Henderson Historical Society Stories

The Hermit of Henderson Swamp

Story by Recie Hornyak and Rick Watson

Rick Watson in front of Hermits Cave

Author Rick Watson in front of one of the many shafts dug into the hillsides near where the Hermit lived.

Reunion organizers for Basic High School ask that those planning to attend, send a Mini-History, so that old classmates can read about their lives during the years since they last met. Loreace (Recie) Sanders Hornyak, class of 1958, commented on changes to her old hometown, saying … “I am amazed at the development – Especially Lake of Las Vegas. I wonder if the Hermit’s Ghost is hanging around?”

Her question brought back memories and prompted me to send her a letter to find out how much she remembered about the Henderson folk legend who inspired children to venture through desert and nearby “swamp” to visit him.

Recie wrote back saying: “I never saw the hermit that lived in the swamp. My late husband, Don Hornyak, and his brothers went on prospecting ventures in the swamp with their father. The only stories that I can recall were related by Don and I don’t know if he was told firsthand by the hermit. The first is that apparently the hermit had family back east that sent him money monthly to general delivery, Las Vegas. He had an old car that he would park backed-up onto a hill so that he could coast down, pop the clutch and start the car for his monthly trip to town to pick up his check and get supplies. The second is that he was bitten by a snake and was very sick. He had a dog that stayed by his side and licked the snake-bite wound frequently until it healed. I assume the prospecting ventures were sometime around the early 50’s.”

Recie describes the Hornyak family visits with the Hermit as prospecting ventures. Southern Nevada was once home to many prospectors. The Three Kids Mine that supplied BMI with manganese ore was not far from the swamp. I wonder if Mr. Honyak had worked at the mine and was a serious prospector. I wonder what conversation they must have had with the Hermit?

My friends and I had heard stories about the Hermit and one spring morning we set out on our bicycles to find him. We traveled down Lake Mead Road to the exit onto a dirt road leading to the Henderson Dump. On another dirt road we passed behind one of the Calico Hills that separated the Dump from the Swamp. Soon his camp came into view. There was his old car and a mineshaft that was much cooler than the surrounding terrain. He had a supply of 5 gallon water bottles and a campstove where he was cooking lunch when we got there. The Hermit looked like a prospector, a Walter Houston look-a-like from the movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He seemed to be a generous person answering all of our questions while he cooked. He offered to share his meal with us.

If you ask Henderson residents of the 1950s many will have a story about The Hermit. I am posting this story in hopes that others will share some of their stories. It would be fun to know what became of the Hermit of Henderson Swamp and if he truly haunts Lake of Las Vegas.


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