Our Capital Campaign is in full swing and we've hit $150,000! Thank you all so much for your donations! Our second Capital Campaign project is in the works as we renovate the lower-level meeting room at the Holly Center. Our goal is $400,000, and we would love to reach that goal for our 70th anniversary in April 2023. Want to donate to the Campaign? Visit https://www.waupacahistoricalsociety.org/capitalcampaign and click on "Donate to the Capital Campaign!"
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!
What's Happening at the Waupaca Historical Society!
(all programs are at the Holly History and Genealogy Center unless otherwise noted)
- Wed., March 15: Lost Arts Folk School-Garden Basket (FULL)
- Thurs., March 16: Lost Arts Folk School--Garden Basket (FULL)
- Thurs., March 30, 6 p.m.: "A Creative Place: The History of Wisconsin Art" with Annemarie Sawkins (sponsored by Dennis W. Rocheleau)
- Mon., April 17, 6:30 p.m.: Program with Winchester Academy at the Waupaca Area Public Library--"Ancient Canoes Discovered in Lake Mendota" with James Skibo, PhD
- Thurs., April 20, 6:30 p.m.: "A Tale of Two Companies: The Building of Seagrave and Four Wheel Drive in Clintonville" with Barbara Koster
- Sat., May 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Family Fun Day at the Depot with the Waupaca Area Public Library (DEPOT)
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 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