Hagerman – The Town
The town of Hagerman was established and granted a post office in 1880 and was originally named in honor of S. D. Steedman, a Grayson County judge. In 1904, James Patillo (J.P.) Smith platted streets in Hagerman in a 10-acre wheat field. It remained as Steedman until the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad (KATY) arrived in 1909 and renamed the town for railroad attorney James P. Hagerman. A year later, the town consisted of 250 residences, a cotton gin, school, church, post office, railroad depot, and several businesses. Hagerman prospered and grew to contain three churches and a three-teacher school. However, in the 1920s residents and businesses began to abandon the area when it became known that the soon to come creation of Lake Texoma would completely inundate the town. As the lake was filled in 1943, over 89,000 acres of land, including the small town of Hagerman, became submerged. Today, signs of the town are still obvious during periods of low water and pipes from a few flowing wells are still visible. One is even still flowing!
The decision to name the refuge after the town of Hagerman was reportedly made in 1944. A historic marker located near the site on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge marks the location of a 10 acre tract denoting the original town site that lies within what is now Lake Texoma. Today, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife as an overlay of Lake Texoma - one of the most popular Federal recreation lakes in the country with an estimated six million annual visitors.
During the Cretaceous period, 145 million years ago, what is now Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was part of a huge, warm, shallow sea that covered much of North America. Giant turtles, huge sharp-toothed fish and sharks, and 50-foot seagoing reptiles ruled Texas’ watery world. Built-up layers of dead Cretaceous animal and plant life would later become the region’s limestone and petroleum deposits.
Many millions of years later during the Pleistocene epoch, glacial ice sheets covered northern regions of the continent while the Red River Valley (where Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is situated) was dominated by pine and aspen and its higher grounds were covered with grasslands. Enormous animals roamed here including saber-toothed cat, mammoth, mastodon, horse, dire wolves, and giant armadillos. When the last glacial ice sheets disappeared about 10,000 years ago, prairie grasslands covered the Red River Valley—part of the 320-million-acre Great Plains ecosystem stretching from Canada to northern Mexico. The prairie’s rich soils, lush grasses, and abundant wildflowers supported hundreds of bird, reptile, amphibian, insect, and mammal species, both small and large.
For thousands of years, the dominant mammal of the prairie was the bison. Herds numbering in the hundreds of thousands moved through the area every year, leaving behind grasses that had been grazed, naturally fertilized, and hoof-churned soils. Their impact stimulated quick re-sprouting; it was bison, along with fires set by lightning and drought, that maintained the prairie.Earliest People of the Red River Valley
Archaeologists believe the earliest humans here in the Red River Valley were scattered groups of nomads subsisting on the area’s abundant Ice Age wildlife—possibly as early as 18,000 B.C. By 700 A.D., Caddoans and others settled in large farming villages, making use of fire to increase prairie productivity and improve hunting and foraging conditions. The Wichita eventually became the principle tribes of the area growing corn, pumpkins, beans, and melons in summer, and following and hunting bison in winter.
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