South Milwaukee History

The Story of South Milwaukee 

by Lois and Stephen Schreiter and Richard Thinnes 

South Milwaukee Historical Society 

A great South Milwaukee historian said, “There was a big bang, and everything else is history.”  

Were there early inhabitants along the highest western bluffs on this big inland sea we call Lake Michigan? Probably, yes. The place called Oak Creek Township and eventually, the city of South Milwaukee, was established on these high bluffs. 

Father Marquette is considered by many to be the first white man with Joliet and Nicolet and the fur traders canoeing along the shores in the mid- to late 1600s. They stopped in a village that would come to be known as Milwaukee, where three rivers came together.  

A Military Road was established between 1833-40 between Fort Dearborn (Chicago) and Fort Howard (Green Bay) following an ancient Indian trail. Soldiers cut trees for a 33-foot-wide roadway. Thirty different ethnic groups settled communities along this road. The early settlers were waiting in Chicago when the Second Treaty of Chicago 1833 was signed with the Native Americans. It gave the Native Americans seven years to relocate to land west of the Mississippi River, with money and food provided by the government. Settlement began in 1835, and the treaty provisions had been met.       

Settlers, mostly Yankees from the East Coast and some Europeans, started to populate the territory in July of 1836. Europeans were excited to see reasonable land prices and no tolls or tariffs for traveling on lakes, rivers or for fishing. The population continued to increase, and Wisconsin became a state in May of 1848.

Chapter 1: Oak Creek Township