Sauk County, Wisconsin

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Sauk County, Wisconsin
Map of Wisconsin highlighting Sauk County
Location in the state of Wisconsin
Map of the United States highlighting Wisconsin
Wisconsin's location in the U.S.
Founded 1844
Seat Baraboo
Largest city Baraboo
 • Total 849 sq mi (2,199 km2)
 • Land 831 sq mi (2,152 km2)
 • Water 18 sq mi (47 km2), 2.1%
 • (2010) 61,976
 • Density 75/sq mi (29/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Sauk County is a county in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is named after a large village of the Sauk people.[1] As of the 2010 census, the population was 61,976.[2] Its county seat and largest city is Baraboo.[3] The county was created in 1840 and organized in 1844.[4]

Sauk County comprises the Baraboo, WI Micropolitan Statistical Area and is included in the Madison-Janesville-Beloit, WI Combined Statistical Area.


Sauk County was a New England settlement. The original founders of Sauk County consisted entirely of settlers from New England as well as some from upstate New York who had parents that moved to that region from New England shortly after the American Revolution. These people were "Yankee" settlers, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. While most of them came to Wisconsin directly from New England, there were many who came from upstate New York. These were people whose parents had moved from New England to upstate New York in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution. They were part of a wave of New England farmers who headed west into what was then the wilds of the Northwest Territory during the early 1800s. In the case of Wisconsin this migration primarily occurred in the 1830s. Due to the prevalence of New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York, Wisconsin was very culturally continuous with early New England culture for much of its early history.

The Yankee migration to Wisconsin in the 1830s was a result of several factors, one of which was the overpopulation of New England. The old stock Yankee population had large families, often bearing up to ten children in one household. Most people were expected to have their own piece of land to farm, and due to the massive and nonstop population boom, land in New England became scarce as every son claimed his own farmstead. As a result there was not enough land for every family to have a self-sustaining farm, and Yankee settlers began leaving New England for the Midwestern United States.

They were aided in this effort by the construction and completion of the Erie Canal which made traveling to the region much easier, causing an additional surge in migrants coming from New England. Added to this was the end of the Black Hawk War, which made the region much safer to travel through and settle in for white settlers.

They got to what is now Sauk County in the 1830s by sailing up the Wisconsin River from the Mississippi River on small barges which they constructed themselves out of materials obtained from the surrounding woodlands. When they arrived in what is now Sauk County there was nothing but dense virgin forest, the "Yankee" New Englanders laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes. They brought with them many of their Yankee New England values, such as a passion for education, establishing many schools as well as staunch support for abolitionism. They were mostly members of the Congregationalist Church though some were Episcopalian. Due to the second Great Awakening some of them had converted to Methodism and some became Baptist before moving to what is now Sauk County. Sauk County, like much of Wisconsin, would be culturally very continuous with early New England culture for most of its early history.[5][6][7][8]

In the late 1890s, German immigrants began to settle in Sauk County, making up less than one out of thirty settlers in the county before this date. Generally there was little conflict between them and the "Yankee" settlers, however when conflict did arise it focused around the issue of prohibition of alcohol. On this issue the Yankees were divided and the Germans almost unanimously were opposed to it, tipping the balance in favor of opposition to prohibition.[9] Later the two communities would be divided on the issue of World War I in which, once again, the Yankee community would be divided and the Germans were unanimously opposed to American entry into the war. The Yankee community was generally pro-British, however many of the Yankees also did not want America to enter the war themselves. The Germans were sympathetic to Germany and did not want the United States to enter into a war against Germany, but the Germans were not anti-British. Prior to World War I, many German community leaders in Wisconsin spoke openly and enthusiastically about how much better America was than Germany, due primarily (in their eyes) to the presence of English law and the English political culture the Americans had inherited from the colonial era, which they contrasted with the turmoil and oppression in Germany which they had so recently fled. In the early 1900s immigrants from Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Poland also arrived in Sauk County.[10]

The area around Baraboo was first settled by Abe Wood in 1838, and was originally known as the village of Adams.[11] In 1846 it became the county seat of Sauk County after a fierce fight with the nearby village of Reedsburg.[12] In 1852, the village was renamed "Baraboo", after the nearby river. It was incorporated as a city in 1882.[13]

New England settlers set up severall sawmills early in the history of what is now Baraboo, Wisconsin because of its location near the Baraboo and Wisconsin Rivers.

