The first settler of Oakfield was Russell Wilkinson in 1840. He came to Wisconsin from New York with his family. He built a log cabin on a site that was located on present day West Waupun Street. The Winnebago Indians caused the Wilkinson Family to move to Fond du Lac as they burned down their cabin and stole all their belongings. In 1843 Russell and his brother Robert returned to Oakfield to make it their permanent home.
On February 26, 1846, this area became a township named Lime. It was given that name because of the abundant limestone found within its borders. A year later the name was changed to Oakfield. It is thought that this name was given because of either the beautiful Oak openings or because some of the first settlers came from Oakfield, New York. The first settlement located in the town was called Avoca and was located a little bit east of the present Avoca Cemetery.
In 1845 the first school was built on the south end of Main Street. This school was made of logs and planks. It was the first public building in Oakfield and served as the church, town hall, and rostrum. A newer school was built in 1853. It was built on the corner of Waupun Street and Oak Street. A two-story brick school was built in 1888 on southwest Main Street and became the first high school. In 1891 the basement was fitted for a primary room. In 1906 an east wing was added. In 1954 a gymnasium was added to the school along with a shop. A large addition was added for the grade school children in 1960. A new high school was built in 1963 that is still in use today. At that time the old school became a middle and grade school. The oldest part of the structure remained in use until 1971. Many former students remember it from the metal tube that ran from the top floor to the ground and was used as a fire escape. The fire escape and the victory bell that was located in front of the school were distinguishing features.
Until 1963 there were many country schools that then became incorporated into Oakfield’s school system. They included Genesee, Jefferson, Oak Center,
South Byron, Stone, Highland, Unity, Harrison, Camp Ground, Lamartine and Longfellow. In 1966 Lincoln School in Lamartine closed and their students were sent to Oakfield. Lincoln School was quite a bit larger than the other country schools.
Belle Reynolds Elementary was built in 1971 and remained in use until 2009. The two-story brick part of the old school was torn down in 1975 after sitting idle for a few years after Belle Reynolds opened. The Oakfield tornado of 1996 demolished the part of the school that was still being used as a middle school. Modular buildings were used for a few years to house the middle school students and were located at the high school. A new middle school was built in 1998 on White Street and was changed into an elementary school in 2009. The middle school students were then placed at the high school.
In 1858 the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad was completed through Oakfield. At that time Oakfield became more important than Avoca because of the railroad and Avoca faded away. The train went through Oakfield into the 1970’s. The railroad bed is now a nature trail that is called the Wild Goose Trail.
Many of the early businesses in Oakfield were mills of different types. The first post office was started in 1858. The telephone arrived in 1882 when an office was built in town. There were many churches in Oakfield through the early years. Presently there are Methodist, Lutheran, and Catholic churches. The first bank was chartered in 1898. The first public library also started in 1898. The fire department organized in 1905.
Through the 1960’s into the early 1970’s, Oakfield had many businesses. Travel becoming easier along with the arrival of big box retailers and supermarkets in Fond du Lac led to the closure of most of Oakfield’s businesses. Still present into the 1960’s were a hardware store, three insurance agencies, a funeral parlor, an appliance store, two drug stores, a printing shop, a bowling alley, a restaurant, a lumber yard, a shoe store, a barber shop, two grocery stores, a general store, a welding-blacksmith shop, five gas stations, a brickyard, a canning factory, an upholstery shop, two small machine shops, two larger machine shops, an elevator and three taverns. There was even a train depot. A slaughterhouse for one of the grocery stores, along with pea viners and a migrant camp for the canning factory, were located just outside the village.
There were some big events in Oakfield in later years. The large building on the corner of Main Street and White Street, which had housed several businesses and was turned into an apartment building, burned down. One person was killed in the blaze. The Senior Center also was destroyed in a fire. The biggest event in Oakfield’s history was the F5 tornado of 1996 that demolished a large portion of the village. Many homes, two churches, the middle school, and the canning factory were destroyed. Also destroyed were many of the village’s mature trees.
In the aftermath of the tornado, two churches, the canning factory and many homes were rebuilt. As previously mentioned, a new middle school was built. A program was undertaken to replant trees and Oakfield garnered many awards in the Tree City USA program. As an offshoot of the tornado, a new community center housing a fire station, village offices, a community room and a library was built in the downtown area at the turn of the 21st century.
Some businesses did expand in Oakfield. The bank grew much larger. The elevator also expanded greatly. A new plumbing company came into the village and a quilting store opened up. One of the taverns was turned into a restaurant.
Oakfield has had a lot of athletic success over the years. The local Rock River baseball team has had many fine teams. The high school girl’s softball team has been exceptionally strong and has won multiple state championships. Boy’s high school basketball and girl’s high school basketball teams have also won state championships. There have been many conference championships throughout the years for the Oaks. The youth athletic teams have consistently been strong.