A Quick History

Pepin is situated on the shores of Lake Pepin, a lake that is 3 miles wide and 23 miles long. This beautiful lake is a big attraction for people from all areas. The lake is great for sailing, fishing, canoeing, water skiing, boating and swimming or even a tour boat ride. Also, several times during the summer, the impressive paddle-wheel boats, the Mississippi Queen and her sister ship the Delta Queen, come through Lake Pepin on their trips up and down the Mississippi River. The sight of these beautiful, old boats is one few people ever forget!

Pierre Pepin and Jean Pepin, two sons of Frank Guillatune dit Tranchemontagne, were early explorers of this region. They came here from ‘ Three Rivers, which is on the lower St. Lawrence in Canada, about 1679. The presence of these two men in this area resulted in the name Pepin for the lake, village and county. The Village was platted in 1855, first incorporated in April of 1860, the incorporation abandoned in 1864, and then re-incorporated in 1882 at the request of a group of residents. The Village was laid out at the foot of the lake for which it was named.

Pepin’s current marina, which shelters sail and power boats, is built in the harbor where steamboats once docked. From the harbor, Lake, Main and Prairie Streets climb the hill to Highway 35 and stretch across the sand prairie on which early hopefuls thought a city to rival Milwaukee would one day rise. Luckily for the surrounding countryside, it did not. Many visitors and some residents chose the area’s rural peacefulness to escape larger cities.

The main attraction of the water today is recreation, whether Lake Pepin, the Chippewa River, or the winding sloughs of the Chippewa backwaters. Hikers in the Tiffany Wildlife area can wander the logging roads or follow the old wagon roads kept clear by the DNR.


The beloved children’s author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was born near the Village of Pepin. She spent her early childhood days in the Pepin area, and her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods”, tells of these days. She is honored with a museum located in the Village, which also features antiques and history of the area. A reconstructed cabin at her birthplace is located 7 miles north of Pepin on County CC. A park and picnic area surround the cabin. You may call the museum at (715) 513-9115.

The second weekend in September the Village of Pepin holds the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Days. Several thousand people come to see a beautiful parade and enjoy many other activities at the two day event. Some activities include arts and crafts booths, historical period demonstrators, a fiddle contest, food booths and many more.

Since Laura Ingalls Wilder lived here in the 1870’s as described in “Little House in the Big Woods”, Pepin has been rearranged primarily by the introduction of the railroad.

The construction of the railroad along First Street in 1886 caused the relocation of businesses which had been concentrated on the waterfront. In the l960’s the trains stopped picking up passengers in Pepin and about 20 years later, the depot building was scheduled to be demolished. However, a group of interested citizens preserved the depot and in the mid 1980’s moved it to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park on Hwy 3 5 in the Village where it now houses a museum devoted to the grand days of river and rails.

Historically, Pepin was primarily a farming community with a large portion of the population being retired. In more recent years, the number of summer/part-time homeowners has increased. There is a strong work force of trained and skilled workers available in the Pepin area and surrounding communities. Pepin’s businesses are now distributed over the blocks between Hwy 35 and the riverfront.

Traffic along the river has made possible an interesting variety of businesses besides those necessary to sustain a small community. Restaurants, Bed and Breakfast inns, motels, galleries, artists’ studios and shops selling such diverse commodities as antiques, books, live bait, and lawn ornaments are examples of businesses run by people making a living at what they enjoy.

If you have any questions or need further help, please visit https://destinationpepin.com/ , our sister site which focuses on the business and hospitality aspects of our village. We welcome thousands of visitors each year.