With nearly 65 years as an incorporated city, many of Henderson’s first inhabitants are around to tell its tales.
As a way to collect and preserve its history, as told by residents, a group of longtime locals created the Henderson Historical Society.
“Where else can you go and find people who know the entire history of the city?” said Janet Dobry, a board member with the organization. “Not just that. They helped create that history.”
Fellow board member Rick Watson added, “It’s hard to participate in our democracy if you don’t have a good sense of history.”
The society also wants to educate the public about the city. Its next event, which will focus on street and building names, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at College of Southern Nevada, 700 College Drive.
The idea for the group was started by Lou La Porta, one of the first Henderson city councilmen. People kept asking La Porta to write a book about the city’s history.
“A book represents the memories of one person,” Watson said. “A historical society is a living organization that goes on and on.”
Instead, they formed a group composed of historians and locals who grew up in the area.
The nonprofit’s first event was in April 2012 at the Gibson Library and attracted Henderson residents who had newspaper clippings and stories to share.
The group decided to continue having a regular lecture series.
“One theme our group revolves around is the Henderson Speaks (series),” Watson said.
Throughout the year, the organization brings in local historians and former city officials to talk about various topics such as the role industrial plants played on Henderson’s creation and water usage in the Mojave Desert.
The group has announced its topic lineup for 2017, including the 70th anniversary of St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Rose de Lima campus and how Green Valley came to be.
“We are going to have representatives from American Nevada (Co.) to talk about how Green Valley developed, which was how the Henderson population started to explode,” Dobry said.
Its first event of the year, “Why is it named that?” was developed out of curiosity, Watson said.
“A lot of new people have moved into to town since the ‘90s,” he said. “They want to know why certain streets or schools have their names.”
Beyond lectures, the group has collected oral histories — video recordings and transcripts are available at Henderson Libraries — as well as participated in city-sponsored events such as parades.
Watson said the group, which has about 100 members, is trying to attract younger crowds.
“It’s not just for old people,” Watson said.
While the group has spent time talking about older areas of town, such as Water Street, Watson said it’s important for the group to start collecting the history of the formation of other areas such as Green Valley, Anthem and Seven Hills.
“We are trying to collect more of those stories,” said Dobry, a 25-year Henderson resident. “It paints the complete picture of our history.”
For more information, visit hendersonhistoricalsociety.org.