In Utopias on Puget Sound 1885-1915 by Charles Pierce LeWarne, he opens the chapter on Home with the subtitle of “Nest of Anarchy or Haven of Individualism?”’
Of all the communities on Puget Sound, Home seems to be the most widely known, and like the communes of the 60s and early 70s, it was because of all the stories of free love and nudism.
1896 found the nation in a severe depression. and people were on the move trying to find ways, means and places to escape the financial crisis. The settlement was founded that same year by three families who had left the Glennis Cooperative Industrial Company, a commune inspired by the Bellamy nationalistic movement and located on 160 acres near Clear Lake on the Eatonville Road, 17 miles south of Tacoma, Washington. Glennis was founded in 1894 but didn’t survive the rigidity of the governing and diversity of the 30 members.
So three families, Oliver A. Verity, George H. Allen, and B. F. Odell built a boat to tour the Puget Sound and buy some land to start anew. Their $20 allowed them to purchase 26 acres fronting Von Geldern Cove on the Key Peninsula. However that $20 was only the down-payment. They needed to pay the same amount ever 60 days until the full purchase price of $182 was paid.
George Allen, a Canadian university graduate and teacher, took a position in Tacoma to help raise money and the other two men remained in Home to cut and sell cordwood. They were able to negotiate with Captain Ed Lorenz, owner of the steamer “Typhoon” to accept cordwood as payment for passage and freight.
Although the formal name of the small bay was Von Geldern Cove, it was commonly called Joe’s Bay. It is not known whether Joe’s Bay was named for Joe Faulkner (he was the first settler in 1870) or for a drunken fisherman who fell into the bay from his boat and drown.
The three pioneer families, all from different backgrounds, each in their own way contributed to form the new commune. Odell, a blacksmith and carpenter, Verity, an Oberlin College graduate and the most practical of the three families, and then the Allens, both husband and wife were university graduates and teachers from Canada.
George Allen lived in Home for nearly the half century that remained of his life. Of the three, he remained the longest resident. His granddaughter wrote a delightful remembrance of Home in 1982. It is entitled “Home at Home” by Sylvia E. Retherford. Sylvia was born in Home in 1919 as was her mother and only brother. Her father, also a Canadian, was attracted to the community by the numerous leftist publications circulated nationwide. Some, to name just a few, were: “New Era”; “Discontent”: Mother of Progress”; “The Demonstrator”; “The Agitator”, and “Clothed with the Sun”. The “New Era” was established in 1897 as the first newspaper in Home and O. A. Verity (as he liked to be called) was editor and invited “… all who believed in man’s rights to do and think as he pleased …” to join the new commune in Home, Washington. Many people decided to accept the invitation and move to the far west though the majority of the free thinkers were not just anarchists but included individualists, free love followers (sorry all you 1960 souls that thought you owned free love), vegetarians, atheists, and several people representing different religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs. Radium (Ray) LaVene donated several albums including a collection of pictures of scenes and people in Home from 1898 to 1950; a complete file of “Discontent, Mother of Progress”; and listing of other articles appearing in the Seattle and Tacoma newspapers. Insofar as being a nudist colony Mr. LaVene made the following statement “There was no ‘parading in the streets nude! Small children went swimming nude and a few adults brought the nude bathing custom with them from Europe, who bathed singlely (sic) or in small groups in secluded areas.” (Mr. LaVene was raised in Home, WA; his parents being Nathan and Bessie Levin.)