The city was the home of the Ringling Brothers. From 1884 to 1917 it was the headquarters of their circus and several others, leading to the nickname "Circus City".[13] Today Circus World Museum is located in Baraboo. A living history museum, it has a collection of circus wagons and other circus artifacts. It also has the largest library of circus information in the United States.[14] The museum previously hosted the Great Circus Parade, which carried circus wagons and performers through the streets of Baraboo, across the state by train, and then through downtown Milwaukee.

The Al. Ringling Theatre is a grand scale movie palace in downtown Baraboo, made possible through the financial assistance of the Ringling family. The Al Ringling home still exists.

Located near Baraboo is the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, which was the largest munitions factory in the world during WWII, when it was known as "Badger Ordnance Works".[15] The plant is no longer in use.

Cirrus Aircraft is the maker of the world's best-selling single-engine aircraft, the SR22, and was the first manufacturer to install a whole-plane parachute recovery system as a standard on all their aircraft—designed to lower the airplane safely to the ground after a loss of control or structural failure. The company was founded in a rural Baraboo barn in 1984 by brothers Alan and Dale Klapmeier to produce the VK-30 kit aircraft.[16][17] After a few years of designing, they relocated to the Baraboo-Wisconsin Dells Airport and began flight testing, before ultimately moving the company in 1994 to its present-day home in Duluth, MN where they now employ over 900 people.[18]


Native vegetation based on NRCS soils information

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 849 square miles (2,200 km2), of which 831 square miles (2,150 km2) is land and 18 square miles (47 km2) (2.1%) is water.[19] Pewits Nest is located in Sauk County. Sauk Point is the county's highest point. The summit is nestled in the Baraboo bluffs and stands to 1,593 above sea level.

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]


2000 Census Age Pyramid for Sauk County
Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 102
1850 4,371 4,185.3%
1860 18,963 333.8%
1870 23,860 25.8%
1880 28,729 20.4%
1890 30,575 6.4%
1900 33,006 8.0%
1910 32,869 −0.4%
1920 32,548 −1.0%
1930 32,030 −1.6%
1940 33,700 5.2%
1950 38,120 13.1%
1960 36,179 −5.1%
1970 39,057 8.0%
1980 43,469 11.3%
1990 46,975 8.1%
2000 55,225 17.6%
2010 61,976 12.2%
Est. 2014 63,379 [20] 2.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]
1790–1960[22] 1900–1990[23]
1990–2000[24] 2010–2014[2]

As of the census[25] of 2000, there were 55,225 people, 21,644 households, and 14,869 families residing in the county. The population density was 66 people per square mile (25/km²). There were 24,297 housing units at an average density of 29 per square mile (11/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.37% White, 0.26% Black or African American, 0.87% Native American, 0.26% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. 1.70% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 50.7% were of German, 8.5% Irish, 6.5% Norwegian, 6.2% American and 5.9% English ancestry according to Census 2000. 95.5% spoke English, 1.9% Spanish and 1.4% German as their first language. There were 21,644 households out of which 32.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.80% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.30% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the county, the population was spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 7.40% from 18 to 24, 29.30% from 25 to 44, 22.80% from 45 to 64, and 14.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 97.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.20 males.


Farming in Sauk County near Reedsburg
Typical Sauk County countryside
Fairgrounds in Baraboo
Sauk County sign on U.S. Route 12




Census-designated place[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Winnebago Took Its Name from an Indian Tribe". The Post-Crescent. December 28, 1963. p. 14. Retrieved August 25, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ "Wisconsin: Individual County Chronologies". Wisconsin Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. The Newberry Library. 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Looking into history: the Sauk County area by Dean W. O'Brien, Polly E. O'Brien - Sauk County Historical Society, 2001
  9. ^ Wisconsin Then and Now, Volumes 21-24 State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1974 pages 102-103, page 138
  10. ^ The German Historians and England: A Study in Nineteenth-century Views By Charles E. McClelland pages 19, 136, 138. 176, 196
  11. ^ The Wisconsin Blue Book 1929. Madison: Democrat Printing Company, 1929, p. 629.
  12. ^ "County Government: Why Adams County?" in Adams County Historical Society,From Past to Present: Adams County. Friendship, Wisconsin: New Past Press, 1999.
  13. ^ a b "Term: Baraboo [brief history]" in Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
  14. ^ Bill Steigerwald. "Travels Without Charley: A beautiful lake and a movie palace await in Baraboo". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 17, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  15. ^ GSA - Badger Site Information
  16. ^ The Museum of Flight
  17. ^ Airport Journals
  18. ^ Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame - Exciting News From the National Aviation Hall of Fame
  19. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  21. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  23. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  25. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°26′N 89°56′W / 43.43°N 89.94°W / 43.43; -89.94