Wisconsin is known as the "Badger State" because of the lead miners who first settled there in the 1820s and 1830s. These miners often lived in tunnels burrowed into hillsides, much like badgers.
Rock County, Wisconsin has a rich and diverse history that dates back to the early 1800s. The area that is now Rock County was originally home to Native American tribes, including the Ho-Chunk Nation, who inhabited the land for centuries. In the early 1800s, European settlers began to arrive, drawn by the fertile land, abundant water resources, and potential for trade.

The first European settlement in Rock County was established in 1835 by William Holmes, who built a log cabin near the present-day city of Beloit. The area quickly attracted more settlers, and by 1836, Rock County was formed and named after the Rock River that flows through it. The discovery of lead in the region in the 1820s brought an influx of miners, leading to the growth of towns like Mineral Point and Shullsburg.

The mid-19th century saw the establishment and growth of several towns in Rock County, including Janesville and Evansville. Janesville, in particular, flourished as a trading center and transportation hub, thanks to its location on the Rock River and the construction of a railroad in the 1850s. By the late 1800s, Janesville had become an industrial center with mills, foundries, and factories producing a wide range of goods.

The 20th century brought both challenges and opportunities to Rock County. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit the area hard, but the county rebounded during World War II, when manufacturing industries expanded to support the war effort. After the war, Rock County experienced further industrial growth, especially in the automotive and farm equipment sectors. However, the late 20th century brought challenges as some industries faced decline and job losses.

Today, Rock County continues to evolve and adapt. The county is known for its agricultural heritage and is home to many family farms. It also boasts a diverse economy, including manufacturing, healthcare, education, and tourism. The county's history is preserved and celebrated through various museums, historic sites, and community events, showcasing the resilience and spirit of the people who have called Rock County home throughout its history.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Rock County, Wisconsin.

  • 1836 - Rock County is organized and established as a county in the Wisconsin Territory.
  • 1844 - The city of Janesville is incorporated as the county seat of Rock County.
  • 1854 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad reaches Janesville, spurring economic growth in the county.
  • 1861-1865 - Rock County residents participate in the American Civil War, with many joining Union forces.
  • 1873 - The Janesville Electric Company is established, providing electric power to the city.
  • 1900 - The automobile industry begins to flourish in Rock County, with several car manufacturers setting up operations.
  • 1936 - The Rock County Airport (now Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport) is established near Janesville.
  • 1942 - General Motors builds a large manufacturing plant in Janesville, becoming a major employer in the county for decades.
  • 1964 - Rock County experiences a devastating tornado outbreak, causing significant damage to several communities.
  • 2008 - General Motors announces the closure of its Janesville plant, leading to a significant economic impact on the county.