Hamilton, William Stephen 1797 - 1850 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Hamilton, William Stephen 1797 - 1850

Hamilton, William Stephen 1797 - 1850 | Wisconsin Historical Society

(Note: death date given in original as "Aug. 7, or Oct. 9, 1850.") lawyer, politician, lead miner, b. New York City. A son of Alexander Hamilton, he attended the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., but left in 1817 to become a surveyor in the West. He practiced law in Galena, Ill., for a time, but in 1827 moved to the Wisconsin area to stake out a claim on a lead deposit near the present site of Wiota. The ore proved to be valuable, and gradually a lead- mining community grew up around "Hamilton's Diggings." Hamilton built one of the first smelters in the area, and utilized the Pecatonica River to transport his ore to market. In 1833 he built a school at Hamilton's Diggings, and in 1836 built a smelter and established a port at Muscoda on the Wisconsin River, vainly hoping that the village would become a shipping center for the lead region. A Whig, Hamilton was president of the territorial "rump council" held at Green Bay in 1836, and was a vigorous promoter of Cassville as the site of the territorial capital, feeling that this would ensure the development of western Wisconsin and the lead region. He was a member of the lower house of the territorial legislature (1842-1843). Hamilton served in the militia during the Winnebago uprising of 1827, and acted as colonel during the Black Hawk War in 1832. In 1849 he left Wisconsin to join the gold rush, and died in California. S. J. Muldoon, Alex. Hamilton's Pioneer Son (Harrisburg, 1930); Colls. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 12 (1892); Wis. Mag. Hist., 4, 41; WPA field notes.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

Learn More

Explore more than 1,600 people, places and events in Wisconsin history.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]