Local History Wisconsin – County History – City History


Histories of Wisconsin counties, cities and regions, free online. Includes Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Northern Wisconsin, Waukesha, Wisconsin Dells, and many more places.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

 

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Milwaukee

Madison

Northern Wisconsin

Other Areas of Wisconsin

 

Online County and Town Histories Website – Wisconsin

This website has links to numerous free online histories and biographical collections published in the late 19th and early 20th century. For Wisconsin there are 3 state-wide titles, two regional titles and about 75 titles for counties. .

Wisconsin County Histories (Collection)

Wisconsin Historical Society

There is a digitized volume at this site for each of the 72 counties in Wisconsin. Most are several hundred pages long and include detailed accounts of individual cities, townships and villages, as well as biographical stories of prominent residents. Most were published between 1850 and 1920.

Wisconsin; Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form

Peck, George W.
Madison: Western Historical Association 1906

While this is an encyclopedia rather than a history, many entries contain historical information of interest, and a large percentage of the entries are for Wisconsin locations. As a sample of the subject material found here, these are the first 20 entries for the letter ‘D’:

Dahle, Herman B.; Dairy and Food Commission; Dairying; Dairymen’s Association, Wisconsin; Dairy Union, Wisconsin; Dakota; Dale; Dallas; Damage Law, Civil; Dancy; Dane; Dane County; Danville; Darbellay; Darien; Darling, Mason C.; Darlington; Dartford. Dauphin, The Lost; Davidson, James H.

Turning Points in Wisconsin History: The Founding of Major Cities

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

Online articles from historical journals and newspapers, books, images, manuscripts, and maps about the 19th century establishment of Wisconsin cities.

 

Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Story: The Making of an American City

Austin, H. Russell
Milwaukee Journal 1948

This history appeared originally as a serial in the Milwaukee Journal to celebrate the centennial of the city and of statehood. Responding to popular demand, the Journal published it as a book. H. Russell Austin also authored a companion book of state history the same year; ‘The Wisconsin Story’, which can be found on the Wisconsin General History page of this website.

History of Milwaukee; City and County, Vol 1

Volume 2   Volume 3

Bruce, William George, ed.
Chicago: Clarke 1922

This 1922 local history is different in approach from the late-nineteenth century county histories that had established the genre. Earlier local histories were often narratives wrapped around the names and short biographies of pioneer settlers. In this case the history and biographies are in separate volumes, with Volume 1 containing the history and Volumes 2 and 3 containing only biographies.

Comparatively little of Volume 1 is devoted to the era before the Civil War. Also note that the chapters are more topical than chronological. The book contains a large number of photos and drawings.

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Wisconsin Economic History

Pioneer History of Milwaukee from the First American Settlement in 1833 to 1841, Vol 1

Volume 2   Volume 3   Volume 4

with a Topographical Description, as it appeared in a state of nature, illustrated, with a map

Buck, James S.
Milwaukee: Swain & Tate 1890

Volume 1 covers 1833 to 1841, and Volume 2 covers 1840 to 1846. Volume 3, entitled Milwaukee under the Charter, covers 1847 to 1853, and Volume 4, also entitled Milwaukee Under the Charter, covers 1854 to 1860. The story is arranged chronologically, often with all events for a particular year included in one chapter. The author, who was himself a very early settler in Milwaukee, employed the reminiscences of old settlers for much of this history.

The Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Representative Men of Chicago, Milwaukee and the World’s Columbian Exposition

Chicago: American Biographical Publishing Company 1892

The book has two parts, both together in one volume at this link.

Find 14 more subject pages of books and articles about Wisconsin at the History of the Great Lakes States Directory.

Milwaukee Illustrated: Its Trade, Commerce, Manufacturing Interests, and Advantages as a Residence City

Coleman, W. W.
Milwaukee: Coleman 1877

“By the late nineteenth century, Milwaukee was a major industrial center, with thousands of workers employed in tanneries, foundries, packing plants, and other manufactures. This book, produced by one of the city’s elite residents, W.W. Coleman, provides an overview of the city’s history and a tour of the neighborhoods, before launching into an extended, and somewhat opinionated, description of the major industries and commercial operations.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society, “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” website

History of Milwaukee County; from its first settlement to the year 1895. 3 vols

Conard, Howard Louis, ed.
Chicago: American Biographical 1895?

