Waupaca Historical Society
Waupaca Historical Society
321 S. Main St., Waupaca, WI 54981

​Take a Class with our Lost Arts Folk School!

Interested in traditional arts and crafts? Looking to learn a folk craft in a nurturing and hands-on environment?

The Waupaca Historical Society has launched the Lost Arts Folk School, offering classes to and for people who are passionate about traditional arts, crafts and cooperative learning. The Folk School is a place where people can come together to learn new skills with no experience--just an appreciation for lost arts and a desire to learn.

This fall, the Lost Arts Folk School will offer two classes. The first class, Pumpkin Carving with Jim Miller, will take place four times in October. We will also be offering a Norwegian Dragon Carving with Mitch Vesaas on November 1.

Sign up for a class by sending an email to director@waupcahistoricalsociety.org, calling 715-256-9980, or stopping in at the Holly History and Genealogy Center during open hours.

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 director@waupacahistoricalsociety.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 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!

Outdoor Life in Waupaca and on the Chain