city, seat (1850) of Kenosha county, southeastern Wisconsin, U.S. It lies along Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Pike River, just north of the Illinois state line. Founded in 1835 by settlers from New York, it was first called Pike Creek, then was called Southport for its importance as a shipping centre, and in 1850 was renamed Kenosha, derived from the Potawatomi term for "pike," or "pickerel." It was a centre of social reform in the early 1840s; for example, the city was the site of the founding of the Wisconsin Phalanx, which in 1844 established a communal living experiment based on the principles of the French social theorist Charles Fourier in what is now the area of Ripon. The city also won authority from the legislature to establish a tax to support a local school, and in 1845 the first free public school in Wisconsin opened there. Kenosha was also the site of the last judicially sanctioned execution (1851) in Wisconsin (and the only execution after Wisconsin became a state); some 3,000 people gathered in the city to watch the execution of a resident convicted of killing his wife, and many believe that the execution sparked the legislature to abolish the death penalty in the state two years later.
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