All 3 volumes are at the link.

The Emigrant’s Hand Book, and Guide to Wisconsin …

comprising information respecting agricultural and manufacturing employment, wages, climate, population &c; sketch of Milwaukee

Freeman, Samuel
Milwaukee : Sentinel and Gazette power press print, 1851

Samuel Freeman published this popular guide to Wisconsin in 1851. Though ostensibly covering the entire state, the book focuses primarily on the economic conditions and potential of Milwaukee.
– Summary from Wisconsin Historical Society site

Southeastern Wisconsin, a History of old Milwaukee County

Gregory, John G., ed.
Chicago: S. J. Clarke 1932

Four volumes; only volumes 3 and 4 are available online.

A Financial and Administrative History of Milwaukee

Larson, Laurence Marcellus
Madison: University of Wisconsin 1908

Chapter headings are:

-The Village of Milwaukee 1834-1845
-Milwaukee under the Charter of 1846. 1846-1851
-Ruinous Finance. A Bankrupt City, 1853-1860
-Readjustment. 1861-1870
-Building the Water Works, 1871-1888
-A Period of Large Undertakings, 1889-1904
-Bibliography
-Statistical Tables and Notes

“The Sectional Elements in the Early History of Milwaukee”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol I, 1907-08, 121-35

Larson, Laurence M.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

The author first describes the early development of Milwaukee from 1833 as essentially three separate and competing communities, then follows the political development of city government in Milwaukee and these three wards through about 1870.

Books and articles on The History of Wisconsin

History of Milwaukee County

Milwaukee Writers’ Project
Milwaukee Public Library 1947

 

“Reminiscences of Milwaukee in 1835-36”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 13, number 3. March 1930 pp 201-223

Olin, Nelson
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Olin and his brother made the journey in 1834 and 1835 up the Erie Canal and across the Great Lakes, by steamer and sail, from New York to Green Bay, where they found work building houses. Shortly after arriving they encountered a French Canadian named Juneau, in Green Bay on business, who invited them to Milwaukee where the pay was better. Although they had never heard of Milwaukee, which was in its earliest stage of growth, they accepted his offer and went on to Milwaukee. This is likely one of the earliest first-person accounts of Milwaukee, and is also a good sketch of Solomon Juneau, one of the city’s founders.

Memoirs of Milwaukee County: From the earliest historical times down to the present, Vol 1

Volume 2

including a genealogical and biographical record of representative families in Milwaukee County

Watrous, Jerome Anthony
Madison: Western Historical Association 1909

 

Madison

A History of Madison, the Capital of Wisconsin

including the Four lake country; to July, 1874, with an appendix of notes on Dane county and its towns

Durrie, Daniel S.
Madison: Atwood and Culver 1874

A fairly detailed history, with nearly 300 pages devoted to the period before the Civil War.

Collected Maps & Gazetteers for Historic Wisconsin

The Story of Madison

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Madison 1900

This is a brief popular history authored by the director of the Wisconsin Historical Society. It contains a number of photos of interest.

 

Northern Wisconsin

History of Northern Wisconsin, Containing an Account of its Settlement…

Growth, development, and resources; an extensive sketch of its counties, cities, towns and villages, their improvements, industries, manufactories; biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; views of county seats, etc.

Chicago: Western Historical 1881

In the Preface it is noted that the publisher had already produced individual histories of most Wisconsin agricultural counties, and decided to group the northern counties that were in lumber and mining districts into this single volume. Presumably this is because they were lightly populated and there would be few potential customers for the book in any given county.

As is normal with county histories of this era, the lion’s share of the book is made up of biographies and of lists of persons who were local elected officials or members of organizations. All biographies are found within the county histories. Unfortunately it lacks a name index.

Counties covered in this volume are: Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Green Lake, Juneau, Jackson, Kewaunee, Langlade, Lincoln, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Oconto, Outagamie, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Shawano, St. Croix, Sheboygan, Taylor, Trempealeau, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, Wood.

“Recollections of the Early History of Northern Wisconsin”

Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Vol 4 1859 197-221

Baird, Henry
Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society

This paper was originally delivered as an address by Baird before the Green Bay Lyceum, and covers from his arrival in 1824 in Green Bay into the early 1830s. Baird says that Green Bay was the only white settlement in northern Wisconsin in those early years.

