- History of Wisconsin
The History of Wisconsin encompasses the story not only of the people who have lived in Wisconsin since it became a state of the U.S., but also of the Native American tribes who made their homeland in Wisconsin, and the French and British colonists who were the first Europeans to live there.
Wisconsinbecame a state on May 29, 1848, but the land that makes up the state has been occupied by humans for thousands of years.
The first known inhabitants of what is now Wisconsin were called
Paleo-Indians, who first arrived in the region in about 10,000 BC. They hunted animals such as mammoths and mastodons. The Boaz mastodon, and the Clovis artifacts discovered in Boaz, Wisconsin, show that hunting was a primary occupation for these people. The Plano culturesbegan to dominate Wisconsin around 7000 BC, as the last glaciers retreated from the state. During the Archaic stage, from 6,000 – 1,000 BC, Wisconsin was inhabited by the Boreal Archaic and the Old Copper Indians. People during this time lived in small groups or bands, and continued to depend on hunting and gathering for their existence.
By the time of the early
Woodland periodice age that began around 500 BC, farming began to replace hunting and gathering as a means of supplying food. This allowed for the creation of permanent settlements. With permanent settlement came more advanced art and pottery. The first Indian mounds were built during this period, mainly for burial purposes. As the Hopewell cultureemerged in around 100 BC, farming, art, and mound building were significantly advanced. The late Woodland period began in about 600 AD. The Effigy moundculture dominated Wisconsin during this time, and built sophisticated mounds in the shapes of animals for ceremonial reasons. The Mississippian culturebegan to expand into Wisconsin in 1050 AD, and established a settlement at Aztalan, Wisconsin. The Mississippian culture was replaced by the Oneotapeople in around 1200 AD. This culture eventually evolved into the Siouan tribes known to European explorers. When the first Europeans reached Wisconsin, the primary inhabitants were the Ojibwa, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sac (tribe), and Fox.
Exploration and colonization
The first known European to enter Wisconsin was French
VoyageurJean Nicolet. In 1634, Samuel de Champlain, governor of New France, gave Nicolet the task of searching for a water route to Chinathrough North America. Accompanied by seven Huron Indian guides, Nicolet left Canadaand canoed through Lake Huronand Lake Superior, and then became the first European to enter Lake Michigan. Nicolet proceeded to row into Green Bay and came ashore near the present-day city of Green Bay, Wisconsin. When Nicolet reached land, he was greeted by several Ho-Chunk living in the area. Nicolet remained with the Ho-Chunk at Green Bay through the winter and established a trading post there.
The next major expedition into Wisconsin was that of Father
Jacques Marquetteand Louis Jollietin 1673. After hearing rumors from Indians telling of the existence of the Mississippi River, Marquette and Joliet set out from St. Ignace, Michiganand entered the Fox River at Green Bay. They canoed up the Fox until they reached the river’s westernmost point, and then portaged, or carried their boats, to the nearby Wisconsin River, where they resumed canoing downstream to the Mississippi River. Marquette and Joliet reached the Mississippi near what is now Prairie du Chien, Wisconsinin June 1673.
French colonists were interested primarily in the
fur trade, and established only a few small outposts. The first, at Green Bay, was called simply “La Baye” by the French, and was started with Nicolet’s original trading post in 1634. A Jesuit mission was established at Green Bay in 1671, and a fort was built at the settlement in 1717. Nicolas Perrot, French commander of the west, established Fort St. Nicholasat Prairie du Chien, Wisconsinin 1685, near the southwest end of the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway. Perrot also built a fort on the shores of Lake Pepincalled Fort St. Antoine. These were not military posts, but rather small storehouses for furs. A Jesuit mission and a trading post were also built on the shores of Lake Superiorat La Pointe, Wisconsinat the end of the 17th Century.
None of the French posts had permanent settlers; fur traders and missionaries simply visited them from time to time to conduct business.
The British period
The British gained control of Wisconsin in 1763, and like the French, were interested in little but the fur trade. The first permanent settlers, most of them
French Canadians, arrived in Wisconsin while it was under British control. Sieur Charles Michel de Langladeis generally recognized as the first settler, establishing a trading post at Green Bay in 1764, and moving there permanently in 1764. ["Langlade, Charles Michel 1729 - 1801," "Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography"http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/dictionary/index.asp?action=view&term_id=2266&search_term=langlade] Settlement began at Prairie du Chien around 1781.
