Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hagerman History

Labor Day, on September 1 this year, is the traditional date for the Hagerman Reunion, held at Hagerman Baptist Church on Refuge Road, Sherman.  On that day,  former residents and  descendants of Hagerman residents will meet to swap stories and enjoy potluck.  We tip our hat to those who have kept this tradition going longer that the town was in existence, and in recognition,  there will be a continuous showing of some home movie clips of the townspeople of Hagerman Texas, at the Refuge in the Visitor Center from 10 am - 3 pm Labor Day.  Below you will find information compiled about the town by Jerry Lincecum; this is also distributed as a flier at the Visitor Center.

A Brief History of
Hagerman, Texas
By Jerry Lincecum

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Big Mineral Creek in Grayson County occupies land with a varied and interesting history.  It was once used by the Caddo Indians.  As farmland, it became part of the O.H. Willis Survey.  In 1899 a section (640 acres) of this land was purchased for farming by three brothers from Fordyce, Arkansas: James Patillo Smith, William Nat Smith, and Maurice Goodwin Smith.

Grave marker for James Patillo Smith, Hagerman Cemetery
Town-view of Hagerman, Texas
In 1904 the brothers divided the land among themselves, and J.P. Smith set aside 10 acres for a town along the railroad tracks, in the NE corner of his land.  After having it surveyed for a township, he platted and named the streets.  The name of the town was a foregone conclusion, since the MKT Railroad switch there was already named the Hagerman Switch (after an official of the railroad).  It was a favorite stop for the train because of good water from the springs nearby. By 1910 the town had grown to a population of about 250 citizens.

             Ten years later it was a thriving community with a railroad depot, cotton gin, brick bank, a restaurant, post office (established in a home), a school, a church, an ice-house and two grocery stores.  There was also a large hardware store (shown above) well-stocked with Daisy Mae butter churns, since many people kept a milk-cow in their own backyards.  Corn meal was another staple, so Hagerman had an old-fashioned noisy mill where corn was crushed and ground.  Local farmers patronized a blacksmith shop, and the increasingly popular automobiles required a filling station and repair shop. Soon a barbershop was added.

              Despite the ill effects of the Great Depression, the town prospered until 1940. When the U.S. government announced it was going to buy up the land adjacent to Big Mineral Creek for the reservoir which would become Lake Texoma, some of the Hagerman citizens began moving out. Gradually, this island of activity began to break apart and drift away. The cotton gin was sold and moved to Tioga.  The moving of houses from Hagerman to other locations soon gave the town a half-empty look.

              In 1939 the clearing of land for this flood control  project on Red River started, though the actual construction of the dam did not begin until 1940. The Hagerman Presbyterian Church (below) had its building reinforced in 1942, so it could be moved to the Denison area to become Hyde Park Presbyterian.  

The Hagerman Baptist Church was moved eastward about two miles, where today a more modern building houses the congregation.

            After the Denison Dam was completed in late December of 1943, the waters of Lake Texoma rose rapidly to cover most of the buildings that remained.  The two-story school, (shown below) which stood on higher ground, was soon razed to reclaim the bricks. Thus the town of Hagerman died only about 40 years after it was founded.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Snow in Summer-time!

It must be August when you see Snow- on-the-Prairie!  Driving along Refuge Road, en route to Hagerman NWR, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse.  There are actually two plants, Euphorbia bicolor Engelm. & A. Gray, and Snow-on- the-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata Pursh; NPIN, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database,  notes  that the two are often confused.

As members of the Spurge Family, both plants have a milky sap that is irritating to humans with sensitive skin, as well as to the eyes, and is toxic to cattle. Poinsettias are members of the same family. Growing 1 - 4 feet tall, in poor soils, the plants multiply by throwing seed, described by Dorothy Thetford in Wildflowers-of-Texas. Thetford says, “This ballistic dispersal of seeds explains the scattered arrangement of plants on the prairie.”

Both plants are annuals in the spurge family.  The actual flowers are tiny white blossoms, surrounded by the green and white bracts.  The bract of bicolor (in photos)  is narrower than that of marginata.  According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension  Snow-on-the-Mountain grows mainly in Central Texas, as well as north to Montana and Minnesota and south to Mexico, and Snow-on-the-Prairie mainly in the eastern third of Texas.  NPIN shows a range including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.  The bloom time is July – October.  We'll take anything that even helps us think "cool" at this time of year!

