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The Llano Colony as I See It

Podcast 4 -- From "Stables" to "Newllano" --- 2/10/2017

Celebrating the Colony's Move to Louisiana 100 Years Ago

One of the first things Harriman and the colonists set out to do after their arrival was to rename their new town. So in early 1918, they began advertising in papers throughout the state for the station name to be changed from Stables to Newllano, though according to those ads they were "willing to accept almost any name rather than the present one." Multiple letters were written to U.S. Congressman James Aswell, followed by personal interviews with him, until finally, in June of 1919, the name was officially changed to Newllano. Colonist Walter H. Fread was installed as the first postmaster.

Meanwhile, back in the colony, after everyone was housed and matters settled with the Texans, farming took precedence over all the other work, though this didn't prove to be an easy task. Due to a drought in 1918 and too much rain in 1919 there was little progress made during those first two years. Some left to find work on the outside, though many of these, including Dr. Robert K. "Doc" Williams and his wife, would eventually return. p>

But all the remaining men were kept at work doing some phase of farm work. By 1920, nearly 500 acres had been fenced in and cultivated with corn, peanuts, sugar cane, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, egg plants and peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes, melons, squash, pumpkins, radishes, lettuce and all the things that go into the garden. p>

Other natural products could be found in abundance on the colony property -- wild berry bushes furnished sweet, luscious fruit for those who would harvest them, along with hickory and other nuts which could be stored away for the winter. Fresh-water fish and wild game were abundant in the area and offered some variety in the colonists' diet. And there was grass enough to feed more cows than they'd ever have.

The location soon qualified to be a U.S. Demonstration Farm where experimental gardening practices helped advance agriculture throughout the area. Colonist W.A. Dougherty, having made a life-long study of agriculture, horticulture, stock raising and dairying, was put in charge.

A small cannery was purchased and immediately put to use. Three meals were prepared daily in the hotel dining room and most enjoyed the communal atmosphere, but the commissary was operating and those who preferred could pick up their share of food and prepare it themselves, in their own homes.

There was never a shortage of conversation at the colony gatherings as the cooperators themselves tended to be colorful and highly opinionated. Many of them were self-appointed socio-economic philosophers who loved to pull up a chair in front of the hotel fireplace and spout elaborate theories at anyone within earshot and most of them enjoyed the opportunity to exchange ideas.

Other improvements were made during the summer of 1919, including the construction of two silos which would be filled with crushed sugar cane, sweet potato and peanut vines along with other vegetation to be fed to the hogs, cows and mules during the winter months.

Though agriculture was, of necessity, the top priority for these early settlers, a few industries were established as well.

The printing department put out two weekly newspapers, the "Vernon Parish Democrat", devoted to local news, and the "Llano Colonist", which focused on life inside the colony. They also continued to print the "Western Comrade" for some months after arrival in Louisiana, although it appears to have ceased publication around the time Harriman left on his journey to Brazil for medical treatment.

The shoe shop proved to be very profitable, often bringing in $150 a month, and for a time virtually supported the colony, thanks in large part to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte Roedemeister, known to his friends simply as "Roedy" or "Roede".

Ole Synoground, whose boundless energy and confidence renewed the enthusiasm of the remaining colonists, gathered from here, there and yonder the material and parts to put together a small sawmill. It was mostly assembled from what had been thrown aside by other mills as "junk", but under Ole's management soon began turning out lumber for the colony.

Another friend of the colony, Jake Rhodes, saw the promise in the bank of first-class brick clay he discovered on the property. He kept working at the idea until, in 1920, the first kiln of colony brick was fired. That New Llano clay not only furnished material for the bricks that built the Ice Plant and Industrial Building, as well as other important buildings inside the colony, but also served as a valuable trade good for land, blooded stock and other needed commodities.

The newly elected General Manager, George Pickett, proved to be a very persuasive speaker, giving his listeners the impression of utter sincerity as he traveled around the country speaking to interested groups. He wrote the Colony Diary in the "Colonist" for a number of years and played on the heartstrings of readers as well with the written as the spoken word. With an optimism that nothing could daunt, he consistently brought in new members and raised money through loans and gifts to the colony, thereby making himself indispensable to the group.

At the end of the first three years in Louisiana, colonists could proudly lay claim to having the largest plantation to be found in Vernon Parish at the time.


"Western Comrade", June 1918

"Vernon Parish Democrat": June 17, 1919; July 26, 1919

"Llano Colonist": We of Llano, November 9, 1929; The Story of Llano, March 11, 1933

"The Llano Co-operative Colony And What It Taught" by A. James McDonald

"Communities of the Past and Present" by Ernest Wooster

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