While most visitors to this slice of farmland in central Wisconsin flock just a few miles east to the renowned Horicon Marsh, the small town of Waupun, population 11,340, boasts its own attraction worth a visit: an extensive collection of outdoor sculptures by Clarence Addison Shaler.
Shaler, born just west of Waupun in the tiny town of Mackford in 1860, was a successful Waupun manufacturer and inventor, creating, among other things, the first replaceable cover for an umbrella and a quick way to repair tires known as a "vulcanizer."
After retiring at the age of 70, Shaler turned his attention to art. He would go on to sculpt numerous statues, donating six to Waupun and commissioning another two for the city. Blue signs throughout the "City of Sculpture" point visitors to their locations throughout town.
The most famous of his works is "End of the Trail" in Shaler Park on Madison St. Shaler commissioned James Earl Fraser to create the statue of the American Indian man slumped on a horse, which represents the plight of displaced native people. The statue is one of the most recognizable and re-created in the world, featured on prints, postcards, plaster replicas and even belt buckles.
Shaler donated the bronze statue to Waupun in 1929; it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Richard Peters, a sixth-generation Waupun native, said his mother used to live in the stone house that now sits on the edge of the park where the statue is.
"My mother watched them bring the statue in on the railroad," Peters said. "The reason it's raised like that is because they couldn't figure out how to get it to the ground from the rail car."
By the early '90s the statue had fallen into significant disrepair. In 1997, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and art historian Tony Rajer set about restoring it. He would work for more than a decade to restore the rest of Shaler's sculptures in Waupun, save the "Recording Angel."
Don't miss: "End of the Trail" is not the only Waupun sculpture worth seeing.
Just north of Shaler Park, find the "Recording Angel" statue in Forest Mound Cemetery. From the main entrance on Madison St., follow the road along the park's southern end to find the statue of a serene, seated angel, which Shaler commissioned Lorado Taft to create in honor of his late wife, Blanche Bancroft Shaler. Like "End of the Trail," this statue is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Main St. in front of City Hall is "Dawn of Day," also known as "Waubun," its American Indian equivalent. Waubun was the city's original name, but a spelling error when submitting the name to the state forever cemented the city's name as Waupun. The statue of an American Indian woman casting off her garments was Shaler's first, dedicated to the city in 1931.
Also in town is "The Citadel," acquired by Waupun in 1994 from the University of Southern California (where it had been since 1942) and now encased in glass in front of the Waupun Heritage Museum. One of Shaler's darker works, the patina-covered statue features a devilish figure standing over a deeply distraught woman. Shaler's grandson thought the devil was meant to represent the Nazis during World War II and the downcast woman the German people — which makes sense considering Shaler sculpted the work in 1940.
Three additional sculptures — "Who Sows Believes in God," "The Pioneers" and "Doe and Fawn" can be found around town. "Morning of Life," which Shaler created in memory of his twin sister, Clara, who died at age 18, can be found at Union Cemetery, about 12 miles northwest of town.
While you're there: Haven't had enough Shaler? Follow Highway 49 north about 20 miles to Ripon College to see a lifesize statue of a young Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by Shaler in 1949. The statue is just west of Farr Hall on the college campus.
The Waupun Heritage Museum, 314 Beaver Dam St. and location of "The Citadel," is also worth a visit. A Carnegie library built in 1904, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and houses information about Shaler and other city history, including its Dutch heritage. The museum is open the first and third Sunday of the month, March through November. Call (920) 324-7931 for more information.
Get in some trail time at Waupun County Park, 825 County Park Road near the Rock River Country Club, the site of Shaler's "Doe and Fawn" sculpture. The 103-acre park is the second larg-est in Fond du Lac County and has a 40-acre state natural area with trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.
Don't leave Waupun without stocking up on some sweet treats at Guth's End of the Trail Candy & Coffee Shoppe, 928 East Main St. The shop opened in 1921 and is run by the third and fourth generations of the Guth family. Call (920) 324-3331 for more.
Getting there: Waupun is about 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee via I-94 and Highways 45, 41 and 49.
More information: For more on Waupun and the Shaler sculptures, contact the Waupun Area Chamber of Commerce, 324 East Main St., Suite 200, at (920) 324-3491.
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