Residents start group to preserve town's past - The Explorer: Import

Residents start group to preserve town's past

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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:50 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

July 20, 2005 - Since the day Jim Kriegh decided to start the Oro Valley Historical Society, he has been working what seems like a full-time job to get all the paperwork filed so the organization can become an official nonprofit agency.

But now that the details are complete, he is hoping that people in Oro Valley who share his interest in preserving the town's history and educating others about it will join him by becoming members of the society.

The society already has received $1,000 in membership donations and recently received another $1,000 from the Oro Valley Endowment Fund. Kriegh is using his own money to start the society, paying for the incorporation expenses, and stressed that any money donated will go toward the work of the society.

Four Oro Valley residents are working to get the society off the ground: Kreigh, who is the president, Dick Eggerding, Pat Spoerl and student liaison Emily Graves.

The society will have officers and a board of directors, all of whom will serve as volunteers. The society has begun a membership drive with several different pledge points. Adults can join for $15 a year, and a lifetime membership can be bought for $200.

There are several reasons for starting a historical society in Oro Valley now, according to the founding members. They say that with a handful of historic preservation projects on the horizon, including the one recently announced by the town involving a deal to acquire 14 acres of Honeybee Village, a site in Rancho Vistoso that is rich with Hohokam Indian artifacts, it seemed like the right time to have a society that could help raise money.

Eggerding said Oro Valley is a town that still has several pieces of history that can be preserved "if we move, and move quickly." Many places throughout the country, in contrast, have paved over areas of historic significance.

Eggerding said the timing of starting this historical society is important because, with the development of Oro Valley moving at the pace that it has, historic places such as the Steam Pump Ranch and the Honey Bee Village could be lost without a deliberate move to preserve them.

Also, Kriegh explained that the society, unlike the town's government, will be able to accept gifts that would be tax-deductible for donors. Henry Ziff, the grandson of George Pusch, has documents and photographs, for example, that Kriegh said would be great additions to an Oro Valley collection, and founding the society could create the right conditions for gaining possession of them.

Kriegh said he hopes the society will be able to establish a relationship with the town so the items it has collected can be displayed, at the historic sites or in the library, for example, so residents and visitors can enjoy them. Kriegh, himself, has hundreds of documents relating to George Pusch and his settlement in the area. Pusch was one of the pioneers of the Tucson area who settled in what is now Oro Valley.

Kriegh said the group also hopes to provide curators and aides for any future historic museums or visitors centers that are developed in the town.

In addition, Kriegh has stacks of historical documents and photographs that he has long wanted to share with the public in a way that would keep them from being damaged.

Staff members at the library already are working with the state of Arizona on ways to preserve and archive some documents, but Kriegh said he hopes to be able to share everything he now has and anything the society may collect in the future.

Society members also want to conduct interviews for oral and visual histories of the town.

"They can be very valuable," Kriegh said. "If you can catch people who still remember the history and talk with them while they're still here, it's something you won't lose."

The group also wants to be able to commemorate places in the town that are of historical significance with either monuments or historical markers.

Promoting community interest in and knowledge of local history also is a goal of the group, as is working with the local schools to help students become aware of their town's history. As the society matures, members hope to develop educational programs to meet these goals.

Kriegh is the town's historian and has been studying the people who have lived in the area that is now Oro Valley for years. He has maps, deeds, photographs and other documents that paint a vivid picture of how George Pusch came to Oro Valley and brought the steam pump to the area on Oracle Road, north of First Avenue.

Eggerding, the society's vice president, also considers himself something of a history buff, although he is more a Civil War enthusiast. He said no matter where he has lived throughout his life he has always had an interest in the history of the place. History, he said, "gives us an instant sense of place."

"When you study the history of a place that you are fairly new to, it helps you feel more a part of the place," he said, adding that he believes preserving history in a town contributes to the overall quality of life for the residents living there, just as promoting the fine and performing arts does. Eggering co-founded the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council. He said that besides his interest in history it was a "tremendous respect" for Kriegh and Sproel that inspired him to get involved in the formation of the organization.

Both Kriegh and Eggerding said they hope to work with the town's historic preservation commission to promote preservation and education. The commission, of which Kriegh is a part, is charged with looking at ways of obtaining historic sites and then figuring out ways to maintain them.

Eggerding said the society is "a grassroots movement to support what the commission does - its educational arm."

Informational brochures about the Oro Valley Historical Society are available at the Oro Valley Public Library and Town Hall. To join the Oro Valley Historical Society, or for more information about the organization, call Jim Kriegh at 297-4161 or write to historian@orovalley.net>historian@orovalley.net.

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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