The first inhabitants of the area were tribes of Native Americans. This area was well suited for Native American life because the rivers abounded with fish and wildlife. It was also attractive to settlers because of its rich soil, virgin stands of pine and hardwood, and, of course, the Wolf River, which became the commercial highway for this section for many years.
The first settlers established homesteads independent of each other, but in 1848, William Johnson established a trading post at the junction of the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers. In 1851, Lucius Taft from Vermont made New London his home. He was joined by Ira Millard in 1852, who moved to the area from Ohio. These two men became partners in 1852 when they bought the trading post from Mr. Johnson. In 1853, Mr. Taft secured a patent from the federal government for tracts of land that now surround the north side of the city. The second plat was also laid out in 1853, south of the Wolf River by the Rev. Reeder Smith (City of Appleton and Lawrence University founder).
Unofficially, the city of New London was known by many names. Some of the early names used were Johnson's Trading Post or Landing, The Mouth of the Embarrass and Taft's Landing. By 1854, the residents of the community realized they needed an official name. A meeting was held at McMillen's Store with Lucious Taft and Ira Millard representing the north side of town, and Reeder Smith representing the south side. The name New London was suggested by Reeder Smith in honor of his father who was born in New London, Connecticut. Mr. Taft and Mr. Millard relented and the application for a federal post office under the name of New London was made that year.
The village grew rapidly. In 1852, there were only two families living in New London. By 1854, the population had grown to 150 inhabitants. In 1857, New London had 800 citizens, twelve stores, factories, three hotels, a printing office, churches and schools, which when combined with the residential housing numbered over 200 buildings. On November 30, 1876, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad was completed between Appleton and New London. By 1877, the year the city was granted its municipal charter, the population was approximately 1,600. Today, New London is a thriving city of approximately 7,000 residents.