Three Lakes Heritage and History - Our Story  


In the late 1800s, surveyors for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company were frustrated with their lack of ability to plat a straight line through this area. In each direction they turned, they encountered yet another body of water which blocked their route northward toward Eagle River. It was these "three lakes" - Maple, Townline, Range Line - which served as the basis for what would eventually become the name of the community that formed here.

Since its formal organization as a Town in 1881, Three Lakes has experienced three distinct eras. In order, they were: 1) logging, 2) potato farming, and 3) tourism.

To satisfy the growing need for lumber in Chicago and other parts to the South, vast areas of the Northwoods were clear cut during the late 19thand early 20th centuries. Forest products are of course a renewable resource but reforestation requires careful planning and the passage of many decades. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Civilian Conservation Corps was put to work in this region replanting forests where the stands of virgin timber once stood. During the ensuing decades, the naturally sandy soil that once supported old-growth forests was turned over, the stumps were removed, and Three Lakes became an agricultural community. Family-owned and operated potato farms abounded, production soared, and warehouses to store and broker product expanded to the point that Wisconsin’s first County Agricultural Agent was located in Three Lakes. Over time, corporate farming interests eventually absorbed all of the local farm production. Today, none of the commercial potato farms remain in production.

It was during this time of transition in the early 1900s from family potato farming that the Northwoods established itself as a premier destination for tourism and summer residency. Enabled by the mass production of affordable automobiles and the construction of passable roads, entire families traveled to Three Lakes and spent the summer season in residence. The same railroad that once hauled the local lumber off to parts beyond now delivered visitors from those same places. Housekeeping cottages and vintage resorts were constructed in large numbers. The Golden Age of Tourism for Three Lakes began in the 1930s and lasted well into the 1970s. For roughly the past 75 years, the Three Lakes economy was largely fueled by and dependent upon tourism and seasonal visitors to the area.

Three Lakes is reinventing its local economy from one that over the past 100 years has relied nearly exclusively on tourism into a diversified infrastructure founded on the four cornerstones of technology, tourism, agriculture, and the cultural arts. With our greatest natural resource being the largest chain of lakes in the State of Wisconsin, tourism will forever remain an important calling card to attract visitors. However, we now boast more high speed internet and broadband options than any other community in a five county region, making Three Lakes the anchor for technology in the Northwoods. Add to that a Top 3 Library and a Top 10 School District, and you will understand why our new advertising slogan is "come to play but maybe just stay". Three Lakes truly is a place where you can work with all the latest technology you need while enjoying the highest quality of life with our pristine water, pure air, no traffic, non-existent crime, and close-knit community environment.

Interesting Historical Facts

The first Annual Meeting of the Town of Three Lakes was on April 6, 1886. It was actually held at the Town of Gagen, in Forest County at that time, and included both the Village of Three Lakes and the Village of Monico.

Town meetings in those days were frequently held at the Three Lakes “lock-up” or jail structure.

The old "Military Road" connecting Chicago to points northward during the Civil War, and passing through Fort Howard in Green Bay along the way, still exists in the Town of Three Lakes. Today, it is a modern paved road and serves as the major north-south thoroughfare on the far eastern border of the township.

The completion of the railroad ushered in the region's rapid development as a logging community. Bountiful virgin stands of pine and hardwoods were once bountiful here. 

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, demand soared for wood to rebuild the city. By the turn of the 20th century most of the virgin forests were logged out and region's first great economy came to an end.

While still important, logging has never returned as a main employer or way of life in Northern Wisconsin.

Club History:

2015 is the 63rd Anniversary Year for the Three Lakes Lions Club!

The Three Lakes Lions Club is a proud member of Lions Club International, belonging to Northern Wisconsin District 27-C2 / Region 2 / Zone 2.  Our club was founded in 1952 with 25 members and today boasts more than 40 members. 

Three Lakes Lions sponsor many local community projects, the crown jewel of which is the Annual 4th of July Parade attended by 10,000 parade watchers along a mile-long route. Each year five scholarships valued $5,000 total are provided to college and trade school bound seniors from our high school. Lions maintain the Maple Lake beach house and picnic facility located in Cy Williams Park. And for the benefit of our local children and their families we host of parties at Easter, Halloween (including a parade) and Christmas.  

Three Lakes Lions also sponsor many worthwhile State-level programs such Sight First, Lions Camp, Leader Dogs, and Badger Boys and Girls State.

In addition, we help sponsor Foreign Student Exchange programs, purchase special classroom equipment for schools, and assist local residents with special medical expenses such as medical alert devices and hearing aids. We collect more than 500 pairs of eyeglasses each year for redistribution.  Several of our members do vision screening at the Three Lakes School and do mission trips internationally to redistribute glasses.  

Each year we donated to the Three Lakes Fire Department, the 8th grade Washington DC trip, 4th-grade girls basketball, and many other requests.

All of these activities are supported by funds raised locally through community-wide raffles, a winter fishing derby, our 4th of July  pancake breakfast with a meat raffle starting in 2015. So the next time a local Lion approaches you about purchasing a ticket for a program, please say "yes"  to support a Lion and their community efforts!


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