Chapter 17: Let History Judge

 

Members of the colony, into whose hands this book may fall, will be amused at the following incident: Two old colony members, after an absence of nearly forty years, visited the Giant Forest, now known as the Sequoia National Park. Upon arriving at the Park they joined a bunch of sight-seers who were being escorted around by an official whose duty, apparently, was to show visitors the various places of interest. In their peregrinations they came upon the old Colony saw-mill, a feature, naturally, of considerable interest to these two old colonists. The mill is, or was at that time—it has since burned down—properly designated on the map and guide book issued by the park authorities as the “Colony Mill,” but it seems this erring guide had formed a concept of his own in regard to history. He told this bunch of sight-seers: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is a structure that was erected some forty or more years ago, by a man named Connelly, who used it as a saw-mill, hence it is called “The Connelly Mill.”

There were two, at least, in that group who knew differently. They smiled, and let it pass as a sample of the stuff histories in general are made of. (James J. Martin, History of the Kaweah Colony)

The Kaweah Colony provided fodder for a great deal of copy, both during its existence and after, but until the latter half of the 20th century very little of what was written about the Colony came close to maintaining objectivity. This is an understandable failing from writers directly involved, but less forgivable from those who simply sacrificed their objectivity in order to make a point. Because of the lack of objectivity in all that was written about Kaweah during its existence and for many years following, it is — in the words of one Tulare County historian — “a perplexing subject.” In his 1968 article for the Tulare County Historical Society’s quarterly bulletin, Joe Doctor pointed out that Kaweah’s history “is almost too well documented for the historian to tackle objectively.” It seems a ludicrous statement until one considers the overwhelming quantity and extreme bias of that documentation.

HISTORY’S FIRST DRAFTS

Kaweah garnered a great amount of press coverage from its very beginnings, and most of it was slanted. We have already seen how certain newspapers, such as the San Francisco Star, were especially nasty in their attacks on the Colony. But conversely there were also many positive reports, which were often the work of non-resident members, which appeared in papers from New York, Boston, Denver, and as far away as England and Ireland. For instance, a glowing account of Kaweah’s successful Colony was once printed in the Belfast Weekly Star by a writer who had visited Kaweah late in 1890.

The press coverage literally exploded for a number of reasons. For one thing, there was the controversy surrounding the establishment of Sequoia National Park and the legal question of the Colony’s timber claims. There was the arrest of the trustees, the subsequent trials, and much that was legitimately newsworthy. It should also be noted that the leaders of the Colony were no strangers to the press. Burnette Haskell, a colorful labor agitator in San Francisco before founding the Colony, was able to fill scrapbooks with news clippings on himself before the Colony even existed.

For example, famed satirist Ambrose Bierce once wrote in his San Francisco Wasp column, “Prattle,” that:

B.G. Haskell is a gentleman who lives without work by preaching the dignity of labor. Under protection of the laws, he urges the abolition of law. He accumulates wealth by attacking the rights of property. He aspires to be, and to some extent is, a leader of industrial discontent, which is well enough; but as all who lead it must do, he leads it toward anarchy, which is not so well.

As 1890 came to a close, the Star and Bierce were no longer in the minority in attacking Haskell and the Colony, and by the end of 1891 when George Stewart published his hyper-critical series on the Colony in the Delta, even Haskell was contributing to the negative press on Kaweah. By reading his bitter and obviously subjective account of the Kaweah Colony in the November 29, 1891, issue of the San Francisco Examiner entitled “How Kaweah Fell,” we see that history is always, by necessity, somewhat subjective simply because those who lived history were themselves subjective, being mere humans.

Newspapers, it has been said, are history’s first drafts. Noting the bias with which so many reported on the Kaweah Colony, how can one ever get an accurate picture of what really happened via such first drafts? Even an account that was ostensibly an objective study by an outside observer invariably expressed a certain slant. In the summer of 1891, while the Colony still clung to a stubborn hope for success, William Carey Jones of the University of California visited the Colony and wrote a 30-page report, which was eventually published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. When the respected scholar, who eventually became dean of the School of Jurisprudence at the University of California, visited the Kaweah Colony, he undoubtedly relied on the colonists themselves for much of his information. It is also possible that his own political and social beliefs made him predisposed to forming a positive opinion of the Colony’s ideals, a Colony that Jones concluded held “the brightest possible material prospects,” which were obscured, if not destroyed, Jones maintained, by the action of the government.

