Washington Island (Wisconsin)

Washington Island is located in Wisconsin
Washington Island lies about 7 miles (11 km) northeast of the tip of Door Peninsula in Door County, Wisconsin. The island has a year-round population of 708 people (2010 census). It has a land area of 60.89 kmĀ² (23.51 sq mi) and comprises over 92 percent of the land area of the town of Washington, as well as all of its population. The unincorporated community of Detroit Harbor is situated on the island. It is the largest in a group of islands that includes Plum, Detroit, Hog, Pilot, Fish, and Rock Islands. These islands form the Town of Washington. Detroit Harbor bay is on the south side of the island. A large part of Washington Island's economy is based on tourism.

Washington Island is approximately 5 miles (8 km) wide by 6 miles (10 km) long. Together with the Door Peninsula, Washington Island forms a treacherous strait that connects Green Bay to the rest of Lake Michigan. Early French explorers named this water way, now littered with shipwrecks, Porte des Morts, which literally means "Door of the Dead" or, more colloquially, "Death's Door", giving both Door County and Door Peninsula their names.

Washington Island is one of a string of islands (which are an outcropping of the Niagara Escarpment) stretching across the entrance of Green Bay from the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin to the Garden Peninsula in Michigan. Its earliest known name is "Wassekiganeso", an Ojibwa name that translates to "his breast is shining" and apparently refers to the glint of the sun that at times reflects off the limestone cliffs.

The earliest records and maps of the French, with whom written history of the region begins, do not name the individual islands, but refer to them all as a group. The names chosen depended on which group of Native Americans they found on the islands at the time. The most common name from after 1650 to 1816 was the Potawatomi Islands (various spellings exist). The Potawatomi appear to have first come to especially the southern islands in the string about 1641 (at which time they may figure into the naming of Porte des Morts), then left the area for a while, and then returned again and remained there for a considerable length of time. The French form of this name (also variously spelled) is l'Isle des Poux, based on a shortened form of the tribe's name. This shortened form also appears as "Pous" and is at times erroneously confused with Puans, which refers to the Winnebago. At times the French used the latter portion of the tribe's name, "Pou_a louse", resulting in Louse Islands.

Before 1800, however, a few other names were applied to these islands. The Jesuit Records of 1670-1672 refer to them as the Huron Islands. Other records of the time refer to them as the Noquet Islands, named for the small band of Ojibwa that lived in the area of what is now called Big Bay de Noc, as well as, for a time, on Washington Island. Jonathan Carver, who traveled the area in the late 18th century, called them, simply, the Islands of the Grand Traverse.

In July 1816, Col. John Miller was in charge of garrisoning a new fort at the head of Green Bay to be called Fort Howard. A small fleet of three schooners and one sloop sailed from Mackinac. They were the sloop Amelia and the schooners Wayne, Mink, and Washington, the last being the largest and flagship of the fleet, as well as, reportedly, the largest vessel on the lakes at the time. The fleet was separated en route, and the Washington anchored in what is now Washington Harbor to wait for the others. With two days of waiting, some of the crew did some exploring on the island, and the officers, assuming theirs was the first ship to anchor there, named the harbor after the ship and in honor of President Washington, who had recently died. They also began naming the various islands in the area after significant members of their party, with the name of Col. John Miller being honored on the largest island as Millers Island. Other members of the party included Maj. Talbot Chambers, John O'Fallon, and Joseph Kean. Chambers Island retains its name today, while Keans Island and Fallons Island are now called Rock and Detroit Islands, respectively.

This page was last edited on 16 April 2018, at 18:05.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Island_(Wisconsin) under CC BY-SA license.

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