Why Your Ancestors Settled in Cold Places

Nice article. Here in the far NW Wisconsin county of Douglas, names like Pierre Radisson, Daniel Graysolon Sieur DuLhut, and many others are familiar names. A well-traveled portage trail from Upper Lake St Croix to the Brule River north to Lake Superior is about 7 miles from my home.

Erika Janik

The earliest account of a Wisconsin winter was written by fur traders. In 1659, Pierre Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law Sieur de Groseilliers spent the winter near Lac Court Orielles with the Hurons and the Ottawas. With the ground frozen solid and the snow six feet deep, food was scarce. They first ate tree bark that they boiled for 2 hours to make it soft. Then, they ate their dogs. It was so cold that several of them died from exposure. Ten years later, Jesuit Father Claude Allouez complained of bitter cold that he said literally almost froze his nose off. This certainly wasn’t Wisconsin’s first – or last – harsh winter, though.

The winter of 1881 was also really bad. That’s the year Laura Ingalls Wilder made famous in her book The Long Winter. In February, train service in and out of Milwaukee stopped, stranding city residents for…

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