Farewell to the Homeland: European Immigration to N.E. Wisconsin, 1840-1900

Hall, Sylvia
Brown County Historical Society 1984

Local history, prepared by the Brown County Historical Society (Green Bay), and appears to be mainly about that area. The chapters are footnoted, and these contain useful source references.

Contents: Why are these strangers in our midst? – The journey – The new homeland: northeastern Wisconsin – The Belgians – The Czechs – The Dutch – The Germans – The Irish – The jewish -The Polish – The Scandinavians – The Era of Sail on the Great Lakes

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Wisconsin

Historic Green Bay 1634-1840

Neville, Ella Hoes and Martin, Sarah Greene and Martin, Deborah Beaumont
Green Bay: the Authors 1893

This book is divided into eras, with multiple chapters addressing each era, as follows:

1634-1745
-Early Explorations -The Jesuits and Coureurs de Bois -Fort St. Francis and the Fox War

1745-1815
-Charles de Langlade, First Permanent Settler and Military Hero -“In Good Old Colony Days”

1815-1840
-Under the American Flag -A Transition Period -The Lost Dauphin -In Later Years -Growth under Territorial Government

 

Other Areas of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Dells

Bennett, H. H.
Milwaukee: Press of the Evening 1893

A tourist booklet of 24 pages, with a few photos.

Southeastern Wisconsin, a History of old Milwaukee County

Gregory, John G., ed.
Chicago: S. J. Clarke 1932

Four volumes; only volumes 3 and 4 are available online. Both those volumes are biography collections, and each has its own index of names at the end.

The History of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources

an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages – their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States

Chicago: Western Historical Society 1880

Portrait and Biographical Record of Waukesha County, Wisconsin

Containing biographical sketches and portraits of all the presidents of the United States and the governors of the state

Chicago: Excelsior 1894

Memoirs of Waukesha County, From the earliest historical times to the present with chapters on various subjects

including each of the different towns, and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families in the county, prepared from data obtained from original sources of information

Haight, Theron Wilber
Madison: Western Historical Association 1907

“Waukesha “The Saratoga of the West””

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 24, number 4, June 1941 pp 394-424

Krueger, Lillian
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin

“Author Lillian Krueger discusses the combined exploits of Colonel Richard Dunbar and millionaire Matthew Laflin in building up the town of Waukesha. Col. Dunbar, a diabetic, had arrived in Waukesha in 1868 and claimed that the spring water of the area had miraculous medicinal qualities. Organizing the Bethesda Mineral Spring Company on a plot that came to be known as Bethesda Park, Dunbar’s company became a social rallying point for the town, drawing thousands of visitors from around the world and even initiating an annual celebration, ‘Bethesda Day.’ The success caused other companies and towns to make similar claims about local mineral springs and spas. Laflin, a rheumatic from Chicago, along with Thomas B. Bryan, another Chicago millionaire, erected the famous Fountain Spring House in 1874 in Waukesha to accommodate the crowds. A devastating fire destroyed the building in 1878, but it was rebuilt, enlarged and open again to the public by 1879. Guests included notable socialites, politicians, and even Mary Todd Lincoln.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society

See our page of selected online magazine and newspaper articles on American History until about 1800

Pioneer Life in Kenosha County; A Sketch (Read at the Centennial at Kenosha, July 4, 1876)

Simmons, H. M.

This was initially a Centennial Address read at Kenosha on Independence Day, 1876. The first settlers in the county located along a heavily-used trail from Chicago to Milwaukee in 1835, shortly after the region was received by the U.S. in a treaty following the Black Hawk War. This address provides details on early settlers, their relations with Indians, early development of shops, farms, churches, villages etc.

The Rock River Valley. Its History, Traditions, Legends and Charms, Vol 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Way, Royal Brunson
Chicago: Clarke 1926

Covering Jefferson, Dodge, Dane and Rock Counties in Wisconsin; and Winnebago, Stephenson, Boone, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Henry and Rock Island Counties in Illinois. The editor was a Professor of History and Political Science at Beloit College. Volume 1 has all the history. Volumes 2 and 3 are entirely biographical, and each has an index at the end for individuals profiled in that volume. Many photos.

Of nearly 250 webpages of books and other resources at Century Past History,

over 90 pages are in the group History of the Great Lakes States.

 

 

 

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