In the matter of the controversy with the government [Jones wrote], I can come to no other conclusion than that a great injustice has been done to those persons who in good faith made filings for timber claims in October, 1885. The law of the case is not so clear to my mind. It is difficult to find consistency in the decision of the Land Office… But even the law seems to me to incline in favor of the timberland claimants.

Forty years after the demise of the Kaweah Colony — after the news coverage had long since died — other drafts of the Colony’s history began to be written, but many of what were now historians rather than journalists blindly relied on biased reports or were themselves trying to make a point.

MCWILLIAMS’S VIEW

Carey McWilliams, in his well-known history of California farm labor, Factories in the Field, published in 1939, certainly set out to make a point. Using Kaweah as an example, he wrote:

The Kaweah Colony forms an important chapter in the neglected history of early cooperative experiments in America. Into the story of cruel butchering of this genuinely progressive idea it is possible to read a phase of the social history, not only of California, but of the nation. If the Kaweah experiment had been permitted to succeed—the success of the colony was demonstrated at the time—the subsequent history of California might have been entirely different.

McWilliams’s brief account of Kaweah was far from in-depth and written from an obviously sympathetic point of view. He referred to Haskell as “one of the most idealistic and socially enlightened men of his generation in California.” It noted that “the Kaweah experiment was not forgotten immediately; it was kept alive for demonstrative purposes. With fetid hypocrisy, the newspapers of California continued to use the Kaweah experiment as a stock illustration of the ‘inevitable failure’ of Socialism.” It was the fault of the press, McWilliams maintained, that “the word Kaweah, if it has any meaning in the State today, has become associated with the notion of a cockeyed and irrational Socialism.” McWilliams pointed out that The Fresno Bee, as late as 1928, ran a series of articles on the Kaweah Colony to illustrate “the follies of socialism.”

McWilliams, on the other hand, used his version of the Kaweah story, with its slant leaning heavily to the left, for “demonstrative purposes,” showing how an “unpardonably harsh and cruel” government squashed a potentially successful bid at workable socialism. This gave Kaweah, he maintained, “a tragic significance.”

McWilliams was, in historian Kevin Starr’s words, “a skilled writer possessed of style, rhetorical force, moral vision, and socio-historical imagination,” and caused considerable furor with Factories in the Field, which concluded with a ringing call for the collectivization of California agriculture. His portrayal of the Colony as victims of capitalistic greed and rampant land monopolization was, if not central to the argument set forth in his book, at least a colorful and rousing example that helped support his theory. Anytime history is purposely used as an example to support a point of view, objectivity and accuracy will take a back seat to the larger issues of supposed right and wrong. Burnette Haskell would have been proud to see historical objectivity concerning his Kaweah sacrificed just to be a part of McWilliams’s landmark study on farm labor and grateful that McWilliams kept the name Kaweah alive, motivating students for generations to come to investigate the story on their own.

THINGS BECOME ACADEMIC

Finally, 50 years after the Kaweah Colony’s brief existence, scholarly histories began to be written. The story attracted numerous studies by historians from various walks of academic life. There is perhaps no knowing how many thesis papers and doctoral dissertations have been written on Kaweah and Sequoia National Park’s establishment. Half a dozen, beginning with Ben Rothblat’s 1936 master’s thesis through Dan Kennedy’s 1973 thesis were consulted in the writing of this book. Many more undoubtedly exist, as Kaweah was radical and offbeat enough to attract young students of history, eager to raise eyebrows with their efforts. Before long some of these scholarly works began to be published, such as Ruth Lewis’s “Kaweah: An Experiment in Co-Operative Colonization,” which appeared in the Pacific Historical Review in 1948. It was perhaps the first objective account of the Kaweah Colony to appear in print anywhere.

That same year an article on Kaweah entitled “A California Utopia: 1885-1890” appeared in the Huntington Library Quarterly. It was written by a young historian named Robert V. Hine and became the basis for a chapter in his seminal work in utopian community studies, California’s Utopian Colonies. The book, which was originally published in 1953 and reissued by Yale University Press in 1966, quickly became the standard in its field. Not only was Hine able to provide an objective, thorough study of Kaweah, but he was able to put the story in the larger context of a whole movement of utopian community endeavors that sprang up in California between 1850 and 1950, linked only by the eventual failure of nearly all of them.

Hine, the historian, writes with such a genuine concern for the people of Kaweah and other colonies that he deserves to be called a true humanitarian. And while writing about the many failures these characters suffer in the name of utopia, Robert Hine manages to maintain a genuine sense of hope. It is an optimism that, like many of the colonies discussed, is quintessentially Californian in nature.

