Barton County’s First Christmas Tree

“On the night of December 24, 1874, Ellinwood had the first Christmas tree in Barton County. It occurred somewhat after this manner:
Our town, being so fortunate as to have five or ten of the most wide-awake, go-ahead ladies to be found in Kansas, thoroughly alive to every interest of the town and country, determined to make one happy time for the children during these grasshopper times. Accordingly a committee consisting of Mrs. Hollinger, Mrs. Landis and Mrs. Bay, went to work in good earnest thus showing their motherly aptitude in providing for the little ones of the community, made all necessary arrangements, and in due time had a very respectable evergreen in position, in the school house, profusely decorated and literally loaded down with beautiful cornucopias and large, neatly ornamented and embroidered stockings well filled with candies, nuts and goodies of all kind. These, and the materials of which the cornucopias and stockings were composed, were bountifully furnished by Messrs. Landis & Williamson, but very little help having been given by other parties. The expense of the tree was defrayed by Mr. Geo. W. Hollinger. Indeed the profuseness and generosity with which the tree was furnished is very creditable to the liberality of our citizens.
Reaching Ellinwood’s handsome school house at an early hour we were astonished to find the house literally jammed from parquet to dome — not even a seat in the gallery could be obtained for love or money. We have attended many a similar gathering — have often seen the lamps shine “o’er fair women and brave men,” but never such a crowd as this. Not our least surprise as the large number of handsome young and married ladies (the committee by no means excepted) who adorn this vicinity.
The exercises of the evening were conducted by Mr. Chalfant with a masterly hand; and considering that the programme [sic] which had been previously arranged was “noncomeatable[sic]” on account of the failure or lack of promptness on the part of those who had parts assigned them, the impromptu programme [sic] was carried through very creditably and successfully…”

Click Here to read the full article by Veronica Coons, Reporter, Great Bend Tribune

The Duck Man of Ellinwood

For years, he was called the “Duck Man.”

In 1923, Frank Robl of Ellinwood started banding birds — ducks and geese that he found at Cheyenne Bottoms.

It was a hobby. He had a farm on the south shore of what was then called Cheyenne Swamp, now Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Management Area. It is the largest inland marsh in the United States and in recent decades was designated a Wetland of International Importance.

But back then, it was just mucky, marshy land. Its name came from the Cheyenne Indians who frequented the area before Euro-American settlement.

In his spare time, Robl drove around the swampy land. He fashioned his duck and geese bands from tin, curious about where the birds went each fall and spring migration.

In August 1927, when 14 inches of rain fell over a two-day period, the swamp filled, “becoming the largest body of water from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains, the highest point remembered in history,” Robl wrote.

It didn’t dry up until 1931.

All the time, Robl kept banding, keeping meticulous records of his discoveries — noting when he received letters in the mail letting him know where the birds landed.

“In five years, I had recoveries from as far as Alaska and Canada, Mexico and Central America,” Robl wrote.

Robl’s records made some Kansas and national wildlife officials and politicians believe the area might be a good place for a refuge.4-017

Robl was invited to attend the American Convention of the Wildlife Association in Omaha. And then, he was invited to represent the Fish and Game Department at the Chicago Wildlife Convention. In 1934, he accompanied a delegation to the American Game Conference in New York City. He spoke on national radio about his findings and spent five days in Washington, D.C., with Kansas politicians, including Vice President Charles Curtis.
Frank Robl“I was introduced as being an authority on waterfowl and the best-versed man on the subject in the state of Kansas,” he wrote in his memoirs, “The ‘Duck Man’ Writes about Cheyenne Bottoms.”His records helped document the route of the Central Flyway, a bird migration route that runs from central Canada and the region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.

It wouldn’t be until Oct. 8, 1942, that the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Department made its first significant land purchase – 6,800 acres.

Cheyenne Bottoms is a 41,000-acre, 64 square mile basin sink. The Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area now includes 19,857 acres managed by Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; the Nature Conservancy owns nearly 8,000 additional acres.

Nearly half of all North American shorebirds migrating east of the Rocky Mountains and up to a quarter million waterfowl stop at Cheyenne Bottoms to rest and feed during seasonal migrations.

Robl died in 1976.

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