Eddleman had just graduated from college and become an ecological
preservationist. Before beginning his new career he
wanted to spend some time discovering his roots. He
came to the Bootheel of Missouri to grow closer to his great-grandfather
Sam and learn more about how Sam kept his family afloat during
the Great Depression. While in the region, Nate also
wanted to enjoy the outdoors and historical sites.
He chose to camp
at Lake Wappapello with his great-grandfather to enjoy his
company and do some fishing. One evening, the two sat
at the campfire and Grandpa shared some stories of helping
to develop the region. Nate took notes:
Grandpa helped build the miles of channels
ditches to drain the region of swamps. The land was
considered inhabitable. Only Indians would come to the
swamps seasonally to hunt the abundant animals and to fish.
By then, railroads were being built and the cypress trees
from these "useless" swamps were strong and made
excellent railroad ties. The trees were also used to
build homes, such as the Hunter-Dawson home in New Madrid.
Once the swamps were drained, they found
that the soil was rich.
More people began to settle in the region hoping to make a
buck. Early, the land was practically given away, now
it is one of the most agriculturally productive regions in
the United States.
Grandpa also told about helping build the
dam in the '40's to control flooding and create this beautiful
lake. The recreation area helps the region economically.
Many people are now building homes along the lake to "get
away from it all".
Of all that his
great-grandfather said, what surprised Nate the most was to
learn the area was once covered by swamps. He wondered
how much of this swamp land was removed to develop the area.
Nate felt very
passionately about wetlands. While in college,
Nate studied the hydrology
of wetlands and how species depend on the changes in water
level. He understood the value of wetlands. He
loved his great-grandfather, but was disappointed at the destruction
of the great swamp. But, then Nate realized that people
didn't know about the value of wetlands to people and wildlife
in his grandpa's day.
Nate began to wonder
how the great swamp might be restored. Can we tear the
dam down? How else could these swamps be brought back?"
Case Author: Michelle Fisher,
Three Rivers Community College,
Poplar Bluff, Missouri