These web s were prepared by the staff of the Appleton Public Library, based on a pamphlet created by Library staff in entitled "A History of the Founding of Appleton. No attempt was made to furnish a comprehensive history of the City of Appleton. Instead, this work was meant to provide a summary of the best currently available information, and to highlight the resources maintained at the Library.
The earliest known residents of Wisconsin were the Menominee Indians, who settled along the western shore of Green Bay. According to their ancient lore, the Menominee date a native Appleton WI man from a great bear and other spiritual beings at the mouth of the Menominee River, and took their name from the wild rice that served as a main part of their diet Menominee means "wild rice eater".
Archeological evidence suggests that the Menominee are actually part of the Algonquin speaking Indians of what is now northern New York, and that they had been chased into Wisconsin by the Iroquois hundreds of years before Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere. The closest Indian settlement to what is now Appleton is believed to have been a village of the Winnebago Tribe, located on Doty Island, between Menasha and Neenah. Some historians say that the Winnebago are part of the Sioux nation, from the eastern part of the United States where Virginia and the Carolinas are todaybut the evidence remains inconclusive.
Like the Menominee and Winnebago, they may have been driven from their original homelands by the Iroquois. Despite the wide extremes of weather, northeastern Wisconsin was an inviting place, covered by thick forests, fertile soil, lakes and streams for fresh water, rivers for easy travel, and abundant wildlife for food. The Indians had no way of knowing that, by the early s, their land had been claimed for the French king and that it was considered, with Canada, to be a part of New France.
The first European to see Wisconsin was Jean Nicoleta prominent French explorer who had passed many years living among the Indians of Quebec, learning the language and gaining their trust. InSamuel de Champlain, the Governor of New France, sent Nicolet west on a journey to explore the great interior, and to accomplish two important tasks.
The first task was to stop the warfare between the Ottawa and Winnebago tribes, which was hurting the valuable fur trade between the French and the Indians. The second task for Nicolet was to find a water route through the North American continent to the Orient. According to the records of the Catholic Jesuit missionaries, Nicolet and his seven companions traveled from Quebec via Lake Huron, through the straits of Mackinac into Lake Michigan.
Stopping at the shores of what is now Green Bay, Nicolet expected to encounter Chinese or other Orientals, and donned a Chinese damask robe to greet them. But instead of Orientals in elaborate costumes, Nicolet and his crew were met by a small group of Menominee Indians. Believing that Nicolet was a son of the gods, the Menominee celebrated with a great feast in his honor. They told him about their own lands, and of a great body of water that lay farther to the west.
Hoping that this was the long-sought water route to China, Nicolet and his party, accompanied by a few Indian guides, headed up the Fox River. Sometime during the spring or summer, they became the first Europeans to pass through what is now the city of Appleton.
The expedition proceeded the source of the Fox River, crossed overland to the Wisconsin River, and continued their journey. Within only three days of reaching the Mississippi River -- that great body of water the Menominee had told him about -- Nicolet decided to turn back in order to report his findings to Champlain.
Nicolet never did find a water route to the Orient, but he was able to conclude a peace treaty with the Menominee, promising friendship and cooperation. Following Nicolet's trip, a few fur traders ventured into the area, but their presence had little lasting impact on the Indians.
The important visitors were the missionaries who believed it was their moral duty to bring Christianity to the Wisconsin natives. Primarily through the efforts of Father Claude Jean Allouez the Menominee were converted to Catholicism by the late 's. In the years that followed, the French were frequently engaged in warfare with the various Indian tribes of Wisconsin. Inthe Fox Indians began to demand payment from any white men passing through the area.
In retaliation, the French gathered an expedition of men, consisting of French soldiers and Indian allies. This huge force surrounded two Fox settlements near present-day Menasha and received a quick surrender. To keep a military presence available, the French then established the first permanent fort at La Baye Verte, the French name for Green Bay.
Sporadic fighting between the French and Indians continued throughout the early s. One report is that sometime aroundthe French carried out an elaborate ambush of the Indians, hiding soldiers in trading boats and opening fire upon Indian villagers near Butte des Morts. The accuracy of this story remains uncertain, but after continued harassment by the French, by the middle of the s, most of the Fox Indians had fled south to Illinois. Within a few years, peace treaties were ed and the Indians became the allies of the French against a common enemy, the British. Unfortunately for the Indians of Wisconsin, the French lost that war, and were forced to turn all of New France over to the British.
Only twenty years later, the Indians again found themselves on the losing side when they supported the British in the American War for Independence. According to the Treaty of Paris, which ended that war inthe British were to turn over all their forts south of the Great Lakes to the new United States government.
Instead of doing that, however, the British remained in America, using their date a native Appleton WI man to help the Indians in fighting the American settlers who were moving into the area.
The U. Under the Jay Treaty ofthe British once again promised to leave their forts along the Great Lakes, but once again they broke their promise and remained. Partly due to the prompting of the British, many Indians resisted the white settlers who were crossing the Appalachian mountain range and moving into the vast area then known as the Northwest Territory. In the early s, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh tried to unite America's Indian tribes against these intruders.