The psychological temper of the utopian [Hine wrote] constantly beckons to an unseen but nevertheless real goal; from one more experiment in community life may yet emerge—like a phoenix, momentarily dusted with the disappointments of the past—a resplendent, reformed mankind gathered in the ideal society.

THE INVISIBLE ARM

By the early 1960s, one writer finally attempted to answer the central riddle behind the demise of the Kaweah Colony. He wrote:

That the Giant Forest is part of Sequoia National Park seems hardly a matter for discussion; it is its heart. Yet Sequoia Park was born without it. As established by Act of Congress on September 25, 1890, the park consisted of little more than the two townships that today form its rarely visited southern toe. Less than a week later, on the last day of the same session of Congress, the now famous forest and surrounding land [was] added.

This somewhat erratic procedure has never been explained.

With all that had been written about the Kaweah Colony in the first seven decades following its ill-fated existence, it is surprising that no one attempted to thoroughly investigate and explain the motivations for Sequoia’s establishment and enlargement that drove the Colony into extinction. Certain writers, with a view from the left, accepted that the government acted unfairly toward the Colony without offering evidence of proof. Still others ignored the government’s actions and simply pronounced the Colony doomed from the start because of its socialist politics or objectionable leadership — a flawed entity from the beginning that naturally would fall victim to internal dissolution and just plain bickering. But no one really addressed the nagging questions surrounding the controversial actions of Congress toward the Colony and the mysterious circumstances involved in Sequoia’s early history.

Oscar Berland, with his landmark article entitled “Giant Forest’s Reservation: The Legend and the Mystery,” finally set out to explain that erratic procedure and solve the mystery behind the sudden, last-minute enlargement of Sequoia National Park. The influences behind that sudden turn of events, which hastened the Colony’s demise, is the great irony of Kaweah’s history. Berland’s work exposing that irony has greatly influenced students of Kaweah’s history ever since.

Who was really responsible for the bill enlarging Sequoia, which was virtually railroaded through Congress? Those who felt its effect most had their theories. Both Burnette Haskell and James Martin, able to agree on little else during the last days of the Colony, felt they had been done in by the “invisible arm” of big business.

Haskell went so far as to maintain that “at least one man had been acting as the paid agent” seeking to foster dissension within the Colony. Martin, a little less dramatic, indicted a popular villain when, some 40 years later, he explained to a Sequoia National Park naturalist that the Southern Pacific Railroad was evidently “the one that started the machinery of Government against us.” Martin pointed out, just as he had to President Roosevelt, that their trouble commenced immediately after he had interviewed Southern Pacific president Crocker in regards to the location of a proposed spur line to connect with the SP main line.

Martin also believed that Visalia Delta editor George Stewart was working with the railroad, whose interest was to “prevent the development of timber in the mountains adjacent to the big valley of lumber consumers.” He concluded that Stewart had been a “snake in the grass” rather than the “innocent little lamb whose bleating saved the Big Trees from destruction.” But Martin and Haskell lacked hard evidence for their personal theories of conspiracy.

Finally, in the early 1960s, such evidence would be uncovered. When Oscar Berland, a young student of labor history from San Francisco, visited Sequoia he became intrigued with the park’s history — a history involving a Socialist colony started by radical labor leaders. His interest piqued, Berland started researching the Kaweah Colony and found himself on a path that would eventually take him to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Although his original interest had been California labor history, he became obsessed with the story of the Kaweah Colony and had every intention of writing a book on the subject. Although that book has yet to be realized, his article for the Sierra Club Bulletin, which was published in 1962, remains a landmark study for both students of the Kaweah Colony and Sequoia National Park. It was an article both Haskell and Martin, with their invisible arm theories, would have loved.

In the article, Berland presents a clear and succinct history of the Colony as well as an overview of the concurrent agitation in Tulare County to save the Big Trees. He then focuses on the two bills that created, then enlarged, Sequoia National Park. The story then jumps ahead to a time when the Colony was long since dead:

A beautiful park, belonging to the entire nation, stood as a strangely appropriate conclusion to Kaweah’s unhappy story, with many ex-colonists among its most dedicated rangers and protectors. That was [when] George Stewart began to investigate the manner in which Sequoia Park had been enlarged. More than a quarter of a century had passed; it was time for histories to be written.

STEWART’S SEARCH

As Berland explains, George Stewart went to his grave claiming he never understood exactly who was responsible for the mysterious bill that doomed the Colony. Berland follows a long trail of correspondence and recounts Stewart’s fascinating but unsuccessful attempt to discover the source of the legislation.

