Silver Lake History

Silver Lake has a distinct place in the history of the Indian tribes who settled on Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes as a means of transportation and food supply. The Algonkian family of the Potawatomi tribe settled in our area between the Fox River and the lake until the early 1800’s. 

Imagine “Shoo-ne-ah”, meaning “silver”, spoken as they stood on our shores and viewed the clear pool of water before them. Now, as in long ago, we can stand on the same shores and be amazed by the intensity of colors at sunrise or sunset, or by the calmness of a clear night sky, when the full moon creates a silver pathway across the dark waters.

In the 1800’s, Silver Lake saw the arrival of settlers and immigrants who were looking for opportunities to own their own farmland or apply their skills to building businesses that would serve the needs of their community. 

Throughout the 19th century, notable achievements changed the village landscape.  General John Bullen, Jr. and his son, Alfred, came to western Kenosha County to seek out new opportunities.  Their exploration brought them to the shimmering pool of water known as Silver Lake.  It wasn't too long after this experience that Alfred filed a claim on all the land between the lake and the Fox River.  They were part of the group of landowners who built the bridge across the Fox River, which enabled farmers to cross safely.

In 1837, General Bullen went on to build a tavern close to where the Packer Inn now stands.  He christened it "Ackanuckochowoc House", which  means "great bend".

Construction began on tracks for rail service in addition to the construction of a train depot, the post office became a reality, and the first doctor came to Silver Lake in 1898. The Dalton Store opened to sell general merchandise and became the first community center offering social programs and activities to residents.

Also, during this time, in the cold of winter, the lake became a beehive of activity as workers representing nine ice houses, arrived to harvest the frozen water that would eventually be shipped by rail to cities throughout the year.

At the turn of the 20th century, change was everywhere. It was obvious the generosity and vision of Silver Lake’s founding families created an environment of growth evident in housing development, and in the availability of retail, commercial and industrial businesses. The construction of churches and schools were important additions to the community, and before long the community saw the improvement of roads, and the addition of streetlights. 

As the decades passed, Silver Lake saw a growing number of tourists finding their way to Silver Lake for swimming, boating, picnicking, and fishing. To accommodate this change, three hotels and individual cottages became a part of the community.  

Another transformation began in the late 20th century as Silver Lake experienced an influx of second home buyers and retirees.

Today, Silver Lake is home to families, “weekenders” leaving nearby cities to enjoy a more relaxed environment, and retirees. The community spirit first brought to our area has lived on through the generations, and we hope the preservation of our lake will always remain a high priority.