A little bit of God’s country in the heart of South Lakeview.
Our Wisconsin roots
Will’s Northwoods Inn was founded in 1991 by descendants of William Wheeler. Will Wheeler was born in 1847 at Odanah (near Ashland, Wisconsin) in what was then known as the Northwest Territory. His parents, Leonard and Harriet Wheeler, were Congregational missionaries to the Ojibwa Indians who settled on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. A few years later, the Wheelers founded the town of Odanah, where their son Will was born.
Leonard Wheeler was an early advocate of Native American rights, consistently opposing efforts by the federal government to remove the Ojibwas from their tribal lands in northern Wisconsin to land west of the Mississippi. During the winter of 1849, Leonard Wheeler walked 250 miles through the snow from Odanah to Sparta, Wisconsin to catch a train to Washington DC, where he successfully opposed an effort to relocate an Ojibwa tribe from their lands on Lac Court Oreilles near Hayward.
Will Wheeler grew up with the Ojibwa at Odanah, and his recollections of that period were published in the Milwaukee Journal in 1931. A copy of the article is displayed at Will’s . The Wheeler family subsequently moved to Beloit, where Leonard proved to be something of an entrepreneur, selling the design of a windmill he had developed and patented to the Fairbanks Morse Company. Thousands of these windmills were sold by Fairbanks Morse for use on the Midwestern plains.
Will Wheeler died in Beloit in 1937. He was the great-great-grandfather of Will Bunge, one of the original bartenders at Will’s Northwoods Inn when it opened on April 1, 1991, 150 years after Leonard and Harriet Wheeler first arrived in Wisconsin.