Museum the New Llano Colony



Job Harriman


Clipping from the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" dated November 9, 1919.

Birth: He was born in Indiana in October 1861. At some point before 1900, he changed the spelling of his name from Harryman to Harriman.  

Family Information: Son of Newton and Elizabeth Harriman.

Husband of Mary Theodosia "Theo" Gray.

Father of twins, although one was stillborn. The other, Gray Chenoweth Harriman, lived to survive Harriman. We have no evidence, however, that his wife or son ever actually lived in the colony.

It is known that Theo, certainly during the Louisiana years and most likely also during the time in California, continued to live at the Melrose Hotel on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles.

In 1915-16 Gray Harriman wrote several stories for the "Western Democrat", a political magazine published by his father for the colony, so he may have been somewhat involved with the colony during the early days. However, in May 1917 he moved to Chile and began working for the Chile Exploration Company. He was still there in 1920, although based on his Emergency Passport Application (dated 1920), he expected to return to the U.S. within four years.

Former colonist Harold Mathewson clearly remembered that whenever Harriman visited the colony, he shared the tent of Mildred Buxton. According to Mathewson, the relationship was common knowledge among the colonists; when Harriman contracted pneumonia in 1915, he recuperated in Buxton's tent under her ministrations.  

Description: Harriman was described as being a tall, slender, smooth-faced young man who cut a dashing figure with his dazzling smile and ready wit; yet he had a studious, even remote, air about him.

He was considered a powerful orator, even though it was said that he sometimes had difficulty with English – apparently he had the unfortunate habit of sometimes breaking into the uncouth expressions of his boyhood and often spoke in the vernacular of the backwoods of Indiana.

Many people believed that he had some Indian ancestry. He had the stealthy walk of an Indian and many mannerisms to suggest it. His hair was coal black, his skin was swarthy, but his eyes were a peculiar gray.

George Pickett once described him: "He seems to have been a man of great knowledge and will power. Even his enemies held him in awe and seldom, if ever, questioned his absolute honesty and integrity.”  

Pre-Colony History: He'd been born into a family of farmers who'd been early settlers of Indiana. His father had registered for the Union draft during the Civil War and died in 1864 (cause of death unknown.)

In 1870 and 1880 Job was living with his mother and siblings in Indiana -- in 1880 he was working as a laborer -- a job which he later remembered as "the hardest work any man ever did... It made the back ache and the heart ache, too."

He attended Northwest Christian University (which later became Butler University) in Irvington, Indiana. After two years he became an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ Church, though after three years of this work, he felt the need to make changes to his life. At some point he also attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs where he was admitted to the bar. This is possibly where he met Theo, who was the sister of a friend, Lawrence Gray, and we know that Lawrence continued to live in Colorado Springs for the rest of his life.

He and Theo moved to San Francisco in 1886 and he began practicing law there. By 1898 he was living in Los Angeles and had become a well-known Socialist speaker throughout the state and in Socialist circles around the country. He was a successful lawyer who often defended and won high-profile labor cases. His office was located in the Higgins building.

In 1898 he was the nominee for Governor of California on the Socialist Party ticket. He designed the wagon shown above and traveled around the state spreading the word about Socialism. The wagon was white with red lettering and guaranteed to draw attention when he arrived in town. One side could be folded open to create a stage while the other was arranged as living quarters and had storage for the printed materials he passed out at every stop.

View a clipping from the "Chicago Tribune" dated July 21, 1900.

In 1900 Harriman was living as a boarder in Manhattan, New York where he worked as an attorney and in January of that year he became the first ever Socialist nominee for U.S. President when he won the nomination of the Socialist Labor Party. He began his campaign immediately, but in March of that year, at the convention of the Socialist Democrats, the two groups voted to merge and, as part of the deal, Harriman agreed to step down and accept a nomination to run for Vice-President, while Eugene Debs would accept the Socialist nomination for President.

In December 1911 he was the Socialist candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles and in the primary received almost enough votes for an outright win. At the time, he and Clarence Darrow were representing the McNamara brothers following the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building. When Darrow arranged a deal where the McNamara's pleaded guilty to the charges only days before the runoff election, support for Harriman plummeted and he lost the election. He was again nominated in 1913, but could not regain his former popularity and once again failed of election.

In 1924 he wrote about his reasons for establishing the colony: "It became apparent to me that a people would never abandon their means of livelihood, good or bad, capitalist or otherwise, until other methods were developed which would promise advantages at least as good as those by which they were living."  

Home in Colony: See photos this page.  

Job in Colony: He was the founder and president of the colony until 1924 when he left the colony for the last time.

During the early years in California the colony tried several different methods of government. First they formed a General Assembly which met twice a month. Ernest Wooster remembered this to be what they'd hoped would be "a genuine democracy, where everyone would have a chance to speak;" though in practice it proved to be an irresponsible, fickle body, ideally constituted for scheming politicians and trouble makers. It permitted the widest range of free speech, but omitted nothing of a personal nature and spared none.

After the failure of this and other experiments, "an industrial government composed of heads of departments began meeting in the interest of efficiency and order." This later evolved to become the Board of Directors.

Though Harriman continued to be elected as President of the colony, after the move to Louisiana he was most often away -- at first due to legal problems relating to the California property, but perhaps even more enduring were his medical complications -- he'd suffered from tuberculosis since childhood and found the climate in Louisiana difficult.

