Wisconsin Counties
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Wisconsin Counties

There are seventy-two counties in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin became part of the Territory of Michigan and divided into two counties: Brown County in the northeast along Lake Michigan and Crawford County in the southwest along the Mississippi River. The state of Wisconsin was created from Wisconsin Territory on May 29, 1848, with 28 counties.

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County Education, Geography, and History

Door County, Wisconsin Courthouse

Door County is a county in the state of Wisconsin. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 27,785. Its county seat is Sturgeon Bay.

The county was created in 1851 and organized in 1861.It is named after the strait between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island. The dangerous passage, which is now scattered with shipwrecks, was known to early French explorers and local Native Americans. Because of the natural hazards of the strait, where the waters of Green Bay meet the open body of Lake Michigan, they gave it the French appellation Porte des Morts, which in English means "Death's Door."

Etymology - Origin of Door County Name

Door County took its name from the straits between the mainland and Washington Island, locally known as Death's Door, a translation from the French voyageur term, ''La Porte des Morts" (the door of the dead). Wis. Hist. Colls., vi, p. 166. The origin of this name is traditional, probably having arisen from the dangerous character of these waters. Hist. No. Wis., p. 253.

[Source: Kellogg, Louise Phelps. "Derivation of County Names" in Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1909, pages 219-231.]


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Door County History

The Door County peninsula has been inhabited for about 11,000 years. Artifacts from an ancient village site at Nicolet Bay Beach have been dated to about 400 BC. This site was occupied by various cultures until about 1300 AD.

The 1700-1800s saw the immigration and settlement of pioneers, mariners, fishermen and farmers. Economic sustenance came from lumbering and tourism.

During the 1800s, various groups of Native Americans occupied the area that would become Door County and its islands. Beginning in mid-century, these Indians, mostly Potawatomi, were removed from the peninsula by the federal government under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Later, Belgian Walloon people populated a small region in Door County, Wisconsin, owing to fairly large-scale immigration there in the 19th century, as well as to southern Indiana in Perry County.

A Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established at Peninsula State Park during the Great Depression. In the summer of 1945, Fish Creek was the site of a German POW camp. The prisoners did construction projects, cut wood, and picked cherries in Peninsula State Park and the surrounding area. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse was constructed in Peninsula State Park in 1868 on orders from President Andrew Johnson, at a cost of $12,000, and was restored by the Door County Historical Society in 1964, and opened to the public.

Description from John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer: "DOOR, County, is located between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and is bounded on the north and east by the State line of Michigan, on the south by Kewaunee, and on the west by Oconto. It was set off from Brown, February 11, 1851. It then included the present county of Kewaunee, and was attached to Manlitowoc for judicial government. The county seat was established at Gibralter, on Gibralter Bay, heretofore known as Bailey's Harbor, on the west shore of Lake Michigan, in town 30 N., of range 28 E. Door county is for legislative and county purposes, in connection with Brown county. It has several small streams emptying into the Bay and into Lake Superior."

From: Handbook of Wisconsin by S. Silas, 1855
pg. 61-62

The County consists of the narrow strip of land lying between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and a number of Islands off to its northern extremity. It derives its beautiful name from the strait between Plum Island and the main land, called by the original French settlers of Green Bay, "Port du Morts," or "Death's Door."

Sturgeon Bay is a navigable inlet on the eastern bay shore, extending nearly to Lake Michigan, and has almost its entire length sufficient to float the largest class of Lake Vessels. As a harbor it is surpassed by few. A narrow neck of low land, a little over a mile in width separates it from Lake Michigan. A settlement bas been made on this Bay, a saw mill erected, and more than one set of saws run. The principal settlement in the County is on Washington (or Potawotomie) Island, on the nortwestern part, called Washington Harbor. This is represented to be one of the best natural harborbs on the Lake.

Geography: Land and Water

The county has a total area of 6,138 square kilometres (2,370 sq mi). 1,250 square kilometres (480 sq mi) of it is land and 4,888 square kilometres (1,887 sq mi) of it (79.63%) is water. The county also has more than 300 miles (480 km) of shoreline, more than any other in the country. This is one of the reasons that locals and tourists alike refer to the area as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The county covers the majority of the Door Peninsula. With the completion of the Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal in 1881, the northern half of the peninsula, in actuality, became an island.

Limestone outcroppings, part of the Niagara Escarpment, are visible on both shores of the peninsula, but are larger and more prominent on the Green Bay side. Progressions of dunes have created much of the rest of the shoreline, especially on the easterly side. Flora along the shore provides clear evidence of plant succession. The middle of the peninsula is mostly flat or rolling cultivated land. Soils overlaying the dolomite bedrock are very thin in the northern half of the county; 39% of the County is mapped as having less than three feet to bedrock. Beyond the northern tip of the peninsula, the partially submerged ridge forms a number of islands that stretch to the Garden Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The largest of these islands is Washington Island. Most of these islands form the Town of Washington.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Kewaunee County, WI to the south


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