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The Primitive Human Background

The Indian mounds, scattered widely over the state, furnish proof that ages before the coming of white men Wisconsin contained a varied and somewhat advanced primitive culture. From the advent of white men in the region, of whom the Frenchman Jean Nicolet, who came from Canada by way of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Green Bay in 1634, was the first, the Indian life was modified by two great influenceswars and commerce. The wars carried on beyond the eastern frontier, and sometimes in the territory itself, by the Iroquois Indians of western New York, drove the Hurons and Ottawas, as well as the Sauk, Foxes, and Potawatomi, into Wisconsin, while the Sioux on the upper Mississippi invaded the country from the west. These pressures from opposite sides tended, in historic times, to concentrate the Wisconsin tribes along the great interior waterways of the state, the Green Bay-Fox and Wisconsin line, which afforded safety from enemies by providing a way of escape under almost all circumstances. This concentration of the tribes also facilitated the work of the French missionaries who followed, as friends and protectors, the refugee bands of Hurons fleeing from the Iroquois enemy. The Indian trade was also begun by the French, who carried it on at first through agents at Montreal, later through trading establishments located at strategic points in the country itself. Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, at the opposite ends of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway, became the leading French posts for carrying on trade with the Indians, while a post on Chequamegon Bay gathered the fur harvest of Lake Superior.

By the terms of the Treaty of Paris, 1763, France was dispossessed and Great Britain came into control of the whole north country. Twenty years later, at the close of the American Revolution, another treaty of Paris formally transferred the Wisconsin region to the United States. British companies operating from Canada were able to reap most of the benefits of the trade until after the close of the War of 1812, when the American Fur Company, of which John Jacob Astor was the head, took control. Through all these changes, however, most of the men who actually came in contact commercially

1 Frederick J. Turner, "The Fur Trade in Wisconsin," in Wisconsin State Historical Society, Proceedings, 1889.

with the Indians continued to be French. The French had long been accustomed to the business; their trappers, hunters, and voyageurs were glad to take service under English and Americans, and many of their more intelligent young men became clerks and factors in the English and American trading companies. To the Indians, therefore, changes of sovereignty made but little difference. It was mainly the French-Canadians of the fur trade tradition who formed the little colonies at Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, and other points in the state which gave so picturesque a feature to early Wisconsin history and, on the entrance of the settlers from New England, made the first of our race questions. The fur trade brought the native tribes under the domination of white men, tempered their warlike spirit, and disintegrated their organization for offensive action. The absence of Indian wars, when white settlers entered-except the numerically insignificant Black Hawk War—is largely attributable to the Indian trade carried on for two centuries by the tactful French. A pleasing reminder of the French régime in Wisconsin is the prevalence of musical French place names, rather numerously interspersed with names having an Indian origin and the more common English names.

American Beginners

The fur trade "managed by Americans but almost wholly manned by French''3 continued to be the principal industry of Wisconsin until 1834. In that year land offices were opened at Green Bay and at Mineral Point, and settlers began to pour in through the port at Milwaukee, also by way of Chicago, up the Mississippi, and overland from the settled parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

Wisconsin was late in settling because the earlier westward migration had been largely directed and controlled by the Ohio river. The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, made a new line of emigration from the northeast, and in a few years northern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and southern Michigan were receiving their thousands of immigrants yearly. Only the lead region in the southwestern part of our state had received

? Reuben G. Thwaites, Wisconsin, Preface. * See population map. United States Census for 1830, in Blue Book, 1921. 7.

3 Ibid.

considerable numbers before the Black Hawk War in 1832. That event, preceded and followed by Indian land cessions, opened the entire southern portion of Wisconsin to agricultural settlement as far as the line of the Wisconsin, Fox river, and Green Bay, and in the four years 1832-36 that region was fully surveyed into townships, sections, and subdivisions of sections. So rapid were the sales, both to settlers and to speculators, that by December 1, 1836, nearly 900,000 acres had been sold. The census of 1836 showed in that part of the newly created Wisconsin Territory lying east of the Mississippi a total population of 11,683, of which 5,234 were in Iowa

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county (comprising nearly the entire lead region), 2,706 in Brown county (including Green Bay), 2,893 in Milwaukee county, and 850 in Crawford county (Prairie du Chien).

- The Territory, when it was set off from Michigan, July 3, 1836, included what afterwards became the states of Iowa and Minnesota, together with parts of the Dakotas east of the Missouri and White Earth rivers.

Southern Wisconsin

The most rapid settlement occurred in those portions of southeastern and southern Wisconsin which were tributary to the Lake Michigan ports and which being lightly timbered permitted the easy conversion of the raw lands into farms. Racine and Kenosha, Walworth, Rock, parts of Waukesha and Jefferson, and parts of Green and Dane counties were at first the favored regions. A little later came the movement into the fertile open lands of Fond du Lac and Columbia counties, while the lead region, being farther from lake transportation, developed less rapidly. The building of railways which began in 1849 tended to equalize the advantages of different sections

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and caused settlers to swarm over all of the rich lands in the southern part of the state, even for some distance north and west of the Fox-Wisconsin line. By 1870, an important turning point in Wisconsin agricultural history because of the change from wheat growing as a business to dairy farming, the state was fairly well settled south of a line drawn from Green Bay to Hudson on the St. Croix river, except for a southward dip of the forested area in Waupaca, Portage, Adams, Waushara, Wood, Clark, and Eau Claire counties. Compared with the population map of 1850, when settlement was almost exclusively south and east of the Fox-Wisconsin line, the map of 1870 shows a broad strip of agricultural settlement along the Mississippi in Crawford, Richland, Juneau, Monroe, Jackson, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Pepin, St. Croix, and portions of Eau Claire and Polk counties. There was also an extension north of Fox river, in Outagamie, Waupaca, Winnebago, Waushara, Green Lake, and Marquette counties, with smaller portions of Adams and Juneau.“

For a time the people came mainly from the northeastern and central states. Nearly one-fourth (68,000) of the total population in 1850 were natives of New York. Vermont and Pennsylvania furnished approximately 10,000 each, and as many more came from the other New England states, while several thousand came from the more southerly middle states, making a total from the Northeast and East of 103,000. There were 21,367 Northwesterners, which means persons born in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan; and 5,425 from the South and Southwest. Of Wisconsin nativity there were 63,000, most of them doubtless minor children of the emigrants from other American states, since foreign emigration to Wisconsin at that time was only well begun. There were, however, in 1850, nearly 48,000 English-speaking foreigners, of whom 21,000 were Irish and 19,000 English; and 57,600 nonEnglish-speaking foreigners. Of the latter, Germans constituted 38,000, Scandinavians 8,900, Swiss 1,244, Dutch 1,157, and French-Canadians 8,277. All of the twenty-six counties of 1850 had majorities of American born, except Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Washington, where foreigners were most numerous. Practically, early Wisconsin was a child of New England, New Yorkers being mainly New Englanders of a later generation. In the constitutional convention which was held in 1846 out of 121 members there were 46 natives of New York, 21 of Vermont, and 9 each of Connecticut and Massachusetts."

Territorial Politics, 1836-1848

The dominant intellectual interest in territorial Wisconsin was politics, which is not strange when we recall the names of such public men as James D. Doty, Henry Dodge, William S. Hamilton, Morgan L. Martin, and Thomas P. Burnett, to mention only a few of the leaders. These men kept political

• See maps, Blue Book, 1921, 10-11, showing expansion of population from 1850 to 1870.

Reuben G. Thwaites, Wisconsin, 337-338.

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