“I did not learn at the time why or at whose suggestion the park was enlarged,” Stewart confessed in a letter to Century magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson in 1930. “I inquired later of John Muir and others… but no one could throw any light on the matter.”

While examining Stewart’s search for suspects, Berland carefully recounts the steps that led to the reservation of the Giant Forest. He notes how the Sequoia bill (H.R. 11570) had passed through the House of Representatives less than a month after its introduction and that the land claimed by the Kaweah colonists was not included.

Quoting Frank Walker, Berland points out that in his comments to the California Academy of Sciences, Walker said, “It is generally thought [that the colonists] will substantiate their claims and acquire the land.” Walker added the observation that “public sentiment seemed to favor” this acquisition of the land by the Kaweah Colony.

But as we have already seen, this bill, which was signed into law on September 25, 1890, was not the only preservation legislation pending in Congress. It was the second act — H.R. 12187, the substitute bill primarily concerned with reserving land around Yosemite — that enlarged Sequoia and so deeply impacted the Kaweah Colony. And it was there that the mystery began.

[That] legislation [Berland concluded], unlike the measure that first established the park, was never discussed publicly, and hence its proponents could not be identified. The western press seemed unaware of its passage. Reference to the measure cannot be found even in the Minutes Book of the House Committee on Public Lands, which ostensibly authored the bill.

Who would have had the motive to introduce that bill in Congress? Who had the contacts to gather support? And who had the absolute power to push it through at the eleventh hour?

In attempting to discover who that might have been, Berland himself posed those questions and turned to the “Father of Sequoia Park” for some answers. George Stewart was never comfortable with the laudatory nickname his part in the establishment of Sequoia earned him. Perhaps this was because he knew there was much behind the course of events that even he himself did not understand. Berland’s examination of Stewart’s correspondence showed that the mystery of the second bill, adding Giant Forest to the national park he had supposedly “fathered,” troubled Stewart late in his life, and when he died he still had not solved the disturbing puzzle concerning Sequoia’s establishment. Yet Oscar Berland was able to glean several clues in Stewart’s letters, and in his article offered a possible solution which Stewart never seemed to have imagined.

As earlier noted, the tacked-on section of the Yosemite bill that enlarged Sequoia was written in a language only understandable to land surveyors and agents, describing the land only in numbered townships, ranges, and sections. Where were recognizable descriptions such as “Kaweah watershed” or the “Giant Forest”? It is hard to imagine politicians back in Washington having any idea what this section of the bill encompassed, if indeed they actually read the entire bill. Someone, however, had to know exactly what this addition to the brand new national park entailed and must have brought this suggestion to Congressman Vandever, who introduced both park bills. It is also worthy to note that Vandever, while representative for the large Sixth Congressional District, which included Tulare County and Sequoia, did not represent the Yosemite area to the north, nor was he a member of the Committee on Public Lands. Why then his concern with Yosemite?

Berland reminds us that Andrew Cauldwell had made recommendations to set aside Giant Forest and the surrounding land in a permanent reservation. This was, Berland pointed out, “The only proposal for the reservation of the Giant Forest of which any record appears.”

Yet it is difficult [Berland explained] to attribute the congressional action that followed to a temporary land agent’s inexplicable change of mind. For one thing, the time interval between the report, written in Visalia and dated September 26, and the legislation introduced in Washington four days later seems too short for a causative relationship. For another, except on the one matter of the four townships around the Giant Forest, the legislation bears no resemblance to the proposals made in Cauldwell’s Big Tree survey.

So if it wasn’t Cauldwell, who was it? Berland discovered one very strong possibility. His article states:

In his reply to Stewart’s last communication on this problem, Robert Underwood Johnson had recalled “a Californian” who spoke off the record at a meeting of the House Committee on Public Lands which Johnson attended. This man, according to Johnson, “took up the matter of the text of the bill with General Vandever” and “may even have drawn the bill.” But he couldn’t remember his name.

THE PRIME SUSPECT

During the period when this park legislation was being submitted, there was in fact a Californian from Tulare County in Washington, D.C. He was a guest of Representative Vandever and was well acquainted with land matters in the area. Ironically, his identity may have even been revealed in Stewart’s Visalia Delta. An innocuous notice printed on September 18, 1890, amongst several other items of local news — comings and goings and social items — noted that “D.K. Zumwalt and wife returned last night from their eastern trip.”

