Little Chute, Wisconsin

Coordinates: 44°17′3″N 88°18′49″W / 44.28417°N 88.31361°W / 44.28417; -88.31361
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Little Chute, Wisconsin
Downtown Little Chute
Downtown Little Chute
Location of Little Chute in Outagamie County, Wisconsin.
Location of Little Chute in Outagamie County, Wisconsin.
Coordinates: 44°17′3″N 88°18′49″W / 44.28417°N 88.31361°W / 44.28417; -88.31361
Country United States
State Wisconsin
 • Total6.78 sq mi (17.56 km2)
 • Land6.45 sq mi (16.71 km2)
 • Water0.33 sq mi (0.85 km2)
Elevation732 ft (223 m)
 • Total10,449
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,872.44/sq mi (722.92/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code920
FIPS code55-44950[6]
GNIS feature ID1568226[2]

Little Chute is a village in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 10,449 at the 2010 census. It is immediately east of the city of Appleton, Wisconsin and runs along the Fox River.

The town was originally established as a trading post by French explorers who called it "Le Petite Chute" (Little Chute). In the late 19th century, it was settled by Dutch Catholic immigrants from North Brabant, led initially by the Dominican Missionary Theodore J. van den Broek from Uden. The town became an outpost of Dutch Catholic immigrants in the Midwest. Little Chute is home to a full-scale Dutch-style working windmill, which has become a tourist attraction.

Prior to European exploration it is likely the Mississippian culture tribe, the Oneota lived in the area. The Oneota are believed to be the ancestors of the Winnebago or Ho-chunk tribe. A historical marker near Little Chute commemorates the Treaty of the Cedars, a treaty which ceded 4 million acres of Native American land to the US government.


While sharing in the history of northeast Wisconsin, Little Chute has been influenced by two unique factors: the rapids and portages along the Fox River and the coming of Dutch-Catholic settlers in 1848. Prior to and during the early European settlement, the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway to the Mississippi River system was one of the most heavily traveled routes between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.[7] Afterward canals and locks were built to circumvent these rapids. The actual construction of these features provided employment to settlers, the Dutch among them, although the canal system never proved to be a great success.[8] In 1836, the Treaty of the Cedars was signed near Little Chute by the Menominee Indians, which ceded to The United States "Four million acres between the Fox, Wolf and Menominee Rivers".[9]

Native Americans[edit]

There is little evidence today of the earliest Native American communities in the area. Prior to the European exploration it is likely the Mississippian culture tribe, the Oneota, lived in the area. The Oneota are believed to be the ancestors of the Winnebago or Ho-chunk tribe; this has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. Regardless, the Ho-Chuck dominated the area just as the French were first appearing in the St Lawrence area far to the east. The Illinois tribe was generally far to the south; the Menominee tribe was just to the north. The Ho-Chuck maintained reasonably good relations with both tribes, although there were several battles with the Illinois. While the French had yet to settle in the area, their presence to the east started a chain reaction of tribal migration. The Huron, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and other eastern tribes all had encounters with the Ho-Chunk. The Sauk and Fox tribes, originally in the St Lawrence Valley, migrated first to southeastern Michigan. The Fox (Renard in French) also called themselves the Meshkwahkihaki and were also known as the Outigamie by the French. The Sac and Fox were uprooted again by eastern tribes and began to arrive in the Fox River Valley in the late 17th century. The Sac and Fox eventually drove most of the Ho-Chunk from the area. When the first French settlers appeared, they named the river after the Fox. The county which today includes Little Chute was to be named Outagamie.

Painting of the Little Chute Lock and Dam in 1856 commissioned by Morgan L. Martin. Drawn by Samuel M. Brookes and Thomas H. Stevenson, it was part of a group of paintings of river town sites and locks for the Fox-Wisconsin River Improvement Co. The view is approximately from the present day Doyle Park. The first St. John Nepomucene Church and School is on the extreme right.

