Guide to the Kneeland Family Papers, 1820-1961

Processed by Hülya Reshad; machine-readable finding aid created by James Lake
Sanoian Special Collections Library
California State University, Fresno
5200 North Barton Avenue M/S ML 34
Fresno, California 93740-8014
Phone: (559) 278-2595
Fax: (559) 278-6952
© 1998
California State University, Fresno. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Kneeland Family Papers, 1820-1961

Sanoian Special Collections Library

Henry Madden Library

Fresno, California

Contact Information:

  • Sanoian Special Collections Library
  • California State University, Fresno
  • 5200 North Barton Avenue M/S ML 34
  • Fresno, California 93740-8014
  • Phone: (559) 278-2595
  • Fax: (559) 278-6952
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Hülya Reshad
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
James Lake
© 1998 California State University, Fresno. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Kneeland Family Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1820-1961
Creator: Kneeland family
Extent: 7.75 linear feet
Photographs: In boxes 2 and 9.
Repository: Henry Madden Library (California State University, Fresno).

Sanoian Special Collections Library.
Fresno, California
Language: English.

Administrative Information


The papers were donated by the Viola Gabriel Estate in 1987.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has been transferred to California State University, Fresno.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Kneeland Family Papers, Sanoian Special Collections Library, California State University, Fresno.


George and Mary Kneeland lived with their first two children, Ira and Althea, in Vermont in the mid-nineteenth century. They were a poor family who dreamt of a utopian life. After the Civil War, they moved to Kansas where their two younger children, Flora and Clarissa, were born. During Clarissa's early childhood, the family moved to Colorado. There her father and brother discovered some literature on a cooperative colony being established in Topolobampo, Mexico. Ira became the colony photographer and the rest of the family gradually moved to the colony.
Much of Clarissa Kneeland's youth was spent in Topolobampo, however in 1913, disagreements among the colonists led to the collapse of the colony and the subsequent scattering of its settlers. While in Mexico, Clarissa Kneeland made a promise which set the course of her future. Her brother, Ira Kneeland, was virtually deaf by the age of twenty-five and she assured her mother that she would take care of him.
Clarissa Kneeland's sisters, both of whom married men from the colony, moved to California. Her father went to California to attend a Civil War veterans' reunion and was unable to return to Mexico due to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. This left Ira, Clarissa and their mother in Mexico and although they were neutral in the conflict, they feared for their safety. The entire family settled in the Prather area in northern Fresno County, California, with Clarissa and Ira claiming land on Black Mountain, where they spent the rest of thier lives.
In October 1913, shortly after returning to the United States, Clarissa joined the Socialist Party and remained an active member for nineteen years. She broke with the Socialist Party in 1932, the year the party called for the repeal of the Prohibition Act. Although her conviction in core Socialist ideals had not changed, she saw liquor as a curse to the nation and felt that children were safe under Prohibition.
Clarissa Kneeland believed in the equality of all living things. She refused to have her dog vaccinated, a decision which led to her being put into jail for fifteen days. In particular, Clarissa harbored a special affinity for birds. She kept copious notes on birds she sighted on Black Mountain and also saved pictures and articles on this topic and pasted them into various notebooks. Clarissa Kneeland dreamt of a sanctuary on Black Mountain, a place where man and beast could live together in harmony. This dream never became a reality nor did her ambition to become a successful author. Her works, both fiction and nonfiction, reflected her ideals or dealt with nature or people she knew.
Ira Duane Kneeland shared his sister's strong socialist convictions and also wrote a few short works on this subject. He also devoted much time to inventions, in particular to the design of a helicopter. He later withdrew this invention from a company which offered to fund the building of his helicopter because he thought it would be used for military gain.
Ira Kneeland contracted pneumonia in 1950; Clarissa nursed him with her own organic medicine. She became ill herself and they died a day apart in 1950.

