It was a happy birthday on Friday, as the Neosho National Fish Hatchery turned 125 years old.

It was a happy birthday on Friday, as the Neosho National Fish Hatchery turned 125 years old.

Hatchery personnel, members of the city of Neosho, the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, legislators and the general public were invited to the event, which began at 9:30 a.m. in front of the new visitor’s center. Numerous awards were given to the hatchery and speeches were delivered as well.

“On behalf of myself, my wonderful staff, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all of our partners, we just appreciate everyone for being here today, 125 years for this hatchery,” said David Hendrix, the hatchery manager since 1990. “ … Beautiful park-like environment located in a wonderful, wonderful city.”

The hatchery is the oldest federal fish hatchery in operation today and was started July 12, 1888. Its mission is to conserve and protect the nation’s fishery resources.

Hendrix credited the longevity of the hatchery to the people.

“It is because of all of you guys, all of the wonderful people, all of our legislators, our wonderful leaders that have worked with us,” said Hendrix. “We are so proud to serve you guys.”

Guests who spoke during the event included Rep. Bill Reiboldt, Jake Heisten (a field representative from Congressman Billy Long), Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Gib Garrow, Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson and Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery Russell Hively.

“This hatchery has been a part of Neosho for a very long time, one and a quarter centuries and I am proud to be here to celebrate this milestone in the hatchery’s history,” said Davidson, prior to presenting the city proclamation to Hendrix.

Hively told the group some of the history on the hatchery.

“125 years ago, a man came to Neosho to start the Neosho National Fish Hatchery,” said Hively. “And he came because of three things: first, there was 20 acres of Ozark land on the edge of a little town of Neosho, that he was told to make into a fish hatchery. There was a wonderful spring and there was a railroad. And these are the three reasons why Neosho (National) Fish Hatchery began. Over the years, many things have evolved, many different fish have been raised here – I believe 130 different species. And all he had at the beginning was these three things. Not only did they make a fish hatchery, they ended up making it park-like and over the years, people have continued to come here to enjoy the setting.”

Hively added there was one more thing of the benefit of the hatchery.

“I want to think one more thing the Neosho National Fish Hatchery gives us besides fish, the wonderful place to come, and that is memories,” he said. “And if you work here like we do volunteer in the bookstore for a half day, we always have someone come in who says, ‘I have not been here since 1949, my daddy brought me here.’ ‘Or look in this picture, there I am at one of the fishing derbies.’ This place is a place that if you ever visited it, you remember it. So maybe we need to change the name to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery and place of wonderful memories.”

After the program, those in attendance were treated to cake and punch and also a hot dog lunch. Also, a special cancellation stamp ceremony was held. Plus, those in attendance could see military vehicles from the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion.