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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 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 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!
- Sat., Dec. 18, 10 am-5 pm:
Depot Open House
- December 24, 30 & 31:
Holly Center CLOSED
- NEW HOURS COMING IN 2022!
Starting in January 2022, the Holly Center will be open three days per week with new hours--Wednesday through Friday, 10 am-2 pm!
- Thurs., Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.:
"Bethany of Waupaca: 125 Years of Care" with Bethany Home (at the Holly Center)
The Holly Center will be open to the public on
Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
WHS COVID POLICY
Following CDC guidelines, masks are required in all of our buildings. We 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 by calling the Holly History and Genealogy Center at (715) 256-9980 or emailing
Tracy Behrendt at