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The Mother of Progress Finds Home west to Tacoma, where George’s father Oliver already lived. Then Sylvia dutifully, and perhaps reluctantly, accompanied her husband first to Glennis, and now to another experiment. As much as she embraced radical ideas, Sylvia seems to have been a traditional mother and school teacher. “She was a strict disciplinarian,” wrote her granddaughter. “It was said of her that when teaching she merely had to look at a naughty boy in the back row and he would ‘straighten up’ immediately. I remember gentle, loving smiles from this taciturn woman but never laughter.”15 She probably didn’t smile much as she patted little Glennis, riding the steamer south through the roiling Narrows. This was the family’s third big move since leaving the fertile flatlands of Ontario, and it is perhaps no coincidence that the founders called their new settlement Home. The only account that explains why they chose this name comes from Sylvia’s granddaughter: “They were weary of moving.”16 Home did not yet have a wharf, or even a float, so Captain Ed Lorenz dropped the family off in Lakebay, five miles south of their destination. Albert Sorenson, a young man who lived on the peninsula, met them at the landing and loaded their belongings onto his wagon. A thick forest rose on either side of the wagon trail, at times blocking out the sun, as the team of horses clomped toward Home. The Odells and Veritys were waiting for them, a lunch spread upon the porch of a singlestory cedar-shake house, the first, and at that time the only, house built in Home. The three families gathered in the shade and ate. Still holding her daughter, what did Sylvia see in the tangles of ferns and brush clustered at the feet of massive tree trunks? While the men talked of Home City forming on the shores of Joe’s Bay, could she help but see that they were closer to nothing than something?17

HOME’S EARLY YEARS are not as well documented as later years. This was a time to drip sweat rather than spill ink. Until houses were built, each family lived for a while in huts slapped together from rough-cut lumber bought on credit. Over the summer, they lifted beams against the sky, building a second house, “The Welcome Cottage,” for the Odells. Then, for the Allens, they got to work on a large, two-story house with a porch and cedar shingles for siding. They cleared land, chopped down trees, and blasted the stubborn stumps. They repaid Ed Lorenz, captain of the Typhoon, for passage to Home in cordwood for his steamer. “Many a weary head lay down at night to rest for the task of the morrow,” recalled George Allen.18 Each family took two acres apiece along the shore of Joe’s Bay and agreed that any other person joining the colony would also get two acres. Using statistics from a government

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agricultural report, they took the total acres of cultivated land in the United States, divided it by the entire population, and found the resulting number to be one and three quarters acres per person. Based on their past experiences, they believed a family only needed an acre of carefully cultivated land to subsist; thus, two would provide bounty. Each family began raising poultry and vegetables on their two acres. Unlike the Glennis socialist experiment, each family would be responsible for improving their own land. In spite of this individualistic approach, the families cooperated much as other pioneers did. They knew that certain things, like raising a house, couldn’t get done without a collective effort. As their lives and the community began to take shape, they had more energy at night to discuss ideas. Of utmost importance was getting like-minded people to join them, and by 1897 Oliver Verity began publishing New Era. “WANTED,” it announced in its first issue, “printers, gardeners, shoemakers, and practical men and women in all the different trades, to unite their labor and capital in establishing industries that will retain for the workers the products of their labor.”19 By reading this paper, or by word of mouth among radical circles, people were attracted to the community, coming from near and far to live on Joe’s Bay. Billy King, farmer and teamster, traveled from Iowa with his wife, a skilled cook. White-bearded Hugh Thompson, a ship carpenter and Army veteran, brought his wife and family. Charles Penhallow, poet and hat varnisher by trade, journeyed with his wife Mattie from New England. Elum Miles arrived from Connecticut, and this elderly, scholarly-looking former Unitarian minister seemed out of place clearing land in a hickory shirt, grubby overalls, and lumberjack brogans.20 By early 1898 the community had grown to twenty-three people. The founders had originally resisted codifying their plan, but as more people joined, they began to see the value in having the barest of formal organization and sought incorporation into Pierce County. With the help of a Tacoma lawyer they drafted the articles of the Mutual Home Association, which would serve as a landholding body for the community. This document stated the goal of the association: “To assist its members in obtaining and building homes for themselves, and to aid in establishing better social and moral conditions.” Anyone could join by paying into the treasury the cost of the land plus one dollar. Any improvements, such as buildings or gardens, would be the owner’s personal property. “A certificate of membership shall be used only for the purpose of purchasing land,” it further explained. “The real estate of this association shall never be sold, mortgaged or disposed of. A unanimous vote of all members of this association shall be required to change these articles of incorporation.”21 The original seventeen subscribers elected the first officers

Profile for University of Puget Sound

Bookends Reader  

Welcome new students! This reader is a collection of readings from and about Puget Sound and that will be at the heart of the Bookends orien...

Bookends Reader  

Welcome new students! This reader is a collection of readings from and about Puget Sound and that will be at the heart of the Bookends orien...