Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Prairie du Chien is the county seat of Crawford County, Wisconsin. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 6,018. The city is located partially within the Town of Prairie du Chien. Prairie du Chien means "prairie of the dog" in French.
The first European visitors to reach Prairie du Chien were the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, who reached the city by canoe on June 17, 1673, and discovered the Mississippi River. Most further travel between French Canada and the Mississippi River passed through Prairie du Chien. In 1685, the French explorer Nicholas Perrot established a fur trading post in Prairie du Chien as part of the massive French fur trade industry. The significance of Prairie du Chien as a center of the Fur Trade did not diminish until the mid-19th Century.
In 1763, Great Britain defeated France in the French and Indian War, and took possession of the French territory in North America, including Prairie du Chien. The British expanded the Fur Trade during their occupation of the area. During the American Revolutionary War the city was used as meeting point for British Troops and their Native American allies. After the Treaty of Paris (1783) granted the area to the new United States of America, the British and their Loyalists were slow to withdraw. Only after the War of 1812 would the city become fully American.
The U.S. was slow to present any authority over Prairie du Chien, but late in the War of 1812 the U.S. realized the importance of holding Prairie du Chien to prevent British Attacks from Canada, and began construction of Fort Shelby in 1814. In July, the fort was captured by British Soldiers, who occupied it until the war's end in 1815. Not wanting another invasion through Prairie du Chien, the Americans constructed Fort Crawford in 1816. The fort was the site of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien (1825 & 1829).
In 1829, army doctor William Beaumont carried out many of his famous experiments on digestion in the Hospital of Fort Crawford. Beaumont's discoveries are still the basis of our knowledge on the human digestive process.
During the Black Hawk War of 1832 Col. Zachary Taylor, who later became the 12th U.S. President was the fort's commanding officer. Taylor oversaw the surrender of Black Hawk in Prairie du Chien. Lt. Jefferson Davis, who later became the president of the Confederate States of America was positioned at Fort Crawford at the same time, it was there that he met his future wife Sarah Knoxie Taylor.
In 1868, Wisconsin's first millionaire and Prairie du Chien's wealthiest resident, Hercules L Dousman Died. His son, H Louis Dousman inherited much of his fortune. In 1870 Louis Dousman had a luxurious victorian home, the Villa Louis, built. The home became Wisconsin's first state operated historic site in 1952.
In the early 1900s Prairie du Chien temporarily became a major center for the freshwater pearl industry. At the same time, the city's Jesuit-operated Campion High School gained recognition for excellence in education. The school closed in the 1970s, but not without a pair of famous alumni, Vicente Fox and George Wendt.
Today Prairie du Chien is noted because of its five National Historic Landmarks and its nine sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Its proximity to Effigy Mounds National Monument and Pike's Peak State Park in Iowa and Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin, along with its rich history and location alongside the Mississippi River make Prairie du Chien a growing destination for tourists. In the summer, the Prairie Villa Rendezvous attracts tens of thousands of visitors. The city gained national attention in 2001 for its New Years Eve Celebration, when a Carp from the Mississippi River is dropped from a crane onto the street below at midnight. Hunting and Fishing are popular in the city, and the location of a Cabela's outlet store in the city draws many sportsmen to the area. Aside from tourism, the city has a strong industrial sector, and is a hub for the shipment of agricultural products on the Mississippi River.
Prairie du Chien is situated on a flat, elongated deposit of sediment along the east banks of the Mississippi River, just north of its confluence with the Wisconsin River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.4 km² (6.3 mi²). 14.5 km² (5.6 mi²) of it is land and 1.9 km² (0.8 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 11.83% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 6,018 people, 2,376 households, and 1,473 families residing in the city. The population density is 415.7/km² (1,075.9/mi²). There are 2,564 housing units at an average density of 177.1/km² (458.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 95.06% White, 3.61% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.17% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.08% from other races, and 0.78% from two or more races. 0.88% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 2,376 households out of which 29.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% are married couples living together, 10.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.0% are non-families. 33.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 17.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.28 and the average family size is 2.92.
In the city the population is spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 24.3% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 100.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $34,038, and the median income for a family is $43,444. Males have a median income of $29,595 versus $20,183 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,680. 8.1% of the population and 6.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 11.7% of those under the age of 18 and 4.8% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
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