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Native American City Names in Wisconsin and Towns with French Origins

Updated on January 31, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul spent the 1950s living in a suburb of Milwaukee and also on a small dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.

Nicolet Depicted in a 1910 Painting by Frank Rohrbeck

Nicolet was probably the first European to explore Wisconsin
Nicolet was probably the first European to explore Wisconsin | Source

Native American and French Influence in Wisconsin

There are many Wisconsin cities and towns with Indian names and French origins. By examining the meaning of these names, one can gain an insight into the history of a great state where I was born and grew up.

Highway and Regional Map of Wisconsin

Source

Wisconsin Geography

Wisconsin is located in the north central part of the continental United States. It is bordered to the south by the state of Illinois, and to the west by the states of Iowa and Minnesota. To the north lie Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, while to the east is Lake Michigan. Wisconsin is truly an outdoor sportsman's paradise with its great number of forests, rivers, and lakes. Known as America's dairy land, it has countless dairy farms in the eastern and central part of the state. Hills and small mountains are also found in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the state.

Wisconsin Town Names

Wisconsin History

Most visitors and inhabitants of Wisconsin get their first taste of Wisconsin's early history when they visit the many casinos which are located on Native American (Indian) reservations. According to Wikipedia, Native Americans have inhabited Wisconsin since 10,000 B.C. Permanent settlements started forming in 500 B.C. when farming was established. When the first Europeans arrived in Wisconsin, the most important Indian tribes were the Ojibwa, Ho-chunk, and Menominee.

In 1634 the French led by Jacques Nicolet landed at Green Bay after traversing Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan. After establishing a fur trading post at Green Bay, Nicolet led a portage from the Fox River to the Wisconsin River. At that time the French were searching for a route to China.

In 1763 the British took over control of Wisconsin following France's defeat in the French and Indian War. In 1787 following American independence from Great Britain, Wisconsin became part of the Northwest Territory; however, America didn't control Wisconsin until the British were finally defeated in the War of 1812.

From the 1840s through the 1860s Wisconsin was settled by immigrants from New England, New York, and Germany. After Wisconsin became a state on May 29, 1848, settlers from England and other places in America came to southwestern Wisconsin to engage in lead mining. Finally, during the last half of the 19th century, settlers from other European countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, and Sweden also arrived in Wisconsin.


Exploring Origins of People in Wisconsin

Native American Tribes in Wisconsin

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Native American City Names in Wisconsin

The name of the state itself, Wisconsin, and many towns and cities have Native American origins. A listing of the state's more notable locations with Native American origins is as follows:

1. Wisconsin: This is anglicized from the French "Ouisconsin" which is a corruption of the Ojibwe (Algonquin) "Meskonsing." It is the name for the Wisconsin River.

2. Milwaukee: According to the website Milwaukee.org, the name for the city of Milwaukee originated from the Algonquin word "Millioki" which means "gathering place by the water." This could refer to the Indians' used area for tribal gatherings, or because the three rivers Menominee, Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee met there before flowing into Lake Michigan.

3. Oshkosh: This small city in east central Wisconsin was named after Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee tribe.

4. Wausau: It is a small city in central Wisconsin named after the Chippewa (Algonquin) word which means "far away."

5. Sheboygan: This small city in east central Wisconsin is the Algonquin word for the Sheboygan River. It means "thundering under the ground."

6. Neenah: this small city in east central Wisconsin is a Winnebago word and it means "running water."

7. Menasha: It is a small city in east central Wisconsin named after the Menominee word meaning "thorn in the island."

8. Mukwonago: This is a small town in southeastern Wisconsin where I attended elementary school. It is a Potowatomi word which means "a ladle or a bend in the stream."

9. Oconomowoc: This is a small town in southeastern Wisconsin. It is a Potowatomi word which means "water fall" in the vicinity.

10. Manitowoc: It is a small city in east central Wisconsin, and it is an Ojibwa word which means "place of the good spirit."

11. Menominee: This is a small town in northeastern Wisconsin. It is Menominee word (Algonquin) word which means "wild rice people."

