PORTAGE, a city and the county-seat of Columbia county, Wisconsin, U.S.A., on the Wisconsin river, about 85 m. N.W. of Milwaukee. Pop. (1890) 5143; (1900) 5459, of whom 1184 were foreign-born; (1910 U.S. census) 5440. It is served by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul, and the Minneapolis, St Paul 6 Sault Ste Marie railways. The city is situated at the west end of the government ship canal connecting the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and river steamboats ply during the open season between Portage and Green Bay and intermediate points in the Fox River Valley, Portage being the head of navigation on the Fox. Portage is in the midst of a fertile farming region, and has a trade in farm and dairy products and tobacco. Its manufactures include brick, tile, lumber, flour, pickles, knit goods, steel tanks and marine engines and launches, and there are several tobacco warehouses and grain elevators. As the Fox and Wisconsin rivers are here only 2 m. apart, these rivers were the early means of communication between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi river. The first Europeans known to have visited the site of the city were Radisson and Groseilliers, who crossed the portage in 1655. The portage was used by Marquette and Joliet on their way to the Mississippi in 1673, and a red granite monument commemorates their passage. About 1712 the Fox Indians disputed the passage of the portage, precipitating hostilities which continued intermittently until 1743. The first settler was Lawrence Earth, who engaged in the carrying trade here in 1793. Jacques Vieau established a trading post here in 1797, and by 1820 it was a thriving depot of the fur trade. During the Red Bird uprising (1827) a temporary military post was established by Major William Whistler of the U.S. army. Fort Winnebago was begun in the following year, was remodelled and completed by Lieut. Jefferson Davis in 1832, and was subsequently abandoned. It was from there in the same year that the final and successful campaign against Black Hawk was begun. After several failures the Fox- Wisconsin canal was completed in 1856, and in June of that year the " Aquila," a stern-wheeler, passed through the canal on its way from Pittsburg to Green Bay. The shifting channel of the Wisconsin has retarded navigation, and the canal has never been as important commercially as was expected.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)