Brown County History - 1700 to 1800

1812 - War, British take Mackinaw, Green Bay, Prairie Du Chien:

Soon after the declaration of War against Britain in 1812, Colonel Robert Dickinson, an English Trader at Prairie Du Chien and Indian Agent, collected a considerable body of Indians at Green Bay for the purpose off rendering assistance to the British forces in their operations on the Great Lakes.  After the taking of Mackinaw by the British, Colonel McKay, of the British Army proceeded west to Green Bay, and passing up the Fox River and down the Wisconsin captured the fort at Prairie Du Chien.  In 1815, a United States trading post was established at Green Bay, and Colonel John Boyer was appointed Indian agent.  

1816 - Fort Howard Erected:

On July 16th, 1816, Colonel John Miller with U.S. Troops, commenced the erection of a new fort - Fort Howard at Green Bay.  They came up the bay in three schooners, entering the Fox River under the American flag, displaying ti the astonished inhabitants of Green Bay their decks covered with United States uniforms.  The schooners carried three to four companies of troops to garrison the fort.  Upon their arrival they met with Tomah, the chief of the Menominee Indians, whose village was on the west side of the river. Colonel Miller requested permission to build a fort, and his request was immediately granted, but in return the chief asked that his French brothers not be molested.  The troop rendezvous was four to five miles from the rivers mouth on the eastern shore and was named "Camp Smith."   The extent of the French settlement at this time was limited to forty French Canadians who were cultivating the soil; but the settlement was a promising one. In 1816,  Green Bay and Prairie Du Chien where the only settlements in what is now the State of Wisconsin, exception for a trading house at Milwaukee, later owned by Solomon Juneau. Green Bay at this time was a part of the Indiana Territory, whose seat of government was Vincennes - four or five hundred miles distant.

1818 - Brown County Formed:

In 1818 Illinois became a State, and the area became part of the Michigan Territory.  On October 26th, 1818 Brown County was formed by the Governor of the Territory of Michigan - Lewis Cass, who named it after General Jacob Brown of the U.S. Army.

1819 - Brown County Census:

A census of the Indians taken in 1819 showed that there were 4800 in the Green Bay Agency.  Governor Cass visiting the western posts arrived at Green Bay to find over sixty dwellings and five hundred inhabitants.  The fort  (Fort Howard) consisted of log barracks facing three sides of a square parade ground, surrounded by a stockade of timber thirty feet high, whitewashed, and garrisoned by three hundred men, under Captain William Whistler.  Also stationed three miles above Fort Howard were three hundred infantry. The boundaries of  Brown County at this time stretched over the entire eastern shore of Wisconsin, to the east to lake Michigan, to the south as far as the Illinois line, and as far west as the Wisconsin River and Fort Winnebago.

1823 - First Road:

In 1823 the first road was constructed in Brown County, laid out from Devil Creek to the rapids at Depere.  It followed the river under the bluff below what is now Green Bay.

1830 - Census shows 1500 inhabitants:

The Federal census of Brown County (see WiGenWeb Page) shows 1500 inhabitants in the county.

1836 - Wisconsin Territory formed:

Formed by an act of the Michigan Legislature, the Wisconsin Territory was organized on January 1, 1836.  At the time that Wisconsin became a Territory, Brown County lost that portion of her original possession north of the Menominee River and gained the remainder of the eastern peninsula. By Territorial Act on December 7th, 1836, Portage, Marquette, Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and portions of Washington and Dodge Counties were set off.

1837 - Depere becomes the county seat:

By popular vote in 1837, Depere was selected as the Brown County Seat, and the log county courthouse  was moved from Menominee-ville to Depere via the frozen Fox River.

1838 - Green Bay and Howard Townships are formed:

Two years after the organization of Brown County, the townships of Green Bay and Howard where formed. Green Bay consisted of ninety-eight square miles, from which the towns of Preble, Humboldt and Scott were cut off in 1858.

1840 - Fire consumes Green Bay's Business Center:

In 1840, fire dealt a crushing blow to the the town of Green Bay, when much of its business property was destroyed.

1849 - Pittsville and Bellevue Townships formed: 

On November 17th, 1849, the town of Pittsville, one of the largest in the county was organized. Also organized was the town of Bellevue, containing 9200 acres of land, it nationality principally Belgian. The town contained two school-houses and three saw mills.

1850 - Scott Township formed:

The town of Scott was organized on April 1st, 1850.  

1854 - Green Bay incorporates and becomes the County Seat:

By the legislative enactment of February 27th, 1854 Green Bay was incorporated as a city, and on April 4th a popular vote transferred the county seat from Depere. However, for a dozen years until the erection of a new court-house, the old building in Depere was used as the county jail.

1855 - New Denmark Township formed:

 New Denmark was set off from Depere in 1855.  The majority of its population was Danish.  The name was later changed to Denmark.

1856 - Rockland and Glenmore Townships formed:

Rockland was set off from the town of Depere in 1856. The town of Glenmore was also organized from the town of Depere.  Glenmore was predominately Irish while Rockland was principally settled by Irish and German Immigrants .

1861 - The Civil War:

When the war broke out, Brown County was caught up in the general enthusiasm and  determination of the country.  In April of 1861, relief committees to provide for unprotected families of soldiers were organized.  During April, the Green Bay City Guards were formed, principally be the efforts of Fred S. Ellis a member of the Assembly and offered to the State for service.  In the following month, in pursuance of the general order issued by the War Department, authorized recruiting from the ranks of the German population, Company H, was raised in Green Bay.  The towns of Depere and Suamico raised the Green Bay Union Guards. In September, 1861 after a rousing war meeting, twenty volunteers stepped forward and formed the nucleus of the Depere company, known as the Brown County Rifles. They went into service at Fond du Lac sixty-four strong.  Many of these companies became part of the "Marching Twelfth" and saw action in Kansas attached to the Seventh Army Corps, Tennessee, joined Grants Army and were in the trenches at Vicksburg.  In March of 1863, the passage of the draft act caused widespread consternation.  Wisconsin was divided into six districts, Green Bay  becoming the headquarters of the fifth.

1862 - The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad:

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad opened the road to Green Bay on November 13th, 1862 After an agreement  on January 30th, and the passage by popular vote of a bond issue in exchange for $49,500 of its stock.

1871 - The Great Peshtigo Fire: 

On October 8th, 1871 a great fire engulfed the shores of Green Bay, and swept far into the interior of the State to the west.  Brown County escaped the brunt of this conflagration, but remembers with particular horror the suffering it caused.  Green Bay acted as the relief center after the fire.  Several times flames leapt into the limits of Green Bay and Fort Howard from the great body which encompassed them.  Smoke and ashes rolled through the streets, and live cinders darted past the Deperes, five miles to the south.  Wrightstown further to the south was touched, and fire swept through the towns of Glenmore, Rockland, Depere, Bellevue, Preble, Easton, Humboldt and Green Bay.  

1874 - The Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul Railroad:

The road between Green Bay and St. Paul Minnesota (194 miles) was completed and first used on January 7th, 1874.  

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Last updated: January 5th, 1997