Museum the New Llano Colony

Charles Ward Eldred

Birth: Born around 1859 in Illinois.  

Description: Charlie Eldred was born with the art of staying young. In his step there was the resiliency of manhood's prime, in his gait the dash and go of the seaman -- and a little of the roll.

His steel grey eyes were cool and steady; his figure Lincolnesque -- tall, straight, lean, angular, wiry; with close-cropped pompadoured iron-grey hair; his beard well-trimmed. He had a look of General Andrew Jackson, when "Old Hickory" was in his prime;  

Pre-Colony History: After many struggles to get his education, he taught school for twenty-one years, then worked for a few years building barns and country houses near Springfield, Illinois -- it was then that he took up carving as a hobby; he also spent some time logging the giant cedars and fir in the Pacific Northwest.

During his lifetime, he lived in Kansas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania -- and claimed to have visited every state but one.

He and Florence came from Chesterfield, Ill. to join the colony in 1923, but sadly she died in December of that year.  

Family Information: He and his wife Florence married late in life, had no children, but enjoyed nineteen years together. He had a brother living in Chicago, from whom he received a letter in 1936 -- it had been six years prior to that since they'd had contact.  

Job in Colony: Known as Llano's woodcutter, his workshop contained every sort of bit, saw, chisel, knife, drill for making finely crafted pieces.

He often worked as carpenter on many of the building projects. In 1929 Newman and Ole were "assembling a new "sander". This was a machine on which all kinds of wood surfaces [could] be sandpapered and finished, obviating the slow and laborious hand work. A belt of sandpaper [did] the trick, as it revolved over "idlers", two at the lower and two at the upper corners of the framework. No idler, Comrade Hoag made [those] idlers. In fact, the whole machine [had] an interesting pedigree, being a concrete demonstration of co-operative creation. The plan [was] by Hank Stevens. Comrade Eldred brought the framework into being. Jimmy Maxwell concocted the metal parts by frisking an old Ford. Hoag tuned in on the idlers, as aforesaid. Somebody made the sanding belt. And lo! Ole and Newman assembled the creations of all those co-operators into a machine capable of doing the work of a score of men. [They] simply needed the machine and forthwith got busy and made it."

In August 1935, was helping to stack the veneer slats as they came out of the veneer machine in order to fill an order at the crate factory.  

Home in Colony: His home had suggestions of an oriental museum, filled with wonderful Chinese puzzles having many intricate pieces, artistic chandeliers, canes, chains and many more of his unique creations made from more than eighty varieties of hardwoods.

In 1930 he is listed as a boarder with the Theodore Atworth family.  

Other Info: In March 1929, Llano's Male Quartet set off to visit Brownsville, Texas, camping along the way. Mr. Brattland was unanimously elected Head Chef, Comrade Stevens the Chief Engineer and Treasurer, Charles Eldred acted as Official Interpreter and Lowell Coate served as Road Guide and Official Can Opener.

Because of unavoidable delays on the first day of the trip, they eventually decided to drive all night, so as to arrive in time for the big Air Meet in which Lindbergh was to participate. They did arrive an hour before Lindbergh stepped into his Ford All-Metal Tri-Motored Plane to carry the first air mail from Texas to Mexico City (this despite the fact that all passenger service had been discontinued below the border due to the revolutionary activities there.)

The group was allowed to cross over the international bridge between Brownsville and Matamoras, but could travel no farther since all trains in that country were being used for troop movements. Along with a few souvenirs, they purchased a crate of oranges to take back to the colony, but at the first county line they were detained by a Federal officer who inquired if their fruit had been inspected. They hadn't realized it needed to be inspected so the officer insisted they would have to leave the fruit with him. Thinking very quickly, the group decided to juice the oranges and were able to take a nice jug of orange juice home, leaving the skins with the inspector, who was forced to admit he'd never seen it done like that before.  

Post-Colony History:  

Death: He died October 15, 1944 in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.  

Sources: "Llano Colonist" - March 23, 1929, March 30, 1929, April 6, 1929, April 13, 1929, July 6, 1929, April 2, 1932, December 2, 1933, August 24, 1935, March 7, 1936; "Leesville Leader" - January 25, 1945; "Vernon Parish Democrat" - January 28, 1929; US Census: 1930; Louisiana Statewide Death Index  

Left: John Eldred with some of his wood carvings.

Right: Another photo of "Dad" Eldred with his wood carvings.