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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Racine County [origin of place name]


Named for its principal town, which was laid off in 1834-35 by Gilbert Knapp. The first designation of this settlement was Port Gilbert; but its founder decided to change this to Racine, the French translation of Root River, on which he had laid out his town. Root was apparently the translation of the aboriginal name for this stream - see Wis. Hist. Colls., vii, pp. 335, 341; Butterfield, History of Racine and Kenosha Counties (Chicago, 1879), pp. 279, 355.

Description from John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer: "RACINE, County, is bounded on the north by Waukesha and Milwaukee, on the east by the State line in Lake Michigan, on the south by Kenoshia, and on the west by Walworth. It was organized from the limits of Milwaukee Dec. 7, 1836. The seat of justice is at the city of Racine, on the lake shore. This county has a proper proportion of prairie and timber, and is well adapted to agriculture. Its productions are various. Besides other branches of agriculture, the raising of fruit and keeping of cattle and sheep are successfully carried on. There is also a large amount of capital profitably employed in various branches of manufacture. A large portion of the county is well settled and improved. Though small in extent, it possesses advantages unsurpassed by any county in the State. Its soil is well adapted to all the products of the climate, and being contiguous to the lake, it has good and convenient markets both at Racine and other lake ports. Its principal streams are O'Plaine and Root rivers.

[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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