12. Ozaukee: This is a county in east central Wisconsin. It is a Chippewa form of the tribal name of the Sauk people. It means "people living at the mouth of the river."

13. Waukesha: This small city and county is in southeastern Wisconsin. It is a Chippewa word meaning "little fox."

14. Waupun: this small town is in central Wisconsin. Its name comes from an unknown Indian tribe, and the word means "day break or dawn."

All of this reference material was taken from Wikipedia and the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

Cities and Towns with French Origins

Some names of significant towns and cities in Wisconsin with French origins are as follow:

1. Eau Claire: This city is in northwestern Wisconsin. It means "clear water."

2. Fon du Lac: This is a small city in east central Wisconsin. It means "bottom of the lake" and is located at the foot of Lake Winnebago.

3. Green Bay: Home of the Packers, this small city is in northeastern Wisconsin. It is anglicized from the French "baie verte."

4. La Crosse: This small city is in southwestern Wisconsin. it means "the rozier" - a bishop's crozier.

5. Prairie du Chien: This is a small city in southwestern Wisconsin. It means "dog prairie."

6. Prairie du Sac: This village is in south central Wisconsin. It means "prairie of the Sac Indian tribe."

7. Racine: This is a city in southeastern Wisconsin. It means "root" after the Root River.

8. De Pere: This is a small town in northeastern Wisconsin. It comes from "les rapides des peres" which means "the rapids of the fathers."

9. Calumet County: This is French for "the Menominee peace pipe."

10. Trempealeau River: it is in southwestern Wisconsin running from La Crosse to Eau Claire. It means "plunge into the water."

11. Portage: This is a very small town in central Wisconsin. it means a "carrying place."

All of this information was taken from Wikipedia and the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

Other Origins of Towns and Cities in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin there are numerous locations of English origin with the state capital, Madison, being a prime example. Madison was named after the fourth president of the United States, James Madison. There are also locations of Polish origin such as Pulaski, named after Count Casimir Pulaski who was a mercenary fighting for the American colonists during the Revolutionary War.

There are many other towns and villages in Wisconsin which have Native American and French origins. I have pointed out only a few which I consider significant, and I encourage you to visit Wisconsin to learn more about its early history.


© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      lyricwriter,

      I'm very happy you liked this hub and learned something about Native American names. Thanks for your great evaluation of this hub. I also appreciate your votes and sharing on FB.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Mary,

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. A lot of people really aren't aware of the legacies of the many tribes of native Americans in the United States. I appreciate your great evaluation of this hub, and also thank you for your votes.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      moonlake,

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. I'm happy you enjoyed it and really appreciate you sharing, pinning, and tweeting this hub!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Paul, great article. I was never aware of these Native American names and I always enjoy learning new things. Voting up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared on FB. Well done, best wishes.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Fun to read Paul. We have so many things and names of Indian origin and kind of take them for granted. My husband lived his childhood in a small hamlet called Binnewater....Indian meaning... many waters.

      This was a great subject and you more than did it justice!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      How interesting about the Native American names. I enjoyed this hub and will share it, pin, G+ and tweet. Also voted up.

    • Marc Rohde profile image

      Marc Rohde 4 years ago from Racine, WI

      I relocated for work and will hopefully be relocating back soon. I am working in a maquiladora in Matamoros, Mexico. Not quite an expat but very close. :)

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Marc, Thanks for reading my article and I appreciate your comments. Why did you move to Texas?

    • Marc Rohde profile image

      Marc Rohde 4 years ago from Racine, WI

      Great hub! I'm from Sheboygan and never new the origin.

      Regarding the statehood, and easy way to remember it is "Wisconsin! Out drinking your state since 1848!"

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Haylee,

      Wisconsin was originally a part of the Northwest Territory. It became a state in 1848, I believe. Thanks for reading my hub.

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      Haylee 5 years ago

      what is Wisconsin statehood origin

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for the comment, dahoglund. I have always been fascinated by the names of cities and towns in Wisconsin. Hopefully, I'll have time to write more about this topic in the future.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I live in Wisconsin and grew up in Minnesota. I enjoyed your hub about about the names of towns in Wisconsin.