Welcome to Weyauwega!
What? How do you say it? How do you spell it? Where did a name like that ever come from?
Was it named after a Menominee chief or patriarch named Wey-au-we-ga? Weyauwega, Wisconsin is pronounced Y-O-Wega. Did the name originate from the Indians and means “Here We Rest” or “Today”? Is it a corruption of the word “Wey-au-we-ya” signifying whirling wind? Or perhaps it was named after a Menominee guide who worked for Governor James Doty?
Whatever the origin or meaning of this city, it, like many communities in Wisconsin, is steeped in Native American Heritage.The Chief of the Menominee Indians that had a settlement around White Lake and farmed the small island in that lake had the name of "Chief Weyauwega". The skull of Chief Weyauwega, thanks to the efforts od Dr. Bliss of Royalton, WI, now resides in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Heritage, history, community pride are emotions felt by those who currently or once lived in Weyauwega. It doesn’t take people long to fall in love with this community of friendly people – whether visiting, working or living here.
The Menominee Indian tribe was said to have been the prevalent group in the area at the time the territory was settled in the early 1840s. Some of Weyauwega’s very old historians can remember times when the Menominees would seek refuge from cold winter temperatures inside their warm, European-styled homes. Then, as far as most know, the starting point of this community was in 1848 when men traveled from the east to west via waterways seeking a place where they hoped to build a better life for themselves and their families. Abundant resources – water, timber and fertile soil – promised prosperity to those who came. Henry Tourtelotte, Amos Dodge, James Hicks and M. Lewis secured the power rights on the Wolf River, which is only 1-1/2 miles from the downtown. The Waupaca River flows through the community to the “mighty Wolf”. The waterways brought early settlers to this area before there were roads. Then, of course, came the building of a saw mill for use in building homes and businesses. Henry Tourtelotte built the first frame house in the settlement in November, 1849. Robert Baxter put up the second building in May, 1850, which was designed to be used as a hotel. This was the first traveler’s home in the county. Then, the real work began! In the summer of 1853, a plank road was built across the botton land, from Weyauwega to Gills Landing (located on the Wolf River). Before this plank road was built, there had been a small building at Gills Landing at which steamboats landed, and from which passengers and freight were taken in small boats to Wilcox’s place on the Waupaca River, which could be reached by teams of horses. Soon after the plank road was built, the passengers and freight that had reached Plover and Stevens Point by way of Berlin and Portage City, commenced to seek the Gills Landing route. A stage was put on in 1854, by a man named Myers, who lived a few miles out of Plover, and in a few years the great bulk of the passenger and freight traffer to Plover, Stevens Point, Grand Rapids, and Wausau was carried on over this route. The building of the Wisconsin Central Railroad was a death blow to Gills Landing and the plank road. But, it didn’t stop the people who had worked and built this community. In 1855, came the building of a rye mill – the largest in the world at this time! This mill embraced all of the more recent improvements in the manufacture of flour, both in the custom and merchants departments. (The elevator of this mill still stands as an historical symbol today). Weyauwega first became a village in 1856, then grew to a city government in 1939. Farm families and city business people have worked hand-in-hand for generations. The City grew and prospered.
In 1960, several businessmen came up with the idea of “Horse and Buggy Days” to pay tribute to the history and people of the past and provide an opportunity to celebrate those times in grand fashion. Although those who were instrumental in creating the event are now gone, the legacy of this event carries on. Every fall the community celebrates these days of old by looking back to these historic times. Some traditions include having a big parade highlighting two dedicated senior citizens as king and queen, dressing in clothes of the era, having lost arts displays to teach the current generation of the “way things were”, having horse rides, and a great fun time for all! Then, to celebrate the 150th birthday of Weyauwega marked on March 31, 2006, with an additional celebration held that summer, “Weyauwega Remembers” was held at the Waupaca County Fairgrounds, located in the City of Weyauwega. Most of the community got involved in this event. There were many wonderful outcomes from this planning. A book named the same as the event, Weyauwega Remembers was compiled and is available in the Weyauwega Public Library as well as through the OWL S library system. Dedication of the historical paintings on the old rye silo was held with songs written about/for Weyauwega being sung. A time capsule to be opened in 50 years was also buried.
Although, we all prefer to focus on the positive, Weyauwega has not been without its problems. History shows it to have had many fires; major storms – a tornado in 1950; loss of dedicated military lives throughout the years; 3 train derailments (the internationally-renowned last one on March 4, 1996); others; and all sorts of changes. Weyauwega is not without its lighter side with UFO sightings in 2003, and Challenges make us stronger, and so is the will of the people of Weyauwega. An historical society was created in the winter of 2006 to preserve the history of the community, and several other projects have been started and continue today. Some of them are: cleaning up Lake Weyauwega, revitalizing the Main Street, a Weyauwega Trails project and an arts center created. People are excited about this small community, which (at present) still respectfully and proudly owns in its heart a school mascot of its beginning, a Native American. Thus, the sports teams are known as the Weyauwega Indians. This small city of approximately 1,800 people is located quite centrally in the State of Wisconsin. It’s not far from Stevens Point, Appleton, or Green Bay. So, people enjoy the small-town atmosphere; yet don’t have much of a drive from the nearby State Highway 10 to large-city amenities.
Won’t you come and be a positive part of Weyauwega’s present, and look forward with us to the future of another great chapter in Weyauwega’s history?
To find out more about the history of Weyauwega, read Weyauwega Rmembers written in 2006 for the Sesquicentennial Celebration. The book was compiled by Joan Mallo, Mary Werth and Bill Mallo. Copies are available to check out in the Weyauwega Public Library and OWLS library system. Historical copies of The Weyauwega Chronicle are also available for viewing and printing from microfilm at the Weyauwega Public Library.
For more information on Weyauwega Area Historical Society, write to P.O. Box 294, Weyauwega, WI 54983.
Some information taken from:
Weyauwega Remembers and
Special thanks to Stephanie Thiel for this school presentation,
given at F.V.T.C. April, 2009, ending with her personal thoughts, “I think growing up in Weyauwega was really fun, and I learned a lot from everyone around me. I’m so glad I didn’t grow up anywhere else besides Weyauwega!”