A History of the Kaweah Colony: Those Who Remained
By Jay O’Connell. This 3RNews version as published August 2020.
Various families and individuals remained in and around Kaweah after the disintegration of the Colony. Perhaps the best account of those who stayed in the area comes from James Martin.
His granddaughter, Olive Redstone Klaucke, well remembers her grandfather. Late in his life he lived with Olive and her parents, Al and Daisy Redstone, at the Daisy Dell ranch in See Canyon near San Luis Obispo, California. Olive described how “Grandpa Martin” would spend countless hours up in his loft apartment over the barn, busily writing memoirs and letters, many concerning the Kaweah Colony — a lifelong cause.
In the mid-1930s, at nearly 90 years of age, James Martin wrote a history of the Kaweah Colony. The following is taken from a draft of that unpublished manuscript, now part of the J.J. Martin Papers at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California:
A SQUARE DEAL FROM THE NEW DEAL
In addition to writing his history of Kaweah, James Martin carried out a campaign seeking recompense for perceived government wrongs against the Colony right up to his final days, including written communications with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the politically influential First Lady Eleanor.
Shortly after the Colony folded in 1892, Martin’s political agitation helped to get a bill introduced in Congress for financial compensation to the Colony for the road they had built to the newly established national park. But the bill was quickly killed in committee, and what was left of the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony never received any money for the road they had labored four years to build. The road, which was extended to Giant Forest by the government in 1903, served as the only road into the heart of the national park until the mid-1920s.
To Martin, this was the final of many injustices by the United States government against the Kaweah Colony. The English-born Martin eventually left Kaweah, and despite his disheartening experience there, became involved in another cooperative colonization scheme in 1914, this time in Tasmania. The Tasmania Colonizing Association hoped to attract settlers to their cooperative colony, but financial problems, land difficulties, and a World War all conspired to dash these hopes. James Martin eventually ended up living with his daughter and son-in-law at their See Canyon apple ranch.
In his autumn years, Martin was a distinguished man with a head of snow-white hair and fine English manners. Even as an old man working in the apple orchards, he insisted on wearing a necktie. His agitation regarding Kaweah and endless letter writing campaign never ceased, and in a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt he claimed:
His granddaughter, Olive, still recalls that Martin never had much money. He was more interested in bettering society as a whole than in personal gain, although certain embittered Kaweah colonists might argue the point. What he sought from the government 43 years after the Kaweah Colony disbanded is clearly set forth in his letter to President Roosevelt.
The letter, dated March 3, 1935, is quite lengthy at nearly 20 typed pages. Martin includes a history of the Kaweah Colony and explains how in his view the Southern Pacific Railroad and the government conspired to ruin the Colony. Martin notes how shortly after he had an interview with Charles Crocker of the SPRR about a spur road to the Colony, their trouble commenced. He explained:
Martin did, however, note that the “rabid persecution” of the Colony did not commence until “after the Harrison (Republican-Capitalistic) Administration came into power.” All had been fair and square, Martin pointed out, during the preceding Cleveland Administration. Martin then explained to FDR how, as Secretary of the Colony, he had:
Martin finally got to the point in his letter. As recompense for past injustices, he asked for “sole right, in perpetuity, to cut and remove timber from what is now Sequoia National Park.” He granted that such cutting should be “subject to supervision and direction of the Department of Forestry,” but asked that the government appropriate “$250,000 to be expended in the complete rehabilitation of the Colony to its former state of earning capacity.”
Martin closed by stating that he expected fair treatment from the “New Deal,” which he believed to be a “Square Deal.” An investigation was launched, which resulted in a Senate committee’s recommendation to reimburse the Colony for the road, but the Senate refused to act.
Of course, by that time, few Kaweah colonists were still even alive. James Martin was 90 years old. He died three years later at See Canyon, and one imagines him writing letters up in his loft over the barn right up until the very end.
THE HOPPINGS OF KAWEAH
The Hoppings, even though they didn’t arrive at the Colony until near the end, were nonetheless an important family in Kaweah’s history. George W. Hopping was an active member of the New York group. A Civil War veteran, Hopping had a “brain for mathematics” and eventually became the chief accountant for the Seabury Johnson Co. of New York, wholesale druggists and chemical manufacturers (later to become Johnson & Johnson). Hopping’s grandson, Dr. Forest Grunigen, remembers that George was paid the handsome salary of $500 per month.
One colonist remembers that as George Hopping had such a good position at the prominent firm, he “did not feel justified in throwing it up for the uncertainties of our endeavor. However, his heart was with us and he sent his sons and daughter in advance, by installments.”
