Explorers and Travelers in Wisconsin History


The works below are accounts by or about explorers and travelers in Wisconsin history. See the right column for more info about this website.



A Merry Briton in Pioneer Wisconsin; a contemporary narrative reprinted from Life in the West …

Madison: State Historical Society 1950
Go to Book

(title continued) “…: back-wood leaves and prairie flowers: rough sketches on the borders of the picturesque, the sublime, and ridiculous. Extracts from the note book of Morleigh in search of an estate, published in London in the year 1842”

This volume is the last five chapters of a longer travel account, Life in The West: Back-wood Leaves and Prairie Flowers: Rough Sketches on the Borders of the Picturesque, the Sublime, and Ridiculous. Extracts from the Notebooks of Morleigh in Search of an Estate (1842). The portion reprinted here describes the pseudonymous Morleigh’s travels through the Wisconsin Territory, commencing at Racine and including Janesville, Madison, Mackinac, Whitewater, Mineral Point, Prairieville, Milwaukee, the Green Bay vicinity, and the Wolf River, in the summer of 1841. The tone is light and anecdotal. The author describes the consequences of land speculation and takes an interest in the experiences of several of the ethnic groups then immigrating into the territory. He also describes the plants and animals of the countryside. He observes Wisconsin’s social life at the taverns, inns, and depots where a traveler was likely to pass the time, and finds the region to be politically lively and filled with partisan factions. Native Americans extend their hospitality to him, and he attends a gathering of Menominee assembled to collect federal annuities.
– Summary from the American Memory website

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

“Geographical, Geological and Statistical Chart of Wisconsin and Iowa: designed especially for the use of Emigrants and Travellers …

Philadelphia: 1838
Abel, Henry J.
Go to Article

(title continued) “…and as a Document of Reference for the citizens of those Territories; as well as for those who may feel interested in the prosperity of this new but rapidly improving portion of the “Great West””

Printed as a large one-sheet chart, this is packed with information and advice for people considering moving to Wisconsin or Iowa. It also contains a number of stories that are meant to be illustrative of life there, but seem overly optimistic. Here’s an example: “It is customary in Wisconsin, when an emigrant arrives in a settlement, that his neighbors assist him in building a house, (“which can be done in less than three days”) without any charge whatever. The way they do business here may be seen from the following [newspaper article]: “Not long since a young man reached a settlement on Monday, surveyed his ground on Tuesday, built a house on Wednesday, got married on Friday, moved home on Saturday, and with his wife, like the rest of the settlers, went to meeting on Sunday.”

For several early-19th century descriptions of the Great Lakes states and adjoining areas, see: Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
;
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

The Emigrant’s Instructer on Wisconsin and the Western States of America

British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund, 1844
British Temperance Emigration Society and Saving Fund Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Description of the Wisconsin Territory and some of the states and territories adjoining to it, in the western parts of the United States of America”


Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 …

London: Dilly 1781
Carver, JonathanGo to Book

(title continued) “By J. Carver, Esq. Captain of a Company of Provincial Troops During the Late War with France”

Jonathan Carver served as a member of Rogers’ Rangers and as a Captain in a Massachusetts regiment during the French and Indian War, and also studied surveying and mapping. In the 1760s he wanted to explore the new territory acquired by the British in that war, finally finding a sponsor in Robert Rogers, who had recently been appointed commander at Fort Michilimackinac. The Carver expedition’s objective would be to find a northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean.

Carver departed Fort Michilimackinac in 1766 for Green Bay, where he resupplied and headed west. The expedition explored the upper Mississippi and parts of Minnesota and Iowa before returning to Fort Michilimackinac in August 1767, where Carver found that his sponsor, Major Rogers, had been arrested for treason. Part of this book was probably written at Fort Michilimackinac that winter.

See the Wikipedia entry on Jonathan Carver for more about his later personal story, which is not in Carver’s book, and later claims by historians that parts of this book were plagiarized. One article about the issue is on this web page; “The Mission of Jonathan Carver” by Louise Phelps Kellogg. Also see Carver’s map of Wisconsin and the upper Mississippi region on this website, at the Wisconsin Maps and Gazetteers page.

