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History of the Name "Sheboygan"

Sheboygan History Native American

Sheboygan History Native American

(From the 1920 Sheboygan City Directory) 
Many different explanations have been made regarding the origin and meaning of the name "Sheboygan.

Most authorities agree that Sheboygan is a Chippewa word but differ as to its exact meaning. Rev. E. P. Wheeler, in an article on the "Origin and meaning of Wisconsin place names," declares that "Sheboygan" is derived from Zhee-bo-i-gun, that which perforates or pierces; hence Zha-bun-i-gun, a needle.

Joshua Hataway, an authority of some note, says "Sheboygan or Cheboigan of the early maps is from the Indian name Shawb-wa-way-kum, half accent on first and full accent on the third syllable. The word or sentence, most likely Chippewa, expresses a tradition that a great noise, coming underground from the region of Lake Superior, was heard at this river. Father Chrysostom Verwyst, a Franciscan missionary among the Chippewas of Wisconsin and Minnesota, aided by Vincent Roy, a Chippewa merchant, and Antoine Gaudin and M. Gurnoe, two Chippewa scholars, agree that Sheboygan is derived from jibaigan, meaning any perforated object, as a pipe stem. Louis M. Moran, a Chippewa interpreter, asserts that the term means a hollow bone, or perforated object. This is the generally accepted meaning. Sheboygan County, Sheboygan (From "The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names," by Robert Gard, 1968). This word has an Indian origin. There are a number of words of two principal meanings from which it may have been derived. One series is said to mean any hollow object such as a pipe stem, reed, cane stalk, or hollow bone; or that with which one perforates or pierces through, hence a needle or awl. The other meaning refers to a passage away by water, or a riverdisappearing underground, or a noise underground.

One authority claims the Indian word meant "send through" and "drum," and referred to festive tribal occasions when the Indians carried their drums between Sheboygan Falls and Sheboygan and beat the cadence most properly suited to the event. There is also a tradition that a great noise coming underground from the region of Lake Superior was heard at this river. Other explanations offered are that on quiet days sound carried an unusual distance if originated at the mouth of the river, and one Indian chief said that the name referred to the sound heard if one placed an ear to the ground near the mouth of the river. The Sheboygan River was named first, and the county and the city were named after it.