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

Our Capital Campaign is in full swing and we've hit $130,000! 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!"

Take a Class This Winter with the Lost Arts Folk School!

Check out the great offerings this winter with the Lost Arts Folk School! If interested in signing up for a class, please call the Waupaca Historical Society at (715) 256-9980,  email director@waupacahistoricalsociety.org or stop in at the Holly History and Genealogy Center at 321 S. Main Street, Waupaca.

  • Make a hearth broom on Sat., February 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The class costs $45 and is limited to 6 participants (at the Depot).
  • Again in March, Barbara Johnson will also lead a basket-weaving class on Thurs., March 16 from 5 to 9 p.m.  Participants will make a gardener’s basket, perfect for using in your garden to harvest vegetables and flowers. The cost is $35, and is limited to 12 participants (at the Holly History and Genealogy Center).

The Lost Arts Folk School was formed in 2022 as a committee of the Waupaca Historical Society. The mission of the Lost Arts Folk School is to bring multicultural participants together to develop and practice hands-on learning in a nurturing environment. We encourage skill-based learning of traditional arts and crafts in the same way our ancestors did. The Lost Arts Folk School's and the Waupaca Historical Society's missions both exist to “preserve the history of the Waupaca area and to share that history with others.”

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!

Transportation around Waupaca