I hear the beating of their wings and my pulse quickens.
Just as surely as the sun rises in the east, the Canadian geese turn south as fall approaches to the vast land and lakes of Chariton County, Missouri.
If it were not for the stealthily independent spirit of Miss Mary Stewart, there might not be a Swan Lake Wildlife Refuge.
Not withstanding the fact of her near centurion age, she is as fiercely independent, purposefully committed and restless of spirit as the geese that soar above.
Joshua Hahn, a friend of Miss Marys’ that owned 800 acres in what is now Swan Lake Refuge voiced to her had ben thinking of a state area and she said, “Lets go federal“. This proved to be a term more easily voiced than accomplished.
She wrote many letters in 1927 to the Bureau of Biological Survey(the predecessor of the Fish & Wildlife Service) urging that the area be considered as a wildlife area.
It took 10 yrs. for her dream to become a reality. Her relentless urging and writing as well as help from groups such as the Izaak Walton League. A Missouri boy fresh out of college,. J. C. Salyer. caught the eye of the new Chief of the Biological Survey , J. N. “Dingo” Darling, who had a passion to save waterfowl by having him locate 600,000 acres of refuge.e
After visiting and viewing the proposed site with Miss Mary, it was an easy sell
President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge Feb. 27, 1937. The first 5458 acres cost $139,526.35 or $25.56 per acre.
Miss Mary only visited Swan Lake Refuge one time in spite of her role in it coming to fruititation. Vernon Kennedy, former Chicago White Sox pitcher and a Mendon native, drove Miss Mary and a friend through the refuge. “This job is done ” , she said. “Time to start something new.