If Daniel K. Zumwalt is the suspect, what then was his motive? And why would it have been so well hidden — or at the very least unpublicized — that he was responsible for such heroic conservationist gains?

(Zumwalt later took credit for being involved in General Grant Park’s establishment, which was created in the very same congressional bill as Sequoia’s enlargement. This is further evidence of Zumwalt’s involvement in the Sequoia mystery.)

As Oscar Berland pointed out, “It is reasonable to assume that in a matter of this magnitude, Zumwalt was not acting for himself.” It is by no means a huge leap to a theory of conspiracy. Daniel Zumwalt was the local attorney and a land agent of the most “generously hated” railroad in the nation, the Southern Pacific. One biographer even credits him for having personally directed the railroad’s activities during the Mussel Slough affair. For this very reason, Berland claimed it would have been “foolhardy for him to have associated his name with Giant Forest’s reservation.”

This still does not address the question of motive, but the Southern Pacific Railroad had plenty. As pointed out before, even Colony leaders Haskell and Martin knew the railroad had motive to “prevent the development of timber… adjacent to the big valley of lumber consumers.” For one thing, the railroad made huge profits transporting Northern California lumber to the booming Central Valley. The railroad also had vast landholdings in the Valley, so would have been “as much concerned with the preservation of the surrounding watershed as any farmer,” knowing that available water added much value to their land. (Conservationists, it should be reiterated, argued that logging the Sierra would drastically alter the snowmelt, adversely affecting their water supply in the summer months.) Berland even suggests that the railroad may have had an interest in the large logging operations in nearby Converse Basin, on the southern slopes of the Kings River canyon.

With Zumwalt and the railroad as suspects and a huge financial interest their motive, we turn to the matter of evidence. The railroad’s name appears with impressive frequency among documents dealing with Sequoia National Park. The most striking example is one Oscar Berland found in the National Archives. It is a map of the full seven-township Sequoia (the original park established on September 25 comprised only the two southern-most townships), printed on Southern Pacific stationery and dated October 10, 1890. This map is the “smoking gun,” for as Berland explained:

On that date neither the colonists, the local conservationists, nor the California press were yet aware of the park’s enlargement. Congressional documents not excepted, this is the earliest reference to Sequoia Park’s boundaries extant.

AN ACCEPTED THEORY

No single work has had a greater impact on the subsequent study of the Kaweah Colony than Oscar Berland’s 1962 Sierra Club Bulletin article. He blazed a trail, and armed with his theory of railroad involvement — supported by the now-famous Southern Pacific map — Berland and others since have been able to bring to light the mystery, drama  and irony of the Kaweah-Sequoia story.

In 1964, Douglas Hillman Strong wrote a dissertation for Syracuse University entitled “A History of Sequoia National Park.” He relied heavily on Oscar Berland’s work when discussing the Kaweah Colony and the park’s establishment. Strong interviewed Berland a number of times and in his book, Trees — or Timber?, based on that dissertation, Strong reiterates Berland’s central theory when he writes:

The Southern Pacific could not come out in open support of the Park or its enlargement since to do so would have brought immediate suspicion and hostility. No corporation was more disliked or mistrusted in Tulare County. But a map of the enlarged Park on the Railroad’s stationery, dated October 10, 1890, is evidence that the Southern Pacific initiated the park enlargement, for on that date no one else in California knew about it.

How many visitors to today’s Sequoia National Park, awed by the majestic beauty of a forest unequaled anywhere, appreciate that it was through the machinations of a powerful, self-serving monopoly that these trees were saved for posterity? Pondering this central irony brings up one last question. Did the establishment and enlargement of Sequoia, and the demise of the Kaweah Colony, really save the giant sequoias of Giant Forest from destruction? Were they ever really in danger? In other words, what might have happened had Congress not set aside Giant Forest and its singular groves of giant sequoias?

DESTRUCTION OF A GRAND FOREST

In Burnette Haskell’s Pen Picture of the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony, written in 1889, the Colony’s attitude toward the Big Trees was addressed. Haskell wrote:

It would be nothing short of vandalism to indiscriminately destroy these sentinels of past centuries, as has been done in several parts of California, by ruthless ravagers of the Competitive system and care will be taken to preserve them in their primitive glory. It is gratifying to know that it is not the intention of this company to sweep from off the face of the earth these grand relics of past centuries. Portions of the forest will be cleared and cultivated, but the “Monarchs” will be left to reign supreme in their grandeur, to excite the awe and admiration of generations yet to come.