This blog was originally published August 23, 2012.  The blooms are especially noticeable this year since the surrounding grasses have gotten enough rain to stay green even though it is late summer.

Post and photos by Dick and Sue Malnory

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Last weekend I was shopping for a container plant to add some cheer to my front porch when my choice was made easy by following a large swallowtail butterfly who landed on a pot of “Bandana Lemon Zest “ lantana in the garden shop (shown above).  We have several pots of different varieties of lantana, but just one lantana in the ground in our garden that returns reliably, although a little slowly after last winter’s prolonged cold…Basket of Gold.  These lantanas have been developed by growers in various colors and forms for the garden trade, but they share at least some of the traits of native lantana – tolerant of drought, poor soil and heat.

A common lantana that is actually a tropical native is Tropical Lantana, Lantana camara,  shown below, which has been cross-bred for the nursery trade.  Although it has the charming common name of Ham and Eggs, according to USDA  it has become invasive in the state of Florida.

The native lantana in our region is Texas lantana, - originally named Lantana horrida; according to the Native Plant Society of Texas – the scientific name referred to the strong odor of the plant.  It was later renamed Lantana urticoides.   Common names are Calico Bush, Bacon and Eggs and West Indian Shrub Verbena.

Texas lantana from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, by Joseph A. Marcus

Here are the growth characteristics of Texas lantana, from Texas Native Plants Database.

Plant Habit or Use: small shrub - medium shrub
Exposure: sun - partial sun
Flower Color: yellow, orange, red
Blooming Period: summer - fall
Fruit Characteristics: black drupe with 2 nutlets
Height: 2 to 6 feet
Width: 2 to 6 feet
Plant Character: deciduous
Heat Tolerance: very high
Water Requirements:
Soil Requirements: adaptable

From the Native Plant Society of Texas  we learn that

“Texas lantana produces deep purple-black berries which are poisonous to most mammals, including cattle, sheep and humans. However many birds relish them and spread the seeds. Birds are not the only wildlife to benefit. Bees use the nectar in honey production. Texas lantana, with its verbena tube flowers, is an excellent food-source for many nectaring butterflies, especially swallowtails, hairstreaks, skippers, sulphurs and brush-foot butterflies. It is also a crucial food source for the larva of the Lantana Scrub-Hairsteak butterfly.”

Watch for Texas lantana in the new Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where Have All the Dickcissel Gone?

One of the enjoyable sights and sounds at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is the cheery song of the Dickcissel, perched in the tall grasses in meadows and along roadsides in spring and early summer.  

Dickcissel singing at HNWR, by Dick Malnory

 The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas   describes the Dickcissel as a sparrow-sized  Meadowlark.   Dickcissel nest in grasses or near the ground shrubs or saplings, and lay 3 - 5 eggs.  They may have one or two broods.  They forage on the ground for insects and seeds.

The tram tour guide  for Sunday, August 3, reported seeing NO Dickcissel along Wildlife Drive.  During the month of June the weekly census reports ranged from 18 – 33; during July the weekly count ranged from 16 at the beginning of the month to 8 in the last week of July; for August 5 the count was down to 5.  Wondering if they had begun their fall migration, we found,  from the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas:

SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. Dickcissel migrates north through Texas from March 10 to June 13 with peak movement from late March to mid-May. The species breeds from early April to mid-August with egg dates from April 16 to July 30. TBBA field workers found nest building occurring from May 4 to June 2, birds on or around nests from May 8-18, young being fed from May 27 to July 5, and recently fledged young from May 9-July 29. The species moves south from July 10 to November 23 with the peak flight from late July to mid-October (Oberholser 1974).

And where do they go?

The prime wintering area of the Dickcissel is the seasonally flooded grasslands north of the Orinoco River in central Venezuela (llanos). The species also winters in lowlands of Colombia and along the west coast of Middle America from Mexico to Panama (Temple 2002).

According to Cornell’s All About Birds,  

The Dickcissel congregates in huge flocks in migration and on its tropical grassland wintering grounds.  Somewhere, Dickcissel are beginning to gather for the trip south – but not at the refuge!

Additional Reference:


Contact the Refuge for more information about the guided tram tours at the refuge.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-throated hummer at HNWR, by Dick Malnory

The Turk’s Cap is just coming into bloom in the garden adjacent to the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, offering the hungry hummingbirds an alternative to the nectar feeders there.  During the summer, the volunteers in the Visitor Center have had the added job duty of making nectar and keeping the feeders filled – the hummers have been consuming approximately a quart daily recently.

