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Wisconsin History: 8 Events That Shaped the State

Image: Wisconsin History: 8 Events That Shaped the State
Postage stamp USA , 1934, Jean Nicolet explorer. (dollarphotoclub)

By    |   Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:32 PM

Wisconsin is more than the land of beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers. The state known as "America's Dairyland" is steeped in centuries of history, dating back to before it became part of the United States.

Here are eight events that shaped Wisconsin:

1. Explorer Jean Nicolet lands at Green Bay. The Frenchman has the distinction of being the first European to discover Lake Michigan. He explored the land that would become Wisconsin in 1634, as he sought a Northern passage to the Pacific Ocean and China. Nicolet arrived at Red Banks, near modern-day Green Bay, and concluded that the people who lived along the shores had emigrated from near the ocean, and could provide a way to China, says Encyclopedia Britannica. His landing at Red Banks is depicted by a 1910 mural at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay.

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2. Though the 1783 treaty that ended the American Revolution also ended the British possession of Wisconsin, the area remained unofficially controlled by England. The state's economy thrived thanks to the fur trade.

3. The Black Hawk War: The discovery of lead in the Rock River brought thousands of settlers to the area, displacing the Fox and Sauk tribes. Around 1831, while trying to return to areas that now make up present-day southwestern Wisconsin, Chief Black Hawk and about 1,200 men, women, and children were attacked by U.S. militia. Black Hawk lost a large majority of his tribe and was placed in jail. It was the last time a group of Native Americans attempted to return to their homeland, according to the United States History.

4. Statehood: The Wisconsin Territory population had surpassed 150,000 by the mid-1840s, far more than the required amount for statehood. After a series of debates and revisions to the state constitution, Wisconsin became 30th state on May 29, 1848, the final state completely east of the Mississippi River to join the Union, says History.com.

5. Madison becomes the state capitol: Incorporated in 1848, Madison was named for President James Madison. Former federal judge James Duane Doty bought more than 1,000 acres of forest and swamp land between with a plan to build a city. In addition to naming Madison for the fourth president, Doty named the streets for the other 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution.

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6. Angered by the recent passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act — which allowed settlers in the newly established Nebraska and Kansas territories to determine through popular sovereignty whether to adopt slavery — Wisconsin resident Alvan Bovay held a meeting in a Ripon, Wisconsin schoolhouse. The March 20, 1854 meeting essentially created the Republican Party to fight against the expansion of slavery.

7. The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871: On Oct. 8, Northeastern Wisconsin lost millions of dollars in property and lumber — as well as between 1,200 lives — in one of the worst recorded forest fires in North America. Caused by a serious drought and hot temperature, the blaze consumed about 1.5 million acres and burned until it reached Green Bay.

8. The Green Bay Packers: The NFL's third-oldest franchise was founded by E. L. "Curly" Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun in 1919, and remains the only non-profit, community-owned, major league professional sports team based in the U.S. The Packers have won 13 league championships, including four during the Super Bowl era that began in 1967. Even casual sports fans have heard of Vince Lombardi, Brett Favre and "the frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field, and the 96-year-old franchise and the home state in which they play will forever be linked.

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Wisconsin is more than the land of beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers. The state known as "America's Dairyland" is steeped in centuries of history, dating back to before it became part of the United States.
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Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:32 PM
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