Site History

Natural History

The Norbert Rich School Forest is located in Winnebago County well known for its many lakes as a result of the most recent glacier activity approximately 24,000 years ago. The area was covered in a floating ice sheet that carved out the valleys and creating the many lake areas of the region which can be seen today. Due to a warming climate the ice began to recede creating a large lake in the Fox River Valley known as glacial Lake Oshkosh. As the waters continued to drain towards the city of Portage, roughly 19,000 years ago, they deposited mostly clay and silt sediment deposits that make up the soils of Winnebago County. Beneath these deposits lie bedrock composed of sandstone and dolomite.
(Mode, William) Quaternary Geology of Winnebago County, Wisconsin [2008] Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey

Native American Settlers

Archeological evidence shows that early settlers in this region were members of the Oneota Native American communities. From 1200-1500 AD Oneota Indian villages were found along major waterways throughout the Midwest and Wisconsin. These people were early farmers in the region, planting corn, beans and squash along with knotweed and lamb’s quarters. They hunted and fished this area until early explorers arrived, bringing foreign diseases with them which decimated much of the native population.
(Winnebago County Historical Society) Lasley Point Archeological Site, Wisconsin Historical Society

Early Explorers

The first recorded historical accounts of this area came from the early French explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634 where he proceeded up the Fox River to find the native Winnebago Indian village. Following Nicolet’s route in 1673 Louis Joliet & Father Jacques Marquette arrived in the region also by boat. In the early years, the region was important for the transportation of explorers and immigrants as a water highway made by a portage between the Wisconsin & Fox Rivers (now Portage, Wisconsin) connecting Northeastward into Lake Winnebego, Lake Butte des Morts, Lake Winneconne and Lake Poygan then into the Wolf River & Lake Michigan as you continue North.

First European Settlers

In 1818 Augustin Grignon (pronounced Green’-yo) became one of the first settlers in the region. Establishing a trading post in Butte des Morts, his family did much business with the travelers following the mail route between Fort Winnebago in Portage and Fort Howard in Green Bay.
Immigration numbers increased after 1825 due to the opening of the Erie Canal in New York, allowing settlers to travel westward by boat. They settled in Menomonie tribal lands taken over by the U.S. Government in 1940. From 1840 to 1850 Winnebago County grew from 135 residents to 1,625. Homesteaders started with tracts of 40 acres of land, but many purchased additional property.
(Smith, Mariam) The History of Omro [1976] University of Wisconsin Digital Collections

Property History

Norbert RichMr. Norbert Rich enjoyed forestry and wildlife and continued to plant trees on the property throughout the duration of his time there. Mr. Rich enlisted this property under the Managed Forest Land Law through the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 1994. Creating a stewardship forestry plan, he managed the land to provide wood products, recreation and wildlife habitat. He raised Christmas trees and brought turkeys to the area, creating not only a tree farm, but a wildlife sanctuary.