Burlington, Wisconsin is a small city nestled in Racine County. It’s not just a pretty and peaceful city but is also rich in history. Over the years, several historical events occurred in or near Burlington, making it an exciting place to explore for history enthusiasts. Here are some of these notable historical events:
1. Black Hawk War (1832)
One of the most significant events in Burlington’s history is the Black Hawk War, which took place in 1832. The conflict involved a party of Native American tribes led by Black Hawk and the US Army. Black Hawk and his followers crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois in a bid to reclaim their ancestral lands that had been taken by white settlers. The Wisconsin Territory at the time was underdeveloped, but Burlington served as one of the main depots for troops, supplies, and provisions.
2. Underground Railroad (1840-1865)
The Underground Railroad was a network of people who helped enslaved Americans escape to freedom. Burlington was a pivotal stop along the route, and many slaves passed through the city. People like Sylvester Mattson, who were locally known as “conductors,” helped guide enslaved people and coordinate shelters and food sources, until they could safely reach freedom in Canada.
3. Sherman's March to the Sea (1864)
During the Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led his troops on a march to Atlanta and then to the sea. On November 20, 1864, Sherman spent a night in Burlington with his generals, including John A. Logan. They stopped at a hotel, which still stands today and known as The Coffee House at Chestnut & Pine. During their stay, the generals mapped out the famous “March to the Sea” that ended with the capture of Savannah, Georgia.
4. Tar Paper City (1890-1918)
Burlington became known as Tar Paper City in the early 1900s because of the city’s industry of producing tar paper roofing material. The Burlington factory, which began operating in 1896, was one of the largest producers of tar paper in the country for over two decades. The factory closed in 1918 during World War I due to a shortage of raw materials.
5. Fox River Trolley Museum (1907)
The Fox River Trolley Museum was built in 1907 near South Elgin, Illinois. Its electric interurban streetcar ran from Elgin, Illinois, to Aurora, Illinois, then later reached West Dundee, Illinois, and Carpentersville, Illinois. The electric line passed through Burlington and the museum is considered a highlight of the city's transportation history.
6. Wisconsin Veterans Home (1981)
In 1981, the Wisconsin Veterans Home moved to its current location in Union Grove, not far from Burlington. The site had been cleared to make way for a new hazardous waste landfill, but protests by veterans led to the creation of the Wisconsin Veterans Home. Today, the Veterans Home provides a comfortable and safe environment for Wisconsin veterans and their families.
7. Tallman House (1857)
The Tallman House is a historical landmark in Burlington, built in 1857. The structure is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic Revivalist architecture in Wisconsin. The house was the residence of the prominent Tallman family, who were involved in Burlington’s commerce and political scene. The Tallman House is now a museum and is open for tours that can provide visitors with a glimpse of life in Wisconsin over 150 years ago.
In summary, Burlington is a city with a rich history, and there are many notable historical events to explore. From the Underground Railroad to the Black Hawk War, Tar Paper City, and Sherman's March to the Sea, there are plenty of reasons to visit Burlington and discover the hidden history of this charming town.
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