Scope and Content

The Kneeland Family papers measure 7.75 linear feet and date from 1820 to 1961. The papers predominantly cover the life and interests of Clarissa Kneeland and her brother, Ira Kneeland and are arranged in four series: Clarissa Abia Kneeland, Ira Duane Kneeland, Socialism and Other family members.
The Clarissa Abia Kneeland series (1892-1949) predominantly comprises Clarissa's life after she left the Topolobampo Colony in 1913 and settled on Black Mountian with her brother. Her interest in nature can be seen by the numerous notebooks she filled with notes and clippings about the weather, plants and birds. There are also numerous manuscripts and short works which she wrote over the years as well as letters from various publishers about the ones which were to be published.
The Ira Duane Kneeland series (1868-1947) contains sketches of his inventions and ideas on how they might be put in to practice. There is also correspondence from the various firms to which he sent details of his inventions. Like his sister, Ira wrote various short works, although unlike Clarissa, his are all on the subject of socialism.
Although much of the Socialism series (1894-1957) consists of the collection of articles, journals and newspapers which Ira and Clarissa Kneeland collected after their return from the Topolobampo Colony, other family members also contributed to this collection.
The newspaper clippings are in various scrapbooks and are predominatly about the socialist viewpoint. There are certain articles on womens' rights and prominent women socialists, for example, Mother Jones and Mary Ellen Lease. There are also articles written by Ira Kneeland which outline his socialist beliefs.
The Kneeland family collected much information about prominent socialists during their lifetime. Eugene V. Debs, a founder of and spokesman for the United States Socialist Party, ran fives times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, receiving 6% of the popular vote in 1920. During World War I, Debs, a pacifist, spoke out against prosecutions under the Espionage Act of 1917. This stand cost him his citizenship and three years in prison. The folder contains details of Debs's trial and a copy of his speech to the jurors declaring his innocence. Also included is a pamphlet about his life and a letter from his brother Theodore Debs to Clarissa, thanking her for her support in proclaiming his innocence. There is also a photograph in box 9 with two Kneeland women on the top floor of a new adobe store with a poster of Debs and his running mate, Stedman, showing their support for Debs's candidacy.
The folder on the O'Hara Family contains issues of The American Vanguard, the newsletter they founded. Subscribers to the newsletter were informed of the work of the O'Haras and were encouraged to contribute, with both money and time to certain causes. For example, the O'Haras helped to organize the Children's Crusade in 1921 when socialist believers sent their children to Washington D.C. to speak to the President Harding in the hope of bringing amnesty to all political prisoners. In 1920, Kate O'Hara became a political prisoner for fourteen months in a Missouri prison. During her imprisonment, her husband Frank O'Hara sent weekly bulletins to society members with details of his wife's trial. There are also letters from O'Hara to her husband and members describing the conditions of her imprisonment.
The Thomas Mooney folder contains pamphlets describing his trial. He had been sentenced to death for his alleged role in a bombing at the Preparedness Day Parade on July 22, 1916, in San Francisco. This bomb killed ten people and seriously injured forty others. There is a letter to Flora Kneeland during Mooney's imprisonment from his sister, Anna Mooney and also a letter to Clarissa Kneeland from Thomas Mooney after his release. Both letters thank the sisters for their support during Mooney's imprisonment.
Upton Sinclair the novelist, was as famous for his interest in social issues as for his novels. He temporarily abandoned writing in 1934 and ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of California. Narrowly defeated, he relaunched his writng career. This folder contains a pamphlet outlining his views on socialism and two letters which he sent to Clarissa Kneeland.
The folder on the literature of the Socialist Party contains a leaflet promoting its causes. There are also two programs in Spanish outlining the views of the party.
There are a few Other family members (1820, 1852-1961) whose relationship to Ira and Clarissa Kneeland are indicated. They play a minor role in the collection and their material consists predominantly of correspondence between family members.
The photographs of Page Hollow illustrate in great detail the dwellings of Althea and Clarence Page and also include various family members.
A genealogical chart spanning three generations is at the end of the finding aid. There is little information on many of these other family members.

Related Collections

  • Title: Topolobampo Collection (ca. 34 linear feet)

    This collection contains materials about the Kneeland Family's experience at Topolobampo, a socialist, utopian colony founded by Albert Kimset Owen at Topolobampo Bay and Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. The collection is unprocessed but is available for research.

Container List


Kneeland, Clarissa Abia

Box Box 1

Biography, undated


Black Mountain


Accounts (5 folders) 1904, 1908-1949 and undated


Cookbook, 1916-1917


Electrification, 1944, 1945, 1949, and undated


Fire control, 1928, 1929, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1944-1949


Garden notes, 1932-1933


Guest book, 1928-1930, 1933-1939


Land papers and leasing arrangements 1915, 1922, 1924, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1945 (2 folders)


Maps and plans, 1918 and undated

Box Box 2

News notes from Black Mountain, 1932, 1937


Newspaper clippings and writings on birds, undated


Picnickers, 1934-1948


Plants, 1922-1949


Sanctuary for People, 1935-1949 and undated


Weather summaries, 1915-1949


Photographs, 1920-1940 and undated




Overseas, 1930, 1947-1949


Personal, undated


Political, 1917, 1924, 1933, 1934, 1940, 1942-1947 and undated


Publishers, 1923-1925, 1927, 1929-1932 (2 folders)

Box Box 3

Diaries, 1892, 1895, 1898-1901, 1925-1946, 1949 (4 folders)


Jail sentence, 1934


Manuscripts, undated


Aleck Barton


Arco Iris


Babe of Muleignhiui


Bridge House


Grandma's Wedding Dress


La Casa Alta


Letters from Gwendolin


Letters to Beth


Named for Wild Jassamine

Box Box 4

Quail Mountain


Correspondence, 1939


Smuggler's Island




Review and comments


Statements and records




The Stronghold of Ripsnorter


Triple S

Box Box 5

Vic and I


Will of Dan Roman


Short works and poetry, undated (2 folders)


Sketches, undated


Topolobampo notebook, 1899-1932


Kneeland, Ira Duane

Box Box 5

Account books, 1884, 1892, 1896-1898, 1913, 1941 (2 folders)


