Sunday, January 30, 2011

Argos Izaak Walton League

The Argos Izaak Walton League Clubhouse is a product of Federal Relief Funds created during the New Deal work of the 1930s. This is a multi-part series on its history.

Part 1: History of the Club

Izaak Walton League of America History
Early in 1922, three Chicago fishermen discussed the formation of a fishermen’s luncheon club. They called together all of the men they knew who had an interest in the sport which resulted in a dinner on January 14th with 54 men in attendance. After much discussion it was decided to launch not a fishermen’s club, but rather a movement for real conservation. The group, known as the Original 54, established the Izaak Walton League of America. Williamson Dilg was the founder and leader of the organization. Dilg was described by a partner in the movement as a “visionist, a dreamer of dreams” and “far ahead of his critics, in pointing the way to greener fields, clearer streams and more abundant wildlife.” Dilg wrote a poem called “City Worn” which reflected his deep sentiment for the outdoors. The poem opens with this sentence: “I am weary of civilization’s madness and I yearn for the harmonious gladness of the woods and of the streams.” The organization’s name was chosen in honor of Izaak Walton’s philosophy of outdoor living, and the principles of true sportsmanship.

The organization’s mission was to conserve, maintain, protect and restore the soil, forest, water and other natural resources of the country. The League also worked toward educating the public on the importance of conservation. Dilg, the organization’s first president, was evangelistic in his approach for finding support for conservation as he hosted crusades to packed auditoriums across the country. His effort had significant results as state and local divisions of the organization were established in great speed and numbers. There were over 100,000 members within three years of the organization’s founding who applied pressure on political leaders for conservation. The organization established a Conservation Platform from which to focus its energies. The platform had a number of points including the eradication of pollution, restoration of drained areas and wildlife, and the protection and extension of forests.

The first chapter of the Izaak Walton League in Indiana was established in Muncie in 1923. By the end of 1924 there were 40 chapters in the state and 150 chapters by 1926. The group is credited with popularizing the conservation movement in Indiana during the 1930s.

Establishment of the Argos Chapter of the Izaak Walton League
Argos, Indiana is a small town in Walnut Township in southern Marshall County. Marshall County has two rivers, the Yellow and Tippecanoe Rivers, and many freshwater lakes. Much of the agricultural land in the county was drained and clear cut of timber for crop production. This was the case with the area surrounding the Argos Izaak Walton League property. The area on which the organization’s grounds were established is low land with natural springs and a high water table. A few farms were established in the area early in the county’s history and a county ditch was created from a stream to drain the land in the immediate area of the property for crop production.

Spearheaded by avid outdoorsman Wilferd M. Harley, the Argos Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America was created by Charter No. 68 on January 25, 1926; the initial name of the organization was Tippecanoe Fish Hatchery. Harley and seven other men who were anglers had made application to the State Department for minnows to be distributed in adjacent lakes and streams in an effort to replenish the rapidly depleting supply of desired fresh water fish locally. The men began discussions in 1925 regarding the formation of a local chapter of the Izaak Walton League. They were Harley, Jack Urshell, O. L. Grossman, William Middleton, Henry Kosanke, Dale Vories, Mel Engle, and Albert Kamp. The official petition for charter included 21 names; five additional names were signed to the charter once it was received from the League. The charter was held open for a time and an additional 20 names were added to bring the club’s membership to 46. The officers were Wilferd Harley, President; O.L. Grossman, Vice President; and H. A. Kosanke, Secretary/Treasurer.

The men who founded the club were local community leaders with a strong interest in the environment. Early rosters of members have names familiar in the history and business district of the community. Particularly noteworthy is Wilferd Harley. Harley as a young man became interested in the environment. He studied birds, watched their nesting and eating habits and would supply food for those who did not migrate south during the winter. His father, John, wrote that he liked to plant shrubbery and trees and “would, if permitted, have planted trees in every fence corner on the farm”. His greatest hobby, again as stated by his father, was the lakes and streams that he loved to fish. He became convinced early in life that the waters needed to be restocked in order to perpetuate the sport. Harley was a rural mail carrier for the Argos area and a member of the Knights of Pythias Lodge. In 1931, while waiting out a storm under a boat he and a friend had been fishing from on the Tippecanoe River, a tree fell and crushed Harley beneath the boat on the bank of the river. Harley was 38 years old at the time of his death; he was president of the club from 1926-1931. Dr. Frank Kelly assumed leadership of the organization after Harley’s death. Kelly was a physician and had established the Kelly Hospital in Argos. Otto L. Grossman had a well established mortuary business and ambulance service in Argos and served as the organization’s president from 1933-1936, and possibly longer. He was president during the construction of the stone clubhouse.


Contract said...

Thank you for posting the series about the Argos Ikes. We are interested in using the information you havve posted on the website. Please send me an email at

shane bagley said...

wonderful stuff , the history, of the ikes is,history. looking forward to reading more of this chapter.

shane said...

we,{ argos ikes would like to know if you can attend a meeting with us at the club to meet and talk to you about wythougan valley preservation to get to know each other better and to find out if there is anything we can do to help in your ongoing project. thank you and of course you are always welcome at our facilities. meeting is sun. the 4th of sept. at 12:oo or sat. the 10th of sept. again thank you see you soon. shane bagley email

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