Portage, Wisconsin is a city with a rich history dating back over 200 years. Located at the crossroads of major waterways, it has been a hub of transportation and commerce since the early 1800s. Throughout its history, Portage has been the site of several influential events. Here are 7 historical events that have taken place in or near Portage, WI.
1. Marquette and Joliet Reach the Mississippi River (1673)
In June 1673, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet embarked on a journey to find the Mississippi River. After weeks of paddling up the Fox River, they reached the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers - present-day Portage, WI. Marquette and Joliet believed that the Wisconsin River flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, which would lead them to the Mississippi River. They were successful in reaching the Mississippi River, making significant contributions to the exploration and mapping of the region.
2. Sauk and Fox Tribe Battles (1816-1832)
The Sauk and Fox tribes, led by Chief Black Hawk, fought several skirmishes against the United States military in the early 1800s. These battles, collectively known as the Black Hawk War, occurred throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. In June 1832, Black Hawk and his followers were defeated by US troops near present-day Portage. The conflict marked a turning point in US-Western relations, as it led to the forced removal of Native American tribes from their ancestral lands.
3. The First Transcontinental Railroad Completed (1869)
In May 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed, connecting the east coast of the United States with the west. The line ran from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Sacramento, California, and included a stop in Portage. The railroad transformed transportation and commerce in the United States, making it easier and quicker to travel and transport goods across the country.
4. The Wisconsin River Dam Built (1907)
With the construction of the Wisconsin River Dam in 1907, the city of Portage became a manufacturing and industrial center. The hydroelectric power produced by the dam helped power factories and mills along the river, spurring economic growth in the region.
5. The Portage Canal Built (1916)
The Portage Canal was built in 1916, allowing boats to bypass the rapids and dams on the Wisconsin River. The canal helped make Portage a hub of commerce and transportation, as boats could travel the length of the river without being impeded by obstacles.
6. The Great Depression Hits (1929-1939)
The Great Depression had a significant impact on the Portage area, as it did on the rest of the country. Unemployment and poverty were widespread, and many businesses closed. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal program, provided employment opportunities for many people in the area, including the construction of the Portage City Hall, which stands to this day.
7. The Start of the Gulf War (1991)
In January 1991, the Gulf War began, with the United States and its allies launching a military operation to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The war had a significant impact on the country, including the Portage area. Many residents of Portage served in the military during the conflict, and the community rallied around those who were deployed.
Portage, WI has a rich history that spans centuries, with key events playing important roles in shaping the region. From early explorers to the construction of critical infrastructure, the city has played an essential role in transportation and commerce throughout United States history. Today, Portage is a thriving community that continues to be an important center of activity and trade in the Midwest.
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