Regardless of what Burnette Haskell may have written in 1889, if the Colony had survived — a survival made possible only by gaining title to their land claims and thus legal ownership of Giant Forest — the Big Trees of that famed forest would very likely have been felled sooner or later.

There are two possible scenarios that would have endangered the spectacular groves of Big Trees at Giant Forest. First, let us suppose Sequoia National Park had not been enlarged to include Giant Forest. It is easy to imagine big lumber interests such as Smith and Moore’s Sanger Lumber Company acquiring title to that land and expanding their operations. In 1891, the company produced nearly 20 million board feet of lumber from the forests along the Kings River drainage just north of the Kaweah watershed. Still, this was not enough volume to make profitable their already enormous investments, and the company eventually expanded its operations into a natural bowl known as Converse Basin, “where the really big trees are located.” Converse Basin contained over 5,000 acres of some of the largest trees in the world.

Even though the first year was a complete disaster, operations there continued for nearly ten years. Today, stump after giant stump dramatically litter the Converse Basin, and walking among the decimated giants, the stumps jutting up like gargantuan grave markers, one can’t help but shudder at the possibility of a similar fate for Giant Forest only 20 miles away. With the Colony’s road only a few miles shy of its groves, accessibility wouldn’t have been a limiting factor for an aggressive outfit that, at nearby Converse Basin, demonstrated their willingness and ability to fell mammoth specimens despite the difficulty, danger, and high percentage of waste.

And what if the Kaweah Colony had acquired title to Giant Forest along with their other timber claims? Even if we accept the theory that the Colony would never have logged the Big Trees, there remains a frightening scenario that would have spelled disaster for the grand forest.

Title to their timber claims would undoubtedly have contributed to a greater chance of success for the Kaweah Colony. There is no denying that when their claims were canceled and all hope of acquiring title extinguished, the Kaweah Colony lost any viable chance for success. But we have also seen that there were other factors contributing to the endeavor’s demise, including mismanagement, internal disputes, and a tenuous capital base. Although gaining title to the timber land would have been beneficial, would it have guaranteed lasting prosperity and harmony?

One can easily imagine that even had the Kaweah Colony been granted title and established successful logging operations at Colony Mill, financial difficulties would have arisen (or simply continued.) With title to Giant Forest, and a lumber company 20 miles away possessed with the capital and propensity to expand, sale of land by the Colony would be one viable solution to many problems. Had the Colony owned Giant Forest, they may indeed never have cut down a single Big Tree, but they could very well have been forced into selling Giant Forest to someone who would. Fortunately, this is all pure speculation.

It is naïve to imagine the Big Trees of Giant Forest, left unprotected, not being destroyed. Giant sequoias by the thousands were destroyed at numerous locations: near Grant Grove, at Converse Basin, in the Tule River drainage to the south, and even at Atwell’s Mill, by the hand of the Kaweah Colony on patented private land within a newly created national park. Looking back, with our 100 year vantage point, for Giant Forest it ended up being a choice between survival of the Big Trees or the Kaweah Colony.

Granted, it did not have to be that way. Park boundaries could have been drawn to allow the Colony a chance at obtaining all the timber land they really needed — the pine and fir forests where they established their mill — but this wasn’t the case. As we have seen, powerful forces had the motive and means to make sure the Kaweah Colony was denied any opportunity to produce lumber. As things turned out, the Big Trees of Giant Forest were the incidental beneficiary of a giant corporation’s less than benevolent actions.

Does this, then, make the Kaweah colonists sacrificial lambs? Can we assume their motives were purely noble and their leaders innocent and uncorrupted? Of course not. Nothing is ever that simple. Human beings are not that simple, and history is lived and written by human beings and the future imagined by the dreamer.

SOURCES: Many of the books consulted for this chapter are cited within the text, but here is that list: Factories in the Field, by Carey McWilliams; Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California, by Kevin Starr; California’s Utopian Colonies, by Robert V. Hine; Trees — or Timber? The Story of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, by Douglas Hillman Strong; They Felled the Redwoods, by Hank Johnston; Men of the Mammoth Forest, by Floyd Otter; and A Pen Picture of the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony, by Burnette Haskell. Enough can’t be said for the value of Oscar Berland’s Sierra Club Bulletin article “Giant Forest’s Reservation: The Legend and the Mystery,” published in 1962. As a source, it was handsomely augmented by the author’s memorable interview with Oscar at his El Cerrito home in May 1995, and Oscar’s generous sharing of all his previous research materials with the author. Thank you, Oscar.

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