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Rev. James William Henderson
August 26, 2020, 12:19 PM


Picture: First Presbyterian Church of Florence

Rev. James William Henderson was born in Pagosa Springs, Iowa on September 9, 1860. In 1900 he resided in Nevada, Iowa with his wife, the former Lela Kate Manning who he married September 5, 1888 in Marshall, Missouri. They had three sons, William, Franklin, and Robert, and one daughter, Ruth. In 1920 he was living and serving in Florence at First Presbyterian Church. He also served the church in Casa Grande from 1914 to 1916. Rev. Henderson organized a Sunday School in Toltec and would begin preaching there once a month. Rev. Henderson instituted a Children’s Day Service - a sort of early day Vacation Bible School, had devotions published in the local newspaper, and served the community as a committeeman to discuss the Hayden San Carlos bill, which would provide irrigation water to the valley. He also served as the Protestant prison chaplain at Arizona State Prison Florence. Rev. Henderson also worked to get prohibition passed. Rev. Henderson was also there to officiate at the funeral service for Mrs. W J Hamilton in September of 1916. In December of 1926 he performed the marriage service in Casa Grande for Mrs. Ruth Garfield and S P Soule of Randolph.


The area between Casa Grande and Florence was very sparsely populated until Coolidge Dam and the San Carlos Project were authorized in the early 1920’s. Primarily it was to provide irrigation water for the Pima Indians, but it also promised to open more irrigated farmland in the Gila River Valley. Valley Presbyterian Church was dedicated April 27, 1924, and a adobe church building was erected with a chapel upstairs and rooms for Sunday School downstairs. The Rev. J. W. Henderson came to be pastor. At that time, the only line of the Southern Pacific Railroad ran from Yuma through Gila Bend and Casa Grande to Tucson; Phoenix passengers had to use a branch line that ran forty miles north from Maricopa. Shortly after 1926, the mainline railroad was built through Phoenix and it passed some three miles east of the Valley Church. The town of Coolidge was founded on the railroad, and the church was stranded out in the open country. In 1930 Community Presbyterian Church was organized in Coolidge, Rev. Henderson serving there as well as Valley. After a year it was apparent that people wanted to go into town for church. Valley Presbyterian Church, Pinal County, was dissolved in 1931 and the building was sold to the Coolidge Women’s Club. Pastor Henderson retired in 1933 to Pomona, California where he died at age 96 on November 11, 1956. His wife Lela had died in 1943.