The National Archives at Fort Worth

Records of the Fish and Wildlife Service: Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Records Available at the National Archives at Fort Worth


In 1901, Congress placed 61,500 acres within the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indian Reservation under control of the Department of the Interior establishing the Wichita Forest Reserve.  Four years later, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the area a game preserve as well as a forest reserve and transferred it to the Department of Agriculture.  Designated “the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve,” plans immediately began to relocate buffalo to the land which had once been their natural habitat.  Dr. W. T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Park and President of the American Bison Society, offered animals from the zoo to begin a herd.  Mr. Charles Johnson started to prepare for the arrival of the animals by overseeing the installment of a buffalo-proof fence for over 8,000 acres (which ultimately cost $15,000). 

In 1907, Mr. Frank Rush began his long tenure as superintendent of the Preserve.  That same year, the name of the facility was changed to Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve.  Mr. Rush received the first shipment of 15 bison on October 9, 1907.  The herd thrived, doubling in size in five years and obtaining a six-fold increase in ten years.  In 1921, Supervisor Rush recommended distribution of twenty bull buffalo, noting that there was no longer any danger of the species becoming extinct.  Subsequently, annual programs to improve the herd and maintain it at an optimum size resulted in donations and sales of many hundreds of bison.  Other species, in addition to buffalo, were placed in the Preserve including partridge, elk, white-tailed deer, antelope, wild turkeys, grouse, fish and longhorn cattle.  Only those species native to the area were developed.

In 1935, the Preserve transferred from the U.S. Forest Service to the Bureau of Biological Survey and renamed the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  Since that time, the same name has been kept for the facility although three administrative changes have been implemented.  In 1939, the Bureau of Biological Survey was transferred from the Agriculture Department to the Interior Department and in 1940 the Bureau was combined with the Bureau of Fisheries to become the Fish and Wildlife Service.  A combination of the Service with the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in 1956 placed the Refuge under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition to serving as a wildlife refuge, the Wichita Mountains facility has fulfilled other purposes since its beginning.  Cattlemen received permits to graze cattle on specified pastures within the area.  The severe drought of the 1930's necessitated withdrawal of this privilege in order to preserve the range.  Personnel from the Fort Sill Army base, which is adjacent to the Refuge, have been permitted to use the area for bivouac sites and training maneuvers for many years.  An effort by the military in the 1950's to annex 10,500 acres of the Refuge to be used as a missile range resulted in joint use of the southern portion of the area.  Although the title to the land remains with the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defense is allowed an artillery buffer zone from which the public is excluded. 

Accessioned by the National Archives in 1980, these records are part of the Records of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Record Group 22, and cover the period from 1899 to 1976.  Among the records are administrative subject files, biological correspondence and research files, engineering records and public relations files.  The biological files contain significant materials such as mammal lists, bird lists, plant lists, herd records of bison and original information about plants and animals native to the region.  Related records are in RG 95, Records of the Forest Service.

Records of Superintendent

The Superintendent held the primary responsibility for the entire management of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge including game and range management. After 1937, a biologist was appointed to assist the Superintendent. 

Records of the Biologist

Prior to 1937, the Superintendent was responsible for biological duties and research at the Refuge in addition to all of his administrative duties; but after that year, a full-time staff member was appointed assist the Superintendent.

Engineering Records


Public Relations Files

Administrative Records