A History of the Kaweah Colony: Those Who Remained
By Jay O’Connell. This 3RNews version as published August 2020.
Kaweah Colony has failed. Those who had believed that they would be burglars of paradise, that they would reach upon this earth to the kingdom of heaven, have abandoned their purpose and are routed and disorganized, babbling many tongues. (Burnette G. Haskell, November 1891)
Recognizing in you a humanitarian of the highest order, I am submitting herewith a national matter for your personal consideration, which, while it remains unrequited remains also a discredit and disgrace to the honor and dignity of our great nation. (James J. Martin, letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, 1935)
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 The following is taken from a draft of that unpublished manuscript, now part of the J.J. Martin Papers at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California:
The members who remained at Kaweah after the dissolution of the Colony were: H.T. Taylor, the Purdys, the Redstone and Brann families, the Winsers, the Hoppings, and the Bellahs. The Haskells, with the Hildebrands and H.D. Cartwright, lived for a time at the nearby Haskell homestead at Arcady. Mr. C.F. Keller [founding member who left in anger in 1888] subsequently acquired the Halstead property, and for a few years was a Postmaster at Kaweah. Later he removed with his family to Santa Cruz.
Philip Winser acquired some land at Kaweah, planted an apple orchard, worked at odd jobs between times, and did very well with his crops. Later he removed with his family to Bakersfield, and there engaged in the wholesale fruit business.
Mr. Fred Savage, an absentee member, came from Liverpool, England, after the Colony was broken up, bought some land at Kaweah, planted an orchard, married, raised a family and made good. His two sturdy sons, born at Kaweah, both of whom are married, now run the farm. They each have families and comfortable homes.
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:
This is not an appeal to you for money but a request that you will use your womanly influence in securing justice to a number of loyal and worthy American citizens who were, and still are, the victims of a most unwarrantable outrage at the hands of a former capitalistic administration of our national government.
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:
The Colony had no idea at the time that freightage of lumber from points north to the valley was an exceedingly profitable feature of the SPRR and it was to its profiteering interest to stop the development of lumber in the mountains adjacent to the extensive lumber consuming area in the San Joaquin valley.
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:
[M]ade contact with an institution figuratively known as the “octopus.” To this institution our government several years before had given an empire in territory—the best on Earth—for the construction of a railroad which, en pasant, was built practically upon the credit of the nation. This monster, as is well known, bled the struggling farmers and fruit growers of California white in exorbitant transportation charges. The settlers of Mussel Slough district were also made to feel the blistering sting of its avaricious tentacles.
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:
By paying off Kaweah’s mortgage, he acquired title to that 240 acres and thus insured greater permanency for the Redstone-Hopping section of Redstone Park and a choice of home sites for himself, Mrs. Hopping and two maiden sisters when they finally came West. Mrs. Hopping had French Louisiana blood, and carried a darkness of eye, good looks and vivacity of disposition. Ralph, the oldest son, was as dark as a Spaniard, while Burt was blonde, very good of profile and had an amiable disposition.
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:
We always wanted to become independent of working for others for wages and thought growing apples about as likely a way as any, for there were two or three rather good lots in the canyon. Mr. Purdy had just bought a little land from Halstead and we followed suit. Of course, we had to pay more now that it was irrigable, but the price was very moderate and I tried to forget the fact I had enhanced the price by my free work [building the ditch].
Having a start in land and water, we wrangled yearling apple trees from another neighbour I had worked for and set them out. Blanche’s [Winser’s wife] brother Bert came out about this time and would care for them in our absence.
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.
It was this sign [Winser wrote in his memoirs] which lured in Fred Savage one hot day. A little conversation convinced Blanche that here was a man I must meet, so she induced him to stop that night and we talked.
Then we sent him on up to Bert and when he returned, it was to get a job in Lemon Cove and we planned to pool our resources and extend our orchard enterprise together. And so it went, through the summer and autumn. Fred would come over some Sundays and we talked everything over; he sent to England for some savings and with my pay we were able to negotiate a further purchase of [some of Halstead’s] land on which there was a clearing to be done by Bert.
As soon as we returned to Kaweah we arranged a form of partnership to fit conditions; Blanche and I by virtue of holdings already established took two-fifths interest and Fred and Bert divided the remaining three-fifths equally; all outside earnings were to be pooled and the common fund to supply housekeeping and ranch outlays.
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:
The motto on my mantlepiece reads “I owe much, I have nothing, I give the rest to the poor.” That about states my case. Oh, if only I ever get a chance to get on top again, I’ll not play the fool.
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.
After careful consideration [Haskell wrote] I have solemnly determined if any mine is discovered and I make a fortune, I will use that fortune in order to make human beings better. This can be done by education, by assisting state control; by the establishment of prize funds for valor, perseverance, fidelity; by building up a labor farm and especially by checking corruption through making attorneys paid officers of the state. There are now 3,000 attorneys in San Francisco in a population of 300,000. This is one per cent. One-half of that ought to be enough. I will so use my fortune if I get it.