The territorial period
The United States acquired Wisconsin in the
Treaty of Paris (1783). Shortly afterward, in 1787, the Americans made Wisconsin part of the new Northwest Territory. Later, in 1800, Wisconsin became part of Indiana Territory. Despite legally belonging to the United States at this time, however, the British continued to control the local fur trade and maintain military alliances with Wisconsin Indians. Americans did not firmly exercise control over Wisconsin until the War of 1812. During the War, the Americans and British fought one battle in Wisconsin, the July 1814 Battle of Prairie du Chien, which ended as a British victory. However, the 1815 Treaty of Ghentreaffirmed American jurisdiction over Wisconsin, which was by then a part of Illinois Territory. Following the treaty, British troops departed Wisconsin for the last time.
Significant American settlement in Wisconsin, a part of
Michigan Territorybeginning in 1818, was delayed by two Indian wars, the minor Winnebago Warof 1827 and the larger Black Hawk Warof 1832. In the latter conflict, Sac and Fox NationIndians who had been relocated from Illinois to Iowa attempted to resettle in their Illinois homeland, but were chased into Wisconsin by the Illinois militia. The Indians were defeated at the Battle of Wisconsin Heightsand the Battle of Bad Axe, near present day Victory, Wisconsin.
The resolution of these Indian conflicts opened the way for Wisconsin's settlement. Many of the region's first settlers were drawn by the prospect of
leadmining in southwest Wisconsin. This area had traditionally been mined by Native Americans. However, after a series of treaties removed the Indians, the lead mining region was opened to white miners. Thousands rushed in from across the country to dig for the "gray gold". Expert miners from Cornwall, England, also formed a large part of the wave of immigrants. Boom towns like Mineral Point, Platteville, Shullsburg, Belmont, and New Diggings sprang up around mines. When Wisconsin's first two public land officesopened in 1834, one was in the long established post of Green Bay, the other in the mining center of Mineral Point.ref|Landoffices By 1836 nearly half of Wisconsin’s people were living in the lead mining region, leading to the establishment of the territorial capitol at Leslie near Belmont (It is commonly mistaken to have been Belmont). By the 1840s, southwest Wisconsin mines were producing more than half of the nation’s lead.
Although the lead mining area drew the first major wave of settlers, its population would soon be eclipsed by growth in Milwaukee. Milwaukee, along with Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee, can be traced back to a series of trading posts established by the French trader
Jacques Vieauin the 1790s. Vieau's post at the mouth of the Milwaukee Riverwas purchased in 1818 by Solomon Laurent Juneau, who then took over its operation.
When the fur trade began to decline, Juneau focused on developing the land around his trading post. In the 1830s he formed a partnership with Green Bay lawyer Morgan Martin, and the two men bought 160 acres (0.6 km²) of land between Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. There they founded the settlement of Juneautown. Meanwhile, an Ohio businessman named
Byron Kilbournbegan to invest in the land west of the Milwaukee River, forming the settlement of Kilbourntown. South of these two settlements, George H. Walkerfounded the town of Walker’s Point. Each of these three settlements engaged in a fierce competition to attract the most residents and become the largest of the three towns. By the 1840s, however, it became clear that cooperation between the three communities was necessary for their survival. In 1846 the settlements of Juneautown, Kilbourntown, and Walker’s Point merged into the city of Milwaukee. The new city had a population of about 10,000 people, making it the largest city in the territory. Milwaukee remains the largest city in Wisconsin to this day.
Wisconsin Territorywas created by an act of the United States Congresson April 20, 1836. The new territory initially included all of the present day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, as well as parts of North and South Dakota.
The first territorial governor of Wisconsin was
Henry Dodge. He and other territorial lawmakers were initially busied by organizing the territory’s government and selecting a capital city. The selection of a location to build a capitol caused a heated debate among the territorial politicians. At first Governor Dodge selected Belmont, located in the heavily populated lead mining district, to be capital. Shortly after the new legislature convened there, however, it became obvious that Wisconsin's first capitol was inadequate. Numerous other suggestions for the location of the capital were given representing nearly every city that existed in the territory at the time, and Governor Dodge left the decision up to the other lawmakers. The legislature accepted a proposal by James Duane Dotyto build a new city named Madison on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona and put the territory’s permanent capital there. While Madison was being built, the capitol was temporarily moved to Burlington. This city was transferred to Iowa Territoryin 1838, along with all the lands of Wisconsin Territory west of the Mississippi River.
