NEWS & EVENTS
Frank Robl: Talking Duck & Goose Language
"I grew up with them," Frank W. Robl told a Great Bend Tribune reporter in 1941. "Even talking duck and goose language." He added that talking bird language wasn't necessary for operating a bird sanctuary, but it helped.
Robl came by it naturally, for the tradition had been started by his father, Frank X. Robl, Sr., according to the elder Robl's 1932 obituary, which described him as "widely known as a sportsman, and for his work in establishing a game refuge on his land near here [Ellinwood]." According to the younger Robl's account, the family had to drive wild geese and ducks from their farm fields after settling in Kansas in 1879. Shooting many of them, Robl said his father would keep and raise the wounded ones.
Family photos from 1910 and 1911 show ducks, geese, cranes, and other waterfowl, not to mention a variety of wild game around the Robl homestead. In 1923, Frank W. Robl began banding and releasing birds that migrated through the family's refuge. Within five years, he was getting reports of those birds from as far away as Alaska and Canada, Mexico and Central America. Using Robl's data, Fish and Game wardens were able to raise the interest of the Biological Survey and other agencies, beginning the long process that would eventually result in Cheyenne Bottoms becoming an internationally recognized wetland, vital to migratory birds.
From the time Robl received his first federal banding permit until his death in 1976, he banded more than 25,000 ducks, 500 geese, 1,350 starlings, and 700 crows. At one time, he estimated that he had banded more than 70 species of birds, all of which he could identify.
The Barton County Historical Society is fortunate to have a significant collection of Frank W. Robl's papers and more information is constantly being added. Various members of the the Robl family have been generous in loaning and donating material. Our most recent addition for this research includes a large number of scanned photographs, most of them showing the effects of The Great Flood of 1927 on the Bottoms. In partnership, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center and the Barton County Historical Society were loaned these photographs and allowed to digitize them by John Miorandi, who had purchased the collection following Robl's death. Do any of our readers have any other information or items which they would contribute to helping us preserve and tell this story?
South Town: Recording the Story of South Hoisington
The Barton County Historical Society has been awarded a Kansas Humanities Council mini-grant for a project entitled "South Hoisington: Stories from the Other Side of the Tracks". This ongoing effort will include oral history interviews with past residents and family members from that community. Additional research is being carried out in state and federal censuses, newspapers, military records, and published memoirs to round out the story.
Once occupied predominantly by African-Americans, "South Town" began as housing for laborers brought in to work on the construction and expansion of the Missouri-Pacific Railway facilities on the south side of the City of Hoisington, as well as continued maintainance of the steam engines and other railway equipment. The settlement flourished from about 1915 into the 1950s.
Anyone who is interested in participating in an interview or the project may call the Historical Society. When the project is completed, copies of the materials produced will be made available to the Kansas State Historical Society, Great Bend Public Library, Hoisington Historical Society, and the Hoisington Public Library.
Saluting Kermit Thompson & All-Kansas Fly-In -- April 3, 2008
In Memoriam: Ray 'Jiggs' Schulz - July 25, 2007