Laurent Ducharme is the first documented French trader to occupy the first trading post located on the east bank of the Fond du Lac River at the forks beginning in 1785 until 1787. The succession of traders at the post were for only a few years each. Ducharme was succeeded by a Spanish Trader named Ace, then came a Canadian named Chavodreuil who brought with him two clerks, and later Michael Brisbois together with Augustin Grignon. In 1795 Jacob Franks, a Jewish trader from Green Bay who never came to the area himself, sent his clerk Jacques Porlier to take over. He later replaced Porlier in 1797 with his nephew John Lawe, a young man of 16 years. The name Fond du Lac is a French term meaning 'farthest end of the lake'.
Fond du lac County, through the first third of the nineteenth century, was part of the Winnebago Indian nation. However in November, 1835, a number of prominent men of the Green Bay area, lead by James Duane Doty, joined themselves into an organization known as the Fond du Lac Company, for the purpose of buying and selling land shares at the foot of Lake Winnebago, which at the time resided in the county of Brown, Wisconsin Territory. By January 1836, the company had accumulated 3,705 acres of land, selling 300 land shares at $100 each, all of which currently lie within the city of Fond du Lac. Doty had an interest in the transportation possibilities of Lake Winnebago and the construction of a canal to the Rock River at the Horicon marsh and another to Sheboygan on Lake Michigan.
The county itself was created in 1836, the year that the first permanent settlers, Colwert and Edward Pier, arrived. By the close of the 1830's this central Wisconsin wilderness became a focal point for easterners hoping to create new lives for themselves. The eventual city of Fond du Lac, which historian Joseph Schafer refers to as "the first location to be exploited entirely for speculative purposes," was effectively created by James Duane Doty, the Wisconsin territory's premier speculator. Through Doty's lobbying efforts, the prospective city was made a candidate for the new Wisconsin territorial capital, although there were fewer than 140 white settlers in the entire county as late as the federal census of 1840.
Growth came rapidly beginning in the mid-1840's, as Yankees began arriving by the thousands to rebuild the homes, farms, and communities they knew in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. By 1850, the county's townships were established. In far western Fond du Lac County, the population of Metomen, first settled in 1844, grew from 460 in 1847 to 720 by 1850 and 1617 by 1860. By 1870, Fond du Lac was the state's second largest city, a major railroad hub, and the county was second only to Dane in wheat production.