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From Ways to Washington
Shirley Says
Ivy Kassel in Kassel's Club sometime in the 1940s. - photo by Photo courtesy Miriam Potter

We all take so much for granted – basic, simple things like our surroundings. Perhaps we get too carried away with the details of our lives and don’t take time to really look around and appreciate the wonder of it all.
Every place has its fascinating old sites. When returning from an exciting vacation one typically returns to a daily routine, taking for granted the history and beauty of one’s hometown. Richmond Hill’s heritage includes many interesting and historic places – the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery is one.
On March 16, 1936, ground was broken for a new hatchery in Bryan County at Ways (later renamed Richmond Hill). During that year, Henry Ford donated 75 acres of his expansive plantation to the state of Georgia for the purpose of raising fish.
The hatchery was originally designed to raise 4 million to 6 million big mouth bass. After the baby fish hatched and grew to about 3 inches long, they were released in freshwater streams of Georgia. They were used to re-stock the Ogeechee, Canoochee and Satilla rivers.
Built with federal aid of about $40,000, maintaining the hatchery was the responsibility of the state of Georgia. The 100-acre project, with 60 acres underwater, had four artesian wells supplying water to the ponds.
In the early 1930s, Ivy Kassel was appointed as a state game warden for Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Bulloch counties. In 1937 he became the district game protector in charge of the sixth state fish hatchery.
Mr. Kassel was heard to say, “I am going to do my duty to the best of my ability, with fairness to everyone and special favors to none.”
Ivy Kassel and Jennie Butler were married in 1934 by Judge Roscoff Deal. The wedding was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Davis. John Davis built their home on the Fort McAllister Road in the late 1920s. Bryan County News Editorial Director Miriam Potter is their daughter. (The old homestead of the Davises is now home to Buck Meeks.)
Mr. Kassel was instrumental in securing the help of Henry Ford and the Bryan and Chatham county commissioners for construction of the hatchery. He also obtained two Chris-Craft cruisers from the Seaboard Air Line Railway for patrol duty on the Ogeechee River. His efforts resulted in tremendous savings to the state.
The hatchery was an extensive project. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) furnished material and labor for the buildings, including a residence, garage, deep well and servant quarters.
The Bryan County commissioners furnished machinery for digging ponds and paid for drilling two 4-inch flowing wells. The Chatham County commissioners provided convict labor for 90 days to clear and drain the land. In addition, several trucks were loaned.
At the informal opening of the hatchery, Mr. and Mrs. Kassel hosted a fish fry. Along with fish, they served barbecue, salads, shrimp and pickles. The dinner was held in the log cabin at the hatchery – the home of the Kassel family.
The log cabin was later moved to the site where Augie’s Pub is today. (Years ago, the cabin served as a restaurant for Mike’s Pizza.)
Mr. Kassel was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the hatchery. It was necessary for drainage ditches to be kept open, growth removed from the ponds and the fish fed twice a week. The large fish were fed shrimp and the baby fish fed ground up beef lights and hearts.
Mr. Kassel was in tune with every phase of the hatchery and was very happy with his job. He once said, “Fish are very much like pigs or chickens at feeding time. Any time I or anyone else went near the pond, they would follow around the shoreline expecting to be fed.”
He went on to say, “There is no trouble with disease among the fish and we don’t expect any. The flowing wells furnish a constant supply of fresh water and excess water is drained at the opposite side of the ponds.”
Ivy Kassel was popular in his position as district game protector of Ways. During his tenure he never carried a firearm, neither did he experience difficulty in arresting offenders. He served under three game commissioners and three governors – Russell, Talmadge and Rivers.
In 1937 Mr. Kassel traveled to Washington, accompanied by several Savannahians, carrying 34 large Ogeechee shad. They were distributed to members of Congress – some were personally delivered to President Roosevelt.
Printed in the Washington Herald, March 5, 1937:
“Packed in ice and traveling 650 miles from Savannah by road, 20 Ogeechee River shad will be presented to President Roosevelt today as a good will offering from that State.
“The presentation will be made by Rep. Peterson of Georgia, who received the fish yesterday. They were brought here by Ivy Kassel, Game Protector of Georgia and one of his assistants, Dr. Wilson.
“Said to be the most prized of all shad caught in Southern waters, the fish are also one of the President’s most favorite dishes.”
Ivy succeeded in procuring funds from Congress for construction of a modern shad hatchery on the Ogeechee River at Ways. That endeavor proved to be of great value.
Mr. Ivy Kassel served 14 years as the district game protector in Bryan County. He became known statewide for his contributions – garnering respect for the game laws of Georgia and the nation.
Prior to accepting the position with the fish hatchery, he owned Kassel’s Club in Ways, which is the present site of the Harmony House on Hwy. 17. The club was a highly respected place to enjoy supper and Saturday night dances. It was known the club had the best music around and perfect order was expected there.
In addition to the supper club, Kassel’s had a sparkling swimming pool. The grounds surrounding the pool and club were manicured, and it was a place for a family to spend a pleasant afternoon.
It was not unusual for Kassel to put trout and rockfish in the pool – even an eel. He wanted children to enjoy being close to the fish.
Miriam remembers a trout once made its bed on the wooden bottom of the pool, which had a sandy area. (The pool wasn’t lined with concrete until it was sold years later to Charlie Bridges, and the name was changed to the Orange Court.)
The Kassel’s living quarters were under the same roof as the club. Fortunately, for Miriam, she had playmates next door. They were the Miner children, John Hugh (Jackie), Alieze and Miriam (Pic). The Miner family lived in a two-story house owned by Annie Miner, located on the corner where Clyde’s convenience store is, at highways 17 and 144. Alieze and Pic were born on that very corner.
Pic Stevens and Miriam Kassel have always been best of friends. Pic shared, “Miriam and I have been friends since we were knee-high to a minnow. Mr. and Mrs. Kassel were wonderful people. He was a dignified, nice looking man. I remember seeing him in his game warden uniform.”
She reminisced, “Miriam’s mother was so good to us. The only time I got to see a movie was when she took us. I was often at their house. I remember a time I snuck over to see Miriam. Mama sent Jackie after me with a belt … he strapped me all the way home … I couldn’t outrun him.”
Alieze McGrath has fond memories of her childhood days. “I remember Miriam’s 4th birthday party … they were living in the log cabin at the fish hatchery. I got my first store-bought dress to wear that day. It was blue and white checkered, with little embroidered flowers in the pattern … it had a sash that came around to the front.”
Mr. Kassel made a lasting impression on Alieze, “He was always neatly dressed and a soft spoken gentleman … always welcoming.”
Pic added, “We loved the swimming pool. We swam every day after working in our family’s nearby field.”
The respected pioneer conservationist, Ivy Kassel, died Jan. 12, 1946.
(NOTE: Next week the story of the Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery continues…)

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at

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