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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Before Bratwurst


Yesterday we featured the history of beer in Odd Wisconsin and tomorrow Madison's 23rd annual Bratfest opens its four-day run. Here's where sausage begins in Wisconsin.

It wasn't Germans at all but Yankees who introduced the first sausages to Wisconsin. In 1836 "Aunt Sally" Crane and her husband Milo Jones started a farm where Fort Atkinson is now located. Since large numbers of immigrants were streaming north up the Rock River into Wisconsin, the Joneses often played host to hungry wanderers and word therefore leaked out about "Aunt Sally's" sausage. This 1926 article, written when the origins of the Jones family's "Little Pig Sausage" business were still fresh in local memory, tells their story.

And what about bratwurst? We have yet to discover among our online collections the origins of the particular sausage that made Wisconsin famous. No doubt its recipe crossed the Atlantic with early German housewives such as these, who were among the first to arrive. Early German immigrants to Sheboygan (the mecca of brat history and culture) make no mention of them in memoirs. But by 1931 they were so celebrated that a Madison restaurant owner called his establishment the Log Cabin Bratwurst Restaurant. And by our own time they were a prominent, almost compulsory, feature of most community celebrations, like this 1988 Brookfield church fair.

If you know the origin of bratwurst in Wisconsin and can point us to a historical source that documents it, drop us a note.
:: Posted in Curiosities on May 26, 2005

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