The First Belgian Settlers to Brown County, Wisconsin
The first group of Belgian settlers to Brown County, were organized by a young farmer - Francois Petiniot of Grez-Doiceau, who made a trip to Antwerp in early 1853. While quenching his thirst at an Inn upon arrival in Antwerp, he found a pamphlet (written in Dutch) which told of fertile land in America which stretched for hundreds of miles with no one living on it. The pamphlet stated that this land could be purchased for $1.25 an acre. Upon completing his business in Antwerp, Penitiot headed for home with a burning desire to eventually own some of the cheap land in America. After much discussion in Grez-Doiceau commune, nine of Petiniot's neighbors decided to emmigrate to America. These nine farmers sold their homes and land and with the proceeds bought passage to America. These nine families included: Jean Martin, Phillip Hannon, Joseph Moureau, Etienne Detienne, Adrian Massy, Lambert Bodart, Joseph Jossart, Martin Pasque, Jean Baptiste Detienne. Petiniot and the nine other families boarded the Bark Quinnebaug in Antwerp harbor, and sailed on May 18th, 1853.
During the ocean voyage, the Belgians made the acquaintance of a party of Dutch immigrants, who were headed to Wisconsin. During their Atlantic crossing, the 10 Belgian families decided to travel to Wisconsin with their new found friends. They landed in the port of New York on July 6th, 1853. Leaving New York they made their way to Milwaukee via canalboats and lake steamers.
For more details about these first Belgian settlers see "The History of the Belgian Settlements in Door, Kewaunee, and Brown Counties" by Math S. Tlachac. Published by the Belgian-American Club, Brussels, WI 54201.
Another history of the Belgian settlers of Northeastern Wisconsin "The Belgians of Northeastern Wisconsin" comes to us from Xavier Martin as published in the Wisconsin Historical Collections vol xiii, in 1893.
Copyright 1999, Richard M. Balza