Town History

Buchanan, Wisconsin (Darboy USA!)

The area now known as Buchanan was originally settled by French, Dutch, Irish and Germans.  The French were here before the U.S. survey.  This is established by the private claims of Ducharm and Grignon on the north side of the river.  William Lamure, son of Joseph Lamure, one of the first French settlers, said that in 1835 when his father bought land in Section 34 from Daniel Whitney of Green Bay, he had only two neighbors, Paul Beaulieu and Capt. Porlier.  William Lamure, if not the first, was among the first settlers of Buchanan.

The French settlers, all of whom were born in lower Canada, first landed in Green Bay which then had a reputation as a fur, game and shipping point.

Father Theodore J. Van den Broek, who founded St. John's Congregation in Little Chute in 1836, was responsible to a great extent in inducing the Dutch to settle in Buchanan. After a trip back to his native land in 1847 a large number of Dutch people came back with him.

The Irish settlers of Buchanan were not all actuated by the same motive. Some came to work on the government canal, which took place from 1851 to 1855; others to acquire good land at a low price. Denied the privilege of owning land in Ireland, they were land hungry. None of the Irish came directly from Ireland, they had been employed on farms and in cotton and other factories in the eastern states prior to coming to Buchanan.

In 1842 a group of German immigrants settled in the area now known as Buchanan. The failure of the common people of Germany and Austria to obtain a united nation and a voice in the government causing a revolution in which Johan Kinkel and Carl Schurz took a prominent part, was responsible to a great extent for the influx of thousands of Germans. Many of the German pioneers, like the Irish, did not come to Buchanan directly from their native land. One early German settler said that his parents settled in Buchanan because of its excellent timber, soil and accessibility to the Little Chute Catholic Church.

The Town of Buchanan was established in 1858. The first annual meeting was held at school house number two. Undoubtedly, the new town was named after James Buchanan who was then president of the United States.

The early trappers and French settlers depended to a considerable extent upon game and fish for a livelihood. Living on the bank of the river, side by side, they could till the land south of them, could fish from their own pier, and in case of an Indian uprising, their living close to one another strengthened their defense.

The territory now comprising the Town of Buchanan was a dense forest with Indian clearings or fields and Indian trails, all of which are shown on an early survey map. The maps of the original survey of Ranges No. 18 and 19E are very comprehensive.  They show the meanders of the river, and of the islands at Kaukauna, the cracks and natural land slopes; the falls and rapids of the river, more Indian clearings and Indian camps, sugar cabins, and river crossings, schools, Indian missions, saw mill, and Indian trails, etc.

The longest tributary to the Fox River in Range 18 is designated on the map as Mud Creek.  Its source is just east of the city limits of Appleton and it discharges its water at Combined Locks.  Many lesser creeks flow into it before it reaches the river. The next largest is designated as Robert's Creek.  Its source is the Town of Harrison, Calumet County, almost due south of the City of Kaukauna where it empties into the river.

The year round wild animals and game drank the sulfur water.  Judge Thomas H. Ryan, (who's booklet supplied many of the facts listed in this article), was born long ago in a log house built on Lot #7, Section #24. The writer's parents, Daniel and Winnefred Ryan, shortly after their marriage in Chicopee, MA, came to Buchanan in the autumn of 1857.  They purchased an 80-acre tract of land covered by a variety of trees, many twenty to fifty-feet tall and some with five-foot diameter trunks. With an ax, a cross-cut saw and a yoke of oxen they cleared the land and farmed. Annually for years they would make gallons of maple syrup and enough maple sugar to last for the year.

The houses, barns and stables were constructed out of logs. The Ryan's home was built in 1867 and was one of the first frame houses in Buchanan.

The tools and implements of the early settlers in Buchanan were few and simple. An axe, cross-cut saw, plow, drag, scythe, sickle, cradle, hand rake, flail, sleigh, and lumber wagon were the usual equipment.  When land was cleared of timber stumps remained until they could be pried out by hand.  All grain was threshed by the flail until the early seventies. A yoke of oxen did both the farm work and the marketing. If a farmer had a couple of cows, a few pigs, a dozen chickens, a few geese, ten or more sheep, he was considered well to do. The cows were milked only in the summer time. The pioneer who had fresh milk in the winter was an exception to the rule.

