The Waupaca area, along with the Chain O'Lakes, were long home to the Menominee Indian tribe. The Waupaca River's falls and the nearby lakes provided an abundance of water, vegetation and wildlife. For many years, the Menominee moved around the area as the seasons changed, traveling from their village, likely on Otter Lake, to local camping grounds.
In 1848, a federal treaty opened up local land for white settlement. In June 1849, the first settlers--the Vermonters--claimed land on the Waupaca River at what is now the city of Waupaca. These early settlers came to Waupaca looking for the "wonderful falls" on the Waupaca River that they'd heard so much about. Eventually the settlement took its name from the river, which was a Menominee word meaning, "tomorrow river" or "pale water" or "tomorrow river."
Waupaca steadily grew around the water, harnessing the power of the falls and welcoming many more settlers, including many Danish and Scandinavian immigrants. The Waupaca Historical Society, located in downtown Waupaca on Main Street, strives to preserve this rich history while educating and informing the public.
Visit one of our four facilities today and let us help you discover Waupaca's past today!