Correspondence, 1868 and undated


Diaries, 1891 and undated




Correspondence, 1910-1912, 1927-1929, 1933, 1941, 1947


Reports, undated


Sketches (includes 1 postcard), 1932 and undated


Land deeds, 1908


Short essays (political), 1908



Box Box 5



Commonwealth Community College, Arkansas, undated


Cosme Co-operation, Paraguay (includes correspondence), 1894, 1900, 1931


Darewell, 1946, 1947 and undated


Kuzbas, New York, 1922, 1923


Llano Cooperative Colony, Louisiana (includes correspondence), 1931, 1932, 1935-1937, 1944-1947


Southern Oregon Altruistic Cooperative Association, 1930


Texas Coast Co-operative Company, undated


Unity annex, undated




Kneeland, Clarissa, 1937, 1943, 1947


Kneeland, Ira, 1928 and undated




American Foundation for Abundance, 1940


League for Industrial Democracies, 1924-1928, 1933


The Epic News, 1935, 1936, 1941-1947


The United Cooperative Industries, 1938, 1939, 1944, 1945, 1951-1957


The World Press


Correspondence, 1923, 1925, 1930


Certificates, 1923, 1931

Box Box 6

Workers Defense Bulletin, 1941-1948


Newspaper clippings, undated (2 folders)


Ira Kneeland, 1914-1916, 1924, 1928-1935




Articles, 1917, 1925, 1946, 1956


Correspondence, 1918, 1930, 1945, 1947, 1954-1956


Journals, 1914, 1917, 1924, 1927, 1933, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1956 and undated


Pamphlets, 1914, 1916-1919, 1929, 1943, 1947, 1953 (2 folders)


Prominent socialists


Debs, Eugene V., 1918 and undated


Mooney, Thomas, 1917, 1932, 1940 and undated


The O'Haras, 1920-1923


Sinclair, Upton, 1920 and undated


Question of money (includes correspondence and newspaper clippings) 1925-1927, 1929-1932, 1934, 1936, 1941, 1946 and undated


Question of religion (includes correspondence) 1906, 1922, 1931, 1935, 1939, 1940, 1943-1946


Slides of sheet music, 1933


Socialist Party


Literature, 1908, 1930 and undated


Membership card, 1929, 1931


Workers unions


The Co-operative Industrial Association of Virginia, 1928


The Progress Builders of America, 1900 and undated


Vermont and Sinaloa Industrial Association, 1900 and undated


Other family members

Box Box 6

Stoddard, Simeon (grandfather)


Correspondence, 1820, 1861-1862


Kneeland, George (father)


Account book 1874-1897, 1908-1911 (2 folders)


Biographical sketch, 1863


Civil War souvenirs, 1862, 1865 and undated


Correspondence, 1880-1914 and undated

Box Box 7

Diaries, 1861-1888, 1893-1895, 1919-1922 (4 folders)


Land deeds, 1922


Receipts, 1872


Kneeland, Mary Stoddard (mother)


Account books, 1857-1860, 1899-1902


Correspondence, 1890-1922 and undated (2 folders)


Diaries, 1896-1929 (4 folders)


Writings, 1852, 1853, 1855, 1858 and undated


Campbell, Abia Lucelia Stoddard (Dudley) (aunt)


Diary, 1915


Short works, undated


Dudley, Diantha M. (uncle)


Correspondence, 1912

Box Box 8

Kneeland, Abel (uncle)


Correspondence, 1908, 1909


Kneeland, Althea Maria (sister)


Correspondence, 1875-1914 and undated


Heliot, Armand Elmer (Flora's husband)


Account book, 1899-1907


Correspondence, undated


Death certificate, 1942


Heliot, Flora Isabelle Kneeland (sister)


Correspondence, 1898-1912 and undated


Diaries, 1889-1891, 1895-1901


Land deeds, 1932, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1949, 1954, 1956, 1958


Will and funeral expenses, 1961


Kneeland, Alice Lincoln (cousin)


Correspondence, 1888


Kneeland, Clara Serena (cousin)


Correspondence, undated


Kneeland, Dorrie Abel (cousin)


Correspondence, 1902, 1907


Gabriel, Daisy Viola Belle Heliot


Correspondence, 1962


Land deeds, 1962


Kneeland, D. A. (relationship unknown)


Correspondence, 1887


Sort works and poetry, undated


Kneeland, Stillman F. (relationship unknown)


Biographical sketch, 1886


Kneeland, Willis (relationship unknown)


Graduation announcement, 1928


Moat, Edlington (relationship unknown)


Correspondence, 1932-1950

Box Box 9

Smith, Mabel Page (Clarence Page's daughter from prior marriage)


Correspondence, 1903-1911 and undated


Stoddard, D.S. (Relationship unknown)


Correspondence, 1884


Miscellaneous family correspondence, 1820-1927, undated


Photographs, 1918, 1920 and undated


Gabriel, Daisy Viola Belle Heliot (niece)


Kneeland, Ira and Clarissa


Kneeland, George and Mary (parents)


Kneeland home


Nature on Black Mountain


Page Hollow


Miscellaneous family photographs


Contact prints (duplicates)


Oversize (duplicates) [shelved in map case A, drawer 10]