New Hours at the Holly Center
The Holly History and Genealogy Center is now open Wednesday through Friday, 10 am to 2 pm! Stop in and check out our exhibits, gift shop and research area. If you are interested in genealogy research, visit on Wednesdays when the Waupaca Area Genealogical Society staffs the building. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Help Us Preserve Your Story!
We are collecting memories and stories from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021. These collections will be preserved at the Holly History and Genealogy Center to help future generations understand this time in Waupaca, our state, and our country.
Please consider filling out our survey HERE!
Surveys can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to WHS, 321 S. Main Street, Waupaca, WI 54981.
Keeping History Alive
Waupaca and the Chain O'Lakes
About 100,000 years ago, much of North America was covered in glaciers. As these glaciers moved, they carved hills, bluffs, lakes and rivers into the landscape. By 10,000 BCE, the first people—ancestors of the Menominee—had reached Wisconsin, with some settling around Waupaca and the Chain O’Lakes.
The Waupaca area, along with the Chain O'Lakes, were long home to the Menominee Indian tribe and are the ancestral homeland of the Menominee peoples. The Menominee and Ho-Chunk, as well as others of the 12 American Indian Nations of Wisconsin, cared for the lakes, rivers and forests of our state. The Waupaca River's falls and the nearby lakes provided an abundance of water, vegetation and wildlife for peoples here and traveling through. For many years, the Menominee moved around the area as the seasons changed, traveling from their villages, likely on Taylor and Otter Lakes, to camps on the Waupaca River.
By the 1830s, the largely uncharted lands in Wisconsin had attracted the interest of white settlers. In a series of seven treaties, the Menominee ceded their lands to the United States. The final treaty, in 1848, relinquished the last of the Menominee’s land, which included Waupaca.
In June 1849, the first white settlers--five men from Vermont--traveled from Plymouth, Wis., to Waupaca, looking for "the falls." The men claimed land along the Waupaca River at what is now North Main Street in the city of Waupaca. These early settlers came to Waupaca looking for the "The Falls" that they'd heard so much about. Eventually the settlement took its name from a Menominee word “Wāpahkoh” meaning, “Place of Tomorrow Seen Clearly.” The word also denotes a place in the Menominee language, not a person’s name or title.
Waupaca steadily grew around the water, harnessing the power of the falls and welcoming many more settlers, including many Danish and Scandinavian immigrants. At the same time, settlement on the Chain O'Lakes--in the townships of Dayton and Farmington--began, largely first as a farming community. Before long, residents and visitors alike discovered the beauty of the 22 interconnected spring-fed lakes, and tourism took off on the Chain O'Lakes.
The Waupaca Historical Society, located in downtown Waupaca on Main Street, strives to preserve the rich history of both Waupaca and the Chain O'Lakes while educating and informing the public.
Visit one of our four historic buildings today and let us help you discover Waupaca's past today!
Thank you for donating to the Waupaca Historical Society and helping us preserve Waupaca and Chain O'Lakes history!
Upcoming Programs at the Waupaca Historical Society!
(all programs at the Holly History and Genealogy Center unless otherwise noted)
- Sat., June 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. p.m.: Lost Arts at the Hutchinson House Museum
Arts and crafts demonstrators, live music, food, tours of the Hutchinson House and more!
- Mon., July 4, 9 a.m.-noon: Refreshment stand outside the Holly Center
Grab a cool drink, a snack and enjoy the parade!
- Thurs., July 14, 6 p.m.: "Door County Lighthouses" with Ken and Barb Wardius
Sponsored by Marge Writt (in memory of Don Writt), Beiser Realty and Jack and Glenda Rhodes.
- Sat., July 16, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Family Fun Day at the Depot with the Waupaca Area Public Library
- Thurs., August 18, 6 p.m.: "Wisconsin's Post Office Murals" with David W. Gates, Jr.Sponsored by Michelle Peterson (in memory of David Dresia), Janet Buetow (in memory of Karl Buetow), Waupaca Foundry, Beiser Realty, F. Thomas and Hope K. Olson, and Pat Hollenbeck (in memory of Warren Hollenbeck)
- Thurs., September 15, 6 p.m.: "Our 351 Sons: The Founding of Rawhide" with John GillespieSponsored by Deb and Steve Fenske (in memory of Jim Boyer) and Beiser Realty.
WHS COVID POLICY
Masks are not required in our buildings at this time. We encourage visitors to wear masks if they feel more comfortable. We also encourage all visitors to maintain a 6-foot distance from others and remain at home if exposed to COVID-19 or feeling unwell.
Appointments outside of open hours at any WHS buildings can be made at least two weeks in advance by calling the Holly History and Genealogy Center at (715) 256-9980 or emailing
Tracy Behrendt at