Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Destination Sheboygan*

Beginning in the 1840s and continuing for about 25 years, Sheboygan was the destination of several hundred thousand immigrants -- primarily Dutch and German settlers. Some made their homes in the Sheboygan area while thousands of others moved to Minnesota, Iowa, and the far west.

The immigrants flooding to the new world arrived in New York and then boarded trains, traveled the Erie Canal, or journeyed overland to Buffalo, NY, where they could board a schooner or steamship to continue their trip west. Most of the immigrants chose the Great Lakes water route rather than the arduous trek overland to the West.

It was no accident that many of these immigrants headed for Wisconsin. The state of Wisconsin had set up an information office in New York which supplied the immigrants with somewhat exaggerated claims as to the weather and fertility of the soil here. The state also took many ads in foreign newspapers extolling the virtues of the fertile lands of the great "western state" of Wisconsin. Sheboygan, located in the exact center of the western shore of the state [lake? -ent-], was considered a convenient port for travelers. One resident complained that there were so many persons passing through the city that it reminded him of a mining camp with all its dirt and clamor.

In the year 1853, 13,400 people landed at Sheboygan and Port Washington. The following year, Mr. T. J. Townsend, the immigration agent of Sheboygan, reported that 20,194 persons landed in Sheboygan alone. By 1855, the number of immigrants disembarking in Sheboygan had reached 68,381. By the mid 1850s, the flood of immigrants passing through Sheboygan by way of the Great Lakes had reached its peak. At that point, some people predicted that Sheboygan would become a more important city than Chicago!

By the 1870s, however, most immigrants traveled overland due to improved roads and railroads. By the late 1870s, few immigrants traveled by ship, and Sheboygan's popularity as a point of arrival had declined.

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