesha County’s quarries provided the stone for rebuilding, and railroads transported the stone to Chicago and other cities with fire damage.
Some of the famous people that called Waukesha County home include Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, and 1930’s Broadway stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.
Once dubbed “Cow County USA”, Waukesha County has developed a diverse industrial base. Some of the world’s leading manufacturers and businesses have corporate facilities located in the area.