The series of rapids along the Fox River near Little Chute necessitated canoe portages. By the time the French settlement started in the early 18th century, the Sac had essentially set up toll stations along the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway, including the rapids at Little Chute. The French, outraged at the impact on trade, launched a series of attacks on the Sac, culminating in the Fox Wars, which drove them out of the area by 1742.[10][11][12] The power vacuum created by the departure of most of the Ho-Chunk, the Sac and the Fox allowed the Menominee to briefly dominate the area. The Menominee set up a village, Ookicitiming (“causeway” in Menominee)[13] near present-day Little Chute.

First European settlement[edit]

The first Europeans to the area were the French. Jean Nicolet reached the Fox River at Green Bay in 1634 and set up a trading post. Explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet passed through the area in 1673, following the canoe route to the Mississippi. As early as 1760, the families of Augustin and Charles Grignon, French Canadian Métis, established a fur trade post along the rapids. While French influence waned, it can still be seen in local place names, particularly waterways. Locally the three major rapids on the Fox were named “La Grand Kauklin” (near Grignon's trading post at present day Kaukauna), “La Petite Chute” (present day Little Chute) and “La Grand Chute” (still the name of the adjoining township).

The French maintained a presence in the area until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. The area switched to British control until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781. The Americans nominally controlled the area although the British continued to maintain a presence until the end of the War of 1812 in 1814. In 1787, the area became part of the American Northwest Territory. In succession the area became part of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and finally, in 1836, Wisconsin Territories. Statehood was reached in 1848.

Father Van den Broek and the first Dutch settlers[edit]

Father Theodore Van den Broek, before 1848
Saint John Catholic Church

The singular person in the establishment of Little Chute as a Catholic Dutch-American community was a Dominican missionary: Father Theodore J. van den Broek. Born to wealthy parents in Amsterdam, Netherlands in June 1784, he had relatives in Uden, North Brabant, Netherlands and apparently spent time there as a youth. He was highly educated and fluent in six languages. He was ordained a priest in 1808 and joined the Dominican Order in 1817. After a period as a pastor in the Netherlands, he left in 1832 at the age of 49 to join other missionary priests at Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1834 he was ordered to Green Bay to an established Dominican mission. In Green Bay he met the Grignon family, and probably through this contact he went to La Petite Chute in 1836. There he built the first church for the Menominee Indians, St. John Nepomucene, one of several he would establish in the area. Father Van den Broek also met Morgan Lewis Martin, who was in charge of the local canal project. Father Van den Broek purchased land in the area which he later hoped to sell.[14] In that same year, 1836, the Menominees signed the “Treaty of the Cedars” which required them to give up title to the local land and move beyond the Wolf River to the west.[15]

Father Van den Broek began to write letters about the area to groups in the Netherlands. The letters appeared in the Roman Catholic paper, De Tijd (The Times) beginning in 1843.[13] In the summer of 1847 Father Van den Broek went back to the Netherlands to settle his parents’ estate. The settlement was not very beneficial and he found himself nearly destitute. As St. John Nepomucene parishioners were significantly reduced after the Treaty of the Cedars, he used the trip as an opportunity to again write in De Tijd, advertising the mission, the land at La Petite Chute and employment opportunities associated with the Fox River Canal, which included free passage to America for workers. The results were immediate and, by 1848, three wooden sailing vessels called "barks" or "barque" (small three-masted sailing ships), the Libra, the Maria Magdalena and the America,[16] had been booked for passage to the east coast of the United States. Approximate 918 Dutch Catholic immigrants were on the three boats. Most of the early emigrants were from villages near Uden, including Zeeland, Boekel, Mill, Oploo and Gemert. The Dutch economy of the era was stagnant and much of the motivation to emigrate was economic. The emigrants were not poor, as the cost of passage, expenses and land purchase in Wisconsin would have been substantial. They were not, however, affluent and many would have been risking most of their wealth on the chance of economic improvement. There were also political pressures at the time that favored mass emigrations of Catholics.[14][17][18][19]

