The first inhabitants of the Fremont area were native Americans. A group of settlers led by Daniel Weaver first settled in the area in 1855. The Weaver homestead served as the first post office and public school in the area. Shortly after the arrival of this group, in November 1855, Fremont Township was established and named in honor of John C. Fremont, western explorer and Republican Party candidate for United States President. Weaver and his fellow settlers cleared the dense timber from the area in order to farm. Early in the 1870s, Dutch immigrant families began moving to the Fremont area from Holland and Muskegon. As a result, Fremont continues to recognize some of its early Dutch heritage in local festivals and pageants.
Due to the rich stands of virgin timber in the area, lumbering soon became a major industry in the town. To facilitate this emerging local industry, a railroad spur was completed, linking Fremont to the national railroad network. The growth of the lumbering industry was slowed in the 1860s by the American Civil War. In 1871, Fremont experienced a major forest fire with extensive damage to the area, especially the lumber mills, but the area was able to rebuild and even supplied some of the lumber that helped to rebuild Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1876.