According to local legend, an Indian chief in the area had several sons but wanted a daughter; and every time his wife delivered a new child, and he saw that his hopes had once again been disappointed, he would wail: "She-boy-again!" And thus came the name Sheboygan.
This story is almost certainly untrue. No one knows for sure what the name means. A more plausible theory is that the name means "passage between the lakes" and refers to the Sheboygan River which was used as a route between Lake Winnebego and Lake Michigan. Another one suggests that it means "water moved by spirits" and refers to the rapids upstream at Sheboygan Falls. (This interpretation has been modified as the city's motto: "Spirit on the Lake".)
The truth is that Sheboygan means one thing, and that is Bratwurst.
Sheboygan is a city in eastern Wisconsin with a population of about 50,000. It's located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, roughly halfway between the cities of Milwaukee and Green Bay. It's population is predominately white with a mostly German background, although it has a small but sizable Hispanic and Asian population, most of the latter being Hmong from Southeast Asia.
The first Europeans who visited the mouth of the Sheboygan River were the French explorers Jean Nicolett (1635) and Joliet and Marquette (1643). In 1699, Father St. Cosme landed at a Pottawatamie village on the river. A fur trading post was established there in 1814 by a trader named William Farnsworth which became the center of a settlement. The community was officially incorporated as a village in 1846
One of the early settlers was a man named Wooster Harrison, who in 1835 built a 8x10' shanty on the south bank of the Sheboygan River and staked a homestead claim. Unfortunately, instead of clearing and planting the land, Harrison spent his time sitting on the porch of his shanty drinking whiskey with his Indian friends; and the government decided his domicile did not meet the definition of a homestead. Harrison later moved south and founded the village of Port Washington.
In the mid-1800s, shipbuilding became an important industry, and several shipyards sprang up, taking advantage of the deep river and the close proximity of hardwood and softwood trees. The largest was the Rieboldt and Wolters Company, which operated in Sheboygan from 1885 to 1896. Among the ships they built was the Helena, launched in 1888, a 275-foot steamer which was the largest ship on the Great Lakes of the time. By 1896 the company had grown to the point where it needed larger facilities and so relocated to the city of Sturgeon Bay, farther north on the lake.
In 1880, a man named Clemens Reiss founded a coal company which became a major fixture in the city, eventually occupying much of the penninusla at the river's mouth. the C. Reiss Coal Company expanded to encompass a steamship line which ran for nearly a century, finally ceasing operations in 1986.
For decades after C. Reiss shut down, their coal yards on the Reiss Peninsula were an eyesore and deemed too expensive to re-develop due to the environmental wastes left over from the coal. During the 1990s, a couple attempts were made to put an Indian casino on the land, but these plans met with public opposition. The site was eventually cleaned up to be used for a resort hotel called the Blue Harbor.
In 2005, the city faced a controversy over a plan to build a new police station on the site of Sherman Park, one of the oldest parks in the city. Many neighbors of the park objecting to losing it, but others felt the park had become a haven for drug deals. Juan Perez was elected mayor that year, largely based on his support of Sherman Park, and became the first Hispanic mayor in Wisconsin. During his single term he was able to have the new station built on a different site; but was unable to win a re-election.
- The Acuity Flagpole — The flagpole on the property of Acuity, an insurance company headquartered in Sheboygan. The pole was originally 45.72 m (150 ft.) tall, but toppled over due to stress during high winds and nearly landed on nearby Highway 43. On July 2, 2005, Acuity erected a new pole 103m (338 ft.) high making it the tallest flagpole in the U.S. The flag flying from it was 36.58 x 18.29 meters (120 x 60 ft.). By 2007, signs of stress from the high winds and temperature extremes led Acuity to disassemble the flagpole and rebuild it with a wider, reinforced base; but when the pole was competed in March of 2008, it wobbled in the wind and the builders took it down again. UPDATE: In 2014 a new flagpole was constructed, this one 400 ft tall. It's still standing so far.
- Blue Harbor Resort
- Eighth Street Rotory — A rotory intersection in the heart of downtown Sheboygan, just south of the 8th Street bridge over the Sheboygan River. It is notable for a large sculpture in the middle that looks like a gigantic claw rising up out of the earth. I think it's supposed to be a symbolic representation of sailing ships but to me it looks like a giant claw.
- Fountain Park
- Garton Toy Factory — no longer in business, Garton used to manufacture sleds, bicycles and velocipedes. It's building was converted into residential apartments in 2000 and is designated a historical landmark.
- Harbor Centre Marina
- John Michael Kohler Art Center — Art museum located in downtown Sheboygan, founded by the wealthy and influential Kohler family. The museum hosts the annual Kohler Arts Festival and also sponsors an artist's residency program at the Kohler Company.
