Elgin Community Club, upper left, above the Elgin Store owned and operated by Troy and Grace Ramsey, 1950s. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Moss Smith

On June 18, 1931, fifteen women met at the Elgin School to establish the Elgin Community Club (ECC). Membership was open to women residing in… the five districts, Canille, Elgin, Sonoita, Rain Valley and Vaughn.” [ECC Meeting Minutes, 6/18/1931]. “Its object shall be to promote the best social, recreational and educational development of the surrounding community and the maintenance of a library.” [ECC Constitution, signed May 20, 1932]. The first order of business was to build a club house, and perhaps later add a swimming pool. Who were the women who had the vision to create an organization still in existence today, and how did they manage to build their club house during the Great Depression? 

Katharine Klene and Cora Everhart were instrumental in the establishment and the early development of the ECC. During Katharine’s term as President (1931-1932), the club’s constitution and bylaws were approved, the building site was acquired, and construction on the clubhouse began. During Cora’s term as President (1932-1933) the first phase of the building was completed, and plans developed for future enhancements. 

Katharine Winans Klene was a graduate of Northwestern University who taught and worked at Pomona College, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, Davis. In 1911, 42-year-old Katharine married 21-year-old Leonard Klene. Their first child, Ralph Donald, was born in 1912, the same year the family moved to Elgin, where she purchased the Star King Ranch. [Arizona Daily Star, 11/15/1937]. Daughter Marstell Elizabeth was born in 1915. In 1914 Leonard Klene and partner Isaac P. Fraizer established the short-lived town of Fruitland (see March 2020 Glimpses article). Katharine served one year as ECC President and was elected Treasurer in 1932. She died at her brother’s home in Los Angeles in 1937. 

Cora Everhart and her husband Charles arrived in Arizona in 1912 where Charles worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Cora taught in several one-room schools. They moved to a 160-acre homestead near Elgin in 1914. Their son, Jack was born in 1916. Cora served as the Elgin postmaster starting in 1919 until she returned to teaching in 1924. She taught in Nogales and at the Elgin, Canelo, and Vaughn schools. In 1942 she became Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools, a position she held until her retirement in 1965. Cora served as ECC President, 1st Vice President, and club historian. Charles died in 1957, age 76, and Cora died in 1980, age 97. Both are buried at the Black Oak Cemetery in Canelo. [Betty Barr, More Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County, 2008].

Two committees, building site and building, were appointed in February 1932. The building site committee presented six location options, and the members voted to accept Troy Ramsey’s offer to “give a deed to a 4-acre site anywhere on his ground.” [ECC Minutes, 3/19/1932]. Mr. Ramsey owned and operated the Elgin store, and his wife Grace was a founding ECC member who served as President, 1st Vice President, and Secretary. 

To raise funds for the building the members agreed to serve food at the Santa Cruz County Fair. Card parties held in members’ homes provided additional income as participants paid a small fee to play. They organized “entertainments” such as plays and dances in the Elgin School building or the fairgrounds, and raffled quilts made by members. By May 1932 they had $715.60 in the building fund, and “voted get contractor bids on a 40×60 building” [ECC Meeting Minutes, 5/26/1932]. 

The building cornerstone was laid on June 12, 1932. Katharine Klene reported soon after that the building fund was mostly expended “there was money enough to put up the walls and the lumber for the roof was bought and paid for, but there were no funds to buy the iron or frame the roof.” [ECC Minutes, 6/16/1932]. 

When Cora Everhart became president in July the estimated cost to complete the building was $910. The members voted to purchase the roofing metal and flooring lumber “on time” and to secure volunteer labor. [ECC Minutes, 7/16/1932]. In August Cora ordered the windows and doors and enlisted the “ladies” to stain and oil them. [ECC Minutes, 8/12/1932]. 

The first reported event held in the clubhouse was a September 5th party “in honor of the young folks of the community who are leaving soon for college.” [Arizona Daily Star, 9/10/1932]. The ECC had a bare-boned home and considerable debt. The story will continue next month.