Influential factors for pioneer settlement
The most influential factor in the industrial development of Wisconsin has been its frontage on Lake Michigan. Along this water front the most important group of cities in the state has grown up. From these cities the chief lines of transportation have been built into the interior, and so the lake ports became the commercial gateways of the state.
The second geographic factor making for economic unity has been the fact that the region is plain-like in character. No deep valleys, separated by steep divides, have interposed barriers. Therefore, roads and railroads have been readily extended in any direction. The wide stretches of level or gently rolling land have made agriculture attractive and profitable. The dominantly clay loam soils and the summer rainfall have combined to make dairy farming successful. More than 90 per cent of the manufacturing was done in the lake shore cities and consequently manufacturing was handicapped in towns away from the lake.
|This map shows the position of the shore line of glacial Lake Chicago at the Glenwood stage when the present sites of Kenosha and Racine were submerged. This old shore line can still be seen plainly.|
Click on map for larger view.
Click here to see historical marker on Highway E by UWParkside.
Recession of West Shore of Lake Michigan
The western shore of Lake Michigan is formed of glacial drift: this loose material has little power to resist the attacks of the waves, which in times of storm dash against the soft bluffs causing the ground to give away and slide into the lake. This has gone on most notable from Racine southward. In Racine, the shore receded at the rate of 9.73 feet over a 24 year period. A report by U.S. engineers stated thast the recession of the coast at Racine was at times as much as 12 to 16 feet a year.
As shown on the map above, the present sites of Kenosha and Racine and the lowest ground in Milwaukee were all covered the waters of Glacial Lake Chicago. The old shore line extends north and south through the western part of the City of Racine and is a little west of the City of Kenosha. On an average, it is from one to two miles west of the present shore of Lake Michigan. The strip of land lying between the present lake and the old shore line of Lake Chicago is quite level. Glacial Lake Chicago, at its highest stage, rose to a level 55 feet above the present surface of Lake Michigan, submerging the low land along its margin including the present sites of Chicago, Kenosha, Racine, and part of Milwaukee.
Minerals: Limestone and Clay
The most important minerals in this area were limestone and clay. When limestone is burned in kilns it becomes lime. In the pioneer days and immediately following, there were many of these lime kilns scattered throughout the region, and hundres of thousands of barrels of lime were burned yearly for use in making plaster and mortar. A great deal of limstone is reduced to crushed stone and used in road construction. Sand and gravel beds are very numerous throughout this region.
A large amount of glacial drift in Wisconsin is clay, mixed with sand, pebbles, and boulders. The eastern half of Kenosha and Racine counties contain numberous clay beds which vary in depth from a few inches to a dozen feet or more. These clays are used for making brick. The clay is of a reddish color but when burned, turns a light yellow, producing the cream colored bricks which were so generally used in Milwaukee buildings that the city was known as the Cream City. Besides brick, large quantities of drain tile and small amount of pottery for plant pots and jugs were made from this clay.