Orange County Historical Society in Trouble
The Orange County Historical Society is in danger of disbanding. The Society first formed in 1972, regrouped and reincorporated in 1974 and has been the major group in chronicling the history of Orange County. Their quarterly publication, Las Sabinas, is going to print for the last time with the winter edition this year.
The society was formed with the focus being the preservation of the varied history of Orange County. The first edition of Las Sabinas, the society’s magazine, was published in January, 1975.
The name “Las Sabinas” comes from the Spanish name, Sabinas, the cypress trees that live in the region.
The editor of the first edition was Nina Harden. In her first editor’s note Harden wrote: “The colorful and exciting history of Orange County has not been recorded as it should have been – neither the good, nor the bad. Therefore it is the aim and dedication of the OCHS to recover, record by publication, and preserve our heritage.”
Recording and publishing the history of Orange County has been done so faithfully and professionally over the past decades that Las Sabinas is now housed in the Library of Congress, the Regan State Library, and many other libraries, including of course the Orange Public Library. There are also many members who have faithfully preserved their individual copies.
In the Orange Public Library, there are bound and indexed editions that have been of great service over the years to many who have been researching genealogy. Over the years the magazine has published the family trees of many of the families that were the early settlers of Orange County. There have been many birth, marriage and death records published. Some are copies and some have been reproduced in more modern formats.
Many of the veterans of wartime service have been interviewed and their stories told in print so that they may be preserved and remembered by generations to come.
In 1985, five veterans of World War I were interviewed for Las Sabinas. This has become more important over the years as there are no surviving World War I veterans in the U. S.
The number of surviving World War II veterans decreases each year and the interviews of the veterans by contributors to Las Sabinas are becoming more important as the years go by.
In the initial issue of Las Sabinas there were copies of the cattle brands of early settlers and also copies of the large number of timber brands by the early loggers. As logs were cut and made into rafts to be floated to the Orange mills, it was as important for the loggers to know how many logs they were shipping as it was for the rancher to know his cattle.
The history of Riverside was recorded. The contributions of Orange shipyards to the war effort were given in several issues. Old time settlers and their stories, the history of many old Orange buildings, stories of range wars and murders, and the list of stories is very long and had an effect on everyone that ever lived in Orange.
Las Sabinas has been remarkable in that so many of the contributors, and most editors, were not professional writers or journalists. They have been “common folk” with a great interest in the history of Orange County and the desire to share the history with the general public.
The Orange County Historical Society started with 26 charter members. The first president was Louis Dugas Jr. The term “mission statement” had not come into use in those days, but the purpose outlined by the members was to: “Maintain a living history of the city of Orange and the surrounding area.”
Since those days the Society has met monthly and tried to “create an environment that fosters interest, curiosity and excitement about events that have taken place and helped fashion the community into what it is today.” There can be no argument that this statement was done very well.
Sadly, in the same way that waves take a toll on a beach, time has affected the OCHS. As the membership has gotten older, participation has fallen off.
“Over the years our members have gotten older and either become unable to attend meetings or have died off, younger people have not stepped up to replace them,” said current president, Jerry Pennington. “We are in danger of having to disband the society. We have 230 subscribers to Las Sabinas, subscribers are also members, but we only have 25 to 30 that attend meetings. Of these there are only about three of four attendees in the 60’s age range. The rest are much older. Currently we only have one writer for Las Sabinas.
“After Tommy Huff, who was president in 2006, died, I stepped up and became president. We had such a good organization that we did not want to see it die.
“It has become almost impossible to keep printing Las Sabinas. On one trip to the state capitol, I went into the reading room and found a copy of Las Sabinas on a reading table. It is sad that we do not have people coming forth to be contributors and writers. It is very sad, but it appears that the last issue of 2011 will be the last issue. We hope that there will be someone who will want to help us keep the OCHS and Las Sabinas going.”
The next meeting of the OCHS will be on Oct. 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the meeting room at the Orange Public Library. This is a meeting of the board, but is open to the general public. Pennington invites any one to attend and give input.
On Nov. 1, the annual dinner meeting of the OCHS will be held at J.B.’s Bar Be Que. The guest speaker at this meeting will be Dan Hooks, recently retired Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at West Orange-Stark High School. Hooks will give a history and his reflections of his coaching career at WOS of over 30 years.
Also at this meeting Pennington will give recommendations from the OCHS board regarding the future of the OCHS and Las Sabinas.