In the early 1800s, Colonel Samuel Phoenix, who spotted a rack of elk antlers caught in a tree, proclaimed the area as “Elk Horn”. The area’s pristine beauty and fertile soils drew the attention of Daniel Bradley, his brother Milo, and LeGrand Rockwell in their quest to create a village. By 1846 when the first town meeting was held, Elkhorn boasted a population of 539.
Located at the center of Walworth County, Elkhorn was designated as the County seat in 1846. As the County seat, Elkhorn serves as the host community for governance and justice, financial and service organizations, and facilities and events. A beautiful park surrounds the County Government Center, a focal point for the Elkhorn downtown. It is where families gathered to say goodbye to their soldiers during World War II. Later the park became the setting for unique Christmas decorations, which resulted in being known as the “Christmas Card Town.”
“The Christmas Card Town” reputation is recognized every year through a series of oil paintings created by resident artist Jan Castle Reed depicting the City’s historical landmarks. The “Christmas Card Town” began with a series of the watercolor paintings done in the 1950s by Cecil Johnson for Ford Motor Company, which were later used for Christmas Cards. The tradition continues through the artistic talents of Jan Castle Reed and the sponsorship of the Elkhorn Area Chamber of Commerce.
In 1851, it became the home of the Walworth County Fair, deemed as one of the best county fairs in the nation. Today, the event draws over 100,000 visitors to the City. For more information on the County Fair or other activities on the fair grounds, contact the Walworth County Agricultural Society.
Elkhorn’s motto, “Living in Harmony” reflects its traditional “hometown” values and the community’s musical background from source band instrument manufacturers and repair, historical significance of composer Joseph Philbrick Webster of Civil War days and the Elkhorn-Holton Band.