Wisconsin French Historic Sites


[Historic Wisconsin Map]

  Forts Folle Avoine Historic Park

8500 County Road U Danbu ry, WI

In 1802 the French and the Ojibwe Indians bartered furs and goods at this fort located north of Webster, WI. "Folle Avoine" in English means wild oats. In an account written by French Jesuit missionary, Père Jacques Marquette, he described the waters as being very difficult to navigate because of all of the wild oats that were growing in the water. Today visitors can witness the bartering as it happened at Fort Folle Avoine 200 years ago.

Take Highway 35 four miles north of Webster to County Road U. Go West on County U 2.5 miles to Forts Folle Avoine.

Hours of Operation: Memorial Day - Labor Day, open Wednesday - Sunday, 9AM-5PM

Flambeau Trail Crossing

Highway 77 between Montreal & Pence, WI

Trading between the settlements at La Pointe on Madeline Island and Lac du Flambeau made the Flambeau t rail crossing a necessary evil until the railroad was implemented in the 1880s.

Until then, the Flambeau Trail Crossing was the only transportation link between the Mississippi watershed and Lake Superior to the north. Because there was not a navigable waterway between the two, all goods had to be "portaged" between the two watersheds. The trail was full of obstacles such as overturned trees, muskeg and thickets. It was one of the most difficult portages in the old Northwest Territor ies, taking between 2-1/2 to 7 days to complete the portage.

Hours of Operation: The Flambeau Trail Crossing can be viewed year round.

Superior Falls

Highway 122, Saxon, WI

This 90-foot high waterfall forced fur traders, explorers and settlers to portage their goods and people via the ancient Native American footpath and canoe trail known as the Flambeau Trail. T he trail commences at the falls and extends 90 miles over land and water from the mouth of the Montreal River, south to Lac Flambeau. In 1661 Chippewa Indians led the way for French explorers Radisson and Groselliers. Reports of inexhaustible mineral riches along the Flambeau Trail attracted many fur traders, explorers and settlers seeking wealth and a new life through the late-1700s.

Hours of Operation: The Superior Falls can be viewed year round.

Saxon Harbor

County Highway A, Saxon, WI

Just at the shore of Saxon Harbor was the most popular gateway to the Flambeau Trail. Until the late 1880s, it was the only route inland through the dense virgin forest. The Flambeau Trail extends 90 miles over land and water connecting La Pointe on Madeline Island to Lac du Flambeau to the south, the first 45 miles of which was a portage, or "overland bridge."

In t he 1700s, French Canadian voyagers carried fur pelts, cloth and gunpowder for trading in 80 pound packs over this difficult portage. The portage is sometimes deemed the "120 pause" because this was the number of times it was required to stop and rest.

Hours of Operation: Saxon Harbor can be viewed year round.

Springstead Historic District

Stone Lake Road, Springstead, WI

Springstead, Wisconsin is a preserved image of the past. In the 1860s French trappers were attracted to the area for the beaver found in the surrounding lakes and streams. In the 1870s, French Canadian loggers arrived for the abundant great white pines. A log cabin built by the French Canadians loggers still stands. In 1876 a railroad official, Burns, purchased the town, and by 1914 one could find a post office, a general store and a livery. After a few years, the timber resources were deplete d and the town's future became uncertain. Townspeople turned to tourism, and built a guest cabin in 1920. The tourism industry did not survive, but the buildings have been preserved for visitors to go back in time and experience the Springstead of 1914.

Hours of Operation: Springstead Historic District can be viewed year round.

Fox-Wisconsin Portage Site

Parallels Wauona trail between Hi ghways 51 & 33

Portage, WI

The Fox-Wisconsin portage site is a narrow strip of land that separates the Fox River from the Wisconsin River. Before the construction of the Wisconsin River Levee, it was only a marsh. The Winnebagos controlled the portage until the signing of the Treaty of 1828. European Americans had used the Portage since the late-1600s as part of their route in fur trading. On June 14, 1673, Père Marquette and Louis Joliet crossed this portage on an expedition commissioned by the French government. The purpose of their expedition was to determine if the Mississippi led to the Pacific Ocean.

