Milwaukee County [origin of place name] | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Milwaukee County [origin of place name]

Milwaukee County [origin of place name] | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

Several competing explanations have been proposed. Milwaukee takes its name from the river, which had been the site of an Indian village since Wisconsin was first known to Europeans (for the variations in spelling see H. E. Legler, "Wisconsin Place Names," in Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Transactions, xiv, p. 24). Legler declares that this word means "council place." The majority of authorities appear to consider it equivalent to "good land" (see Wis. Hist. Colls., iii, pp. 290, 337; xii, p. 393; Handbook, p. 863. See also D. H. Kelton, Annals of Fort Mackinac (ed. of 1884), p. 150). It was apparently pronounced by Indians as "Meneawkee" or "Mahnawaukee," probably a Potawatomi word meaning "a rich beautiful land."  Early Wisconsin settler Joshua Hathaway inclined to the belief that the final name was derived from the blending of two words, "Mellioke," the old name of the river, and "Mahn-a-waukke," the gathering place. Many spellings were given to the city's name until, in 1844, it officially became "Milwaukee." It is generally regarded as of Potawatomi origin, meaning "fine land."

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[Source: Sheboygan Daily Press, March 19, 1936; Milwaukee Journal, Oct 30, 1921; Milw. Public Museum Bull 6:399; Milwaukee Journal, Nov. 16, 1926; Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1909:219-231.]