Milwaukee Bridge War

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The Milwaukee Bridge War, sometimes simply the Bridge War, was an 1845 conflict between people from different regions of what is now Milwaukee, Wisconsin over the construction of a bridge crossing the Milwaukee River.[1]

By the 1840s, there had grown a great rivalry between Juneautown—east-side Milwaukee—and Kilbourntown—west-side Milwaukee—mostly due to the actions of Byron Kilbourn, Kilbourntown's founder, who had been trying to isolate Juneautown to make it more dependent on Kilbourntown.

In 1840, the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, finding the ferry system on the Milwaukee River to be "inadequate", ordered the construction of a bridge. Kilbourn and his supporters viewed the bridge as a threat to their plans. Furthermore, the two towns disputed over the funding for the bridge;[2] ultimately, this led to Kilbourn destroying part of the bridge in 1845. Mobs formed on the east side of the river, but further violence was prevented for two more weeks when two smaller bridges were destroyed by men from Juneautown in an attempt to cut Kilbourntown off from the east and south side.

Eventually, skirmishes broke out between the inhabitants of the two towns; no one was killed, although several people were injured, some seriously.

It was in the aftermath of the Bridge War that Juneautown and Kilbourntown began making greater attempts at cooperation, ultimately resulting in, on January 31, 1846, their unification as the City of Milwaukee.


  1. ^ Bridge War (Milwaukee)
  2. ^ Milwaukee: History