Historic Cheyenne Bottoms pictures, including some from Frank Robl the “duck man” of Ellinwood, featuring life in and around Cheyenne Bottoms from the early part of twentieth century, have been donated to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
Donated by John Miorandi, the photos also showed Cheyenne Bottoms prior to the installation of dikes and roads as well as various homes, businesses and schools.
Miorandi acquired the photos from a scrapbook purchased in a lot from a local antique dealer. Curtis Wolf, manager of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, presented a slideshow of the photos at the Barton County Historical Museum and Village on Monday night.
Among the photos, which range from about 1900 through the 1930s, were groups of market hunters, or hunters that came to this area to shoot water fowl for locales east of the state.
Robl documented the hunting in an article he wrote for “The Wilson Bulletin” in March, 1928. “The Wilson Bulletin” was a scientific journal published by the Wilson Ornithological Society from 1889 to 1999. It has since been renamed and is still published.
“In current reports it is stated that at least 500,000 ducks were killed (in 1904) for the markets of Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago,” wrote Robl in his article.
Special refrigeration cars were provided by the railroad to move the water fowl back east.
Wolf said that 1904 was about the last year of market hunting. He is considering using some of the photos for display at KWEC.
Frank Robl had a farm on the south shore of what was then variously called Cheyenne Swamp, Cheyenne Lake or Cheyenne Bottoms. During the 1920s, Robl began banding water fowl to see where they came from and where they went. He made his own bands out of tin.
Achieving results, the banded birds were found as far away as Alaska, Mexico, Canada, Montana and Louisiana. His returns or found birds were at nine percent. By 1927, he had banded 889 birds.
“That is unheard of,” of the nine percent return, said Wolf during his presentation. “He helped to define the central flyway.”
In the publication from “The WilsonBulletin,” Robl wrote, “The soil in the Cheyenne Bottoms is blue clay, which is so compact it makes an almost water-tight bottom. Since there is not natural drainage, evaporation is about the only way for the water to pass. He documented that there was no water in the Bottoms from 1915 to 1927 when about 10 inches of rain was received.
What to do with Cheyenne Bottoms was a controversy in the early twentieth century. Robl said, “The landowners and others insist upon a plan of drainage to make the land available (for farming). Another group proposes to let the water stand, thus creating an extensive, permanent inland lake. It is looked upon as an important waterfowl refuge or shooting ground.”
Wolf offers more information about the history of the area and is available to present the slides.Miorandi said the reason for his donation is that he wanted other people to enjoy the pictures, including both adults and kids. Call KWEC at 877-243-9268.