The Neville Public Museum

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Fort Howard: A Building Block for America

Monday, June 19, 2017
With Independence Day right around the corner there is no better time than now to reflect on how our very own Green Bay became American Fort Howard prior its to dismantling ca. 1867. The patriotism shared today for the ideal of being American wasn’t always held by the people of this area. This area was settled by both the French and English well before Americans laid down control of this portion of Wisconsin through Fort Howard. Fort Howard, which was right across street from the Neville Public Museum, was the key to the Americanization of this area during the early 19th century.

The land surrounding the Fox River was highly desired for it controlled trade through the waterway. Three hundred years ago in 1717 the French were first stationed in Green Bay. The French fort, Fort La Baye, like Fort Howard was built on the opening of the Fox River. The French fort stood until 1760; for 43 years the French were a major influence in North Eastern Wisconsin. We can see the impact of the French in Wisconsin, especially in our area, when we think of Charles De Langlade, also known as the “Father” of Wisconsin, who was a French military officer. De Langlade and his family were one of the first inhabitants of Green Bay.

After the French had abandoned their location during the Fox Wars the English relocated to where Fort La Baye had stood and built Fort Edward Augustus. The English also saw the potential of the Fox River. Fort Edward Augustus was abandoned in 1763 during the Pontiac Uprising, yet the inhabitants of Green Bay remained dedicated to the English.

After the War of 1812 the British no longer had claim to the area and plans were being made for American forces to be moved into the area to control the Fox River. This wasn't the only reason the 3rd Regiment of the United States Army Infantry was placed in Green Bay. The larger goal of placing American soldiers here was to "Americanize" this newly attained land and to acclimate the people of the area with a new spirit of patriotism.

Fort Howard was vital for America's grasp on the Northwestern frontier. Our very own Fox River was hugely important in America's expansion to the West. Through the control of trade on the waterway that was so sought after by the other nations America now had another key to prosperity. Looking back I never fully realized how truly important our own little area was to the growth of this part of the nation. Over the last couple weeks I have been able to explore artifacts from the Neville's collection that were used in the Life and Death at Fort Howard exhibit which ran from April 2016 through April 2017. From maps to muskets the story that is told through the artifacts of Fort Howard speak volumes on how influential the fort was in creating the place we call home today.

If you want to learn more about America's beginnings and the men who forged the way don't miss our upcoming event America! on June 21st. You can get more information and tickets here.
 

Madeline Palecek
Intern
UW-Milwaukee
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