By the 1770s and 1780s, the portage became a meeting place for fur and other trading to take place. People began building businesses to move goods through the portage. They also built cabins and trading posts, and began staying through the winters. Its popularity declined with the construction of the canal and the decline of the fur tradi ng business in the late 1800s.

Hours of operation: The Fox-Wisconsin Portage can be viewed year round.

Villa Louis

521 North Villa Louis Road

Prairie du Chien, WI

Hercules Dousman came to the location known as Prairie du Chien in 1826 to stake out his fur trading business. Knowing he was situated between two major waterways it offered great commercial pot ential. His business wiles paid off and he became very wealthy and influential in the area.

His descendents lived in the luxurious Victorian mansion, the Villa Louis. From the back porch one can look on the Mississippi, where fur trading flourished. Also from the mansion one can see the remains of Fort Crawford, where the only battle of 1812 in Wisconsin took place.

Hours of operation: May 1 - October 31, and a Christmas event.

Open daily 9AM-5PM, with the last tour beginning at 3:45PM.

Cost for admission: $5 for adults and $2 for children (ages 5-12)

Madeline Island Museum

Corner of col. Woods Avenue & Main Street

La Pointe, WI

Madeline Island was an important fur-trading center for the French in the 17th century, and was the spiritual home of the Ojibwe people before them. Missionaries, loggers, fisherme n arrived on the island over the next 300 years, and in the early 20th century, summer cottagers arrived. To visit the island, one must board a ferry from picturesque Bayfield.

At the Capser Center of the museum, one can view exhibits that trace more than three centuries of change, from the Ojibwe culture, the fur trade, missionary activity and the logging and maritime industries.

Hours of Operation: Memorial Day Weekend through First Weekend in October. Ope n daily 10AM-4PM. Extended hours mid-July to mid-August, 9AM-7PM Open by appointment.

Charles A Grignon Mansion

1313 Augustine Street

Kaukauna, WI

Prominent French fur-trader Charles A Grignon built this grand home in 1837 for his Pennsylvania bride, Mary Elizabeth Meade. Travelers knew this luxurious Greek Revival home as the "Mansion in the Woods." Charles, w ho was also the grandson of a Menominee woman, is well known for his role as interpreter for the U.S. government at the Treaty of the Cedars. It is this treaty which secured the four million acres of land now known as Northeast Wisconsin. Visitors may learn the story of Grignon's family, their life and times, and also how the mansion came to be built. Visitors can also view the herb and vegetable gardens and apple orchard of the historic estate.

Hours of operation: The Mansion has been closed for 2 years due to budget cuts, but will open for walk-in tours in the summer of 2005. It will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon – 4 and will have 5-8 pm flashlight tours on the first Thursday in February, March and April. Admission is charged. Contact JoEllen Wollangk for information.

Bonduel Community Archives

108 S First Street

Bonduel, WI

The Bonduel Community Archives are affiliated with the Wisconsin Hi storical Society. This is a library of documents and photographs received from the public, as well as information of historic value relative to the area that includes Advance, Bonduel, Briarton, Cecil, Landstad, Navarino, Zachow, and surrounding areas. Plat books, land abstracts, family history books, newspaper articles and original Bonduel Times Newspapers are accessible for researching. It is a must stop for the genealogist.

Hours of operation: Open all year, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 9AM-4PM

Cadott Area Historical Museumbr>
630 N. State Highway 27

Cadott, WI

The museum consists of 2 buildings located in Riverview Park grounds. The museum has become the meeting place for people interested in researching local history and gathering records and artifacts from the Cadott area. A rural school museum is just across highway 27, and a lifesize statue of Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Cadott (village namesake) is located there. The Half-way between the Equator and North Pole logo sign, Cadott's trademark is also just across the road. Picnic tables, playground equim\pment, tennis courts a swimming area, a baseball field and shelters are provided. Donations appreciated.

Hours of operation: Open by appointment.

[Return to Library]