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Finding Aid to the Llano del Rio Records, 1911-1969 MS 1304
MS 1304  
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Collection Details
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  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • History of the Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Llano del Rio records
    Date (inclusive): 1911-1969
    Collection Number: MS 1304
    Creator: Llano Colony (Secular community)
    Repository: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94105
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
    Extent: 5 boxes, 1 oversize folder (2.0 Linear feet)
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Abstract: Most of the collection was collected by longtime colonist, Walter Millsap, and includes papers from the early years of the colony in California and Louisiana (1911-1930), correspondence between Millsap and other colonists (1920-1958), and files from the assets recovery attempt (1959-1969). Board of directors' files (1959-1969) include minutes and papers, meeting proxies, and other documents. Correspondence is chiefly between Millsap and over 100 other colonists.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the California Historical Society. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Research Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Llano del Rio Records, MS 1304. California Historical Society, Manuscript Collection.

    Alternative Formats Available

    Collection also available on microfilm (NEG 23: 1-5).

    Separated Material

    Photographs transferred to Photography Collection--Restricted Materials--General Subjects--Utopian Communities.

    Related Materials

    Paul Kagan Papers MS 3121 

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Collective settlements--California, Southern.
    Collective settlements--Louisiana.
    Millsap, Walter, 1886-1971.
    Utopian socialism--California, Southern.
    Utopian socialism--Louisiana.

    Administrative Information


    Paul Kagan collected most of this material from Walter Millsap before his death in 1971. See Series 2 folder 28, Series 3 folder 147 for material given by Mellie Calvert. All of this was transferred to CHS in 1972.


    No additions are expected.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by CHS staff.

    History of the Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony

    The colony of Llano del Rio was formed in 1914 by Job Harriman, a socialist lawyer and politician from Los Angeles. Harriman sought to provide an economic underpinning to the ideas of socialism by organizing a cooperative colony. Harriman and a group of associates sought land for the site of the colony, settling on 10,000 acres in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles. They incorporated the Llano del Rio company in California in 1914, and later reincorporated under Nevada law in 1916.
    Harriman placed advertisements in Western Comrade and the California Social-Democrat, soliciting individuals and families interested in participating in the venture. Membership was achieved through a $500 purchase of 2,000 shares of stock in the company, the balance to be paid in labor at a variety of jobs available at the colony.
    The colony grew quickly, burgeoning to a thousand members by 1917. The first year saw colonists living in tents while permanent structures were built - adobe houses and a hotel boasting electricity and indoor plumbing. The colony sought to be as self-sufficient as possible, and in addition to the cultivation of fruit trees, melons, potatoes, beans and other crops produced dairy, poultry and pork products, and had an apiary and a rabbitry. Colonists earned four dollars a day for their work, a dollar of which paid off the balance of membership, and the rest going toward living expenses.
    By 1917, it became clear that the choice of site had been a mistake. Though hydrological surveys indicated that sufficient water supplies existed to irrigate up to 40,000 acres, the colony soon experienced a serious shortfall in water. Small rainfall, an insufficient resevoir, and limited rights to water from Big Rock Creek forced the colony to abandon the site and seek greener pastures elsewhere.
    The Llano colonists boarded a chartered train, transporting themselves, machinery and livestock to Stables, Louisiana, an anbandoned mill town, renaming it Newllano. Some colonists were to remain in California, and develop the land to focus on fruit tree production. The following year however, creditors began involuntary bankruptcy proceedings against Llano, and the colony's California assets were foreclosed upon.
    Job Harriman returned to California, where he died in 1925. George Pickett stepped in to lead Newllano until it declared bankruptcy in 1936, falling apart completely by 1938. An attempt to recover their assets was begun in 1959 by Pickett and others.
    Hoffman, A. (1961) A look at Llano: Experiment in Economic Socialism. California Historical Society Quarterly. 40(3), 215-236
    Huxley, A. & Kagan, P. (1972) A Double Look at Utopia: the Llano del Rio Colony. California Historical Society Quarterly. 51(2) 117-154

    Scope and Content

    The collection is divided into two time periods. The first includes papers collected by Walter Millsap from the early years in California and Louisiana, 1911-1930. The second involves an attempt beginning in 1959 by George Pickett, Job Harriman's successor, to reaquire the assets the Newllano, LA colony lost in 1936 bankruptcy preceedings.
    Administrative files from the first time period include documents pertaining to incorporation and the issuance of stock, employment agreements and organizational chart, memos and official correspondence, expense reports from the move by rail from Palmdale, CA to Stables, LA.
    Other materials representative of daily life in Llano include meal tickets, pamphlets written by members pertaining to personal experiences and the economic and organizational hardships of the colony, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera. A survey of the Big Rock Creek Irrigation District is located in oversize map case storage.Correspondence is from members and researchers such as Clark Kerr and Upton Sinclair interested in the goings-on of the colony.
    The second time period, 1959-1969, consists largely of minutes and meeting papers, stockholder papers, and a proposed charter for the reorganization of the colony. Correspondence from this period includes letters from ex-members, as well as those desiring to continue with the colony.


    Arranged into 4 series:
    The first two series includes materials dating from 1911 to 1959.
    Series 1: Administrative Files
    Series 2: Correspondence
    The second two series include materials from 1959 to 1969, when George T. Picket attempted to regain the assests of Llano Colony after a 1936 bankruptcy filing.
    Series 3: Board of Directors' Files
    Series 4: Correspondence