William H. Hatten was born in Ogdensburg, NY in 1856. He moved to Wisconsin about 1873, settling in Fond du Lac. In 1878 he was hired by the J. M. Rounds Lumber Co. of Manawa; he soon acquired an interest in the business, moved it to New London, and in 1895 it became the Hatten Lumber Co. Before long, the company's holdings extended into the deep South, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada, and through these financial interests Hatton acquired a considerable fortune. A Republican, he was state senator (1899-1906); although opposed to Governor Robert M. La Follette, Sr.'s plan for assuming rate making power over railroads, Hatton helped draft the Railroad Commission Law of 1905. He also worked for the regulation of public land sales, forest conservation, and agricultural education in the secondary schools. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican U.S. senatorial nomination in 1907 and 1908, and for the gubernatorial nomination in 1914 and 1916. After 1916 he withdrew from politics and lived in retirement in New London until his death.
Seeking to put Americans to work again during the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration in 1935 and appointed Harry Hopkins its first head. At the WPA’s inception, Hopkins explained the reasoning behind it: “Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and pay him an assured wage, and you save both the body and the spirit.” Over the course of its seven-year existence, the WPA employed more than eight million Americans--about one-fifth of the country’s entire work force. They built 2,500 hospitals, nearly 6,000 schools, 350 airports, 8,000 parks, and hundreds of thousands of miles of roads. In the process, the workers rebuilt their own pride and restored their communities’ faith in the future.
Rural America was especially hard hit by the Depression, so the WPA undertook many projects to spruce up small towns and put their people back to work. New London’s Hatten Memorial Park was typical. Under WPA direction, and with the federal government footing a percentage of the bill, local residents built picnic shelters, restrooms, a lagoon with footbridges, gateways, a retaining wall, and other park features. But the most impressive facility they built was Hatten Memorial Stadium. This structure, though designed to accommodate local baseball games and other athletic events, looks more like a medieval fortress from the outside, with its random-coursed limestone walls and its four parapeted, round-arched entry portals behind the grandstand.
William Hatten, donated $10,000 to the city for the stadium, on condition that it be named for him.