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

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.

Pre-Order your Cookie Tin beginning Nov. 12!

    Waupaca’s Yuletide Trail returns on December 4 for its third year and with it comes the return of the downtown cookie walk!
  The cookie walk takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Waupaca’s Yuletide Trail. Participants can purchase commemorative tins before the event and then visit participating businesses for cookies to fill their tin. In 2019, 15 businesses offered cookies to visitors with tins and in 2020, tins were pre-filled with goodies from local businesses.
  The Waupaca Historical Society puts on the cookie walk for the Yuletide Trail as a fundraiser. The commemorative tins, which feature a different historic Waupaca photo each year, will be available for pre-order beginning November 12. Tins cost $20 and all proceeds support the Waupaca Historical Society, thanks to a generous sponsorship from Community First Credit Union.
    Cookie tins are available for pre-order at the Holly History and Genealogy Center at 321 S. Main Street during open hours. The Holly Center is open on Thursdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or Fridays 12-3 p.m. Those interested may also arrange for pre-order via by calling (715) 256-9980.

  A limited number of cookie tins are available. Tins will be available for pick-up and in-person purchase on November 22.

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!

Outdoor Life in Waupaca and on the Chain