Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hagerman 70th Birthday Celebration

     By Helen Vargus

Barred Owl on sentinel duty in this photo by Buddy Viers 

Come join the party at the Visitor Center to celebrate Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge’s 70th Birthday on Sunday, February 21 from 2-4 pm.   Cake and coffee or punch will be provided by the Friends of Hagerman.  Visitors will be able to view a continuous slide show depicting the Refuge through the years.  A memory book will also be available for people to add their reminiscences about Hagerman. 

Hagerman NWR came into being as a result of the Denison Dam construction.  The Dam was championed by Sam Rayburn in an effort to alleviate flooding along the Red River and to have the ability to generate hydroelectric power and provide electricity to rural Grayson County.  The dam bill was passed by Congress in 1938 and in 1944 the reservoir was filled.  It took several years and many steps to the birth of the11,320 acre Hagerman Refuge. 

In 1941 the Katy and Frisco railroads began moving miles of tracks from the area.  Some of those track areas are now Wildlife Drive, Meadow Pond Trail and Raasch Trail.  In November, 1941, Postmaster R.L. Sweeney, was required to move the Hagerman post office to the Grayson County Air School site at Perrin Field.

By August, 1942, Hagerman town lots were being condemned in anticipation of the flooding of its low-lying valley.  The U.S. government appraised the properties and paid the citizens for their property based on these appraisals. The town would be inundated by 10-20 feet of water once the dam’s reservoir was filled.  Most residents found farms in drier locations or moved to the thriving towns of Denison, Sherman and other smaller communities in Grayson County. A few left the Texoma area for distant places.  Reluctant to give up their homes, some of the Hagerman residents moved their houses to nearby towns; others had them dismantled and moved elsewhere in the area, where they were then rebuilt. 

Historic marker tells the town story
In 1944 with the reservoir full the little town of Hagerman was only a memory for the families that had developed and cared for this piece of Texas.  The government now owned the land and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began looking into the possibility of using the flooded Hagerman town area for a wildlife preserve for migratory birds. 

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to dealing with a government entity.  First, studies needed to be done on the feasibility of the area as a refuge.  Next, an agreement between the Texas game service and the federal service was made to establish a refuge.  Hagerman was officially designated a refuge by the Fish and Wildlife Service in September, 1945.  Then, a presidential executive order was signed to establish the area as a federal refuge of the Fish and Wildlife Service in February of 1946.  It was also at that time the Refuge agreement was made with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  In April, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior approved the refuge.
A report in February, 1947, said the outlook for the Hagerman Wildlife Game Refuge was deemed to be excellent.  The population for wildlife was declared satisfactory and it compared favorably with other United States preserves.  At that time the building program at the refuge was on hold because initial bids were too high for additional structures. 

Marcus Nelson, first Refuge Manager

          The construction of the office and laboratory, located on a bluff overlooking Lake Texoma, was underway in August 1947.  The structure was built of concrete blocks, took about six weeks to erect, and cost about $10,000.  Other buildings to be placed on the site were workshops, tool sheds, residences, and garages.  For all buildings on this site the total estimated costs were to be $100,000 or more.
Photo of original Refuge HQ, taken in 1950

         Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge contains 3,000 acres of marsh and water and 8,000 acres of upland and farmland.  It is an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma.  Its purpose is to protect and improve living conditions for all wildlife.  It provides a variety of habitats for birds and other animals and is a prime location for migratory birds and waterfowl.

The Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road in Sherman, Texas.  The Refuge Office and Visitor Center are open Monday – Friday, from 7:30 – 4 pm.  The Visitor Center is also open from 9 am – 4 pm on Saturdays, and 1 – 5 pm on Sundays. The Visitor Center and Refuge Office are closed on federal holidays, and no official business is conducted; please note that Senior and Access Passes are not available on weekends and federal holidays.   The grounds are open year-round from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted. 

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