Explorers and travelers in Wisconsin history

Kilbourn and the Dells of the Wisconsin

Chicago: Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company 1909
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway CompanyGo to Book

Contains numerous large colorized photos.

Scenes of Pioneer Life in the Northern Wisconsin along the Line of the Wisconsin Central Railroad

Evening Wisconsin Co., 1896?]
Go to Book

Photos, with captions.

“Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s Mississippi Voyage, 1805-1806”

Wisconsin Magazine of History Vol 32, No. 4, June 1949, 445-455

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Hollon, W. E.Go to Article

“After briefly reviewing the career of Pike (1779-1813), this article describes at length his travels through the upper Mississippi River to intercept English fur traders from Canada working illegally on American soil. Pike headed north in August 1805, wintered upriver from Minneapolis, and returned to St. Louis in April 1806, describing Prairie du Chien and other Wisconsin locations en route.”
– Wisconsin Magazine of History

A Souvenir of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Iron Mountain, MI: Stiles 1903
Martin, Deborah B. Go to Book

A concise history of the city at the beginning, with the remainder of the booklet being photos of the city and area.

“Father Allouez’s Journey into Wisconsin, 1669-70”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

NY: Scribner. 1917.
Kellogg, Louise P., ed.Go to Article

This is a portion of the journal of Jesuit priest Jean Claude Allouez (1620 – 1689), when he was sent from Sault Ste. Marie in November 1669 by the Bishop of Quebec to open missions in the upper Great Lakes. He canoed from the head of Lake Huron into upper Lake Michigan. Canoeing barefoot and covered with ice, his party followed the southern coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into Green Bay. He celebrated mass with bands of Indians camped at the Oconto River, then traveled to spend the rest of the winter among the Potawotamie east of the Fox River on Green Bay.
-excerpt from the American Journeys website

“Last Voyage of Jacques Marquette 1674-1675”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

NY: Scribner. 1917.
Kellogg, Louise P., ed.Go to Article

This is a translation of the portion of the journal of Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) covering his final voyage until his death near present-day Ludington, Michigan. There is also an account of his death and subsequent events.

Also see:
– Thwaites, Reuben Gold, Father Marquette in Century Past Biographies: M, N & O
;

Verwyst, Chrysostom, Missionary Labors of Fathers Marquette, Menard and Allouez, in the Lake Superior Region in Wisconsin Religious History

“The Mission of Jonathan Carver”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 12, number 2, December 1928 pp 127-145

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Kellogg, Louise PhelpsGo to Article

Kellogg weighs in on a debate among historians about whether Jonathan Carver actually explored Wisconsin in the 1760s as per his account and if so, the purpose of the trip. See Travels through the Interior Parts of North America (etc.) by Jonathan Carver, on this web page.

Explorers and travelers in Wisconsin history

“The Mississippi Voyage of Jolliet and Marquette 1673”

Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

NY: Scribner. 1917
Kellogg, Louise P., ed.Go to Article

Count de Frontenac arrived in New France in 1672 as vice-regent, and had grand imperial ambitions for the undiscovered parts of North America. There had been rumors in New France for many years of a great river west of the Great Lakes, and it is likely that it had been crossed in its upper reaches by one or two early explorers. In 1673 the Count selected experienced explorer Louis Jolliet to make a voyage of discovery to the Mississippi River. A priest normally accompanied such undertakings, and Jacques Marquette, then at his mission among the Indians at St. Ignace, was chosen for the honor.

Near the end of the voyage the journal of Louis Jolliet was lost. This report by Father Marquette, composed after the trip, is the only record we have of the historic voyage down the Mississippi River.

“Milwaukee to St. Paul in 1855”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Volume 11, number 2, December 1927 pp 169- 189

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
King, Rufus (General)Go to Article

A travelogue by the prominent Milwaukee resident General Rufus King. As of 1855 it was still relatively rare and difficult for Milwaukee residents to journey across the state to St. Paul, since no railroad had yet been built on the route. General King provided them this account of his own trip.

