Thursday, September 27, 2012

Before the Birds: Family Names at Hagerman NWR

By Doug Raasch
(Originally published in the Featherless Flyer, July, 2009)

When is Goode good ?  Maybe Goode is goody.   No dude, Goode is gewed.  Look at Steedman Marsh, but pronounce Steedman as Steadman.  We have Deaver Pond and Dunning Pond, but don’t forget those Derby Ponds.  OK, enough of that.

The more you use Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, the more you become familiar with the names that define and identify geographic points.  In the early 1940’s, small family farms grew a little cotton, grazed a few cows, fattened a hog, gathered chicken eggs, and most of all, raised children.  Those farmers that tired of the toil, moved to the small but bustling town of Hagerman.  Unfortunately, while this little town was a good place for a railroad switch, it was also a perfect spot to build a lake.

As World War II was expanding, huge Lake Texoma was filling with runoff from 91,430 square miles up the meandering Red River.  When Harold Ickes established a wildlife refuge in February, 1946, it was apparent that the little farms and the little town lost the race for survival.  Migrating waterfowl were the winners and still rule to this day.  Oddly enough, there is nothing bearing the name of Ickes.  Ickes Pond ?? Ickes Marsh ??  Harold’s name is a bummer for titles.

As the local folks abandoned their homesteads, the family names were left behind to become eternal markers on the maps of the refuge.  Area cemeteries hold the familiar names on the grave stones.  The grave of J.P. Smith, the father of Hagerman town, overlooks the Hagerman cemetery.  Georgetown cemetery holds the  long and prosperous line of the Goode family.  The Steedman family has burial plots in Mt. Tabor and West Hill cemeteries. 

Fortunately, a number of descendants of the early settlers still live in the area.  They are a diverse and interesting group, friendly and willing to discuss what they know about families in the area.  Violet Jones Bruce and her brother Herschel Jones remember Hagerman as a near perfect place to grow up.  Their father worked for the KATY railroad and made the decision to move to town in a house across the street from the school.  Since their front yard was a playground,  Vi and Herschel always had ball games available.  Vi rode a goat to school once, but when high school came, brother and sister took the bus to Denison high school.  One of the main events that the people of Hagerman looked forward to was the “hog killin’”. This get-together provided the opportunity for trading, which was Daddy Jones true calling.  Cars, cows, horses, canned food and any other necessity came from his shrewd bargaining.

Dr. Carlos Araoz and his late wife, Eulalia Steedman Araoz, are Life Members of the Friends of Hagerman.  Eulalia’s family history traces back to L.A. Steedman and wife Lilly Jane who left Sherman in 1908 to farm the area around Deaver Switch.  L.A.’s father was a Grayson County judge for eight years beginning in 1888.  The post office at Steedman, Texas was located in the family home.  The year 1907 marked the formation of the Hagerman Independent School District.  In 1920, a two story brick school house was completed to accommodate the three teachers with the names Steedman, Ballard, and Goode.  The upper floor of the school house became a meeting place and a cultural center for the north Texas area, featuring debates, literary societies, music, and plays.  The last program took place in 1942, with Lake Texoma threatening just outside. 

Gerald Payne is a descendant of the Goode Family and has direct connection to the refuge.  Gerald explained that the Goode family lost most of their farm to Hagerman refuge, but his family still owns 97 acres along the boundary near the Refuge Road entrance. 

E.Y. Goode moved from Kentucky to Grayson County in a covered wagon.  E.Y. eventually bought 2500 acres of land and became the Chisom Trail Cattle Inspector.   He had the power of attorney to confiscate cattle judged to be stolen and return them to their rightful owners.  The Goode family farm eventually covered the area that became Perrin Field.  After building a 14 room house, the farm became the 55 Ranch.  E.Y. was one of the original owners of the M & P Bank.

Other farms that have familiar names are Curtis Terry (Terry Lane);  Wiley Dunning (Dunning Pond); Daucy Harris (Harris Creek);  John Ballard (Cedar of Lebanon);  Richard Meyers (Meyers Creek).  
The next time you plan an outing at Hagerman, look for the ghost of the characters that make up the history of the refuge.

ED Note:  Doug Raasch, long time volunteer at the Refuge and original author of the popular trail guide series now has a trail named in his honor.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

American White Pelicans

The following entries are excerpted from the  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Weekly Bird Census Highlights for 2011, by Jack Chiles:
  • September 20, 2011

About 300 American White Pelicans on the lake visible from Wildlife Drive.
  • September 27, 2011

2 American White Pelicans on shore of lake
  • October 4, 2011

3000 or so American White Pelicans in the shallows of the lake at least 1/2 mile north of the tip of Plover pad.
  • October 11, 2011

The American White Pelicans are still here in good numbers.
  • October 18, 2011

…Pelicans and American Avocets still hanging around.

  • October 25, 2011

300 American White Pelicans … on the lake.

  • November 1, 2011

2000+ American White Pelicans.
  •  November 8, 2011

250 American White Pelicans.

  • November 15, 2011

Just 1 American White Pelican.

Thanks to Jack’s report we have a picture of the swings in population of the American White Pelican at Hagerman NWR during the fall migration.  Pelicans were sighted and photographed at HNWR last weekend, so the 2012 fall migration is now underway.

