& History

Visitors have been drawn to the cool clear waters of Green Lake for centuries. The history of this unique area runs deep.

The story of Green Lake

Since the 1860’s, tourists and visitors have been answering the call to come experience Green Lake. Early travelers from as far south as New Orleans and as far east as Philadelphia arrived by train and made the last ten-mile leg of their journey by horse and coach along winding, dusty roads. Years later, whole families drove hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to experience a slice of the good life in one of America’s oldest resort communities.

The attraction of the cool breezes captured by the multistory wraparound porches of our large-frame hotels, provided travelers with an escape from the summer heat. For decades, people have cruised through our cool waters on steamers for sightseeing and sailed along the shore for sport and for fun. Fishing and hunting from the area’s ample stock of fish and game gave visitors yet another way to pass their days in leisure.

pre-historic period

The lake with a color that resembled “a gem of jade” came to be as glaciers melted creating our landscape which is as diverse as the waters that melted here, creating “low sandy beaches, perpendicular cliffs, rocks, swamps, troughs and ridges.”

before 1600

The Winnebago Tribe began to settle in the Green Lake Area. The Winnebago Native Americans believed that Daycholah (the Native name for Green Lake) was the home to the Water Spirit, making it a very important place to worship and celebrate.


A treaty from the United States government, signed by the tribe ceded their lands east of the Fox Rivers and most Natives in the area were forcibly relocated to Native reservations. Within fifty years, more than half of the Natives who left the Green Lake area had passed away from Smallpox.


The first white settler arrives in Green Lake


The area begins to have a sizable settler population, and Anson Dart and John Sherwood begin to plot “The Village of Dartford” which would later become Green Lake.


The Village of Dartford becomes the County seat


The first summer resort, Oakwood Lodge, was built by David Greenway. It is believed to be the first summer resort West of Niagara Falls. Other resorts soon followed.


Trains begin taking visitors from as far away as New Orleans and Philadelphia, where families would rent cottages for the entire summer season


Chief Highknocker, the last Winnebago chief in the area passes away at the age of 91 in a tragic swimming accident in the Fox River


Most of the large wooden hotels are destroyed by fire or torn down. Only a few original cottages exist today.


Visitors continue to be drawn to the cool inviting waters of Green Lake. The waters of Green Lake play host to every water sport imaginable like fishing, boating, sailing, swimming, diving or just simply floating. Together, the visitors and residents of Green Lake can enjoy the area’s abundant nature and wildlife.

Visit our
Historical Museums

Operated by the Dartford Historical Society, these museums preserve the heritage of our special community–telling a complete story of people and nature in our area, background as well as details, and showing history as a continuing movement of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Society hopes to provide each visitor, from the youngest to the oldest, with a feeling of participation and pride in this flow of history.

Dartford Historical Society

The Dartford Historical Society is home to archives and exhibit galleries with over 6,500 artifacts, 3,200 newspapers, 15,000 visual images, 900 books and 250 cubic feet of archival materials related to the history of the Green Lake area.
Hours: Wednesdays 9am to 4pm and Saturdays 10am to noon.

Depot Museum

Once the original Fond du Lac and Sheboygan Railroad depot, this museum was renovated and relocated to Friday Club Park where it opened as a museum on July 4, 1976 as part of Green Lake's bicentennial celebration. It now houses rotating exhibits about Green Lakes rich history.
Hours: Saturdays 10am to 1pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day

Take a Historic
Walking Tour

A self guided, illustrated booklet highlighting 20 historic downtown Green Lake sites and structures is available. Booklets are available at Green Lake Chamber of Commerce, Sassafras, Dartford Historical Society and Dartford Historical Museum

local legends

It's important to understand something about the community and the people who lived here — whose names were on the front page and whose weren’t, but were actually the people who got a lot done.

Fond du Lac native Larry Behlen moved to Green Lake in 1973 for his job as the UW Extension County 4H Youth and Development Agent. 

The following year, he was recruited to volunteer at the Dartford Historical Society which had just been gifted the original Fond du Lac and Sheboygan Railroad depot to use as a museum. 

“I started volunteering on Sunday afternoons, sorting through local history materials at the museum,” he says. “It was only supposed to be for a couple of hours, but all of a sudden it would be getting dark.” 

The rest, as they say, is history. Behlen has served on the Dartford Historical Society board for nearly 50 years and today serves as president of the organization reflecting the community’s original name. 

Visitors to the Depot Museum (554 Mill St.) and Dartford Historical Society (501 Mill St.) can access local history exhibits and a collection of nearly 7,000 artifacts, newspapers, maps, photographs, community records and family letters. 

“We have a wealth of resources for people to search out information about Green Lake’s past.”

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