Typical passage to La Petite Chute included crossing the Atlantic from Rotterdam to New York City, a train trip from there to Albany, a train or Erie Canal-barge trip across New York state to Buffalo, steamship travel through the Great Lakes and Green Bay to the head of the Fox River at Green Bay and finally a 30-mile, ox-cart trip to the mission at La Petite Chute. The first group from Rotterdam arrived on May 22, 1848, led by a Franciscan missionary, Fr Adrianus D. Godthard.[20] Father Van den Broek's group, held up by an ice jam on Lake Michigan, arrived on June 10, 1848.[13] The emigrants discovered not plowed fields and a village but forested land, being somewhat misled by wording of the De Tijd advertisements: the word “acres” was translated as akkers, meaning cultivated land. There was also not enough good land in Father Van den Broek's holdings for all the emigrants. There was a resort to drawing straws, with the winners naturally picking the best lots.[13] Many of the others—led by Cornelis van de Heij, a farmer from Zeeland, and Father Godthard—left to form the village of Holland (usually referred to locally as “Hollandtown”)[21] rather than buying the remainder of Father Van den Broek's land. There were other Europeans, mainly French and Irish emigrants, already established at La Petite Chute, now also known by its semi-anglicized name of “Little Chute.” A few Native Americans still lived in the area.

Later Dutch immigration[edit]

Typical Dutch homestead, c. 1855

Despite the hardships, including the death of Father Van den Broek in 1851, the village prospered. Waves of Catholic Dutch emigrants followed from all over the Netherlands, with whole families and neighborhoods moving to join family and friends already established in Little Chute, Hollandtown, and the outlying farming communities. It is estimated that, by 1927, as many as 40,000 Dutch Roman Catholics had immigrated to the United States—an average rate of 10 per week for 80 years. While many headed for cities or individual farms across the country, Little Chute and the surrounding area represented the largest concentration of Catholic immigrants.[22]

From the start, St. John Nepomucene Church served as a focal point, although other churches would soon spring up in the other communities. The first settlers would have devoted all energies to clearing land, planting, building small homes and barns, fencing and raising livestock. The private Fox River Canal was a failure. The State "Fox and Wisconsin Improvement Company" took over operations in 1850 and finished the canal and adjoining dam by 1856.[13] Railways approached from the south and steamship lines were established on Lakes Michigan and Winnebago.[23] The 16 feet of water head at La Petite Chute and other falls was used for mills, a practice that continues. Little Chute post office was established in 1849.[24] In 1898 the fiftieth anniversary of the founding was commemorated and the surviving "48'ers" recognized.[25] In 1898, residents of La Petite Chute petitioned the State of Wisconsin for incorporation as the Village of Little Chute, which was formally granted on March 8, 1899.

While there are several other Dutch American cities—Oostburg, Wisconsin; Pella, Iowa; Orange City, Iowa; and Holland, Michigan—these were largely settled by Protestants. Little Chute and some surrounding area was largely settled by Catholics. By the early twentieth century it was the largest Catholic Dutch community in the United States.[26] Little Chute remained a Dutch-speaking community—known locally as "speaking Hollander"—into the twentieth century. As late as 1898, church sermons and event announcements were in Dutch.[25] Dutch newspapers continued in the area—mainly in De Pere by Catholic clergymen—were published up until World War I.[20] Speaking Dutch as a first language was common in the area among second and third generation even as late as World War II.[27] The Dutch festival of Sinterklaas was celebrated as "St Nick’s Day" (December 6). This practice continues in many households today. St. John Nepomucene was the primary educational institution with the local public high school not opening until 1966.[13]

Present day[edit]

One of four dams on the Fox River in Little Chute
Doyle and Island parks in Little Chute, as seen from the Fox River

Little Chute celebrated the Dutch festival of Kermis annually from 1981 until 2015. The festival was reinstituted in 1981 after a long hiatus dating back to the early twentieth century, and is possibly the only such named event in the United States.[28] St. John Nepomucene is a thriving parish with recent additions to the church and elementary school.

