History of Baraboo

The first settlers came to this area in 1838. Being near the river was an advantage for the development of this area. By 1846 Baraboo became the County Seat; by 1866 it became an official Village; & by 1882 it became a City. In 2004, Baraboo became a 3rd class city having hit the 11,000 mark in population.

Baraboo is most often known as “Circus City” for several reasons, not just for the fact that the Ringling Brothers called Baraboo home and had their winter quarters here through 1918. In 1884 the young Ringling Brothers gave their first official circus performance. They rapidly grew successful and eventually joined forces with the Barnum & Bailey show which gave rise to the name we are all so familiar with: The Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. Not only did the Ringling's call Baraboo home; other circuses started in Baraboo as well: Gollmar Brothers (1891 to 1916), John Robinson (1898), Forepaugh Sells Brothers (1910-1911), Fun on the Farm (1924), & Wilbur W. Deppe’s Classic Country Circus (1961-1966).

Why are we known as "Gem City"?  When the old court house was first built it stood for years in the center of a lot otherwise vacant, unadorned by lawn, tree, shrub or flower.  The County Board refused time and again to appropriate funds for the embellishment of or for the care of the grounds.  The determined horticulturists in Baraboo took things into their own hands.  They appointed a day for a "bee" and called for volunteers to fix up the court house yard.  The volunteers came with tools, trees and flowers, and as a result, the name "Gem City" began from this day.