Many geographic regions, towns, and counties in the Northwoods have interesting name origins, but few are as intriguing as Langlade County. Historian Gary Entz has the story.
The towns and resorts in Langlade County today are popular tourist destinations, but few visitors to the county realize the significance of the name Langlade. What is today Langlade County was initially organized in 1879 as New County but adopted the name “Langlade” in 1880 to honor Charles de Langlade, a fur trapper, trader, military leader, and founder of Green Bay.
Charles de Langlade was born in 1729 at Fort Michilimackinac on what is today the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Langlade’s father was Augustin Langlade, a French-Canadian fur trader. His mother was Domitilde, which is a French name, but Domitilde was Ottawa and the sister of Chief Nissowaquet. Some stories have Augustin and his 16-year-old son Charles arriving at La Bay Verte, or Green Bay, in 1745 to establish a trading post, but Charles de Langlade did not make Green Bay his permanent home until 1764.
1764 was a year after the end of the French and Indian War in the American Colonies, and Charles de Langlade played a significant role in that conflict. He was very much a man of two worlds and was fluent in both Ottawa and French. When conflict came against the British colonists in the east, Langlade sided with the French and led warriors from the Three Fires Confederacy in defense of French claims.
In 1755, Langlade and members of the Pottawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa joined the French in defense of Fort Duquesne at what is today the site of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania. Langlade fought against and helped to defeat General Edward Braddock and his aide-de-camp George Washington at the Battle of the Monongahela. Afterward, Langlade was made second in command at Fort Michilimackinac, and in 1757 participated in the siege of Fort William Henry and in 1759 fought at the Battle of Quebec.
After the war, the French surrendered Fort Michilimackinac to the British, and that is when Langlade moved to Green Bay, making it his permanent home. He became a loyal subject of the British Empire, and when the American Revolution broke out Langlade sided with the British. Although his participation was minimal compared to the earlier conflict, the British did make Langlade a captain in the Indian Department. In that capacity, he raised a force of First Nations’ warriors to fight against General George Rogers Clark, who was moving across Illinois to capture the Mississippi Valley for the Americans. Langlade’s help, however, came too late.
When the Revolution ended, Langlade returned to his home in Green Bay and resumed his life as a farmer and trader. As a resident of what was now the Northwest Territories, he was a part of the new United States. He offered no opposition to American jurisdiction as it really made little difference in his remote location.
Although he was half French, Langlade never saw Europe and, other than Quebec, never saw the Atlantic colonies. He lived his entire life around the Great Lakes but was a significant part of events during the American Revolutionary War era. He died in 1801.