By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – During the late 1600s, the Wisconsin region saw the arrival of both missionaries and fur traders, as the missionaries sought souls for conversion and the traders sought furs for financial gain.
During the early 1700s, the French settlement that existed at what would become Green Bay was in a constant struggle with the Native inhabitants who called the area home long before.
In 1716, Fort La Baye was constructed to help the French keep the fur trade industry open in the area.
The fort was later destroyed and rebuilt.
By the 1720s, a chain of French trading posts existed around the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi, to make sure there was little trouble in the fairly lawless areas of what was considered a frontier.
Cabins popped up around the area later known as South Adams Street as French fur traders sought their fortune.
The “French and Indian War” saw the British colonies face off against the French, backed by the Native American tribes who supported them.
By the end of the war, the British had taken over Fort La Baye and the area became known as “La Baye Verte,” or “The Green Bay.”
In the summer of 1764, Charles de Langlade, his son and their families came to La Bay Verte to establish permanent residence.
“The British paid de Langlade a life pension for his support and he remained loyal. He was able to keep the turbulent tribes at peace,” author Fred L. Holmes stated in his 1939 piece on Langlade, “Far Away From Neighbors.”
By the late 1700s, the fur trade hit its height and the United States gained the Northwest Territory from the British.
For centuries the area’s inhabitants were laid to rest in a burial site on the east side of the Fox River, known as the “La Baye” burial grounds.
Had it not been disturbed, it would be known as one of the state’s oldest cemeteries today.
Native Americans and French settlers alike were buried at the site, including the casualties of conflicts in the area.
In a 1910 recollection of the area’s missionary work, Rev. J.J. Holzkneckt recalled the changing demographics of the area in the years prior, recounting a visit to Green Bay by missionary, Rev. Gabriel Richard.
“He certainly was at Green Bay in 1821 when visiting the shores of Lake Michigan and again in 1823, saying mass in the house of Peter Grignon in the village of the Sacs and Potawatomi where in 1721, Pere Charlesvoix found them. It was occupied by the Menominee from 1723 until 1836. Winnebagos lived on the Fort Howard site from 1700 until 1728, where Jean Nicolet found them in 1634,” he wrote.
In 1812, the United States became embroiled in the conflict between France and Britain, as each country attempted to block the other from trading with America.
After the War of 1812, the United States government saw the need to protect Wisconsin’s northwestern frontier and began constructing military outposts that would eventually run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
This included Fort Howard, which was constructed during the war to protect the Fox-Wisconsin waterway.
The Americans then began gaining control of the region’s fur trade.
The effort was led by John Jacob Astor, but that wasn’t his only design in the area.
Next week: A cemetery lost