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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Chippewa County [origin of place name]


Chippewa County was named from its principal river, which was given this Indian tribal designation by French voyageurs. The first name applied by the early explorers to this stream was Bon Secours; it likewise occasionally appears on early maps as Bacqueville, possibly in honor of Bacqueville de la Potherie, the Canadian historian. About the middle of the eighteenth century the Chippewa tribesmen began to settle in this region, and founded villages on the headwaters of the stream - Minn. Hist. Colls., v.

Thereafter the river began to be called from the French form of their name, Riviere des Sauteurs. Jonathan Carver applies the term Chippewa to the stream which he ascended in 1766, and appended this name to the map that appeared in the edition of his Travels published in 1778. From thence until the time of American occupation, the river was known by either term -- des Sauteurs or Chippewa. For the significance of this tribal name, see Gannett, Place Names, p. 72;-. Handbook, p. 277.

Description from John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer: "CHIPPEWA , County, is bounded on the N. by St. Croix and La Pointe, on the E. by Marathon, on the S. by La Crosse, on the S. W. by the Mississippi river, and on the W. by St. Croix. The southern boundary is rather indefinitely defined. Population in 1850 was 615. The soil in the western portion is good, in the northeastern less valuable, and covered with forests of excellent pine timber. It is watered by Chippewa river and its branches, and tributaries of Buffalo and Mississippi rivers. The tributaries of the Chippewa river are numerous, and pass through large portions of the county, watering lands as valuable as any in the State. There are now in successful operation 11 saw mills, capable of cutting 30,000,000 feet of lumber annually. The largest of these mills is owned by Allen, at Chippewa Falls; Menomonee, owned by Knapp, Williams & Taintor; and Carson & Eaton, at the mouth of the Eau Galla, which average about 5,000,000 of feet each, per annum, and furnish employment for about 200 hands each. The county seat was established by an act of the legislature, at the January session 1853, at Chippewa Falls, on Chippewa river."

[Source: Kellogg, Louise Phelps. "Derivation of County Names" in Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1909, pages 219-231.]
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