Historical Society shares good news and new projects at fall symposium

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Diane Drobka: Musicians play during the annual Graham County Historical Society (GCHS) Fall Symposium at the Discovery Park Ranch House on October 28.

Contributed Article By Diane Drobka

DISCOVERY PARK – The annual Graham County Historical Society (GCHS) Fall Symposium at the Discovery Park Ranch House on October 28 was packed with information, progress updates, and a kick-off of two exciting new ventures.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Diane Drobka: Webelos Scouts post the colors.

GCHS President Chris Gibbs welcomed the nearly 50 participants. Pack 5023 Webelos scouts posted the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Keynote speaker Dick Spining presented an informative talk describing human interactions with the Gila River beginning with early Anasazi, Hohokam, and Salado prehistoric cultures and leading through Apache inhabitants, Spanish exploration, Catholic missionaries, Mormon pioneers, and later settlers that depended on the river.

Spining discussed the impact of the river on the Mexican-American War and treaties that ended it including the Gadsden Purchase. Finally, he explained how settlement in the Gila Valley represents how living in an arid climate has slowly changed perceptions of water ownership and led to the development of social and legal infrastructures that will define future water use.

GCHS Past President Brent Quinn shared updates on the metal building donated by the Circle K Corporation. He enthusiastically announced that the project is a month ahead of schedule and shared a slideshow of progress. “We really owe it to all of you and those in our community and beyond who donated to make this project possible,” Quinn said.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Diane Drobka: Dick Spining speaks about the various inhabitants’ interaction wtih the Gila River.

The Historical Society raised more than $18,000 toward their new museum and most of that is being used to fund the careful dismantling and moving of the structure. “Now, the challenge of raising ten times that amount – $200,000 – begins,” added Quinn. “That is how much we will need to reconstruct the building including site prep, pouring the concrete slab, installing utilities, and adding insulation, a new roof, and interior walls.”

GCHS Vice President Mike Crockett announced an exciting new partnership between the Historical Society and Eastern Arizona College (EAC). EAC’s Media Communications program will produce a series of video interviews conducted by GCHS members and EAC instructor Glen Cashetta.

“The goal of the effort is to preserve the amazing amount of valuable local knowledge and history, as well as unique stories, from long-time residents of the Gila Valley,” said Crockett. Each of the 50-minute interviews will focus on personal memories; the recordings will be edited into segments that will be posted online for all to learn about our history.

Symposium attendees were asked to submit names of people they recommend for these oral history interviews. Board members reviewed those submissions and will begin making contacts. Those with additional suggestions for interviews can email Mike.Crockett@eac.edu or call 928-792-8516.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Diane Drobka: Hal Herbert spoke about an upcoming restoration project.

Board member Hal Herbert outlined a February 24th restoration project. He showed photos of the vegetation overgrowth and vandalism at the old Epley Ranch Cemetery, located on private land in Solomon. The project, a partnership between the Historical Society and SEALAB, will clear brush and weeds hiding rock piles and headstones marking grave locations. Mesquite trees will be trimmed to allow visitors to walk under them. All the public is invited to help with the project. More information to follow.

GCHS President Gibbs thanked everyone for their continuing support as the presentations concluded. Discussions continued over lunch, with GCHS volunteers serving delicious barbecue sandwiches and many sides. The Garcia Brothers (Rico and Diego) entertained with both classical and country music before the symposium and during lunch.

The Graham County Historical Society is an IRS 501c3 charitable organization; contributions are fully tax deductible. To join, make a donation, or assist with projects, contact Chris Gibbs at sheomomu@hotmail.com.