The History of Calumet County, Wisconsin

Calumet County traces its history back to 1836.  The county was established at that time as a part of the Wisconsin Territory.  In 1840, it was added back to Brown County, and was then re-established when the act that had previously dissolved it was rescinded in 1842.  

In the early 1830s, several Native American tribes, including the Stockbridge-Munsees, the Oneidas and the Brothertowns, were moved from the Northeast to Calumet County.  The Oneida shared their reservation with these peoples, who had been displaced by the years of colonization in New England, warfare and disease. Each of the three groups are federally recognized with reservations in Wisconsin.  The word Calumet comes from the Menominee tribe’s word for peace pipe.  In 1839, Congress granted the Brothertown Indians rights of citizenship and in 1843 the Stockbridge Indians received similar recognition.

photo_358The majority of the immigrants to Calumet County in the 1840s came from Germany, the Schleswig-Holstein region.  Thus, Germanic ancestry in the most prevalent ancestry in the county today.  

The county seat was originally located in Stockbridge, but was moved to Chilton in 1856.  The first courthouse and jail in the City of Chilton was a wooden structure built circa 1860 at the present site.  

Calumet County’s economy was and still is based primarily on agriculture and the dairy industry.  In 1931, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture described Calumet County as “one of the most important producers of American cheese among the counties of Wisconsin.”  This sentiment must have some truth to this day, as there are currently more cattle than people in Calumet county.     

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