Narratives of Early Wisconsin Travellers, Prior to 1800

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin 1906
Legler, Henry EduardGo to Book

A reprint of a 35-page article from a Historical Society journal. The article mostly covers French travelers in the 17th century.

Explorers and travelers in Wisconsin history

“Notes on Early Wisconsin Exploration, Forts and Trading Posts”

Collections of State Historical Society Vol X 1883-85 pp 292-306

Madison: State Historical Society
Neill, Edward D.Go to Article

The author provides details of a number of French explorations within Wisconsin in the 1600s and early 1700s, and efforts to establish trading posts.

See also on this site: Winsor, Justin, Cartier to Frontenac; Geographical Discovery in the Interior of North America in its Historical Relations 1534-1700 in Section 973.1 on General U.S. History & Early U.S. History to 1607

Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State

NY: Duell, Sloan & Pierce 1941
Pappas, Douglas and the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Wisconsin Go to Book

This is a 20th century guidebook; a team effort sponsored by the Work Projects Administration in the 1930s. It contains a description of the state as well as numerous brief histories of towns and locales. This description is from the book’s Preface:

“The book is divided into three parts. The first of these is a series of essays, most of them historical in nature, intended to paint in large strokes the State’s development and to furnish a background against which the detailed information that follows may become more intelligible. The second section describes the State’s nine largest cities. Here the histories of the cities are briefly sketched and their points of interest described for the traveller who wishes to look about him. The third section is a series of selected tours covering the main highways.”

Wisconsin Tour and Hand Book

Appleton: Wisconsin Division, League of American Wheelmen 1897
Ryan, Sam J., comp.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … including lists of local consuls, League hotels with rates, repair shops, bicycle clubs, road maps, bicycles as baggage, guide boards, rights and privileges, bicycle insurance, promotion of touring, etc. etc.”

“This 135-page pamphlet published in 1897 was designed to be carried by bicyclists as they explored the state. It describes routes and prints road maps, displays advertisements, and lists locations of hotels, repair shops, and bicycle clubs. It also discusses bicycles as baggage on trains, the rights and privileges of cyclists, bicycle insurance, promotion of touring, and related issues.”
– Wisconsin Historical Society

“Journal of William Rudolph Smith”

The Wisconsin Magazine of History Part 1: Volume 12, number 2, December 1928 pp 192-220;
Part 2: Volume 12, number 3, March 1929 pp 300-321

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Smith, William RudolphGo to Part 1|Go to Part 2

Fine account by Smith of a journey in 1837. The first part is a trip by steamboat from Pittsburg on the Ohio River to the Mississippi, then up the Mississippi to Wisconsin. Much of the second part covers his stay in Prairie du Chien and that vicinity.

For memoirs and biographies of life on the frontier in the Old Northwest, see:
Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
;
Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History

Down Historic Waterways: Six Hundred Miles of Canoeing down the Rock, Fox, and Wisconsin Rivers

Chicago: McClurg 1902
Thwaites, Reuben GoldGo to Book

Thwaites was the Secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and a prolific historian.

“This book is composed of accounts or descriptions of three summer vacation tours on the rivers named, made by canoe. To keen enjoyment of this sort of an outing, the author adds a faculty for observation and a wealth of local historical information that helps to make him what he is in his own field, easily the first historical specialist of the time. The accounts are written in a clear, pleasant style that combines qualities of the diary, the personal letter, natural description, and historical narrative.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

For historic maps of the Great Lakes region and states, see:
Great Lakes Maps, Atlases & Map Collections
;
Ohio Maps, Atlases & Map Collections;
Indiana Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Illinois Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers;
Wisconsin Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Explorers and travelers in Wisconsin history

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791

Cleveland: Burrows 1898
Thwaites, Reuben G., ed. Go to Book

Up to 30 volumes of this 71-volume collection are said to contain information about Jesuit activities in Wisconsin.

You can find more works like these at our other ‘Explorers and Travelers’ pages. Check ‘Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History’ for more material covering Wisconsin.

Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History

Explorers and Travelers in Illinois History

Explorers and Travelers in Indiana History

Explorers and Travelers in Ohio History

Explorers and Travelers in Michigan History


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