History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

The History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions is contained in the many free eBooks and other online resources below. See the right column for more info about this website.

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Northern Wisconsin

Other Areas of Wisconsin

Online County and Town Histories Website – Wisconsin

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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. .

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Wisconsin history, county history, biography, genealogy, family history, state history, online library, history website

Wisconsin County Histories (Collection)

Wisconsin Historical Society
Go to Website

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 counties that have histories or biographical histories in this collection include:

Adams County, Ashland County, Barron County, Bayfield County, Brown County, Buffalo County, Burnett County, Calumet County, Chippewa County, Clark County, Columbia County, Crawford County, Dane County, Dodge County, Door County, Douglas County, Dunn County, Eau Claire County, Florence County, Fond du Lac County, Forest County, Grant County, Green County, Green Lake County, Iowa County, Iron County, Jackson County, Jefferson County, Juneau County, Kenosha County, Kewaunee County, La Crosse County, Lafayette County, Langlade County, Lincoln County, Manitowoc County, Marathon County, Marinette County, Marquette County, Menominee County, Milwaukee County, Monroe County, Oconto County, Oneida County, Outagamie County, Ozaukee County, Pepin County, Pierce County, Polk County, Portage County, Price County, Racine County, Richland County, Rock County, Rusk County, Sauk County, Sawyer County, Shawano County, Sheboygan County, St. Croix County, Taylor County, Trempealeau County, Vernon County, Vilas County, Walworth County, Washburn County, Washington County, Waukesha County, Waupaca County, Waushara County, Winnebago County, Wood County.

county history, Wisconsin cities, Wisconsin villages, biography, genealogy, family history, portraits, free online library

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

Madison: Western Historical Association 1906
Peck, George W. Go to Book

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.

Wisconsin history, history reference book, encyclopedia of Wisconsin, books online

Turning Points in Wisconsin History: The Founding of Major Cities

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

Wisconsin cities, historical journals, newspaper articles, manuscripts, maps, online collection, history website, Wisconsin Historical Society


History of Milwaukee; City and County

Chicago: Clarke 1922
Bruce, William George, ed.Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

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.

Milwaukee history, Milwaukee county WI, public domain, biography, free online books

History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

Pioneer History of Milwaukee from the First American Settlement in 1833 to 1841…

Milwaukee: Swain & Tate 1890
Buck, James S.Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3|Go to Vol 4

(title continued) “with a Topographical Description, as it appeared in a state of nature, illustrated, with a map”

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.

Milwaukee Wisconsin history, nineteenth century, reminiscences, pioneers, frontier, American history, books free

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

Chicago: American Biographical Publishing Company 1892
Go to Book

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

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

Milwaukee: Coleman 1877
Coleman, W. W.Go to Book

“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 Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

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

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

All 3 volumes are at the link.

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

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

(title continued) “comprising information respecting agricultural and manufacturing employment, wages, climate, population &c; sketch of Milwaukee”

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

Settlers’ guide, Wisconsin history, Milwaukee WI, pioneers, history, economic history, 19th century, 1800s, books online free

Southeastern Wisconsin, a History of old Milwaukee County

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

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

A Financial and Administrative History of Milwaukee

Madison: University of Wisconsin 1908
Larson, Laurence MarcellusGo to Book

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
-Statistical Tables and Notes

Milwaukee history, city government, economic data, city administration, online book

“The Sectional Elements in the Early History of Milwaukee”

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

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

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.

History of Milwaukee County

Milwaukee Public Library 1947
Milwaukee Writers’ Project Go to Book

“Reminiscences of Milwaukee in 1835-36”

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

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Olin, NelsonGo to Article

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.

Founding of Milwaukee, reminiscences, 1835, 1836, 19th century, Solomon Juneau, free history journal, free online library

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

Madison: Western Historical Association 1909
Watrous, Jerome AnthonyGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) ” … including a genealogical and biographical record of representative families in Milwaukee County”


A History of Madison, the Capital of Wisconsin

Madison: Atwood and Culver 1874
Durrie, Daniel S.Go to Book

(title continued) “including the Four lake country; to July, 1874, with an appendix of notes on Dane county and its towns”

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

Madison WI, Dane county Wisconsin history, books online, online library

History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

The Story of Madison

Madison 1900
Thwaites, Reuben GoldGo to Book

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

Madison Wisconsin history, historical photos, American history, free ebooks

Northern Wisconsin

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

Chicago: Western Historical 1881
Go to Book

(title continued) ” 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.”

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.

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

Wisconsin history, northern Wisconsin, local history, biography, portraits, online books free

“Recollections of the Early History of Northern Wisconsin”

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

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society
Baird, HenryGo to Article

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.

history paper, personal account, Green Bay WI, Brown county WI, 19th century, 1800s, history journal online

Historic Green Bay 1634-1840

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

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

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

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

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


Green Bay history, New France, Fort St. Francis, Charles de Langlade, Northwest Territory, Fur trade, trading post, ebooks free

Other Areas of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Dells

Milwaukee: Press of the Evening 1893
Bennett, H. H.Go to Book

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

historical ephemera, history of Wisconsin, public domain, free ebooks

Southeastern Wisconsin, a History of old Milwaukee County

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

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

Chicago: Western Historical Society 1880
Go to Book

(title continued) ” … 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”

Portrait and Biographical Record of Waukesha County, Wisconsin

Chicago: Excelsior 1894
Go to Book

(title continued) ” … Containing biographical sketches and portraits of all the presidents of the United States and the governors of the state”

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

Madison: Western Historical Association 1907
Haight, Theron Wilber Go to Book

(title continued) ” … 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 “

“Waukesha “The Saratoga of the West””

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

Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Krueger, LillianGo to Article

“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

History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

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

Simmons, H. M.Go to Book

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.

History of Kenosha county Wisconsin, Kenosha pioneers, Wisconsin frontier, online book

History of Wisconsin Cities, Counties & Regions

The Rock River Valley. Its History, Traditions, Legends and Charms (3 vols)

Chicago: Clarke 1926
Way, Royal BrunsonGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

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.

Wisconsin history, Wisconsin biographies

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