Outagamie County, Wisconsin
History and Genealogy
The British Era
In 1671 at Sault St. Marie, the French had claimed possession of the entire Great Lakes Region. To control the fur trade throughout this vast country of forests, lakes and rivers, they built trading posts and missions throughout the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Valley. These posts eventually became military forts, occupied by French troops. Small agricultural settlements sprang up around the forts as well. Green Bay, Cahokia, and Kaskaskia became important French outposts in the western Great Lakes, while New Orleans, Mobile and Biloxi were import holdings in the lower Mississippi Valley.
The British had established a firm foothold in the New World by building colonies along the East Coast of the continent. These colonies were essentially agricultural in nature, but the fur trade was a lucrative business and there were many English traders working in the lower Great Lakes during the late 17th and early 18th centuries . As the colonies began to grow rapidly in population, many settlers began to look to the west, with hopes for obtaining new land. By the year 1749, the leaders of the colony of Virginia formed the Ohio Company and obtained a grant from the King for 200,000 acres of land on the upper Ohio River.
The colonial ambitions of these two great nations, France and England, eventually brought them into conflict over who would dominate the territory northwest of the Ohio River. Their rivalry for its valuable land and furs led to the French and Indian War which took place from 1755 to 1763. The decisive battle in the war was fought at Quebec in 1760, with the British emerging victorious. The British set out to take control of the French forts in the western Great Lakes. British troops took control of Detroit shortly after the French surrender at Quebec.
In late autumn of that same year, Captain Louis Lienard de Beaujeu, the commander of French forces at Michilmackinac, evacuated the fort there and sailed with his men to Green Bay. Soon after gathering up all that they could carry with them in their small boats, over 100 French soldiers navigated their way up the Fox River. They must have portaged at Kaukauna and Grand Chute and then paddled through the calm waters of Lake Butte de Morte until they came to the island at Neenah. From there it was across Lake Winnebago to the upper Fox River. Near the present-day city of Portage, Wisconsin, they hauled their vessels and equipment for almost a mile and a half to the Wisconsin river and then gratefully re-embarked. Within a week, they reached the Mississippi. They made it as far as the mouth of the Rock River before winter set in and forced them to camp there until the next spring. Why did they make this long and arduous voyage? They had orders to travel to Louisiana, which had not been a part of the surrender. They chose to this rather than be deported to France by the victorious British forces, who would soon be arriving in the region.
As luck would have it, they need not have hurried. It took the British almost a year to reach Green Bay. The first British troops arrived at Fort La Baye in October of 1761. They were commanded by a Scotsman, Colonel Henry Balfour. They found the abandoned fort to be in very poor condition. After a year of standing empty, the wood was rotting away and the palisade walls were crumbling. Balfour left a young officer from Maryland, named James Gorrell, in charge of the post, and then he returned to Mackinac. Gorrell had 15 privates under his command as well as two non-commissioned officers. They rebuilt a new fort at the site of the old one, and Gorrell named it Fort Edward Augustus, in honor of the younger brother of King George III. This was the beginning of British rule in the Fox River Valley.  Although the English would officially lose possession of it after the Revolutionary War, they would in fact continue to control the entire state of Wisconsin and its valuable fur trade for the next fifty years.
 Robert C. Nesbitt, Wisconsin, A History, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1973. Page35
 Louise Phelps Kellogg, The British Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, 1935. Page 14.
Outagamie County Genealogy and History Project