Hagerman National Wildlife has a birthday today, February 9! The Refuge is now 65 years old. Hagerman NWR was established in 1946 by agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, following the construction of Lake Texoma. Hagerman NWR is within what was historically the hunting territory of several Native American tribes including the Caddo, Wichita, Comanche, and Kiowas. There is limited evidence of their temporary and recurrent or seasonal use of the area, but no permanent settlements have been noted.
In 1873, the MKT Railroad (Missouri, Kansas and Texas) known locally as “the KATY” crossed directly through lands that would become part of the Refuge. This brought many people and new beginnings, including farming, to the north Texas area. In 1910, a 10 acre area adjacent to the rail bed and underneath a portion of what is now Lake Texoma was plotted and streets were named. Previously a farming community known as Steedman as far back as the 1880's, the new town was named Hagerman after an attorney for the MKT Railroad who was instrumental in getting approval for the railway to be constructed through Indian Territory. The town had about 250 residents with churches, stores, a cotton gin and most everything one could need at that time. The town site was abandoned in 1943 to prepare for flooding of Lake Texoma. Today, the Wildlife Drive and Meadow Pond Trail exist on that same railroad bed.
Prior to the building of the lake, the land now encompassed by the Refuge included not only the town of Hagerman but outlying farms. Names of area families such as Goode, Terry, Dunning, Steedman, Harris and Meyers still designate roads, administrative or geographic features in and around the Refuge, and Hagerman NWR, established as an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma consisting of nearly 12,000 acres, provides a variety of habitats for birds and wildlife.
The first Refuge Manager was Marcus Nelson, who served in that capacity until 1951. On a visit to Hagerman NWR in 2007, Nelson said that the first two buildings at the Refuge were boxes that heavy equipment came in. He talked about building the first service building and equipment building for only $12,000. Nelson retired in 1980, as the Chief of National Wildlife Refuges, in Washington DC.
Hagerman is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges across the United States, and one of 21 here in Texas. Happy Birthday, Hagerman NWR, and many happy returns!
For more information about Hagerman NWR, please visit the official Refuge website, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/hagerman/index.html and for information about activities and events, see http://www.friendsofhagerman.com.