Monday, February 7, 2011

Argos Izaak Walton League

Part 2: Heyday of the Organization

The League's Conservation Activities: ahead of their time
Early records in Harley’s handwriting log conservation and wildlife replenishment activities during the first few years of the club’s existence. Fish were received from the conservation department in 1926, 1927 and 1928 and were “planted” in local waterways including the Tippecanoe River (running through the southeast corner of the county) and at Eddy Lake, a small lake west of Argos in Green Township. Otto Grossman owned a farm bordering the whole north side of Eddy Lake. The club experimented with raising and releasing ring-necked pheasants; between 1927 and 1929 430 pheasant eggs were purchased from the state with local donations, this resulted in the release of 223 chicks. 1928 also was the first year of what would become an annual outdoor fish supper by the organization at Adams Landing on the Tippecanoe River. It was also noted in club records that “Waltonianism” was spreading rapidly nationwide and the Indiana state division began the publication of “Out-door Indiana”, described as a very small pamphlet with six pages in volume 1 published in January, 1927.

Establishment of the club's grounds
1929 is described in the club history as a year of “tremendous moment, and the events, and ultimate achievements, no doubt linger in the memories of the Argos Waltonians most auspicious.” The organization sought to raise awareness and support for their efforts by extending invitations to all sportsmen interested in fishing to the second fish dinner at Adams Landing. In preparation for the event the club constructed three brick ovens at that location, owned by R. R. Engels, a club member. Donations and pledges were received by 65 individuals and organizations at the dinner. This provided sufficient funds for the purchase of two acres at the northwest corner of 16th and Hickory Roads, Walnut Township, then owned by Harry Fleming. Volunteers immediately constructed a fish rearing pond with “teams, scrapers, and man power”. A flowing well was driven and piped into the pond and native stone was used in building retaining embankments. A row of willows was planted along the west bank of the pond. The west boundary was a small stream that flowed northeast into Deep Creek. The organization also continued its placement of fish into local waters in 1929 at Lake Syracuse and donated bass to the Fort Wayne hatchery and the state hatchery at Bass Lake.

The club continued its activities in the early 1930s. They planted trees on the new hatchery grounds on Arbor Day in 1930 and 1931. They fed quail during the winter of 1930. They continued to plant fish in area waters and expanded to Twin Lakes (West Township, Marshall County) and the Yellow River. It was noted in the club history that in February of 1931 “The Indiana Waltonian” began publication from Monticello, Indiana and included former Argos resident, Lawrence Corey on its publishing board. The May, 1931 issue of the Indiana Waltonian announced the arrangement of a large fish fry at Adams Landing on June 3rd under the leadership of the Izaak Walton League’s State Vice-President, Otto Grossman. Visitors to the event were encouraged to first view the new hatchery then follow the highway “well marked with road banners” to Adams Landing. A large tent was erected at Adams Landing for the event that included several speakers and dignitaries and over a thousand in attendance. Dr. Preston Bradley, the Izaak Walton League’s national president, and one of the original 54 founders of the national organization, was the guest speaker. Delegations from 18 communities in Indiana and one from Michigan and two from Ohio were in attendance. Short speeches were made by Grossman, Col. E. L. Gardner-Division President, William Collins-National Director, Rosco Martin-State Senator, Samuel Pittengell-US Congressman, and R. R. Engels-owner of Adams Landing.

In 1932, due to income from a contract with the State Federal Conservation Department, a new concrete holding pond was constructed adjacent to and just north of the rearing pond. In order to perpetuate the memory of Harley the hatchery was renamed from the Tippecanoe Fish Hatchery to the Wilferd Harley Fish Hatchery. In 1933 another contract was made with the conservation department which provided capital to purchase 15 acres directly west of the original hatchery site. The membership grew to nearly 60 that year and additional trees were planted. In 1934 the Argos chapter organized the Junior Walton Club with 64 members. This was the only active junior league in the state. With the junior club’s assistance 5000 trees were planted; weed land shelters and feeding protection for game were constructed. 1934 also saw an increase in membership to 80 individuals.

1934 marked an important achievement by the club that was recognized nationally. The James Lawton Childs Memorial Fund Award, which was given annually to the private hatchery producing the most fish in the nation, was received by the organization. It was the first time the award had been given to an entity east of the Mississippi River. The National Waltonian carried an article on the Argos chapter’s achievement in their June, 1935 issue with text written by O. L. Grossman. Grossman remarked that without conservation measures “we will have Kansas here in Indiana”. A photograph of the original ponds is included with the article. The award was celebrated with a large fish fry attended by over 400 people in 1935.

Argos hosted the 17th annual state convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1939 at their new clubhouse, finished two years prior. Otto Grossman was both host and the president of the Indiana state division. A banquet was held at the Grossman Building in the town of Argos. During the 1940s the Izaak Walton Safety League, a children’s club, met in the basement of the clubhouse. Grossman Funeral Home sponsored the organization and at one time they had 79 members. The building was also used by other organizations and for family gatherings, reunions, parties and special events.

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