Settled in the early 1800’s, Elkhorn was given its name by Colonel Samuel Phoenix, who spotted a rack of elk antlers caught in a tree and proclaimed the area as “Elk Horn”. When founded, Elkhorn was a business center of a rich farming region. At that time, it did not acquire any manufacturing because of its location, as it sits in the exact center of Walworth County, it was off the main lines of communications, thus holding out fewer advantages than other cities in the area. In 1856, the Racine and Mississippi Railroad passed through Elkhorn, causing a boom in the then village.
Due to its location, Elkhorn was designated as the county seat in 1846, serving as the host community for governance and justice, financial and service organizations, and facilities and events. Between 1849 and 1857 the population grew from 539 to upwards of 1,500. In 1851, Elkhorn became home to the Walworth County Fair, deemed as one of the best county fairs in the nation. Today the event draws more than 100,000 visitors to the City. By 1920, Elkhorn was home to one major manufacturing company, the Frank Holton Company, makers of brass band instruments, which employed around 150 people. In 1964, the Holton Company was bought by Leblanc, a division of Conn-Selmer.
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