The potential of lead mining in southwest Wisconsin drew many of the region's initial residents. Native Americans have long mined in this area. The lead mining zone, however, was opened to European miners following a series of treaties that displaced the Indians. These miners also attracted immigrants from Europe and beyond who saw the opportunity for profit here too.
Settlers came to Wisconsin for several reasons. Some wanted new lands while others wanted to escape the oppression they suffered at home. Some came to fight for their countries while others came to start new lives under Canadian law. But above all else, we must remember that these people were not so different from us. They just came from all over the world because they found something worth losing everything for.
We should never forget that humanity is what makes us unique. We are all different but we share so much more than just our blood. We share the same hopes and dreams, the same fears and anxieties. Most important, we share the same need for connection with others, both strangers and friends.
Because of this connection, it is impossible to understand where one person comes from or where another might want to go without considering the entire picture. History is full of events that seem inexplicable until viewed through the lens of time. In truth, there are no clear-cut answers; only interpretations that can be argued either way.
Southerners from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina who came to Wisconsin during the territory era settled in Grant and Iowa's lead mining and southwestern counties, some bringing slaves with them. These immigrants established communities along the banks of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. By 1840, there were about 15,000 people living in what is now Wisconsin. Most were German Catholics or Protestants.
In 1847, the United States government authorized the sale of land in Wisconsin Territory to finance the Mexican War. This act opened up more than 100 million acres of land for settlement by citizens of the United States. The people of Wisconsin benefited as much as any other group because land near towns was most profitable to sell. Land sales helped fund the wars between America and Mexico so Americans could take land they wanted for themselves.
You may have heard that the population of Wisconsin increased after the war because many soldiers married women from Germany and other parts of Europe. They had money to spend and start families. But the number of marriages recorded by county officials shows that almost all the marriageable women were already married before the war. So where did all these new wives come from? In fact, many were born in America. Their parents brought them here when they got ready to marry.
Various Native American tribes initially settled in what is now Wisconsin. Until the late 1800s, the Chippewa, Menominee, Oneida, Potawatomi, and Ho Chunk (Winnebago) tribes inhabited in the region. Jean Nicolet was the first European adventurer to reach Wisconsin. In 1634 he arrived with a French expedition and helped build a church on Lake Michigan near present-day Green Bay. The first white men to explore Wisconsin's interior country were French Canadians who came looking for fur trading opportunities in the early 18th century.
The first known white person to live in what is now Wisconsin was an Englishman named William Wood. He built a cabin near present-day Janesville that same year. Other settlers followed, most of them French Canadians who had crossed the lake from Quebec City. They established small farms and tended crops such as wheat and corn. In 1792, the United States government issued a land grant lottery to encourage settlement in the area then called "Westward-Pointing Guy" by French explorers. The largest group of winners was German immigrants. They brought their farming skills to Wisconsin and within a few years there were enough farmers to require a school system. In 1836, Milwaukee became the first large city in Wisconsin. By 1870, there were about 6,000 people living in Wisconsin. That same year, the state legislature granted women the right to vote.
Wisconsin has been home to people of many different nationalities since its settlement.
Wisconsin's Brief History Thousands of immigrants flooded into Wisconsin during the nineteenth century. Some arrived from the east coast of the United States, while others came from Europe. Most settled on farms, and all came in search of a better life. The majority of Wisconsin's wealth was created in the early years through lumbering, mining, and land sales. As those industries declined so too have the populations of most counties.
People moved to Wisconsin for many reasons. Some came because they wanted to get away from everything they knew back home - poverty, war, etc. Others came because they saw a future for themselves here. Still others came because they could afford to buy land. In fact, Wisconsin was one of the first states to offer homesteads. These were government-issued free tickets out of slavery by allowing former slaves or their descendants to claim 40 acres of land if they agreed to farm it.
During the mid-nineteenth century, Milwaukee became a major shipping center for timber, wheat, and iron. It also became a hub for German immigration. By 1855, over 20,000 Germans lived in Milwaukee alone! That same year, Wisconsin became the forty-first state to join the Union.
Milwaukee's industrial boom ended in the late 1800s. This led to job losses for many residents, especially those in the manufacturing industry. Many people left Milwaukee for smaller towns where there were fewer jobs, leaving room for new immigrants to move in.
Wisconsin's history includes not only the stories of the people who have lived there since it became a state of the United States, but also the stories of the Native American tribes who made Wisconsin their home, the French and British colonists who were the first Europeans to live there, and the American settlers...
The first European to see what is now Wisconsin was a Spanish expedition led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. The group arrived in April 1542 at a place they called "Las Vegas of the West," which later became known as St. Paul. Over the next several years, more explorers and settlers came to Wisconsin, but none stayed for long until 1816 when the Americans declared war on France, which at that time was the world's leading nation. Many French citizens moved to America, including those living in Wisconsin, because they believed it would be safer here than in Europe during this time of war.
After the American victory in the War of 1812, people from all over the country went to Wisconsin because it was seen as an easy life with lots of land available for farming. By 1840, there were about 6,000 people living in Wisconsin Territory, half of them farmers. In 1848, the territory was granted statehood as Wisconsin. By 1860, the population of Wisconsin had increased to 200,000 people, most of them German immigrants.
The Oregon Trail created a direct path to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1830s. To establish its claim to the region, the government urged Americans to make the trek and settle there. In the early 1840s, a substantial number of white settlers began to come. Most were men looking for gold in the mountains, but some were farmers who settled along the trail with their crops. By 1846, when the first census was taken, about 5,000 people lived in what is now Oregon. Most were American pioneers.
Native Americans had been living in the area for thousands of years when Europeans arrived. They had cultivated wheat and other plants in what is now Oregon since before it was a part of the United States. The arrival of European explorers in the 16th century led to conflict between the newcomers and the indigenous peoples. The natives were not able to defend themselves because they didn't have guns or any kind of weapon more powerful than a stone axe. As more and more settlers came into the area, the number of conflicts increased. In 1842, Congress passed a law called "President's Executive Order No. 1" that aimed to resolve the conflict by giving land rights to the natives. However, this order wasn't enforced by federal officials and many natives lost their land to settlers.
In 1847, the first treaty was signed between Native Americans and the United States government.