Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Kenyon Zimmer


This thesis examines the unusually enduring retention of ethnic culture by the Walloon Belgian immigrants who settled in northeastern Wisconsin between 1853 and 1857, as well as the combination of circumstances which enabled this ethnic island to form and continue, well into the twenty-first century. A review of the historiography focusing on European immigrants to the United States from the post-revolutionary period to the present reveals an emphasis on urban settlement and the assumed inevitability of the weakening of ethnic identity. Less attention has been given those immigrants settling in rural areas and even less to those few rural immigrant groups who were able to retain their ethnic culture and identity for several generations. A more complete understanding of the immigrant experience requires closer research into the circumstances experienced by unusual groups such as the Walloons. Data used have come from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary. Primary sources include letters from Walloon immigrants to relatives still in Wallonia, letters from missionary priests working in the settlement area, Belgian Consul reports, newspaper articles, census data, ownership maps, school records, and the firsthand accounts written by immigrants themselves. Secondary sources include not only the work of historians, but also that of Cultural Geographers, Social Scientists, Anthropologists, and theologians resulting in a variation of focus and perspective. Research shows a specific combination of circumstances, not often occurring together, resulted in the successful continuation of the ethnic island formed by the Walloons. The addition of these research results to the study of immigration adds new insight to understanding the immigration experience.


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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