The Winnebago Indians ed in Tecumseh's movement, but the Menominee did not. InWinnebago Indian braves participated when Tenskwatawa led an attack on settlers in the Indiana Territory. Harrison became so famous and popular from this battle that Tippecanoe became his nickname. When Harrison ran for President in along with running-mate John Tyler, their winning campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler too!
Once again, they backed the wrong side. Though the war had no real winner or loser, under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent inthe British finally abandoned their American outposts and left the Indians under the authority of the United States government. The last Indian battle in Wisconsin came in After the Fox and Sauk attempted to prevent a village in Illinois from being taken by white settlers, the Indians were pursued north into Wisconsin.
The few skirmishes there became known as the Black Hawk War. That war also ended with the defeat of the Indians, and is famous today primarily because Abraham Lincoln served as a young volunteer soldier, although he later said that the only fighting he did was with the mosquitos. The first European to settle in Wisconsin was Augustin de Langlade, heir to a family of French nobility.
De Langlade had been part of the military campaigns against the Indians of the Fox River Valley in the s.
Impressed by the physical beauty and the opportunities of the New World, de Langlade remained at the French outpost at Mackinaw in what is now Michigan's Upper Peninsula and became involved with the thriving fur trade. Their son, Charles, was born at Mackinaw in As fur traders, father and son traveled frequently on the Fox River, often passing through what is now Appleton.
During the French and Indian War, Charles de Langlade, like his father before him, served as an officer of the French army. Following the British victory in that war, Charles transferred his loyalty to the winners and served the British as the superintendent of the Indians and leader of the militia in Green Bay. When the American Revolution began, Charles was commissioned as a captain in the British army.
His brave service in that conflict was rewarded by the government of Great Britain with an annual pension that continued even after the Americans took control of the region. According to some reports, Augustin de Langlade and his wife and son were living in Green Bay as early as Those reports cannot be confirmed, but it is known that byAugustin, Charles, and their wives had established a permanent home and farm in Green Bay.
Many believe that a daughter was born there to Charles and Charlotte. Named Domitelle, she would have been the first person of European descent born in Wisconsin. Date a native Appleton WI manwhen she was only 13 years old, Domitelle married another fur trader, Pierre Grignon. Their seven sons and two daughters became the most important family in the Fox River Valley, and one of their sons became the first person to live where Appleton is today.
Throughout this time, the fur trade was the dominant activity of the region. Muskrat, fox, otter, and mink were some of the animals trapped for their fur, but the really prized pelt was that of the beaver.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, a felt hat made from the fur of a beaver was the epitome of male fashion. Only men of great wealth and station could afford the hats, which were so valuable that they were often passed down in wills. It was the popularity of the beaver hat more than anything else that brought Europeans to Wisconsin and the Fox River Valley.
The beaver trade was so important that the pelts became a primary unit of exchange. In the late s, one beaver pelt could be traded for one pound of tobacco, or four pounds of shot, or one kettle.
Twelve beaver pelts were worth a rifle. InDucharme built a wooden house and trading post on the north bank of the Fox River, where the city of Kaukauna stands today. Three years passed, however, before Ducharme purchased the land from the Menominee Chief, Tobac Noir. In a written agreement that became Wisconsin's first deed, Ducharme paid two barrels of rum for a tract of several hundred acres.
This land was later purchased by Augustin Grignonone of the sons of Domitelle and Pierre Grignon, and a grandson of Charles de Langlade. Augustin enlarged the original Ducharme house, and went on to build Wisconsin's first gristmill and first sawmill. In the late s, Augustin's son, Charles, constructed the Grignon Mansionan elaborate three-story frame house.
Among the features in the house is a long stair railing made of cherry wood, which was shipped from New York City and brought up the Fox River in canoes. The Grignon Mansion still stands todayas an historic site open to the public.
While one branch of the Grignon family settled in Kaukauna, another branch continued working along the Fox River as fur traders. All who worked the river were familiar with the series of rushing falls known as the Grand Chute. A common landing spot for river travelers was a small piece of flat land just slightly upstream of the falls, on the river's north bank. It was here, beneath the towering bluffs, that Paul Grignon chose for the site of his home and business.
He then brought his family from Green Bay: his wife, Lisette, and their two young children, Minor and Simon. Years later, Simon would recall making that trip, walking with the family's possessions through grass taller than his head.
When settled in their new home, the Grignon family became the first people of European descent to live in what is now the city of Appleton. It was at this point that the history of Appleton became interwoven with the life of Eleazar Williamsone of the colorful figures that appear throughout America's early years.
Williams was a soldier, a spy, an explorer, a linguist, an Indian leader, a Christian, and one of many who claimed to be the Lost Dauphin -- the rightful heir to the throne of France. William's dream of founding a great Indian empire in the western territory led directly-- and accidentally -- to the creation of Appleton. Eleazar Williams' ancestors have been traced back to the Deerfield Massacre of In that year, a party of Mohawk Indians and French soldiers raided the small town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and captured more than people, including the minister, John Williams, his wife, and seven children.