Community Names Reflect Indian Lore, Heritage
extracted from the Ozaukee New Graphic Piolot
July 16, 1986
By Steven Benter
Ozaukee County -- Inidan lore, national heritage of settlers and geographical characteristics all reflect the origins of names for Ozaukee County communities.
It wasn't always easy coming up with the right name, as settlers in local villages and hamelts here discovered. Frequent name changes occurred.
Grafton is a prime example. Before being settled, the region was referred to as Milwaukee Falls. In 1840, it was called Hamburg and remained so until 1846, when it became Grafton.
Eleven years later, it was renamed Manchester, before being changed permanently to Grafton in 1862.
Port Washington was originally called Wisconsin City.
Thiensville went by the name of Pigeon Creek until 1883.
Prior to 1843, Cedarburg was known as Newland and Pleasant Valley.
Fredonia was shortened from Fredonia Station. Before that, it was Stoney Creek.
Belgium was mistakenly identified. By historical accounts, it should be Luxembourg, due to the large number of Luxembourg settlers.
The name Saukville is taken from a Sauk Indian village.
Waubeka was named after an Indian chief, and Mequon was derived from the Indian name for White Feather, "Chief Waubeka's daughter.
Ozaukee County itself is of Indian derivation. The name translates to "people living at the mouth of the river." It also claimed to be derived from two Sauk words meaning "yellow" and "earth," describing the sand and clay soil of the county.
In addition, Ozaukee is regarded as the name of the main Sauk Indian trible.
Port Washington was settled as Wisconsin City in 1835 by a group of settlers led by Wooster Harrison. Two years later, the town was abandoned when financial panic halted land speculation.
Harrison returned in 1843 to rebuilld the town, that was renamed Washington City to avoid confusion with other similarly-named communities. When a pier was constucted, the name Port Washington was born.
Port Washington has also informally been referred to as "The Little City of Seven Hills."
At one time, Grafton was the site of the county seat. The village was built around a square dominated by a two-story, stone-block building that served as the county courthouse and jail.
The village was labeled Hamburg after Hamburg, Germany - the ancestral home of Jacob Eichler, an early settler. The name Grafton may have been suggested by a growing number of Irish settlers. One of the main main shopping streets in Dublin is Grafton Street.
Cedarburg's German derivation means "village in the Cedars." Local Indians called it Traseola, meaning "level land."
In 1844, Frederick Hilgen and William Schroeder cut a road through the forest from nearby Hamilton to the current city proper. They erected the first grist mill on the banks of Cedar Creek in 1845.
Historic Hamilton, on the city's south end, was known as the New Dublin District until 1847. Irish settlers located at the bend of Cedar Creek on the old Green Bay Road.
The name was changed to Hamilton to honor Captian William Hamilton, brother of Alexander Hamilton. The captain reportedly stayed at a hotel in Hamilton while making cattle deliveries.
Thiensville and Mequon share much of the same history.
The first major land owner of Thiensville was John Weston, who purchased 148 acres from the Unitied States government in 1836. He later sold his land to German immigrant John Henry Thien for $800.
Thien laid out the village, built a flour grinding mill, and named the community Thiensville.
Until it was incorporated as a village in 1910, Thiensville was part of the Town of Mequon and served as center of activity in the community. The concentrated population grew among German and Irish settlers.
The original Mequon settlement was Mequon River, located at the intersection of the old Green Bay and Mequon roads.
A small community at the crossroads of Donges Bay and Wauwatosa roads was referred to as South Mequon or "Klatschbach," a German word meaning "gosspip creek."
One of the oldest settlements in the Town of Mequon was Freistatdt. It was a German Lutheran colony founded in 1839 by Prussian immigrants who sailed from their homeland to escape religious persecution.
According to the historical accounts, the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church told his congregation in 1844 that, after living here five years without a name, it was time they chose one. He suggested "Freystatt," the German collective meaning "free place."
The spelling was later changed to the High German form.
Saukville, located on the west banks of the Milwaukee River, wa formed in the shape of a triangle. The community was founded at the intersection of two heavily-traveled Indian trails, later military roads: the Green Bay and the Dekora.
Soon, Saukville had more hotels and inns than any other settlement of its size in the county,.
The German name Fredonia implies "free gifts" or "the land where things are freely done."
Fredonia develolped when the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad Co. built a station there in 1872. At that time, Peter Paulus and Peter Martin owned all the land in the settlement, which was called Stoney Creek. Each donated a parcel to the railroad to build a depot, tracks and a stock yard.
When a depot was erected with the wording Fredonia Station, the community became Fredonia Station as well. One story has it that as the railroad came through, a man from Fredonia, New York suggested the name.
Before the railroad was built, Waubeka was the primary community in the township. It was settled in 1844.
Another hamlet in the township is Little Kohler. The German settlement included immigrants from Bavaria and Saxony and was founded by Martin Koller in 1846.
Koller donated land for the church which was known as the Koller Kirche (now St. Mary's). A post office was later granted under the name of Kohler because of confusion with mail addressed to "Koller" being sent to the Koller family.
Belgium, Lake Church, Holy Cross and Dacada all have strong Luxembourg ties. Luxembourgers established a farming community in the northern part of the county during the mid-1840s.
The Holy Cross region was the first to be settled. The location is believed to have been chosen by a Holy Cross Catholic Father to establish a Wisconsin branch of their Boston, Mass. seminary.
A small log church and school were built, but lack of funds and cold winters kept seminary plans from materializing.
The Holy Cross parish was organized on Sept. 14, 1845, the day of the Feast of the Holy Cross. A few years later, St. Mary's Catholic Church was erected in Lake Church. The church and the settlement's close proximity to Lake Michigan inspired the name.
The Northwestern Railroad Co. built a station in Belgium in 1864 on land donated by Mrs. Nick Streff.
A mix-up came when residents submitted the name Luxembourg for state approval. When the papers were returned, they read "Belgium," and the name Luxembourg was given to a town in northern Wisconsin that had requested Belgium.
Dacada, which rests on the Ozaukee-Washington County line, is an adaptation of the Indian word Dakota. It was named after the Dakota Indians, a branch of the Sioux Nation, who once dwelled here.
Two other unincorporated hamlets that still be found in the county are Knellsville and Lakefield.
Knellsville succumbed to progress when the I-43 freeway interchange was built, but it still holds the Port Washington Town Hall. The hall is now 126 years old.
At one time, the Knellsville area was reportedly known as Drucker's Post Office.
Lakefield, a name reflecting nearby Lake Michigan and picturesque fields, became another community formed around a church, St. John's Lutheran Church was established around 1866.