By the mid 1840s, the population of Wisconsin Territory had exceeded 150,000. This was more than twice the number of people required for Wisconsin to become a state. In 1846, the territorial legislature voted to apply for statehood. That fall, one hundred and twenty-four delegates debated the state constitution. The document produced by this convention was considered extremely progressive for its time. It banned commercial banking, granted married women the right to own property, and left the question of African American
suffrageto a popular vote. Most Wisconsinites considered the first constitution to be too radical, however, and voted it down in an April 1847 referendum.
In December 1847, a second constitutional convention was called. This convention resulted in a new, more moderate state constitution that Wisconsinites approved in a March 1848 referendum. This enabled Wisconsin to become the thirtieth state on May 29, 1848.
A railroad frenzy swept Wisconsin shortly after it achieved statehood. The first railroad line in the state was opened between Milwaukee and Waukesha in 1851 by the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. The railroad pushed on, reaching
Milton, Wisconsinin 1852, Stoughton, Wisconsinin 1853, and the capital city of Madison in 1854. The company reached its goal of completing a rail line across the state from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River when the line to Prairie du Chien was completed in 1857. Shortly after this, other railroad companies completed their own tracks, reaching La Crosse in the west and Superior in the north, spurring development in those cities. By the end of the 1850s, railroads criss-crossed the state, enabling the growth of other industries that could now easily ship products to markets across the country.
Civil War and Gilded Age: 1860-1900
Wisconsinenrolled 91,379 men total for service in the Union Armyduring the American Civil War. Of these, 3,794 were killed in action or mortally wounded, 8,022 died of disease, and 400 were killed in accidents. The total mortality was 12,216 men, about 13.4 percent of total enlistments. [ [http://freepages.books.rootsweb.com/~wirockbios/Blue1907/1907-5-WICW.html 1907 Wisconsin Blue Book - Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion ] ]
Economic Growth: dairy, lumber
Agriculture was a primary component of the Wisconsin economy during the 19th Century.
Wheatwas a primary crop on early Wisconsin farms. In fact, during the mid 19th century, Wisconsin produced about one sixth of the wheat grown in the United States. However, wheat rapidly depleted nutrients in the soil, and was vulnerable to insects and bad weather. As the soil lost its quality and prices dropped, the practice of wheat farming moved west into Iowa and Minnesota. Some Wisconsin farmers responded by experimenting with crop rotationand other methods to restore the soil’s fertility, but a larger number turned to alternatives to wheat.
The most popular replacement for wheat was dairy farming. As wheat fell out of favor, many Wisconsin farmers started raising dairy cattle and growing feed crops. One reason for the popularity of dairy farming was that many of Wisconsin’s farmers had come to the state from New York, which was the leading producer of dairy products at the time. In addition, many immigrants from Europe brought an extensive knowledge of cheese making. Dairying was also promoted by the
University of Wisconsin–Madison, which offered education to dairy farmers and researched ways to produce better dairy products. At the start of the 20th century, Wisconsin had become the leading producer of dairy products in the United States, a title it held until the 1990s.
Agriculture was not viable in the densely forested northern half of Wisconsin. Settlers came to this region for
logging. Lumberjacks used rivers like the Wisconsin River to transport logs from remote forests to city sawmills. Sawmills in cities like Wausau and Stevens Point sawed the lumber into boards that were transported across the Midwest by railroad, and used for construction. Later a growing paper industry in the Fox River Valley made use of wood pulp from the state’s lumber industry.
Logging was a dangerous trade, with high accident rates. In October, 1871, the
Peshtigo Fireburned 1,875 square miles (4,850 km²) of forestland around the timber industry town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, killing between 1,200 and 2,500 people. It was the deadliest fire in United States history.
