Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California

The Beginning of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society

By Art Kidwell

On The 26th of April 1982, a group of 29 Palms residents gathered at the library to discuss "the possibility of forming a historical society for this area." At that initial meeting were Bob Carter, Jeff Dunn, Don Malone, Ginny Salisbury, and Dianna Stevens. The group decided that there was a need and an interest to form such a society and that they would meet weekly to ensure that the organizational process was successful.

In looking back 25 years later I have consulted my copies of the group's minutes to refresh my memory, as how this very involved organizational process progressed during our first year. This is a brief history of some of those events. At the second meeting a week later, Librarian Cheryl Erickson and Edith Carter joined the group. And it was decided that Bob would contact the California Secretary of State to learn how to incorporate our society. In a matter of days that information was received and the group decided to proceed with the process.

During the fourth and fifth meetings proposed by-laws and a membership schedule were discussed. It was decided that the Society's goal would be "to consolidate and preserve memorabilia to establish a community museum, to sponsor lecture-type programs, and to publish a newsletter."

By the sixth meeting on June 1st Bob Smeton and I had been invited to join the others. This was the final composition of the nine-member group who organized our Historical Society and became its first directors.

During June and early July the group developed and approved a budget, by-laws, and a membership schedule. Don Malone designed a beautiful logo for the Society that was symbolic of our Indian, miner, and homesteader past. A final draft of our articles of incorporation was approved to be forwarded to Sacramento for their approval.

The group continued to search for a suitable building to serve as our first museum. We also formulated a process for accepting artifact donations and loans, and began collecting artifacts, old photographs, and historic paperwork.

After a letter appeared in the July 10th edition of the DESERT TRAIL expressing the need for a local museum, the group decided that it was time to let the community know what we were doing. We authorized the editor to add a note in the newspaper's next edition that such an effort was in progress, and that we could be reached at our new permanent address P.O. Box 1926.

During the rest of the summer membership cards and stationary were printed, the old icehouse in the Plaza was chosen for our first museum and a rental agreement was signed with its owner, Jerri Hagman.

Homestead Lumber and Ace Hardware donated lumber, and the Paint Pot donated paint for the floor. Soon we were all involved with our proposed museum. Bob Carter spearheaded the volunteer work parties who labored every weekend to clean the old building, paint its interior wall's, build shelves, find furniture and create displays using some of our artifacts.

One of the first displays created was the interior of an old homesteader cabin complete with all its furnishings. Don Malone's creative abilities really helped this display creation.

In August we changed our weekly meeting location to our new museum building, and Ada Hatch, Bill Holmes, and Les Krushat began attending to volunteer their help. Our finalized incorporation papers were approved on August 23rd and returned to us from Sacramento. That week Desert Trail editor, Dave Stancliff, attended our meeting and took photos of the official signing of the papers by the nine Directors. The 29 Palms Historical Society was now officially established. Transforming the old building into a museum was progressing well, and we agreed that we were about ready to invite other community members to join our group. So it was decided that we would hold an open house on October 3rd to sign up members for the organization. A charter membership was offered to the first one hundred applicants or to those signing up during the first 90 days after incorporation. This membership category would help pay the majority of our operating expenses.

Work on the museum transformation continued through September with Bob getting steel bars for the windows and door to protect our assets. The last display was completed, Ginny agreed to begin a series of newspaper articles for publicity, and Art donated a large building sign which was painted by a graphic artist in San Bernardino.

As more people discovered what was happening at the old icehouse, attendance at our weekly meetings increased. This resulted in our meetings returning to the library due to the lack of space. Final preparations were made for the open house with decisions being made for food and beverage donations by the group. It was also decided that the Society would host an open house on October 16th for all surviving Pioneer Day's Grand Marshals. Ada Hatch volunteered her house as the site of this reception to follow the parade in the afternoon.

Both of these first Society events were very successful with a good attendance, and as a result at the October 21st meeting, Edith Carter reported that the Society had 125 members including 48 charter members.

Plans continued for our first election of Society directors to be held on November 8th.

At that first general membership meeting fifty-two members were present or present by proxy. After the ballots were counted, Bob Carter, Edith Carter, Jeff Dunn, Cheryl Erickson, Ada Hatch, Bill Holmes, Art Kidwell, Bob Smeton, and Dianna Stevens were elected directors. Ginny Salisbury and Don Malone had chosen not to run because of other commitments.

At the December 2nd meeting it was announced that we had 164 members with 67 charter ones. We were all pleased with the community's interest. During the remainder of this month committees were set up. Bob Smeton began artifact acquisition, while Bill Holmes began artifact cataloging and Ada volunteered to catalog photos. Other directors took on other jobs: Edie—membership, Bob Carter—displays, Cheryl—library and manuscripts. I volunteered to produce a monthly newsletter to inform members of Society happenings and needs.

On January 6, 1983, the 32nd meeting of the Society, elections were held for officers. Bob Carter was elected president, Art Kidwell, Vice President, Cheryl Erickson, Secretary and Edie Carter, Treasurer.

Society meetings became monthly from then on. That month our first newsletter was sent out to members, and in late February Bob Smeton, Bob Michels, and others led a 4-wheel drive expedition out into the Old Dale area. This was the first of many organized programs for Society members and other wishing to attend, which continues today.

It is hard to realize that many achievements that have transpired since the Society's modest beginnings in those library meetings back in 1982. Our Society's goal today remains the same as it was then—to preserve the history of Twentynine Palms and to ensure that the future will know our past. Our museum and ever-expanding archives will be the means for this story to be told.

Twentynine Palms owes a huge debt of gratitude to all the hundreds of our members who have donated their time and resources to accomplish this goal. And as we mark our 25th anniversary, we can take pride in the Society's many accomplishments. We have forged a link with the past that will last for generations to come.

Reunion photo-1998
Reunion photo-1998
Front row (L-R) Don Malone, Edith Carter, Cheryl Erickson, Dianna Stevens & Ginny Salisbury.
Back row (L-R) Bob Carter & Art Kidwell.
Not shown: Bob Smeaton & Jeff Dunn.

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