Remembering Our Past
By Ina Curtis, Author and Historian (1973-1979)
The historical distinction of Portage lies in its unique geographical location between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers. Here, the two rivers, one flowing north to the St. Lawrence, the other south to the Mississippi, are separated by a narrow neck of land over which, for two centuries, Indians, missionaries, trappers, traders, adventurers and settlers traveling the waterway had to portage their canoes and heavy packs from one stream to another. The settlement, which grew here because of the resulting traffic, was first known as “Wau-wau-onah,” Winnebago for “carry on the shoulder.” During the French occupation, it was simply “le portage” (from porter: to carry). This was eventually anglicized to Portage.