Our History

There is a long historical tradition of visiting our town. Look up the Dartford Historical Society when you’re here—we’ll show you a side of Green Lake that at first seems distant, but is actually quite familiar. The hotels have changed, the trains no longer stop, and horses and carriages are reserved for parades. But visitors still arrive to soak up the atmosphere of one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets.

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For over 150 years, 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 seemed to be the cool breezes captured by the multistory wraparound porches of our large-frame hotels, providing travelers with an escape from the summer heat. Or perhaps it was the lake itself, glimmering with invitation on a sunny day. 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


The Village of Dartford changes its name to Green Lake to match the name of the train station in the area.


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.