The Birds of Texas Field Guide (StanTekiela) points out that the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the smallest bird in our state of Texas.  According to Cornell, the Ruby-throated, which have been frequenting the garden at the Refuge, are eastern North America’s only breeding hummingbird.
Here are some “Cool Facts” about the Ruby-throated from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds:
·         The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times a second.
·         The extremely short legs of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird prevent it from walking or hopping, allowing it to only shuffle along a perch. However, it can scratch its head and neck by raising its foot up and over its wing.
·         Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prefer to feed on red or orange flowers (though it's not necessary to color the sugar water you put in a hummingbird feeder). Like many birds, hummingbirds have good color vision and can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, which humans can’t see.
·         The oldest known Ruby-throated Hummingbird was 9 years 1 month old.
From Birds of Texas we find that  the female Ruby-throated builds a tiny cup shaped nest with plant material and spider webs, camouflaging it with lichen; she may have 1- 2 broods a year, with 2 white eggs.  From Cornell we learn that they usually build their nest on a branch of a deciduous or coniferous tree; however, these birds, accustomed to human habitation, have been known to nest on loops of chain, wire, and extension cords.  Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds don’t stick around long. Pairs are together long enough for courtship and mating – just a matter of days to weeks. Then he’s off on his own, and may begin migration by early August.

A medium to long-distance migrant, according to Cornell, most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America, and most get there by flying across the Gulf of Mexico. Some birds stay in North America along the Gulf Coast, parts of the southern Atlantic coast, and at the tip of Florida; these are usually birds from farther north rather than birds that spent the summer there.

Enjoy them while you can, fall is around the corner.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bluebird College

"Bluebird College Professor" Carolyn Kohls
Nearly 650 children have been to “college” at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge so far this year!  Bluebird College that is… the “college” classroom is on the Visitor Center patio, with a good view of a Bluebird nest box in the adjacent field, the “college professors” are volunteers from the Nest Box Monitors, and the curricula is geared to the grade school interest level.

The students learn to recognize an Eastern Bluebird and the difference in plumage for the male and female.   They learn about Bluebird habitat, diet and nesting. Students get a close-up view of a nest box and completed nest.  They see photos of Bluebird young in various stages of development.  They also get to see a nest that was removed, along with several eggs, from a box on the trail at the Refuge after it was clear that there would be no hatch.

They get to hear a recorded Bluebird song.  And they might even get to see Bluebirds flying around the nest box nearby.  

Thanks to the school administrators, teachers, parents, Friends of Hagerman, volunteers and Refuge staff who make it possible for all these children to go to Bluebird College!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mississippi Kite

Ten Mississippi kites were reported at Hagerman NWR on the Tuesday Bird Census, July 15, 2014.  Visitors have been coming in to the Visitor Center asking about a hawk-like bird with a light colored head for several weeks now. 

Mississippi kite at HNWR, posted on  the Friends Facebook Page
by  Claudia Browning
Here is a description, from Cornell’s All About Birds

“Medium-sized hawk. Long, narrow, pointed wings. Long black tail. Head pearly gray. Body darker gray. Pale patch on rear edge of wings as seen from above.
Mississippi kite at HNWR by Nancy M. Miller
 After spending the winter in tropical South America, Mississippi kites come to the southern and central US to breed   .Mississippi kites usually lay two white eggs in twig nests that rest in a variety of deciduous trees.  Over time their nesting habitat has come to include wooded areas in suburban and urban development.
From Wikipedia:
“Mississippi kites nest in colonies and both parents (paired up before arriving at the nesting site) incubate the eggs and care for the young. They have one clutch a year which takes 30 to 32 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest another 30 to 35 days after hatching. Only about half of kites successfully raise their young. Clutches fall victim to storms and predators such as raccoons and great horned owls. Because of the reduced amount of predators in urban areas, Mississippi kites produce more offspring in urban areas than rural areas. They have an average lifespan of 8 years.”
Kites feed on mostly insects. From the National Audubon Society website:  
"This graceful, buoyant kite is a marvelous flier and spends hours in the air. It is quite gregarious, often seen in flocks and even nesting in loose colonies. Although chiefly insectivorous, feeding largely on grasshoppers and dragonflies, it occasionally takes small snakes and frogs."
Although the voice is not often heard, click to listen to  a recorded call, from the MacauleyLibrary.  Be sure to watch for the Mississippi kit at Hagerman NWR this summer!