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:
June 23, 1892 — My Dearest Wife: I am awful lonely here without you and Roth and if I could see any way in which I might be at Kaweah with you I would be there if I had to walk; but I don’t. I am satisfied that if I stick to business and could only hold on for two months or so that I can make it go. I am neither drinking nor running around but am hard at work all the time. You ought to write. Good-bye dear.
By stating what he isn’t doing, Haskell gives us a pretty clear indication of his past habits.
From Annie’s diary, June 28, 1892 — Had two letters from Burnette this evening. He was quite put out as he had not received letters from anyone here. Very strange, I should think.
June 30, 1892 — Dearest Annie: Your letter received. Also that of Roth and three from Dad. I was beginning to feel seriously alarmed and was glad to find everything OK. Don’t you think your epistle was rather icy? Yours in the hope that your next letter will have imbibed some of the warmth that you are probably having at Arcady.
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:
Your decidedly unsatisfactory letter of one page posted on Monday reached me this morning. I don’t understand how you can have any complaint about my not writing. My letters have been long and frequent, yours have not. I wrote you on June 20th, 23rd, 26th, 27th, July 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th, 13th, 18th — a total of 22 typewritten pages, 500 words a page — for a total of nearly 11,000 words. It is best to be exact in this world. Perhaps it is not a question of letters that has aroused the emotion you feel? May not the propinquity of a person non gratia have influenced you to search for something wherefore to take the absent to task?
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.
My Dearest Annie: The peculiar secret of my character is that I respond to things of like character… a chill or a rebuff seems to throw up an immediate barrier, despite my wishes. You know perfectly well that my love for you is sure, constant and steady. That outside of you and my child I don’t care a rap for anything; you know too that for a long time I was, well, passionately in love with you, that around your every action clustered flowers of romance. I do not say those flowers are withered now; I do not believe they are; I feel them in my heart as much as I ever did; but they are closed up like buds that close at night time—it takes a warm sun to unclose them, not a chill wind. I have no doubt whatever but that your feelings are identical with mine; we both ought to make a continuous effort to show them and not the frosty ones. Let’s get in a habit of having the sun shine. Perhaps then—when we get together again—it will always shine.
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:
January 1, 1897— I look forward to nothing but bitterness—as in the past year. So will it be in this—drunkenness, poverty, abuse, neglect. My child and myself crowded in a little closer, if possible, to the wall. Unless there is hope for me in me, myself, then there is nothing for me.
January 2, 1897— I have been accused of trying to poison the old man [Haskell’s father] when he was down at Kaweah. Burnette was raving as usual this evening and said his father told him so—I did not believe his father told him any such thing—but called him upstairs and the old man said he did believe that I attempted to poison him shortly before I left Kaweah. I told the old man that I never heard of anything so abominable—two rotten men—with hearts of wolves to attack one helpless woman. Shame, shame. I asked Burnette if he believed such a thing—I begged him to have the decency to say he did not and he answered “I don’t put it past you.”
August 1897— Burnette came over this evening in a raging fury. He had been drinking—said he would get a divorce from me and marry Mrs. O. and a lot more. Well, it was not a very pleasant thing. Burnette said he was glad I was going and hoped I would never come back.
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.
November 1907— Roth says his father is very ill. Cannot walk nor hardly talk and he thinks it will be his last illness. It is very sad, I wish I knew that he is well taken care of and comfortable, but I do not see what I can do. Poor Burnette, his promise was so great, his gifts so brilliant. But that is all between himself and God.
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:
One evening while I was telling a friend of my mother’s about my work, I mentioned the Kaweah Colony and to my utter amazement found that the woman I was talking to was an old friend of the Haskells. It seems that Mrs. Haskell accompanied her husband to Kaweah and lived there some time, but on her return to Oakland remained as silent as a sphinx. She left her husband and supported herself teaching. Burdette [sic] Haskell, broken and apparently unable to find comfort nor rest from the nemesis that pursued, sought solace in strong drink. For several years he lived in squalor in a mean hut of driftwood amid the lonely wastes of the San Francisco sand dunes. He died in poverty and wretchedness within the sound of the sea moaning on the tortured sands. Such is the sad destiny of those who would cure the disorder of society by ignoble methods.
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:
Burnette is gone. It seems when I write that, that there is no more to be said, but I think many thoughts. I feel so downhearted and dreary and think of a thousand things about Burnette, when he was young and full of enthusiasm.
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:
It is hard to say a word in dispraise of Burnette G. Haskell, knowing how earnestly and unselfishly he worked in the interest of humanity. Haskell has since passed away, and though in the end we differed, I feel that no real animosity ever existed between us. I honor him for the good and noble work he did before he succumbed to the devilish obsession of the drug. Any of us might have fallen had we been by nature similarly constituted and situated. Peace be to him.
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.