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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Wisconsin

State History

People have lived in Wisconsin for thousands of years. Archeologists called the first people to inhabit the land the Paleo-Indians. Early cultures formed such as the Hopewell people, the Woodland people, and the Mississippian Culture. They built huge mounds that can still be found today throughout Wisconsin.

A Wisconsin Farm
A Wisconsin Farm from the USDA


Native Americans

When the Europeans first arrived in Wisconsin, the land was inhabited by a number of Native American tribes. These tribes included the Ottawa, Ojibwe, Kickapoo, Huron, Sioux, and the Ho-Chunk. These people mostly lived in domed shelters called wigwams which were made from wooden poles and covered with bark and grass. For food they hunted deer and buffalo. They also farmed beans and corn.

Europeans Arrive

The first European to arrive in the region was French explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634. Nicolet was searching for a Northwest Passage to China, which he didn't find. However, he did find a land rich in beaver furs. Soon Europeans were coming to Wisconsin from Canada to trade with the local natives for furs they could sell in Europe.

Early Settlers

Over the next several years, more French arrived in the region including fur traders and missionaries. One of the French traders, Nicolas Perrot, established a trading post at Green Bay in 1667. After building a number of trading posts in the region, he claimed the land for France in 1689.

French and Indian War

Although the French claimed the land, many English fur traders began to move into the region. In 1754, the French and Indian War began between France and Britain. Some of the local Native Americans fought on the side of the French and some on the side of the British. The British eventually won the war and, in 1763, they gained control of much of the French land including Wisconsin.

Northwest Territory

After the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, Wisconsin became part of the United States. In 1787, it became part of the Northwest Territory. This was a large area of land in the northern Midwest. It included such future states as Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Despite being considered part of the U.S., the British still largely controlled the region until the Americans defeated them in the War of 1812.

Black Hawk War

In the 1820s, lead ore was discovered in Wisconsin. This brought in a lot of new settlers who began to take over the land of the Native Americans. Eventually, the Native Americans were forced by the United States government to move out of Wisconsin. In 1832, the Fox and Sauk tribes decided to return to their homeland. They were led by Chief Black Hawk. They fought a number of battles against the U.S. Army in what became known as the Black Hawk War. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Bad Axe. An interesting fact is that Abraham Lincoln was a member of the U.S. Army during the Black Hawk War.



Black Hawk by Charles Bird King

Becoming a State

In 1836, the Wisconsin Territory was created by the U.S. Congress. The first capital was the town of Belmont, but it was soon moved in 1838 to the current capital of Madison. Wisconsin continued to grow, becoming mostly a land of farmers. It joined the Union as the 30th state on May 29, 1848.

Civil War

Wisconsin remained a member of the Union during the Civil War. Although no major battles were fought in the state, it sent over 90,000 soldiers to fight for the North. During this time, the state became more industrialized.



Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Cityman100

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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