Historical Themes: Overview
BHG’s commitment is driven by the history of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP) and the land it occupies. We use the terms “Badger”, “Badger Lands” or “BAAP lands” to refer to this propellent production facility (originally called Badger Ordnance Works) and the Sauk prairie land on which it was built and eventually deconstructed—when we want to distinguish the land and its inhabitants from the relatively short, approximately 70-year occupancy by the ammunition plant itself. These terms acknowledge the site’s ancient history, which includes its geological formation, the tenures and forced removals of indigenous communities and the Euro-American farm community, and the central role of the ammunition plant, its decommissioning, and subsequent mitigation, recovery, and reuse. We try always to recognize the interrelationships among these various “Badger” histories and their connections with broader geographic, historical, cultural, and environmental perspectives.
We have divided this history into 5 five themes: The Land, Indigenous Communities, Farm Community, Powder Plant, and Renewal. Here is an overview:
One of the northernmost appendages of the tall grass prairie east of the Mississippi River, the 14,500-acre Sauk prairie is bounded by the ancient Baraboo Range on the north, the sandstone and dolomite bluffs of the Driftless Area on the west, the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin glacier on the east, and the Wisconsin River to the south. Runoff from the glacier created the fertile outwash plain of the prairie.
Indigenous people managed the prairie and surrounding savanna and preserved it by means of fire, from the paleo-Indians to the Ho Chunk people who have lived here for centuries. They were displaced by Euro-Americans in the1840s, but refused to remain in exile, and some never left. They returned over and again and are part of the Sauk Prairie community today.
In 1942, the Badger Ordnance Works took 10,500 acres of the prairie to build an ammunition manufactory for World War II. Badger displaced the farm community and reshaped much of the landscape. Built for World War II the “powder plant” also supplied ammunition for the wars in Korea and Vietnam. It remained part of the Cold War arsenal until the demise of Soviet communism in the1990s.
Since the plant was decommissioned, the Badger property has been divided among the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center (DFRC), and the Ho-Chunk Nation. The old plant railroad right-of-way is now the Great Sauk State Trail. These stewards all contribute their new and unique stories to the history of the Badger lands that it is the mission of the Badger History Group to collect, preserve and share.