Little Chute has a full-scale authentic working Dutch windmill operated by Little Chute Windmill, a non-profit organization. The Little Chute Windmill and Van Asten Visitor Center, completed in 2013, serves as a museum and tourist attraction that promotes the history and Dutch heritage of the community.

The Fox River Navigational System Authority is rehabilitating and operating the system of Lower Fox River locks between Lake Winnebago and Green Bay, including the Locks at Little Chute in Doyle Park. Repairs to the Little Chute guard lock, lock and combined locks are scheduled to be completed by 2009. Funding for the bridge at the Little Chute Lock and additional repairs on the Fox River Locks appear to be in question.[29][30]

While some homes are decorated with windmills and other symbols of Dutch culture, the use of the Dutch language and day-to-day culture has all but discontinued. A tradition from North Brabant, that happens every year in Little Chute is "De Schut" and is a copy of "Koningsschieten" in the province North Brabant in the Netherlands.

The non-profit organization Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is rehabilitating the Little Chute Lock Tender's House with volunteer labor and private donations. It will be restored to its 1930s character and will become a vacation rental. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Little Chute is located at 44°17′03″N 88°18′49″W / 44.284087°N 88.313629°W / 44.284087; -88.313629 (44.284087, −88.313629).[31]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 5.52 square miles (14.30 km2), of which, 5.16 square miles (13.36 km2) of it is land and 0.36 square miles (0.93 km2) is water.[32]

Little Chute is the largest village in Outagamie County


Historical population
2019 (est.)12,081[4]15.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[33]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 10,449 people, 4,207 households, and 2,848 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,025.0 inhabitants per square mile (781.9/km2). There were 4,376 housing units at an average density of 848.1 per square mile (327.5/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 94.8% White, 0.7% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 1.5% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population.

There were 4,207 households, of which 32.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 32.3% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.97.

The median age in the village was 37 years. 24.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.5% were from 25 to 44; 27% were from 45 to 64; and 12.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 49.6% male and 50.4% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 10,476 people, 3,878 households, and 2,803 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,538.0 per square mile (979.9/km2). There were 3,956 housing units at an average density of 958.4 per square mile (370.0/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 96.96% White, 0.10% African American, 0.54% Native American, 0.77% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.85% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.67% of the population.

There were 3,878 households, out of which 38.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.7% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.7% were non-families. 22.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.17.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 29.1% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 32.1% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $49,500, and the median income for a family was $57,090. Males had a median income of $39,019 versus $24,579 for females. The per capita income for the village was $21,181. About 5.0% of families and 6.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.3% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.


The Tri-County Expressway (Wisconsin Highway 441) runs on the west side of the village. Interstate 41 runs on the north side and links the village with Green Bay to the north and Appleton, Oshkosh, and Milwaukee to the south. Bus service is operated by Valley Transit. Appleton International Airport provides air service for Little Chute.

The village of Little Chute is responsible for the maintaining of just over 53 miles of roadway.[34]


Village hall

Little Chute has both a public and private school systems: St. John's K–8, Public: K–12. The superintendent of the Little Chute School District is Heidi Schmidt. Grades 5–12 of the public school are located in separate areas of the same building.[35]


St. Luke Lutheran Church, affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), is in Little Chute.[36]