In March 1933, the Story of Llano described the legal difficulties relating to the California colony in Harriman's own words, "When we left California Mr. McCorkle was secretary, and as soon as I came down here [to Louisiana], he began to plot against the interests of the colony to gain possession of all the property for himself. He caused the Tighlman place -- most valuable of our possessions there -- to be lost, and purchased it in the name of his wife, and entered into contracts with adverse interests by which he became beneficiary in many instances concerning both land and water. Under threats of foreclosure of mortgage, he forced the leasing of the entire place to outside parties, and, by co-operating with them, he stripped the ranch of the most valuable machinery and livestock. He then began foreclosure proceedings."

Harriman immediately returned to California to fight all these actions in court, explaining to McCorkle that "his transactions, in the eyes of the law, either in his name or that of his wife's were the transactions of a trustee." They eventually reached a compromise agreement whereby the mortgages would be foreclosed and all debts then divided between them.

Originally this resulted in colony debts amounting to $85,000 for the Newllano colony, though all but $10,000-$12,000 were canceled, the rest being secured by notes and mortgages on land at Newllano. In addition, as part of the deal, Harriman secured 1,000 acres of land, free from encumbrance, in the Isle of Pines [Cuba], estimated at that time to be worth $50,000.

He was listed on the 1920 US Census as living in Los Angeles, California in the household of Lewis and Clarinda Pier (his sister and brother-in-law) while employed as a lawyer.

He returned to live in the colony with the establishment of the Commonwealth College at Newllano in 1923. The college designated a teaching faculty of Job Harriman, Kate O'Hare, Howard Buck, F.M. Goodhue, Frank O'Hare, Wilbur C. Benton, Theodore Cuno, Ernest Wooster, Harold Z. Brown, Ivy Van Etten, and William E. Zeuch.

Unfortunately, the college group were suspicious of George Pickett, who viewed the college as an adjunct to the colony, while Zeuch and the O'Hare's seemed to look at the colony as a sort of school farm. Fights over priorities were immediate and vicious.

At the same time, Harriman and Pickett were struggling with a dispute over colony leadership. Both Harriman and Wooster had been immediately returned to the colony Board of Directors upon their return to the colony (with the establishment of the college), and both were in support of the O'Hares and the college group.

It soon became clear that coexistence with the Newllano colony would not be possible. The Harriman / college group located a new site in Ink, Arkansas, organized the Commonwealth Colony of the Ozarks and they and their supporters moved there over the next few months.

Struggles continued in Arkansas, however. The college group's priorities remained different from the colonists' who had moved there to support them. Before the year was out, the college had relocated again, this time to nearby Mena, Arkansas where it would remain until 1940 and the fledgling colony at Ink had fizzled out.

Other Info: In 1917 at an Emergency Convention called by the Socialist Party, he was selected, along with Kate Richards O'Hare to serve on the "War and Militarism" committee. Another future colonist, W.R. Gaylord, was selected to serve on the "Constitution" committee.

He visited the colony for the May Day Celebration in 1921, departing on his homeward journey after about a week in the colony. He expected to visit Girard, Kansas, then St. Louis for several days, and finally San Francisco before returning to his home in Los Angeles.

In 1922 he applied for passports for himself and his wife to travel to Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentine, Chili, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico.

Post-Colony History: In March 1925 he left the colony at Ink, Arkansas and returned to California to live with his estranged wife.

Death: He died in October 1925 in California. His cremated ashes were given to his wife after a funeral held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on October 29, 1925.

It was "believed by many who knew him that with the severing of his connection with Llano Colony, and the disappointment and disillusionment of the O'Hare group, the mainspring of his life was shattered, and that he died of a broken heart."

Sources: US Census: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920; "San Bernardino County Sun": April 13, 1899; Who's Who on the Pacific Coast: 1913; San Francisco Call: March 31, 1913; Hisory of the Bench and Bar in California; "Western Comrade" All issues June 1914 thru June 1918; "Northwest Worker": April 26, 1917; Vernon Parish Democrat: April 21, 1921, April 28, 1921; "Llano Colonist": January 14, 1933 (The Story of Llano), April 18, 1936; US Passport Applications; California Death Index; FindAGrave.com; "Indianapolis Star": October 28, 1925; FindAGrave.com; "Bread and Hyacinths; The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles" by Paul Greenstein, Nigey Lennon and Lionel Rolfe; "Southern Exposure": Vol 1; No 3 & 4 (Llano Cooperative Colony, Louisiana); "Radical Education in the Rural South; Commonwealth College 1922-1940" by William H. Cobb  


Job Harriman in front seat next to driver, G.P. McCorkle, and from left, in rear seat, Frank Wolfe and Bert Engle at Llano, California.


Job and Theo Harriman


Gray Harriman


Wagon designed by Harriman in which he traveled around the state of California, spreading Socialist propoganda. (Clipping from the "San Bernardino County Sun" dated 13 Apr 1899.


Clipping from the "San Francisco Examiner" dated June 17, 1895.


Clipping from the "Vernon Parish Democrat" dated April 21, 1921.


Job Harriman at Llano, California.


Clipping from the "Llano Colonist" dated July 15, 1922.


Job Harriman, with "the face of a revivalist or a Shakespearean actor."


Drawing of Harriman from the "Los Angeles Times" dated May 22, 1911.


Harriman's home in the Louisiana colony (linoprint from the "Llano Colonist" dated April 18, 1936.)

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