It's a trout farm and an Indian Museum. Yes, it's Henschel

Henschel Indian Museum and Trout Farm

One of the most unusual sites visitors will come across in Wisconsin might well be the Henschel Indian Museum and Trout Farm. Just that combination of Native American artifacts and a trout farm suggests that this is an informal, laid-back place without a bit of stuffy.

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For five generations and 165 years, the Henschel family has quite literally been plowing over Indian artifacts and even old burial sites. Their land is so richly endowed that archeologists have come to conduct digs. The Henschel family has found so many artifacts that they started their own museum. In fact, when asked whether the numerous displayed pieces all came from the farm, Gary Henschel explained that almost all do, as well as the bushel bags currently in storage because there isn't enough room to display them all.

When the Henschel family arrived with oxen and a wagon in 1849 they weren't aware of the history that was literally only inches below the rich soil. Even today, 5th generation Gary Henschel describes walking up and down the rows of corn in the fields after a rain, doing nothing more than looking down to find arrowheads.

The museum part of the Henschel Indian Museum & Trout Farm holds animals skins, rugs, carved stone pipes as well as knives, arrow heads, hunting implements, and tools organized by chronological period. Gary Henschel also demonstrates and explains the tools and implements and how they were used by the early people.

In addition to the museum, visitors can follow a trail through the woods going past stone formations. Although their function is not known, Henschel suggests they might mark direction or point to astrological events. There are also effigy mounds on the site. These are raised beds of earth constructed in the shape of a stylized animal, symbol, human and are generally considered some kind of burial sites.

In 1996, Marquette University, excavating burials found near the Henschel farm, discovered a rare Red Ocher burial site. The burial contained elaborate grave goods, such as shells from the Atlantic coast and copper from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The name of the site comes for the early inhabitants custom of capping the top of the site with a layer of powdered red ocher.

But it is the large mound on top of the hill that is the most visually intriguing (and a bit disquieting). In the 1870s a "local mound digger" reportedly found a large vault that contained "many skeletons arranged around a large conch shell." Although a bit ghoulish perhaps, this find has been reproduced and is open to visitors.

There's one other experience open to visitors. Gary Henschel also runs Hidden Springs Trout Farm stocked with Brook and Rainbow trout. He promises no limit, no license, and you will catch a fish. You won't go away empty handed from here.

Henschel's is located in Elkhart Lake just one hour from Milwaukee. The town offers lodging, dining, shopping and road racing history.

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Neala McCarten

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