“Discontent, Mother of Progress”, the second newspaper and it too had O. A. Verity as editor with a short life as well from 1898 until 1902. This was a weekly paper consisting of articles covering not only local news but also included national news and reprints of other articles of interest from across the country, Canada and even some from Europe, all within 4 pages of newsprint. Some of the titles in the December 18, 1901 edition read as “The Insane Anarchists”, “The Dreamer”, Is the Indian an Aranchist?” and “The Bennett Case”. D,, M. Bennett was very anti-religious and published many articles against religion in his newspaper “Truth Seeker” in the 1870s; eventually he was tried and convicted of obscenity for selling through his paper “Cupid’s Yokes” by Ezra Heywood. The US Circuit Court sentenced him to “13 months imprisonment at hard labor and a fine of $400.” “Discontent” also included a list of books and pamphlets for sale by it and, more importantly, included the Articles of Incorporation and Agreement of the Mutual Home Association (important if you considered joining the settlement). It was also a source of information on life in Home and similar communities. The University of Washington has copies of Pacific Northwest Labor and Radical Newspapers on their Labor Press Project.
Does the name Jay Fox ring a bell? Perhaps you remember studying the Wobblies and ran across his name then. Jay left school at age 14 and started his working life as a laborer and working for the labor cause - an 8-hour working day, adequate compensation for all workers, a free press, women’s rights and individual freedom. His connection with Home began in 1908 when he accepted a position as editor of “The Demonstrator” which was replaced 2 years later by “The Agitator”. He lived on and off in Home until his death in 1961. A great article on Jay is entitled Jay Fox: Anarchrist of Home.
The founders worked out fundamental principles that emphasized tolerance and independence. They used a formula from the US Department of Agriculture to divide the land equally amongst all settlers and determined that number should be 2 acres.
After two years without a formal organization, practicality entered the picture and they formed the Mutual Home Association in 1898 and named their settlement “Home”, taking it from the charter itself. The only stated purpose of the association was “to assist members in obtaining and building homes for themselves and to aid in establishing better social and moral conditions”.
Interesting, although houses and other improvements to the land were owned outright by the owner/member of the association, the land title remained with the Mutual Home Association. However the membership certificates including land rights could be willed to family members or other beneficiaries. In 1990 several Home residents petitioned Pierce County for Historical designations for many of their homes and other community structures. When I checked I found that the David Dadisman House, and the Home School at 6th and C Street were listed; there may be more and if so, please let us know the names of the other homes and buildings. Home is a Census-Designated place (CDC) which is a populated area without a municipal government but otherwise resembles an incorporated community.
The history of Home is so rich that I cannot begin to cover it all. There are several books and other resources including the internet should you wish to learn more including a visit to the Key Peninsula Historical Society.
But before I close let me share Stella Retherford’s recollection of an attempted raid of Home by some Tacoma residents and others following President McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
“A story of Captain Ed’s (Lorenz) service to Home is not complete without recounting his part in averting a tragedy following President McKinley’s assassination on September 6, 1901. Home was known as an anarchist colony and although Home’s anarchists were strictly nonviolent individualists, some Tacomans immediately became suspicious when the assassin, Leon Czolgosz, announced loudly that he was an anarchist.
Even though Home residents did not approve of McKinley’s policies, they condemned the assassination as wanton and useless. The Tacoma Daily Ledger and the Tacoma Evening News published articles and editorials denouncing anarchists in general and the citizens of Home in particular. These articles, and a few ministers from their pulpits, sponsored the assembly of a mob of enraged Tacomans who vowed to “wipe out the anarchists, atheists and free lovers of Home.”
The raiding party chartered the ANACONDA on a Sunday in October to come to Home. Local people were forewarned and frightened, but they set up tables on the dock to greet their visitors with handshakes, food and flowers as this treatment had calmed other excited antagonists. This reception committee never did find it necessary to extend their hands across the tables, as Captain Ed, having heard some of their fiery speeches before embracing, had a plan. He took the party aboard and steamed out into Commencement Bay where the boat developed “motor trouble” and sat quietly for several hours while the angry passengers calmed down. Then being too late for the trip, he returned them to Tacoma and refunded their fares.”
A very few resources for further reading:
- Utopias on Puget Sound 1885-1915 by Charles Pierce LeWarne
- The Anarchist Encyclopedia from the Daily Bleed - Home Colony, Washington
- University of Washington Labor Press Project
- The Peninsula Gateway - Articles by Gladys Para
- Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room
- Washington State Historical Museum