WILLIAM S. HAMILTON


Born in New York August 4, 1797, William Stephen Hamilton was the son of colonial founding father Alexander Hamilton. William led a varied, though relatively short, life and conducted one of the earliest cattle drives in Illinois history.

He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, but left early and moved to Illinois. Settling in Sangamon County (Springfield), he served a term in the Illinois state legislature.

In 1825 he made a contract with the U.S. Government to provide beef to the troops at Fort Howard (today's Green Bay, Wisconsin). He purchased the cattle from numerous area farmers, amassing a herd of 700. Leaving Springfield in early May, Hamilton, along with four men, crossed the Mackinaw River above today's Bloomington, the Fox and Illinois Rivers near today's Utica and headed northeast to Fort Dearborn (Chicago).

North from Fort Dearborn the herd basically followed the shore line of Lake Michigan. The area was unpopulated and sparsely settled so the lakeshore provided a guide where no other existed. Upon reaching Manitowoc they left the lake and moved across country, arriving in Fort Howard June 28.

There is no evidence that Hamilton had any more cattle business in his future, but he did get involved in several ventures. He led volunteer milita against the Winnebago in 1827 and the Sauk in 1832. Leaving Illinois he settled in southwestern Michigan Territory (today's Wisconsin) and began mining lead.

Trying to revive his political career Hamilton served in Wisconsin's Territorial Assembly, but lost subsequent elections for higher offices.

Discouraged by his failure to reach his desired goals, he responded in typical fashion. When gold was discovered in California he went west in 1849 to begin gold mining, but he only found death, probably from cholera, on October 9, 1850, age 53.

He was buried in an unadorned grave in Sacramento's City Cemetery. Twenty nine years after his death, December, 1879, two granite tablets were placed on his grave by friends and admirers.



REFERENCES

The History of Wisconsin: From Exploration to Statehood Alice E. Smith - 1973

The Wisconsin Story: The Building of a Vanguard State H. Russell Austin 1948

Alexander Hamilton's Pioneer Son Sylvan Joseph Muldoon - 1930



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