* Campbell, Henry C. "Wisconsin in Three Centuries, 1684-1905" (4 vols., 1906), highly detailed popular history
* Conant, James K. "Wisconsin Politics And Government: America's Laboratory of Democracy" (2006)
* Current, Richard. "Wisconsin: A History" (2001)
* Gara, Larry. "A Short History of Wisconsin" (1962)
* Holmes, Fred L. "Wisconsin" (5 vols., Chicago, 1946), detailed popular history with many biographies
* Nesbit, Robert C. "Wisconsin: A History" (rev. ed. 1989)
* Quaife, Milo M. "Wisconsin, Its History and Its People, 1634-1924" (4 vols., 1924), detailed popular history & biographies
* Raney, William Francis. "Wisconsin: A Story of Progress" (1940)
* Robinson, A. H. and J. B. Culver, ed., "The Atlas of Wisconsin" (1974)
* Vogeler, I. "Wisconsin: A Geography" (1986)
* Wisconsin Cartographers' Guild. "Wisconsin's Past and Present: A Historical Atlas" (2002)
* Works Progress Administraton. "Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State" (1941) detailed guide to every town and city, and cultural history
Detailed scholarly studies
*Anderson, Theodore A. "A Century of Banking in Wisconsin" (1954)
*Braun, John A. "Together in Christ: A History of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod" (2000)
*Buenker, John D. "The History of Wisconsin. Volume IV The Progressive Era, 1893-1914" (1998), highly detailed history
*Brøndal, Jørn. "Ethnic Leadership and Midwestern Politics: Scandinavian Americans and the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin, 1890-1914." (2004) ISBN 0-87732-095-0
*Butts, Porter. "Art in Wisconsin" (1936)
*Clark, James I. "Education in Wisconsin" (1958)
*Cochran, Thomas C. "The Pabst Brewing Company" (1948)
*Corenthal, Mike "Illustrated History of Wisconsin Music 1840-1990: 150 Years" (1991)
*Current, Richard Nelson. "History of Wisconsin: The Civil War Era, 1848-1873" (1976) standard state history
*Curti, Merle and Carstensen, Vernon. "The University of Wisconsin: A History" (2 vols., 1949)
*Curti, Merle. "The Making of an American Community A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier County" (1969), in-depth quantitative social history
* Fries, Robert F. "Empire in Pine: The Story of Lumbering in Wisconsin, 1830-1900" (1951).
*Geib, Paul. "From Mississippi to Milwaukee: A Case Study of the Southern Black Migration to Milwaukee, 1940-1970" "The Journal of Negro History", Vol. 83, 1998
*Glad, Paul W. "The History of Wisconsin, Volume 5: War, a New Era and Depression, 1914-1940", standard state history
*Haney, Richard C. "A History of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin since World War II"
*Jensen, Richard "The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896" (1971)
*Lampard, Eric E. "The Rise of the Dairy Industry in Wisconsin" (1962)
*McBride, Genevieve G. "On Wisconsin Women: Working for Their Rights from Settlement to Suffrage"
* [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=96272178 Herbert F. Margulies; "The Decline of the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin, 1890-1920" (1968)]
*Merrill, Horace S. "William Freeman Vilas: Doctrinaire Democrat" (1954) Democratic leader in 1880s and 1890s
*Frederick I. Olson, "Milwaukee: At the Gathering of the Waters"
* [http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.HistAgSchaf Schafer, Joseph. "A History of Agriculture in Wisconsin"] (1922)
*Schafer, Joseph. 'The Yankee and Teuton in Wisconsin', "Wisconsin Magazine of History," 6: 2 (Dec 1922), 125-145, compares Yankee and German settlers
*Still, Bayrd. "Milwaukee: The History of a City" (1948)
*Thelen, David. "Robert M. LaFollette and the Insurgent Spirit" (1976)
*Unger, Nancy C. "Fighting Bob LaFollette: The Righteous Reformer" (2000)
* [http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/WIReader/Contents.html Wisconsin Electronic Reader] full text of many primary source books
*"The Badger State: A documentary history of Wisconsin" (1979)
* [http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=750 La Follette's Autobiography, a personal narrative of political experiences, 1913]
# [http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/localhistory/articles/plat_maps.asp Background on land offices and settlement]
History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Local History Collection
* [http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints "Turning Points in Wisconsin History" from the Wisconsin Historical Society]
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