Notable people[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Little Chute WI ZIP Code". 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  7. ^ “That Dark and Bloody River”, 1996, Allan Eckert
  8. ^ American Canal Society Canal Index Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine (PDF)
  9. ^ "Treaty of the Cedars". Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  10. ^ “First Nations Histories: Winnebago”
  11. ^ “Four Directions Institute: Winnebago"
  12. ^ “Sauk and Fox History"
  13. ^ a b c d e f “Little Chute, A Century of Progress, 1899-1999”, 1999, Village of Little Chute Centennial Committee
  14. ^ a b “The First Dutch Catholics In Brown County”, Willem Keeris, Netherlands
  15. ^ History- Treaties- September 3, 1836; The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin Archived October 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ All three ships (broker was Hudig & Blokhuyzen) departed from Rotterdam. Libra departed 13 March 1848 and arrived in Boston, America departed on 18 March 1848 and arrived in Philadelphia, and Maria Magdalena departed 20 March 1948 and arrived in New York City.
  17. ^ Albert Vanderheide “Priest led party of emigrants to Wisconsin’s frontier territory” Archived August 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ H.A.V.M. Van Stekelenburg. Landverhuizing als regionaal verschijnsel, Van Noord-Brabant naar Noord-Amerika, 1820–1880, doctoral thesis, accessed: March 7, 2003 Archived August 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Catholics were far fewer in number than Protestants among the immigrants. On their experiences see Yda Schreuder, Dutch Catholic Immigrant Settlement in Wisconsin, 1850-1905 (New York: Garland, 1989); and H. A. V. M. van Stekelenburg, Landverhuizing als regionaal verschijnsel: Van Noord-Brabant naar Noord-Amerika 1820-1880 (Tilburg: Stichting Zuidelijk Historisch Contact, 1991). On Dutch Jews see Robert P. Swierenga, The Forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994). On socialists see Pieter R. D. Stokvis, "Dutch Socialist Immigrants and the American Dream," in The Dutch-American Experience: Essays in Honor of Robert P. Sweierenga, ed. Hans Krabbendam and Larry J. Wagenaar (Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Uitgeverij, 2000). For an overview on Dutch immigration which explains the three waves see Suzanne M. Sinke, "Dutch," in A Nation of Peoples: A Sourcebook on America's Multicultural Heritage, ed. Elliott R. Barkan (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999), pp. 156-7. See also Robert P. Swierenga, "Dutch," in Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, ed. Stephan Thernstrom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 284-95. By far the most complete study of the nineteenth-century migrants in the United States is Jacob van Hinte's Netherlanders in America: A Study of Emigration and Settlement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries in the United States of America, 2 vols., ed. Robert P. Swierenga, trans. Adriaan de Wit (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), a translation and reprint of the original published in the Netherlands in 1928. Henry S. Lucas also used this work extensively for his Netherlanders in America: Dutch Immigration to the United States and Canada, 1789-1950 (1955; reprint, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1989). See Robert P. Swierenga, "Local Patterns of Dutch Migration to the United States in the Mid-nineteenth Century," in A Century of European Migrations, ed. Rudolph Vecoli and Suzanne Sinke (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp. 134-57.
  20. ^ a b DeBoer, Twilah (June 1999). "Early Dutch Settlements in Wisconsin". Wisconsin Local History Network. Archived from the original on October 8, 2007. Retrieved October 31, 2009.
  21. ^ Transcript of Dutch immigrant Arnold Verstegen’s letters, 1850 and 1852
  22. ^ “Nederlanders in Amerika”, Van Hinte, Assen, 1928
  23. ^ Reminiscences of a Pioneer Missionary by Rev. Chrysostom Verwyst. Wisconsin Historical Society Separate No. 173 - From the Proceedings of the Society for 1916,
  24. ^ Helbock, Richard W. (1999) United States Post Offices, Volume III - The Upper Midwest, p. 146, Lake Oswego, Oregon: La Posta Publications
  25. ^ a b Milwaukee Sentinel, July 15, 1898
  26. ^ “Netherlanders in America” Lucas, 1955
  27. ^ Conversations with several Little Chute residents, one resident since 1915
  28. ^ “Dutch Americans”, Herbert J. Brinks
  29. ^ Appleton Post Crescent October 10, 2008
  30. ^ Green Bay Press Gazette October 17, 2008
  31. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  32. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 2, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  33. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  34. ^ "Little Chute Department of Public works and Engineering - Fall newsletter".
  35. ^ Appleton Post Crescent
  36. ^ "St. Luke Lutheran Church".

External links[edit]