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Town of Day, 101 years

Down through history,   pp. 6-10

Page 6

Down Through History
By Muriel Berger
In a land sculpted by glaciers, the first people who
came to the land we know as Wisconsin found it a
hospitable place. One group was called the Hopewells.
They lived in Wisconsin before and during the time of
Christ. Some were a copper culture people, and they
found a land abundant in minerals, wildlife, vegetation,
and water.
The population of the area continued to ebb and flow as
each group, attempting to escape the pressures of a
population elsewhere, in turn put pressure on the
inhabitants of Wisconsin.  In a culture depending
primarily on hunting, it took a great deal of land to support
a population, and the defeated simply moved on to the less
desirable western lands.
Wisconsin, it is believed, was even home to a group of
Aztecs who wandered from their home in Mexico. They
settled in the area near Jefferson where they built a walled
village which was entirely different from the structures of
the neighboring peoples, or any of the other early settlers
of the area that came prior to the European invasion.
It was in a place far removed, that events took place
that were to change Wisconsin's land and people so
dramatically.  And these events would trigger the
pressure that would begin to be felt a half a world away.
It was the Crusades, the "holy wars", that created the
desire and made it profitable for Europe to develop a trade
with the Near and Far East. And it was from the Far East
that spices, perfumes, silks, and fabulous jewels were
sought after by the rich of Europe. But the way was far,
and routes were dangerous.  Since it had not been
acceptable practice to even sail around the coast of Africa,
some of the routes were overland, over deserts and the
travellers were often preyed upon by robbers. So another
way had to be found, a safer route to China.
At the same time, population pressures began to grow
in Europe, too, and the population could no longer be
supported by the agricultural society of the Middle Ages.
To keep a flow of manufactured goods going out, and to
maintain a supply of raw materials to feed the budding
industries, European nations decided to build clusters of
colonies to absorb some of the manufactured goods, and to
feed the economy of their own nations. The race for
colonies was on!
Since the end of the 1400's, Europe had again become
aware that a land lay to the west that blocked their way to
sailing directly to China. Fierce competition between the
European countries broke out, as each one attempted to
grab the richest lands for themselves. No one lost sight of
the fact that a way around the New World must be found,
and each wanted to be the first to establish the all
important route to China.
In 1634 the inhabitants of a village near the head of
Green Bay were treated to a rare sight. Jean Nicolet, an
explorer, was the first European in recorded history to set
foot in Wisconsin. He had been sent by the governor of
the French territory in Quebec to find the long sought after
North West Passage, a waterway that would make it
possible to sail around the northern end of the continent.
By questioning the natives about the bodies of water to the
west, he decided that the western shores of the water we
know as Lake Michigan. was actually the shores of China.
So he donned a beautiful embroidered robe of Chinese
silk, and a hat with tall plumes. In each hand he carried a
-stick" from which thunder emitted. As he landed he
fired the guns he carried into the air. The warlike
Winnebagos, a member of the Sioux nation, were
probably surprised, but not nearly as surprised and
disappointed as Nicolet was, to discover that the natives
were just like the ones he had seen all over along the way.
He continued, however, a considerable distance up the
Fox River, just to make sure that China was not just
around the bend. And, he returned to Quebec with the
bad news that the New World was a land far more vast
than anyone had expected.
He was the first of many explorers who would chart the
Wisconsin wilderness.
In the succeeding years, Indian wars in Canada kept
the French busy, and the Europeans did little to further
explore Wisconsin. Wisconsin itself, was the scene of
warfare and plague among the Winnebagos, and they
could no longer hold off against the pressure by other
invading tribes. When peace was restored in Canada in
1654, the French again turned to Wisconsin, but for
different purposes.
Accompanied by the Ottawa Indians, Medart Chouart
des Grossielliers and Pierre Esprit Raddison began to
explore Wisconsin further with an eye to establishing a fur
trade. Europe had long been stripped of the fur bearing
animals. Fashion dictated that people of quality should
wear the famous beaver hats. And the price of fur soared,
which made it a very profitable venture to send out traders
to insure a supply. The success of these two men opened
up Wisconsin to a whole host of adventurers. Many came,
got rich, and left, while others, such as Solomon Juneau,
stayed and built villages that were to become the cities of
today, such as Milwaukee.
Besides the explorers and fur traders, there was a third
group of people who came to Wisconsin, the missionaries.
This group felt a sincere desire to bring Christianity to the
natives. And their influence was lasting although, not in
the ways they had hoped. They did, however, put some
restraint on the fur traders to deal more fairly with the
Indians, kept them from selling too much liquor, and most
importantly, they sent back written reports which gives us
much of the information we now have to draw on about life
in Wisconsin at that time.
The first of these men, Father Rene Menard
accompanied a trade flotilla in 1660. He lost his life here.
Later Claude Jean Allouez came as missionary in 1666,
and Father Marquette in 1689.
It was Father Marquette and a French Jesuit, Father
Louis Jolliet, that led the first expedition to the
Mississippi River. This, they were sure, was the long
sought after Northwest Passage, but again, they were
doomed to disappointment.
Many years and many lives later, Wisconsin had
several French settlements. Some of these were the forts,
La Baye (Green Bay), Portage, and Prairie du Chien.
Most homes were of logs upright in the ground, and then
plastered with mud. Better homes were made of squared
off logs, or even hand sawn lumber. The French often
married Indian women, which they regarded as a
temporary affair, since they still planned to return to
France after they had attained the fabulous wealth they
hoped for. However, as it turned out, they often stayed
past the three year time limit on such "marriages", and

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