Ralph and Burt arrived at the Colony sometime in 1891. Both worked at the Colony logging operation at Atwell’s Mill, and Burt was a valuable mechanic. The Colony paper once reported that “the neat presswork of the Commonwealth latterly is owing to a good overhauling given the press by Burt Hopping.”
The Hopping brothers were popular, well-liked residents of what came to be known as the Redstone Park area of Kaweah, and it was not long before they made a committed alliance with the Redstone clan. Ralph Hopping married Kate Redstone and soon thereafter Burt married Kate’s sister, Dove.
Eventually other Hoppings arrived, including Guy, daughter Jesse, and finally the father, George. Colonist Phil Winser remembers the elder Hopping’s arrival:
The Hopping brothers left behind a considerable legacy in the local history of the Sequoia and Kaweah area. Guy Hopping served many years as a national park ranger, eventually becoming Superintendent of General Grant National Park in 1936. Ralph, in partnership with John Broder, operated the first pack-touring business for visitors to Sequoia National Park. At Redstone Park, they established a hotel to serve as a way station, initiated a stage line from Visalia, opened a tent hotel in Giant Forest, and began bringing tourists up to visit the famous Big Trees. Ralph was also an enthusiastic student of entomology, and later when serving as a ranger in General Grant Park, he discovered a species of theretofore unknown insect. This brought him great notice in the scientific world and launched his career as an entomologist.
A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP
Phil Winser had come to the Kaweah Colony during its last year of existence, but stuck around the area for quite some time. Horace Taylor, a colonist from its very inception, also stayed in the area long after the Colony ceased to exist. Shortly after the demise of the cooperative endeavor, Winser and Taylor labored together to build an irrigation ditch that to this day still supplies water to a number of properties in Kaweah.
Sometime in 1892, Taylor approached Winser, his nearest neighbor, and proposed they “take a ditch out of the North Fork above Arcady” down to his place, which would give them both all the water they’d need. They got Sam Halstead to pitch in $100 for supplies, as the ditch would pass through his land and thus be an improvement. After many months hard work, the ditch was complete and water flowed freely.
With the coming of irrigation water, the urge for owning land became strong for Winser. He wrote in his memoirs:
Winser himself was absent because, although now a landowner and fledgling apple rancher in Kaweah, he needed to obtain work for wages. He was able to do so in Lemon Cove, a small citrus town about halfway between Kaweah and Visalia. Working long days during the particularly hot summer, Phil Winser “craved ice and hit on a plan.” He and Blanche would have the stage bring ice from Visalia and they would make ice cream and lemonade, and “putting out a sale sign, supply the patrons traveling the hot, dusty road.”
Meanwhile, a fellow Englishman and former absentee-member of the defunct Kaweah Colony had made his way “around the Horn” to the Pacific coast. Fred Savage, son of a cabinet maker from Liverpool, England, took a great interest in social experiments and cooperative ventures. He was the same F.S. Savage who had sent money to Kaweah toward membership and the Defense Fund early in 1891. He had later spent a disastrous year at Topolobampo, Mexico, which was a “large scale attempt to clear, irrigate and cultivate a vast concession in Sinola cooperatively,” on a similar line to the Kaweah Colony. As hi grandson, Milton Savage, recounts, Fred got “ashore there and about starved.” He was able to find passage to San Diego and from there walked to Kaweah.
Fred Savage was undoubtedly very hot and thirsty when his journey on foot to Kaweah, nearly complete, brought him to Lemon Cove, where he noticed Winser’s sign advertising lemonade.
Thus began their profitable and successful partnership — a cooperative on a small scale that, unlike the Kaweah Colony, bore ample fruit for generations to come.
HASKELL’S GOLDEN DREAM
One colonist who did not stick around very long after the Colony’s demise was the man who more than anyone had been responsible for its very existence. By 1892, with the Colony in a shambles, Burnette Haskell was barely eking out an existence at his Kaweah homestead. In April 1892, he wrote in his journal:
Letters to both his parents, who were divorced, included pleas for a few dollars to buy supplies and proposals for them to come homestead at Kaweah, where valuable land was still available. Haskell had talked up the potential of the land as an orchard farm, even as Annie struggled just to keep a few scraggly plum trees alive by hand-carrying water up from the river.
His once-successful father lived in San Francisco, selling a medicinal concoction called Gumptill’s Sure Cure. The elder Haskell finally sold off his interest in Sure Cure and joined Burnette and Annie at Kaweah to try to make a go of the homestead.
The Kaweah Colony had been Haskell’s dream of “a solution to the problem of poverty and wealth, the inequalities of destiny and fortune, and a road to human happiness.” But that dream had tragically failed. California, because of its peculiar history, had always been a state filled with dreamers. And unfortunately, like Haskell, many had failed to find their “mother lode.”
