Back in the late nineteenth century, this site was pretty much like any other around Neosho. There were plenty of trees with hills nearby, but it was a relatively flat portion with a natural drainage creek. According to old newspaper clippings, Neosho has long been nicknamed the City of Springs (now its official moniker), and indeed, the Hearrell property with its steady-flowing spring turned out to be the perfect place for this hatchery.

Back in the late nineteenth century, this site was pretty much like any other around Neosho. There were plenty of trees with hills nearby, but it was a relatively flat portion with a natural drainage creek. According to old newspaper clippings, Neosho has long been nicknamed the City of Springs (now its official moniker), and indeed, the Hearrell property with its steady-flowing spring turned out to be the perfect place for this hatchery.
Started way back in July of 1888, we have just completed our 129th year of continuous operation. Situated just on the outskirts of town, the hatchery location was picked because of the railroad line that now marks the western boundary, and that reliable Hearrell Spring just on the southern side. Once congress gave the official approval, construction began with felling extra trees and removing excess growth from the grounds. Then more than twenty ponds were fashioned from the newly cleared landscape, each connected with a complicated series of pipes and waterways. These production ponds were designed from the start with the ability to drain them completely. This facilitated two important functions: complete fish removal and algae control. So even from the beginning, our ponds have undergone draining, cleaning, drying, repairs – all in plain view of the curious public.
Even though we have always been draining ponds and moving fish from one place to another, one characteristic of the hatchery has made this particularly visible: we have removed most of the ponds over the years. Now, any time we do something to a pond, everyone can easily notice it! There are still remnants of old walls here and there, and it is interesting to hear from long-time visitors about their memories of past configurations.  
Three of those original dirt-bottom ponds are getting worked on now. Things look particularly interesting with piles and holes where visitors expect water. Other than the walls of the ponds improved in the 1930s, these ponds have remained pretty much the same until now. Hopefully by early fall they will be better than ever and filled back with water – ready for the next batch of fish.
Nowadays we raise coldwater rainbow trout in those ponds, and the summertime warm temperatures don’t work the best for them anyway. Summer is the perfect time to drain and maintain and repair, so we’re not really missing a production beat with what’s going on. But we know it looks odd to the visitor–it just won’t last forever. These cycles of fish coming and going, indoor and outdoor maintenance, ponds filling and draining, and seasons progressing have been the story here in Neosho for 129 years now. And we’re glad to announce that there’s no end in sight to this happy progression!
 
Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.