Monday: Map Day! – Ft. Howard & Green Bay, 1827

Last time, we illustrated our look at Ft. Howard with this detail from the first widely-available map of Wisconsin—and the first map of the territory based on official surveys—published in 1837:

Detail, Topographical map of Wisconsin Territory / compiled from the Public Surveys on file in the Surveyor General’s office … by Samuel Morrison, Elisha Dwelle [and] Joshua Hathaway, 1837. American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Click the detail map to open a larger version in a new window. Click here for a link to the complete map at UW-M with full bibliographic information.

This detail—showing Fort Howard, Navarino and, at the top, the southern end of Green Bay—was the subject of a Monday: Map Day! post in December, 2020, and gives a good picture of the topography and settled areas along the final miles of the Fox River as it empties into Green Bay. But on closer look, the details of the fort and its layout are very vague, limited to one X-shaped symbol. For a better understanding of Fort Howard in its most active era, we need to look at the actual 1823/1827 federal survey upon which the 1837 map was based:

Private Claims at Green Bay, 1823/1827

Detail, [Title section] of map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of complete map for full citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

The land around Lake Michigan’s Green Bay has supported human communities for thousands of years. There is a Native American cemetery, the Old Copper Complex Burial Ground, dating between 5,000 and 6,000 BCE in Oconto, on the north side of the bay. In the centuries preceding—and since—the arrival of white explorers, fur traders, and settlers, the area around the bay has been home to many native peoples, in particular the Ho-Chunk Nation (formerly known as the Menominee).1

The first white explorers to visit the site where the Fox River empties into the bay were a party led by the French explorer, Jean Nicollet in 1634. This led to the establishment of a lucrative fur trade with the Indians, that lasted through two hundred years of French, then British and finally U.S. control of the region.

In the 1820s and ’30s, the U.S. government negotiated a series of treaties with Wisconsin’s Indian nations in preparation for Native American “removal” from the area, relocation across the Mississippi River, and subsequent white immigration and settlement. To support the treaty negotiations and prepare for the upcoming sale of land to white settlers, the federal government commissioned a series of official surveys and maps. One of the earliest of these (to my knowledge), is this map of “Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823 — by John Mullett, D[eputy] S[urveyo]r.” This survey was authorized in 1822, surveyed in late-summer 1823, and officially completed on September 1, 1827.

The enduring French (geographic) influence.

Last winter, as we looked for Jonathan M. Clark’s roots in Vermont and Canada, we examined a number of maps of Lower Canada (Quebec), compared them to the 1837 Topographical map of Wisconsin Territory (above) and noted:

The French were the first European explorers, traders and settlers in the Old Northwest. Many of the geographical and man-made features on this map are given French names, or French transcriptions of indigenous names. Examples from the detail map, above, include the settlements of Petite Kaukalau, De Pere and the small peninsula in Green Bay itself, called Pt. au Sable.

One other example of French influence in this detail are the long, thin, land partitions running perpendicular to the Fox River, southwest of Ft. Howard. These parcels are smaller, but their shape and orientation are the same as the seigneurial system partitions along the St. Lawrence River in maps of Quebec that we have previously discussed, such as this 1802 map of Lower Canada.

With that in mind, let’s see how those French-style land parcels look on the map of Green Bay and Fort Howard in the years just before Jonathan Clark’s army service there:

Private Claims at Green Bay,” 1823/1827

The image below is a digital copy of a photocopy of the original survey map, from the files of the federal Bureau of Land Management-General Land Office. The image on file at BLM–GLO is a negative photostatic copy. I have turned the negative image into a positive and adjusted the contrast a bit to make it more legible:

Map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823 — by John Mullett, D[eputy] S[urveyo]r.” Survey authorized 1822, approved, 1827. Bureau of Land Management – General Land Office, negative photostat, accessed 26 September 2021, color and contrast adjusted by Reed Perkins. Click to open larger image in new window.

There is a lot to see on this map. Let’s look at some of the most important information:

Fort Howard, JMC’s home

Detail, [Fort Howard and Fox River], from map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of full map for complete citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

Previously, I mentioned the curious fact that there are very few images (drawings, prints, photos) of Fort Howard in its heyday. The earliest Fort Howard photo that I could locate was taken around 1855, almost 20 years after JMC left the post, and about 15 years after the U.S. Army withdrew its troops for service elsewhere. So this map documents, in more detail than most sources, the layout of the fort in its prime.

In this detail, north, the mouth of the Fox River and the bay itself, are toward the top. The fort occupies the left bank of the Fox River, opposite its junction with the Devil River. In order, the buildings of the fort from upstream to downstream are:
• School
• Suttler’s House
• Hospital
• (2) Store Houses
• “Ft. Howard”- indicated by an X-shaped “blockhouse/fort” symbol
• Bake & Wash Houses

Fort Howard no longer exists at its original location; many of the buildings have been relocated to or reconstructed at nearby Heritage Hill State Park. Heritage Hill State Park is located on the former site of “Camp Smith.”

Shanty Town and Camp Smith

Detail, [Shanty Town and Camp Smith], from map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of full map for complete citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

The threat of cholera is behind the origin of these two places. A Brown County, Wisconsin historical marker explains:

[In 1821] Fort Howard commander Colonel Joseph Smith moved the garrison to near this location, about a half-mile back from the shore. The high ridge on which the camp, dubbed “Camp Smith,” was located provided good visibility and protection from disease – both advantages over the prior location of the fort (on the west side of the Fox River and three miles to the north). The new establishment was short-lived: in 1822, Colonel Pinkney took command of the fort, and the War Department ordered the garrison to move back to Fort Howard.

Meanwhile, a small settlement had grown up to serve Camp Smith that was known as “Shantytown.” After the soldiers had gone, Shantytown remained. The community, which stretched from about where Heritage Hill is now to Allouez Avenue, may have been the first American settlement west of Lake Michigan. It contained the region’s first post office, which shared space with postmaster Robert J. Irwin Jr.’s general store. Shantytown remained the center of trade and business in the area for for the next 10 to 15 years. The settlement was located in what is now the village of Allouez.

Shanty Town v. Menomineeville

Shanty Town disappears from later maps. Appearing on later maps—including our 1837 example at thee top of this post—and more-or-less nearby is the hamlet of Menomineeville.

In 1823, James Doty was appointed by President Monroe as a district judge for the northern and western Michigan Territory, which included what is now the state of Wisconsin. Doty set up the region’s new court in an empty log building.

Three years later, prominent fur trader John Lawe platted a town in the area that included the courthouse. Lawe, who had enormous influence with the Menominee Indians, recorded the town as “Munnomonee.” In later years known as Menomineeville, the town became the seat of federal justice in the Territory.

Fox River Trail Marker

I confess, my knowledge of Brown County history and geography fails me here; I’m not 100% sure if Shanty Town simply changed its name to Menomineeville, or whether these are two separate places in the greater Green Bay neighborhood. (Considering that this was the first location for a federal courthouse in all of Wisconsin, you’d think it would be easier to find out more information. Readers, can any of you clear up this confusion?)

Pre-1822 landowners in Green Bay

For historians and genealogists, some of the most useful features on this map are the lists of property owners, or “Claimants names.” Some of the most important families in early Green Bay history are represented here. Especially prominent are the many parcels, and acres, claimed by members of the Grignon, Dousman and Lawe families.

Claims on the left bank of the Fox River, lots 2 to 35

This first detail lists the Claimants for lots 2 through 35 on the west (left) bank of the Fox River. (There is no lot number 1 on the left bank of the Fox; Fort Howard occupied the large, unnumbered area just north of lot number 2.)

Detail, [Lots on left bank of the Fox River, nos. 2 to 35], from map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of full map for complete citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

Claims at the Grand Coquillier Rapide

At the bottom of the list of left bank lot owners (above), there is a note: At the Grand Coquillier Rapide. This refers to left bank lots numbered 33, 34, and 35, which were located at the Grand Coquilleir Rapide, (which I think meant something like “Big Shellfish Rapids”). The rapids appear to have been far enough south (upstream) that an inset map was needed to record the lots, the rapids, and—along the right bank of the river, the village and (grain?) mill of the “N. York Indians.”

These “N. York Indians” are most likely members of the Oneida Nation, America’s first ally in the Revolutionary War. Later the Oneida were forced by the federal government from their ancestral homes between the St. Lawrence and Susquehanna Rivers to new lands at Green Bay, where they still reside.

Detail, “Claims at the Grand Coquillier Rapide” of map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of full map for complete citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

Claims on the right bank of the Fox River, lots 1 to 46

Along the right edge of the large map is another list, this of claims on the right bank of the Fox River, lots 1 to 46. In addition to enumerating the lots along the right bank, by lot number, this list also includes—in a new column along the left edge—a list of “Certifs No.,” presumably the numbers of land certificates on file with the General Land Office in Washington, or perhaps with territorial authorities (or elsewhere).3

Detail, [Claims on the right bank of the Fox River, lots 1 to 46] of map, Private Claims at Green Bay, surveyed in July, Aug.t & Sept.r 1823; see image of full map for complete citation. Click to open larger image in new window.

Coming up…

I hope you enjoyed our Monday: Map Day! look and JMC’s military home and vicinity. Next time, I think we’re about due for a RBOH post, and after that…a surprise!

See you soon. Be well.



  1. “Until 1993, the Ho-Chunk Nation was formerly known as the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe, but the term Winnebago is a misnomer derived from the Algonquian language family and refers to the marsh lands of the region.” Ho-Chunk Nation website, accessed 26 Sept. 2021.

  2. A side note to all postal history fans: During Jonathan M. Clark’s tour of duty (1833-1836), Fort Howard’s commander, Gen. George M. Brooke, wrote a series of letters to the War Department in Washington, DC, complaining of the lack of cooperation between the Postmasters at Navarino, Menomineeville, and the army. (This might make a good RBOH post when I have some spare time.)

  3. From the research I’ve done, I can say that the chain of ownership for parcels of land in the Green Bay area is more complicated than is usual for U.S. Public Land states. This is made more complicated by white—and Indian—land claims that pre-date U.S. sovereignty in the Green Bay area. And beyond that, there are large parts of the 19th- and 20th-centuries in which state and local governments worked diligently to avoid their obligations under federal treaties with the various Indian nations.

    The Milwaukee Public Museum has a good, but incomplete, introduction to some of these issues as they affected the Oneida Nation, here. The Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services has a more comprehensive introduction to the issues, here. The National Park Service has a useful overview of the Dawes Act, here. (And don’t get me started on President Andrew Jackson and his role in the Indian Removal Act, or the Bad Axe Massacre, or…)

    If you have historical or genealogical interest in historic Green Bay, you may want to seek guidance from local experts who know the history and documents better than I do.