107 South Main St • Waupaca, WI 54981 • (715) 258-4414   Contact-us-button_0.png

Waupaca County History

map of Wisconsin with Waupaca county highlightedA brief overview of Waupaca County history from Early History of Waupaca by Freeman Dana Dewey.

Waupaca County was officially established by an act of the legislature on February 17, 1851. Because it is located on the southern boundary of what was the great pine forest, the logging industry grew rapidly. The first sawmill was started in Mukwa in 1848 and that was soon followed by one in Weyauwega. Farming developed right on the heels of logging with the first field plowed in the town of Lind in 1849. Agriculture became an important part of the economy. In fact, the Waupaca County potato became well-known in the Chicago area for its excellent quality. Dairy farming also became an important part of Waupaca's economy. The economic base of Waupaca County was later diversified with the introduction of manufacturing.

The county seat was first established in Mukwa, but it soon moved to its present location of Waupaca. The move to Waupaca was not without difficulty. There was a great deal of conflict between Weyauwega and Waupaca about which community should be the county seat. This question was voted on a number of times. The results of these votes was in question because people from Waupaca found out that people from Weyauwega were stuffing the ballot box. After hearing that, it didn't take the people from Waupaca long to follow suit. Since they failed several times to get the county seat moved to Weyauwega, the residents of that town finally gave up. During the approximately five years it took to get the matter of the county seat settled, Waupaca County was divided into Eastern Waupaca County and Western Waupaca County. Each section had its own elected officials. The matter was finally decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but even this took two tries to get the desired results because again people from Weyauwega tried to change the outcome. Even though the Supreme Court said that Waupaca should be the county seat, the lawyer from Weyauwega sent the Circuit Court judge a notice that he should hold court in Weyauwega, the judge sent the notice back to the lawyers and told them to go back to Madison and try the case again. This time the matter of the county seat was settled. It was Waupaca.

In spite of problems establishing a county seat, the county grew and flourished. Settlers were attracted by the beauty and diversity of the landscape. The forests drew loggers while the fertile soil drew farmers. The western part of the county has hills and lakes with the Chain O'Lakes in the southwestern part of the county providing what has become an important tourist attraction. The eastern part of the county is dominated by the mighty Wolf River which meanders through several communities. The Wolf River was an important part of the Waupaca County economy since it provided a means for the loggers to get their logs to market and a means for people to travel. The need for goods to support the logging and farming industries created a perfect environment for the expansion of manufacturing. In no time at all Waupaca county had a thriving economic base. This thriving community with its beautiful lakes and hills drew many settlers to the area.

The beauty that drew the first settlers soon drew vacationers to the area and by the latter part of the 1800's the area had become quite well known as a lovely vacation spot. The 240 lakes and 74 rivers and streams became the heart of what would become a flourishing tourist industry. From the early Grand View Hotel to the many modern motels the tourist industry has grown steadily until it was able to replace vanishing logging industry as an integral part of Waupaca's economy.