American White Pelican, by Dick Malnory
American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) breed in the Northern Plains and in Canada, according to Lives of North American Birds, by Kenn Kaufman, and winter along the  California and US Gulf of Mexico coasts.  Their large size (wingspan is 9’) and distinctive bill make them easy to recognize and the subject of cartoons and parodies such as this one by Dixon Lanier Merritt:

               “A wonderful bird is the pelican, His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
               He can hold in his beak
               Enough food for a week.
               I’m damned if I know how the hell he can!”

That famous bill has some interesting characteristics.  It allows for catching and storing fish and is sufficiently sensitive that the birds can locate fish at night by touch.  The bill allows water to be drained before the fish is swallowed.  According to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, pelicans exercise the pouch to maintain elasticity.  And during breeding season the pouch become brightly colored.

Pelican "Poucher-cize" by Eileen Sullivan

Another interesting aspect of the American White Pelican is their coordinated fishing.  They can be seen swimming in one or more lines, “herding” fish into the shallows for an easy catch.  Most often found in fresh water, they eat primarily fish and crayfish.

Be sure to visit the Refuge this fall to see the American White Pelican!

You can purchase a copy of the HNWR Weekly Bird Census Highlights for 2011 in the Friends of Hagerman Nature Nook at the Refuge.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leaving Hagerman

On July 29, Drs. Peggy Redshaw and Jerry Lincecum led History Day at Hagerman NWR, with former town and area residents sharing memories of life in the town that was replaced by Lake Texoma.  Today's post from Peggy and Jerry is one of the History Day  follow-up stories:

          Claud Crook has one of the most interesting stories about leaving Hagerman in 1943, shortly before the waters of Lake Texoma swallowed up the town.  At the age of six in September 1942, Claud entered First Grade in Hagerman School.  He remembers the three-story school building, with an auditorium on the top floor.  Even before he started to school, Claud had occasionally recited a short poem for a PTA meeting held in that auditorium.  He had older siblings in school and they would bring home literary pieces which his mother would help him memorize.

          By the time Claud entered school the enrollment was pretty low, since the completion of Denison Dam and flooding of land around Big Mineral Creek was anticipated.  Claud’s father worked on the MKT section crew which was constructing a new spur line to replace the one running into Hagerman.  He borrowed $100 to buy the rent house his family lived in there in Hagerman and hired a moving company to transport it into Pottsboro, where he had purchased a lot from Austin Harshbarger (with more borrowed money).

          The Hagerman school remained open until Christmas Break in 1942, and Denison Dam was completed about the same time.  So in early January, the Crook’s house was jacked up by the movers, with all their possessions still inside, and they spent one more night in the house there in Hagerman (in the middle of a road).  The next day the house was moved into Pottsboro, but still not placed on the lot.  So the family slept in the house a second night “on the road”.

          There was another complication as the movers started to place the house at its new location in Pottsboro, on what is now East St., not far from the school.  The wheels of the truck hauling the house got stuck in some soft dirt.   Completing the job required help from a man who brought in a county road grader to get the house moving again.

          Claud and his family were now residents of Pottsboro, and he joined a First Grade class there, with a different teacher and nobody he knew.  It was like starting school all over again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For Second Saturday, September 8

In the spring of 2007 a new program was offered at the Refuge, by the Friends of Hagerman – Second Saturday.  Getting the word out was a challenge and for the first year or so attendance did not set any records, to say the least!  But gradually a lot of people found out about this great resource for nature information and you could say that Second Saturday had arrived.

Month by month a wonderful variety of program topics have been presented by interesting and knowledgeable speakers, many willing to come again and again to share their expertise and experiences with us.  Especially heavy hitters have been Dr. Wayne Meyer and his colleagues in the Austin College Biology Department.  And for September, Wayne has been instrumental in arranging for a “homecoming” for Second Saturday.

Dr. Charles R. Brown, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Tulsa, will present Social Behavior of Cliff Swallows: Insights from a 30-Year Study.  Brown is a native of Sherman, and became interested in birds at age 11 when he began studying Purple Martins.  He birded extensively at Hagerman through junior high, high school, and college.  Long-time residents may recall a bird column in the then Sherman Democrat, penned by Brown as a youngster.

Brown received a B.A. in biology from Austin College and a Ph.D. in biology from Princeton University.  He was on the faculty at Yale University before joining the University of Tulsa in 1994.  Brown has been doing a long-term study of cliff swallow social behavior and ecology in western Nebraska since 1982.  He is the recipient of the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Elliot Coues Award in 2009 and the Animal Behavior Society’s Exemplar Award in 2011.

Also set for September 8:

Second Saturday for Youth program, Learn About Fish, for ages 4 – 10, from 10 – 11:30 am, offering hands-on nature crafts and games.  Children under age 6 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  Please make a reservation for each child by calling the refuge at 903-786-2826 by 3 pm Friday, September 7, or  by using  Contact on  the Friends website.

The Friends of Hagerman Nature Photography Club will meet at 12:30 pm, Audio/Visual Classroom, FOH Center, with a program by Sally Papin on using layers to create art from photos.  The theme for sharing is “Landscapes,” with the option of using HDR for your image.  

Thanks to our gracious volunteer presenters and to Friends memberships and donations, all Second Saturday activities are free of charge and open to the public.  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma. 

For more information, call the refuge or visit

Click Second Saturday to see a complete list of programs through the years.