NEOSHO, Mo. — Dating back to 1888, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery is the oldest operating federal fish hatchery in the United States, and is an important piece of history for Neosho.
“Has a lot of memories for a lot of people. The gentleman that just walked by was saying that he used to come here as a child and jump the fence and come and play in the ponds,” said David Hendrix, Hatchery Manager.
For a long time, the hatchery has had loyal friends helping them along the way.
“We’ve been here a long time,” said Russell Hively, Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery president.
The Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery officially formed in 2001. It’s made up of members of the community that want to help their fellow citizens by contributing to the hatchery in ways the organization can’t do themselves.
“The Friends group has done so many wonderful things for us. They are wonderful support system. They help us do a lot of things that we like to give back to the community that we can’t do, like all of our derby events, the fishing derbys and stuff. They make it happen,” said Hendrix.
“When this came up for sale, we were able to buy,” said Hively. Thanks to funds collected from a variety of sources, the Friends group was able to purchase the old Bryon House located at 612 East Park Street and have decided to donate the land to the hatchery.
“The federal government keeps giving these gentleman here more jobs and they’re going to have to have more room in their land lot, and this particular home had been vacant, and an eye sore and a good thing to be gone. So that’s why we bought it,” said Hively.
“We were just so happy, we were very, very elated. but it was nothing surprising about our friends group, they love this hatchery so much. They always looking for ways to enhance the hatchery, as well as do something for the community,” said Hendrix.
Throughout the year, the hatchery goes through more than 100,000 pounds of feed, so with this new land, they will finally have space to put a feeding mill.
“If we get a good feed building, we’ll be able to one person, with our tractor and a frame loader can unload it and stock the feed in a minimum amount of time. More efficient, more functional and it will make all the difference,” said Hendrix.
While there are some measures to be addressed before things get started, both groups are excited for the place they love so much.
“It is part of Neosho community,” said Hively.
“It’s just a great place and there’s not very many places for families to go and enjoy together. We’re very fortunate to have this,” said Hendrix.
The Friends group will need to give the property to the federal government before anything can happen. Once the land officially belongs to the hatchery, they will work on funding the project. As of now, there is no official timeline on when everything will start.