Yes, Pete, it is. In fact , it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for “the good land.” – Alice Cooper, Wayne’s World

Most of the paternal side of my family tree, more specifically my paternal grandfather’s side, came to and lived in Milwaukee’s Polish Community. They all came about the same time, the late 1800s or early 1900s. By that time, Milwaukee was getting established as a major hub in Wisconsin.

The first immigrants to Milwaukee were French traders and trappers. During the 1830s, settlement occurred rapidly, and in earnest. Families established themselves here, bringing the population to several hundred by 1837. That year, under a mandate from the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature to incorporate, Milwaukee and other settlements in the state became villages. A City Charter was adopted in 1846, and Solomon Juneau was elected the first mayor. Juneau was a French trader who had settled his family in Milwaukee. – City of Milwaukee website

The polish immigrants came to Milwaukee starting in the mid nineteenth century and mostly settled in Milwaukee’s south side, though my family lived on what is considered the “east side” today. In 1906, almost one-quarter of Milwaukee’s total population was Polish. Milwaukee had one of the nation’s largest Polish communities up to 1980, getting near 200,000. Today, Milwaukee even has an annual Polish Fest to celebrate their Polish heritage.

Polish families tended to settle in one area, usually just outside of the city area. I imagine this was very helpful due to the fact that most immigrants knew little English and this would obviously help them communicate better. Even though the large Polish community was usually overshadowed by Milwaukee’s larger German community, there is no doubt that this city has been shaped and changed forever by them.

Some great Polish-related Milwaukee links:

Published by Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

7 comments on “mill-e-wah-que”

This gentleman of polish heritage seems very jealous of the Tremendous German impact on Milwaukee and Wisconsin. He points out that the area was founded by a French fur trader to try and overshadow the importance of the thousands of Germans that put the city of Milwaukee on the map. Beer, Brats, Cheese, Arts, Science, Music, Education, Medical institutions, Parks and Monuments, publishing houses, buildings, industry that still thrives today. And hundreds of surrounding towns in Wisconsin. When the Polish arrived on the south side of town, it was already built up by Germans. Even the Polish Basilica was designed by a German, as well as City Hall and countless other structures. When the Polish moved in, many Germans stayed in the area or moved to all points south, west and north of that area. Polish are great people, and have added to the cultural fabric of Milwaukee, but please don’t try and down play the German Impact on the city. Infact most people think that the Germans barely get credit for what they contributed to Wisconsin due to anti-german sentiment from people like you who only want to promote their own culture and due to the two world wars which German-Americans had nothing to do with. Infact German-Americans fought in every war that the USA ever engaged in including the two wars against their own ancestrial homeland. over 30% of the army was of German background. There should be a monument to those people who fought against their own cousins for this country, that’s an amazing sacrifice that’s never mentioned either. According to the US Census bureau between 50 and 60 Million Americans claim German Ancestry, that makes Germans the largest group in the USA. If you ask me Germans must have contributed much more to the USA then their given credit for. My point is, At least let’em have Milwaukee Mister. Thanks for your time.

Wow, you’ve read way into that post. I give the German’s complete credit for Milwaukee. Polish had an impact, but not as large as Germans. It was founded by French fur traders, but those are just facts. Did you read my post on Germans in Milwaukee? I don’t consider these posts true down-and-dirty historical representations on Milwaukee, just overviews from my genealogy point-of-view.

I did read your post on Germans in Milwaukee. I’m English-American and I enjoy studing American history. Through all my research, I come to the conclusion that after the English, The Germans have contributed the most to America but are usually not recognized for it. I would like to see that change. Fur traders did settle in the area that is present day Milwaukee, but the city built on top of that location was pretty much shaped and developed by the arrival of the Germans. To change the subject slightly. The reason I read into the Polish comment regarding being overshadowed, is because Germans are actually the real victims of being overshadowed by all of the other cultures in the country. They contributed to every aspect of our society and never mentioned our thanked for it. Infact in most cases, A German who made his or her mark is refered to as a European Immigrant or nothing at all in History. John Robling (Johann Augustus Robling) designer of the Brooklyn Bridge is most of the time refered to as European,I see stuff like this most books.
For years the Anglo establishment here in the US was always in fear of a Germanization of the country due to there large numbers. At the turn of the Century you could here German spoken everywhere in cities and in most of our rural areas across the country, much the way Spanish is spoken in large portions of our American cities today. The Anglo Americans wanted to end this for many different unwarrented reasons. When WW1 broke out, The Anglo establishment used the opportunity to close down German-American Institutions all across the country, German schools, Newspapers, clubs, singing socities,etc. The German Language became forbidden. Thousands of German street and town names were changed all across the land (for example,Hamburg street suddenly became London Street) It happened where ever they could get away with it. Germans were forced into hiding and many even began to change their names. Book burnings were held in cities everywhere. Germans were even lynched. Now they were the Huns, the Krauts, and many other hurtful names. They tried to change many names of German foods, Hamburger was to become salisbury steak, Frankfurters to Hot Dogs, Sauerkraut to Victory Cabbage, etc. Many attempts were successful such as German Toast forever became known as French Toast. I would like to see all of these atrocities against German people in America taught to Americans so that it may never repeat itself again. Besides it’s high time that Germans were acknowledged for their contributions to the USA. If you wish to research any of what I’m saying yourself, the topic is known as “the anti-german sentiment period” you’ll learn much. Take care. I really enjoyed your website.

The Actual Correct Term is:

“The Anti-German Hysteria Period”

You’ll be amazed by what happened to this community. I would not have wanted to be German-American in the USA during this sad chapter of American History.

In closing my thoughts on this topic. I would just like to say that I don’t like what America did to German-Americans during the Anti-German Hysteria Period, but I love America and forgive America for what happened because America has been good to me and my family. No greater place in this world exists, which is why the German-Americans caved in during this period and gave up their identities and ethnic pride in exchange for being allowed to remain here. America must have done what it felt was necessary at the time but now that so many years have passed America should correct this chapter, with a simple apology. Reparations have already been paid by allowing German-Americans to lead prosperous lives in this country. Let’s just allow Americans of German background to feel the pride that other groups feel when reflecting back on this nation’s history. Germany and German-Americans are our friends and pose no danger to our national security. Lets just heal everyone’s wounds and go foreward. I pray for peace on earth now, for 2008, the future and good will toward all men and women of all races, religions, creeds, etc on earth.

Your Website is Great!!!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to the Zalewski Family. From John Billigsleigh

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