Haskell was still a dreamer. In April 1892, he noted in his personal journals that he had discovered several what he called “specimens with free gold and silver” in and about the Kaweah canyon. Apparently his dream of bettering mankind through social reform still smoldered, for the idea of discovering mineral wealth prompted a plan.
But alas, again Haskell’s dreams — noble though they were to better mankind by thinning the number of lawyers — were dashed. A few days later he wrote that he discovered “brass nails in shoes make gold stains on rock.” He was “hugely disgusted” when he came home and re-examined all his ore-bearing specimens, being in doubt about every one of them.
There was little left for Haskell to do. For the next couple of months he concentrated on trying to gain possession of as many Colony assets as possible. A considerable feud had ensued over who owned the printing press — private ownership had suddenly become quite a popular concept at Kaweah.
It quickly became obvious that Haskell simply wasn’t cut out for the physical work of making his homestead profitable. While his wife and others labored to build ditches and plant orchards, Haskell decided he needed to return to the city. On June 20, 1892, his journal noted that “on Sunday I put an ad in the [San Francisco] papers saying I had returned to [legal] practice.” Burnette Haskell, the famous labor agitator, newspaper editor, and former attorney for the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony had returned to San Francisco and increased the number of lawyers in that city to 3,000 plus one.
A MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS
In the summer of 1892, with Haskell now in San Francisco, letters between Burnette and Annie showed a strained relationship. Annie struggled just to survive at Kaweah. Food and supplies were scarce. In one letter, Haskell claimed that he was “astonished, pained and surprised” at the situation. “I had no idea whatever but that you had ample supplies of everything you wished,” he wrote. He shipped a box of supplies to nearby Exeter for Annie, and promised to send more “as soon as I get some money to spare.”
It was the beginning of the end for Burnette and Annie’s marriage. Surviving letters and diaries allow them to tell us about the faltering relationship in their own words:
By stating what he isn’t doing, Haskell gives us a pretty clear indication of his past habits.
Evidently Annie’s next letter was not perceived by Burnette to be warm enough and certainly wasn’t of a comparable length to his. On July 20, Burnette wrote to Annie:
At this point, the modern reader has to be questioning the mental health of Burnette Haskell. Annie, however, seemed somehow used to it. By reading a letter Haskell wrote to Annie a few days later, we see how he was desperately trying to charm his way back into her good graces.
They did indeed get together soon after that, for Annie returned to San Francisco before the year was over. There was little sunshine, however. A few years later, the marriage was all but over. Annie’s diary tells the story:
A LONELY DEATH
Annie eventually walked out on her husband and never did come back to him. The marriage was over. Ten years later, she learned that her ex-husband was seriously ill.
There exists one rather interesting account of Haskell’s final days, which comes to us via a letter scholar Rodney Ellsworth wrote to George Stewart in the 1920s. Ellsworth was doing historical research on Sequoia National Park and the Kaweah Colony. He wrote:
Perhaps Ellsworth, or the woman who provided him with the account of Haskell’s final days, was guilty of some exaggeration and embellishment. But Haskell himself would easily have understood — indeed, the description of the “sea moaning on the tortured sands” sounds as if it could have come from Haskell’s own pen.
On November 20, 1907, Burnette Gregor Haskell died. That night, Annie wept bitterly over “spoiled lives and unfulfilled hopes and unspeakable loneliness.” She wrote in her diary:
James Martin, who had worked so closely with Haskell to establish Kaweah and ultimately became his enemy when the Colony struggled and failed, wrote 40 years after their bitter falling out:
SOURCES: Letters (including a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt and unsent draft to FDR) and documents found in the J.J. Martin Papers (Bancroft Library) were valuable sources for this chapter, as was Winser’s “Memories” manuscript. Additionally, secondary sources such as Challenge of the Big Trees, Greenbaum’s “History of the Kaweah Colony” and Ruth Lewis’s “Kaweah: An Experiment in Cooperative Colonization” published in the Pacific Historical Review, 1948, were also consulted. Letters from Burnette Haskell to Annie were consulted (Haskell Family Papers, Bancroft Library) as was a letter from Rodney Ellsworth to George Stewart, dated August 27, 1930 (Stewart Papers, California State Library, Sacramento, Calif.); The author is grateful for the opportunity to interview Milton Savage and Dr. Forest Grunigen in Three Rivers in July 1995, and Olive Redstone Klaucke in See Canyon, San Luis Obispo, Calif., in September 1995. Their memories and handed-down family stories added greatly to this chapter.