Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2017

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Meetings to honor 31ers to continue


News File Photo

After the death in the past year of Lee Tilman, above, the last known Hoover Dam worker in Boulder City, only children of the 31ers are expected at the annual reunion. Organizers want to keep their legacy alive.


WHAT: 53rd Annual 31ers Reunion

WHEN: Oct. 18: Reception begins at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, presentation at 1 p.m.

WHERE: College of Southern Nevada, 700 Wyoming St.

INFO: 294-0335

Fourteen years ago, Judith Sattler Irons set out to find her grandfather's role in building the railway line to Boulder City.

She ended up instead gathering 20,000 names of other Hoover Dam workers and their families, and their roles.

On Saturday, the retired construction worker-turned-historian, who spends winters researching in Boulder City and summers in Washington, will share tales of her research at the 53rd Annual 31ers Reunion.

The Boulder City Museum and Historical Association puts on the lunch and presentation for family members of those who came to Boulder City in 1931 to build the Hoover Dam. Lee Tilman, the last known local dam worker, died in December last year.

The meeting will continue to convene to keep the memories alive, organizer Patty Sullivan said.

Irons compiled a database, on CD-ROM, of as many names she could find from Hoover Dam workers and their families in Boulder City from 1929 to 1936. The list shows people's names, what they did on the job, who they worked for and their nicknames.

She estimates she's pinpointed only one-third of the people and hopes to continue until she gets them all recorded in future volumes.

"It's my way of honoring the faceless workmen and pioneers who endured such hardships during the Depression," she said. "They were quite brave to just pack up and move across the country in hopes of a job and not even knowing if they'd get one."

Irons' hunt began in search of her grandfather, Arthur Prendergast, who may have worked at the dam in the period.

Her grandmother and both parents had died when she'd first wondered of her familial link to the massive government construction project that changed the West.

She found out through her sister that their grandfather's health had been ruined by the extreme Nevada heat. She thinks he died in about 1934.

Irons couldn't find her relative, but she became immersed in all of the other names she found in museum archives, university collections, church and school registers, tax registrations, newspapers, magazines and books.

"I never found him, but I'll continue my search," she said. "That's half the fun."

Irons' CD is $19.95 at the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association in the Boulder Dam Hotel.

It can also be purchased at her Web site,

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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