Pioneers Museum holds monthly dinner and lecture series

At the Pioneers Museum’s monthly lecture Friday, Tammy Snook stands before a topographical map of the southwest to explain the history of Yuma back to its earliest inhabitants, the Quechan Indians.

IMPERIAL — A group of citizens gathered Friday at the Pioneers Museum in Imperial to learn about this region and the surrounding areas over a spaghetti dinner and good company in the latest installment of the Pioneers Lecture series.

The lecture of the evening was on the Yuma Quartermasters Depot located across the Imperial Valley side of the Colorado River. The lecture highlighted how Yuma and Imperial County have been tied together since the advent of Spanish Explorers and later prospectors en route to the Goldrush clear through the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

“You really can’t talk about the history of the Imperial Valley without speaking about the connections we have with Yuma,” said Deborah Thornburg, of Holtville.

“We are very proud of our Plank Road,” Thornburg said. “The Plank Road started here (Imperial Valley) but where did it end up?” “We talk about the All-American Canal but where does that start? We are inextricably linked with the history of Yuma.”

Tammy Snook, Yuma’s City Historian-Curator-Interpretive Park Ranger-Park Manager of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot took to the podium and explained the history of Yuma back to its earliest inhabitants, the Quechan Indians. She explained how the Colorado River became the lifeblood of growth and expansion, not just in the Yuma Valley, but in the Southwest Region altogether. She detailed how Yuma’s Quartermasters Depot became a logistical center point for our military, resupplying its outposts in the Old West or Americans headed to California for visions of prosperity, or the railroads finding a Southern route into California.

Cynthia Yaryan, a member or the Holtville Women’s Club, explained her interest in the museum and lecture. “We come out every month and help serve food, (local residents) are missing out on a lot if they don’t come out to the museum on several occasions.”

“We have ‘Christmas around the world’ and in February, we have Pioneers Days,” said Dave Yaryan, a museum volunteer from Holtville. “It’s free, and a lot of things going on. If you want to learn about the history of the Imperial Valley, this is the place. There are galleries upstairs that show everything from the old days.”

“I was born and raised here and I love this Valley,” said Yaryan.

Jo Ann Weisseman of Imperial is also a regular attendee at the Pioneers Museum.”This presentation and the museum, I think it’s great to have a lecture series,” she said. “I started coming out all the time, and I was here at the last one, and I will be here on the next one. It is a good time and information on the Valley,” Weisseman said. “They need to know what happen and how this place started.”

“Part of my job is to be historian,” Snook later explained. “I educate folks about the history of Yuma Valley and even beyond Yuma Proper itself… Our state boundaries are not natural boundaries they are man-made boundaries.”

Snook went on to explain the importance of history lecture events in the community. “I think people have a tendency not to explore their own communities as they might another community, like they would when they go on vacation,” she said.

“When they are not familiar with their own history, they are just not aware of their own community, and I think it really helps people have a lot of pride in their community when they realize how deep those roots run,” said Snook.

Deborah Thornburg of Holtville expressed, “It’s a fascinating evening,” said Thornburg. “Our beautiful facility — there are so many people who live in the Imperial Valley who have never been here, and it’s a chance to be proud of our own local history.”

Thornburg said she wanted the Imperial Valley residents to mark their calendars on the first Saturday in February for the museum’s third annual Pioneer Day.

“On that day, we dress in costume and get butter churned, coffee grinders, get the old equipment to take the kids around. It is a big deal, and it’s lots of fun and its absolutely free,” she said.