There was no local market for what the farmer produced.  During the summer months the butter was packed in firkins to be sold in Green Bay in the fall.  The pigs were butchered in the fall so that they too could be taken to Green Bay for sale. Judge Ryan's father sold pork for 3 1/2 cents per pound and butter for 10 cents a pound. The round trip to Green Bay with a team of horses took two days. Often in the spring the trails were impassable with a team, so it was not uncommon for pioneers to walk to Green Bay to purchase necessities.  In the early 70's roads where possible and were laid out on the lot or section lines.

Many of the pioneers of Buchanan were either middle aged or younger when they settled here. A few had a couple of children before coming.  All raised large families. It was the exception where there were fewer than six children, and ten and twelve children was not uncommon. The children like their parents were strong and robust.  They were not afraid to work. Children before their teens did the work of an adult. The boys cut and barked bolts and headings, piled and burned brush, delivered the wood in the form of bolts, headings or cord wood to the purchaser; plowed, dragged and seeded, raked and cocked hay; bound and shocked grain, cut and husked corn, loaded and spread manure, among many other things. The girls helped with the chores.  They fed the poultry, calves, and pigs. they milked and churned. The hoed the potatoes and poisoned the potato bugs. Frequently, they helped in the fields raking hay, binding and shocking grain, hoeing and husking corn, digging then picking up potatoes and many other ways of assisting their parents.

The Holy Angels Catholic Church was erected in 1874 and is a key landmark in the town.

Fish and game were abundant.  Gray, black and red squirrels, raccoons, foxes, skunks, and partridge abounded. Hickory, beech and oak nuts made Buchanan a paradise for the squirrels.  Pike, pickerel, black bass, sucker, perch, sheep head, and sturgeon were found in the waters in this area.

Wheat, oats, hay, barley, peas, potatoes, and corn constituted the crops raised by the early pioneers.  Buchanan did not become a dairy section until the advent of the chinch bug in the late 70's.  The chinch bug since its first recorded outbreak in the U.S. in 1783 has destroyed more than one billion dollars worth of grain crops.  Of necessity, the pioneers of Buchanan abandoned raising wheat and instead raised clover and corn which resulted in increasing the number of cattle. Today Buchanan's rural areas are considered a dairy section.

Darboy, as much of the town is commonly known, is an unincorporated community.  The Darboy name stems from a post office that was established in 1877 and named after French Archbishop Georges Darboy.  The post office closed in 1901.

In 1972, local farmers concerned about future growth in Darboy, organized the Darboy Joint Sanitary District No. 1.  The District's water and sewer services helped fuel the explosive population growth in the 1990s.  The present Buchanan Town Hall was built in 1991.

In 2000 the town had a population of 5,827.  The town experienced 15% growth since 2000, resulting in a 2009 population of 6,692.

The fact that Buchanan's pioneers were French, Hollanders, Germans and Irish, (each race having its own characteristics and habits), did not militate against neighborliness.  Neither did difference in religion prevent social contact. All, having left Europe to escape tyrannical laws. and religious persecution, were imbued with the spirit of tolerance and square dealing. Poverty and the uncertainty of the future, developed in them the sense of comradeship and Samaritanism.  In the case of misfortune, loss, illness, or bereavement, the more fortunate neighbors vied with one another to assist and console the unfortunate ones, even to the extent of neglecting their own crops and families.

The pioneers of the Town of Buchanan were not only good neighbors, but also good citizens.  They were honest, industrious, peaceable, and law abiding. In industry, honesty, and ability they compared favorable with the colonists of the original thirteen states; in tolerance, they excelled.

Note:  Many of the statements listed above came from a booklet written by Judge Thomas H. Ryan, "History of the Town of Buchanan and Its Pioneers."