- Kingsbury Brewery — no longer in business, the Kingsbury Brewery used to be a major employer in the city and Kingbury Beer a popular local brew.
- Kiwanis Park — A large park located on the Sheboygan River; site of many of the city's summer picnics and festivals.
- The Lottie Cooper — A schooner that was wrecked off of Sheboygan in 1896. The wreckage of the ship was uncovered when work was being done constructing the Harbor Centre Marina. It was recovered and is now on display in Deland park on the shore of Lake Michigan.
- Sheboygan Lighthouse — a city landmark located at the end of one of the breakwaters protecting Sheboygan harbor.
- Spaceport Sheboygan — An areonautics and space museum, the location of the annual "Rockets for Schools" rocketry event. The area over Lake Michigan directly east of Sheboygan is a restricted airspace and ideal for rocket launch and there are plans to eventually build facilities for launching commercial rockets there. The museum was originally housed in the old city Armory, but in 2014 was moved to a building at the Blue Harbor Resort.
- Stephanie Weil Center
- Whistling Straits — Golf course located in the community of Haven a few miles north of Sheboygan, the host of a number of major golf tournaments including the 2004 PGA Championship and the 2007 U.S. Senior Open.
- Bratwurst Days — The largest of several picnics and festivals held in Sheboygan over the summer. This one is held in Kiwanis Park located on the banks of the Sheboygan River and features beer, bands and of course the World Famous Bratwurst Eating Conest.
- Coho Derby — A fishing contest held every summer around August; prizes are given for the largest salmon caught.
- Kohler Arts Fair — a large arts & crafts fair sponsored by the Kohler Art Center and Piggly Wiggly held on the grounds of the Art Center.
- Rockets for Schools — A weekend-long model rocket event drawing participants from grade schools all over the midwest held at the city Armory (soon to be designated "Spaceport Sheboygan")
Stuff in the Area
- The Village of Kohler, about five miles to the west of Sheboygan, is the home of Kohler Company, a large manufacture of bathroom fixtures and of small engines. The three large saucer-shaped watertowers looming over the Kohler plant resemble Martian Fighting Machines from War of the Worlds. It's creepy.
- The nearby community of Johnsonville is the home of the Johnsonville Sausage Company, maker of Johnsonville Brats (see below)
- The Road America racetrack is located near the village of Elkhart Lake, about fifteen miles west of Sheboygan. Road America hosts several races each summer, including the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
- Wade House is an early stage coach inn located in western Sheboygan County. It is currently a historical site and museum and hosts Civil War re-enactments.
Claims to Fame
- In 1995 Sheboygan was recognized by Reader's Digest magazine as the "Best Place to Raise a Family" in the United States
- In 1979, Simulations Publications released a game created by Greg Costikyan called The Creature that Ate Sheboygan, in which players take the sides of monsters stomping on a midwestern city and the authorities trying to stop them.
- There is an old novelty song popularized by Beatrice Kaye entitled "Mention My Name in Sheboygan".
- In the 1990s, a Bratwurst Museum was proposed to honor Sheboygan's title of Bratwurst Capital of the US, but the City Fathers felt it would be tacky. Pity. Sheboygan County is the home of the best bratwurst in the country, possibly the universe.
- The Sheboygan Brat consists of two Johnsonville bratwurst on a kaiser roll, with ketchup, mustard and onions to taste, (Sauerkraut optional); frequently served at picnics in the area.
- In the movie Some Like it Hot, Josephine and Daphne claim to have studied at the "Sheboygan Conservatory of Music".
- Surfers know Sheboygan as "the Malibu of the Midwest" because its placement on the shores of Lake Michigan is well-suited for big waves. Peak surfing season in Sheboygan is around the end of November, so bring a well-insulated wetsuit.
Game and Story Use
- Lake Michigan is the site of many shipwrecks like the Lottie Cooper. Sheboygan could make a good starting place for a treasure-hunting expedition.
- Sizes of the catch in the Coho Derby have been dwindling, putting the event in danger. What can be affecting the local fish population? Okay, apart from pollution and over-fishing. Could it be something sinister that the PCs can investigate?
- Perhaps it's a magical curse! Curses are fun!
- Or maybe it is industrial waste after all. A local business is dumping something super-toxic into the river and it's up to the PCs to uncover it!
- What is really in the Acuity flagpole?
- Could it be a transmitter for contacting space aliens?
- Mind control device?
- Is the sculpture in the 8th Street Rotary just a piece of Modern Art, or is it an arcane artifact channeling mystic energies for a mysterious purpose? Heck, that makes about as much sense as anything.
- What about that Indian chief and his numerous offspring? Was the number of children of the same sex just a statistical fluke, or was some hidden power at work in his family?
- Have an NPC come from the Sheboygan Conservatory of Music and see if anyone catches the reference.