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When they arrived in what is now Sauk County there was nothing but dense virgin forest, the "Yankee" New Englanders laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes.
They brought with them many of their Yankee New England values, such as a passion for education, establishing many schools as well as staunch support for abolitionism, they were mostly members of the Congregationalist Church though some were Episcopalian.
The city was the home of the Ringling Brothers, from 1884 to 1917 it was the headquarters of their circus and several others, leading to the nickname "Circus City". A living history museum, it has a collection of circus wagons and other circus artifacts, it also has the largest library of circus information in the United States.
The museum previously hosted the Great Circus Parade, which carried circus wagons and performers through the streets of Baraboo, across the state by train, and then through downtown Milwaukee. Ringling Theatre is a grand scale movie palace in downtown Baraboo, made possible through the financial assistance of the Ringling family, the Al Ringling home still exists.
Sauk County was a New England settlement, the original founders of Sauk County consisted entirely of settlers from New England as well as some from upstate New York who had parents that moved to that region from New England shortly after the American Revolution.
These people were "Yankee" settlers, that is to say they were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s.
50.7% were of German, 8.5% Irish, 6.5% Norwegian, 6.2% American and 5.9% English ancestry according to Census 2000.
95.5% spoke English, 1.9% Spanish and 1.4% German as their first language.
There were 24,297 housing units at an average density of 29 per square mile (11/km²).
Due to the prevalence of New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York, Wisconsin was very culturally continuous with early New England culture for much of its early history.
The Yankee migration to Wisconsin in the 1830s was a result of several factors, one of which was the overpopulation of New England, the old stock Yankee population had large families, often bearing up to ten children in one household.
Prior to World War I, many German community leaders in Wisconsin spoke openly and enthusiastically about how much better America was than Germany, due primarily (in their eyes) to the presence of English law and the English political culture the Americans had inherited from the colonial era, which they contrasted with the turmoil and oppression in Germany which they had so recently fled; in the early 1900s immigrants from Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Poland also arrived in Sauk County.
New England settlers set up several sawmills early in the history of what is now Baraboo because of its location near the Baraboo and Wisconsin Rivers.