Rose Garden PhotographsEsther Lee (Cherry) Henderson was born to Jessie Lee and Norval Cherry on March 16, 1910, in Camp Verde, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory. In 1917, her father bought the JDK Ranch and moved the family to Cherry Creek. She started school in the new schoolhouse in Cherry, Arizona. Her family lived in Camp Verde, Bumble Bee, Mayer and Clemenceau during her school years, and she graduated from Clarkdale High School in 1928.

Esther worked at J.C. Penney and Woolworths in Prescott before taking a night course in business school. She married Perry Henderson, a rancher, stock contractor and bronc rider, in Flagstaff on April 10, 1931, and they moved into his thirteen-room, 1915 ranch home in Dewey.

Esther helped ride, care for cattle, and cut and bale hay. They raised and marketed chickens and turkeys, cured their own meat and made kraut and hominy. She canned fruit and vegetables, washed and ironed, and cleaned up the Dutch oven and camping gear.  On weekends she joined Perry in his rodeo stock contracting business. Driving their horses all over the state, they “always had something to do,” said Esther.

In the wintertime, they took the horses to pasture and rodeos at different Arizona locales. The Hendersons also organized a rodeo at their own ranch each June, providing an opportunity for cowboys to make money to pay for their entrance fee to the July rodeo in Prescott.

The arrival of daughter Helen (Henderson) Cain Johnson on April 14, 1937, didn’t slow the family down; she slept in a suitcase alongside the bed and drank from a bottle warmed in their bed between Perry and Esther. Martha (Henderson) Woolsey was born in 1943. The girls grew up doing ranch work, such as putting out feed, riding and building fence.

After 1961, Esther and Perry gave up their own rodeo and worked to keep the Prescott Frontier Days alive during World War II when its long run was threatened. They danced and socialized in schoolhouses from Camp Verde to Humboldt, where they had box suppers and cake sales. They  once won a pound of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates for the prize waltz. Esther and her friends also put on plays and a hillbilly wedding.

Esther contributed to her community by talking to schoolchildren about her experiences and memories and writing her family history for the National Livestock Pioneers. She was a member of the First Congregational Church, the Yavapai County Cowbelles, Yavapai Cattle Growers and the Farm Bureau. And as long as she could drive, she was busy taking people places and helping them.

Esther Henderson lived for many years in the home she moved into as a bride in 1931. In her oral history, she remembered Lonesome Valley as a lone prairie where the grass waved in the wind, wild horses grazed, and dirt roads were sufficient. But she couldn’t imagine anybody wanting to live there; the wind blew all the time.

Esther died on December 10, 2009, at the Arizona Pioneers' Home in Prescott. She was buried in the family cemetery on the Henderson Ranch in Dewey, Arizona.

Donors: Helen Johnson and Martha Woolsey, daughters, March 2004
Photo Located: Oral History Vertical Files, F-Henderson, Ester
Updated: 9/03/2015, Gretchen Hough Eastman