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Wisconsin History: Historic Facts and Overview: Wisconsin FlagWisconsin History

Historic Facts & Overview of Wisconsin History

Find an overview of Wisconsin history. Discover an overview of the rich history, heritage, historic events.

In 1634, Frenchman Jean Nicolet became Wisconsin's first European explorer. The French controlled the area until 1763, when it was ceded to the British. The state's name is an English version of a French adaptation of an Indian name said to mean "the place where we live." The Wisconsin Territory was formed in 1836 and was admitted into the Union as the 30th state in 1848. With the nickname "America's Dairyland," it's no surprise that Wisconsin is one of the top producers of milk, cheese, and butter in the country. In fact, the loyal fans of the Green Bay Packers football team call themselves "cheeseheads." Milwaukee, the state's largest city, helps make Wisconsin one of the largest manufacturing states in the nation. The state capital, Madison, is home to the University of Wisconsin. The flower of the "Badger State" is the wood violet and the state bird is the robin.

Overview of Wisconsin History and Heritage

Wisconsin was first inhabited by varied Indian tribes in the 17th century. They included the Algonquian-speaking Menominee, Kickapoo, Miami, the Siouan-speaking Winnebago, Dakota (or Sioux) and Iowa. In the mid-1600's other groups entered Wisconsin, including the Fox, Sac, Potawatomi and Ojibewa (Chippewa).

The Wisconsin region was first explored for France by Jean Nicolet, who landed at Green Bay in 1634. Jean Nicolet, a native of France, was the first explorer to reach the area while searching for the Northwest Passage to China in 1634. The French lost possession of Wisconsin and all of it's territories east of the Mississippi to Great Britain during the French and Indian War.

In 1660 a French trading post and Roman Catholic mission were established near present-day Ashland.

Great Britain obtained the region in settlement of the French and Indian Wars in 1763; British possession of Wisconsin ended in 1783, when Britain signed the treaty ending the American Revolution. Because the US government had no effective control over Wisconsin, it remained under unofficial British control. Fur trade continued as the foundation of Wisconsin's economy.

The first wave of American settlers in Wisconsin came in the 1820's as a result of a lead mining boom in northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. The movement of white settlers into the Midwest caused intense conflict when the federal government and settlers attempted to move Native Americans from their lands. Federal policies included uprooting entire tribes and forcing them to resettle west of the Mississippi. When the Sac people tried to return in 1832, the Black Hawk war started ending in the Bad Axe Massacre with less than 1000 Native Americans surviving. Other Wisconsin tribes either left the area, or negotiated reservation lands.

The region was successively governed as part of the territories of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan between 1800 and 1836, when it became a separate territory.

No longer having opposition from the Native Americans, a second wave of settlers came to Wisconsin and in 1836 the Wisconsin Territory was organized. Around the 1840's a third wave of settlers came to Wisconsin, attracted by good farmland. At that time the state became the nation's leading wheat producer. On May 29, 1848, Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as the 30th state.

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