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Scuppernong – The History Behind the Name

Originally written by Ron Kurowski in Summer 1996

Digitized by the Friends of the KMSFSU in May 2024

The name of our new newsletter, The Scuppernong Journal, seems very appropriate because the term is closely related to the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit. It was one of the first names given to the area and appeared on early maps of this region, including an 1840 map drawn by Increase Lapham, on which he first used this name to identify the Scuppernong River. At that time, Scuppernong was spelled with only one “p".

My research on his subject seems to indicate that the name means the "wet swampy lands". l came across an old Jefferson Banner newspaper article that claimed Scuppernong was an Indian name, possibly of Potawatomi origin, as this tribe of Indians controlled the area when the settlers arrived. Koshkonong, a similar-sounding word, was used to describe a large lake on the Rock River, and was proven to be of Potawatomi origin.

The Scuppemong River once flowed through a vast wetland that the first surveyors described as "impassable". The Potawatomi and Winnebago Indian scouts accompanying General Atkinson’s army during the Black Hawk Indian War of 1832 referred to it by its French name "terre tremblante", meaning the trembling lands. This was in reference to the perceptible movement of the trees and plants as one walked on the saturated surface.

At one time, this marsh stretched from Ottawa Lake westward to the area north of Palmyra, along the entire route of the Scuppernong River. An early account of people canoeing this river mentioned the plentiful amounts of wild rice that grew in the river. You can get a feel for the size of this wetland by observing the expanse of the Kincaid truck farm, located along Hwy 106 north of Palmyra.

Part of the marsh was covered by a vast tamarack swamp which was also mentioned by Atkinson's soldiers and the first surveyors. A small group of Norwegian settlers who settled south of Palmyra used these tamarack trees for their log homes, barns, and various outbuildings. They cut the trees in winter and hauled them back to the settlement by teams of oxen pulling sleds. The Ole Oleson log cabin, built in 1846, is constructed of these tamarack logs. The Norwegians called their settlement Skoponong, after the Scuppernong Marsh.


A lengthy article about a visit to the Scuppernong Marsh appeared in the June 13, 1897 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Entitled “A Journey into the Scuppernong Marsh,” the lengthy article, written by an author known only by the initials P.W., described the marsh this way, “Most of the marsh is covered with high grass. Many acres of woodland are seen above the water line among the meadows and the dark boughs of tamarack swamps loom up in the distance.”

Our former District Parks Supervisor, Edgar W. Trecker Jr., once proposed that the Southern Unit be called The Kettle Moraine State Forest – Scuppernong Unit, due to its long association with this word. After Ed Trecker’s retirement and death, the idea was dropped, but it should be brought up for consideration in the future. The first office of the Southern Unit was called the Scuppernong Ranger Station and was located at the present-day sight of the Mackie Picnic Area.

Thus it seems appropriate to name our newsletter The Scuppemong Journal and continue the long association and tradition that Scuppernong has with the Kettle Moraine.

Volume 1 Issue 1
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