Outagamie County, Wisconsin
History and Genealogy
The American Military Frontier
By defeating the British in the Revolutionary War, the American colonies won freedom from tyranny and the right to govern themselves. They also acquired a vast tract of land, commonly known in those days as the Northwest Territory. This territory included all the land north of the west of Pennsylvannia, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.
In the year 1784, roughly a year after the British surrender, Thomas Jefferson devised a plan to govern the Northwest territory. He proposed to eventually divide the territory into ten different states. After much debate, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which set forth a plan to create a series of territories that would eventually become five states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The land of Wisconsin remained part of the Northwest Territory until 1800 when it became part of the Indiana Territory. When Indiana became a state in 1809, Wisconsin became a part of the Illinois territory. Illinois became a state in 1818, at which time Wisconsin became a part of the Michigan territory. It remained a part of Michigan until the year 1836, when Congress created the territory of Wisconsin.
The first real American presence in Wisconsin came shortly after the War of 1812. Up until that time, the British had in fact controlled the region through their network of forts and trading posts. The United States government decided that it had to claim and protect its resources in the area, and so troops were sent to Detroit, Mackinac, Chicago, and eventually Green Bay.
After the British evacuated their troops from Prairie du Chien in 1815, U.S. forces moved into the area and built two forts in 1816. They were located at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. These forts were designed to enforce the government policy towards the Native Americans and to protect the important the important trade route between the two places via the Wisconsin and Fox River waterway. The troops also performed many other duties as well, including building roads and bridges, farming and cutting timber.
During these years on the military frontier, the land of Wisconsin was set aside by the United States government as a territory for Native American tribes. The principal tribes of the state at this time were the Menominee, the Ho-Chunk, the Chippewa, the Potawatomi, and the Sioux. During the 1820’s these tribes were joined by several others which had lost their ancestral lands in the East. These tribes included the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans, part of the Oneida nation, and the Brotherton people. These highly assimilated Eastern tribes acquired land in Northeastern Wisconsin from the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk people and set up farming communities.
Faced with overwhelming military force and pressure from the United States government to open up the land to white settlement, the Native American tribes of Wisconsin were forced to give up their land. They signed a series of treaties from 1825 to 1854 which ceded all of their lands to the government. In 1829, the Poatwatomie, the Ojibwe, the Ottawa and Ho-Chunk ceded all the land of Southwestern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois to the United States Government. In 1831, the Menominee gave up all of the land from Milwaukee to Green Bay to the eastern shore of the Fox River, and also settled the claims of the New York tribes who had settled in the area. In 1836, at Cedar Point near Little Chute, the Menominee ceded a vast tract of land in Northeastern Wisconsin from Green Bay to the Wolf River. The Menominee again gave up what little land they had left in 1848, when they signed the Treaty of Lake Poygan. The tribe moved up the Wolf River to a reservation set aside by the government where they still live today. In 1854, the Ojibwe signed a treaty at LaPointe, Wisconsin that created the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, and Lac du Flambeau reservations.
Outagamie County Genealogy and History Project