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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Algoma [brief history]

Definition: Algoma is located in Kewaunee County on the Door Peninsula on the site of a former Potawatomi village. Although whites visited the area as early as 1834, it wasn’t until 1851 that the first permanent white settlement named Wolf River was established. Eight years later, the name was changed to Ahnapee, after a local Potawatomi legend.

Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Belgium, and Bohemia, as well as settlers from New England, were among the first to call Wolf River/Ahnapee home. The town was barely spared on October 9, 1871, when the Peshtigo Fire swept through the surrounding area. The town’s name was changed for a final time in 1897, to Algoma, meaning “park of flowers.”

Algoma’s location on Lake Michigan allowed it house of the state’s largest fishing fleets.  The town also became a popular resort community.

Ahnapee Veneer & Seating Company, later called Algoma Hardwoods, Inc., was one of Algoma’s largest employers. Founded in 1892, the factory produced wooden furniture at first but today makes high-quality commercial doors. The company’s founder, Melvin W. Perry (1864-1951), was a prominent Algoma citizen, founding the Citizen’s Bank of Algoma, Algoma Net, and the Algoma Foundry & Machine Companies. He was also elected mayor and served as a state senator from 1911 to 1918. Like many places in Wisconsin, Algoma had its own brewery from 1869 to 1900. Algoma remains a popular vacation spot and commercial fishing one of its most popular activities.

[Source: WHS Library-Archives staff, 2009]

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