Museum the New Llano Colony

Charles "Charley" Derleth

Birth: He was born around 1881 in New York.  

Family Information:  

Description: In March 1935 he was described as follows: "Charlie seems queer to a good many people. His rough exterior seems to repel them. Charlie, however, is a grand guy and one of the noblest co-operators in Llano. There is no task too great or menial or risky for Charlie. He is an ideal co-operator, and for his principles he will fight to the end. Loud and boisterous at times, yes. But you've got to sit down and talk with him, listen to him, and discuss with him to appreciate the fine inner qualities of the man."  

Pre-Colony History:  

Home in Colony: In 1935 he was living in the Newllano Colony.  

Job in Colony: He was the "official gravedigger" for the colony. In 1931 Lentz was leading the woodsmen crew consisting of Maurice Collins, Paul Bradshaw and Charley. At that point they were cutting four miles west of the village, sawing and splitting pine wood for boiler fuel.

In January 1932 he with his big, good-natured mule, and Garfield Miller were gathering compost -- they had raked up about five acres.  

Other Info: On May Day, 1935, some dissatisfied colonists -- most of them younger members who had not yet earned their right to vote on colony decisions -- held a meeting while Pickett was out of town and elected a new Board of Directors that didn't include George Pickett. Doc Williams, an on-again / off-again colonist from the early years in California, was elected President; Eugene Carl, a new member who'd only been at the colony about three months -- he was still a probationer and consequently didn't even have voting rights in colony matters, was elected Executive Director; and Walter Robison, also a recent arrival, was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Pickett and his supporters fought the action in the Vernon Parish courts, but even though the courts ruled the new board was not legal, they also refused to name Pickett's board as the legal directors, so the disagreements within the colony only continued to escalate.

Read the Court Judgment dated September 6, 1935.

In order to claim that an official board had been properly elected after the court judgment had been handed down, the new board and leaders held another election. They advertised for former colonists to send in their proxies and adopted a rule permitting all resident members who had been at the colony more than sixty days to vote in the election, provided too few proxies were received to hold a regular stock holders' meeting.

In October 1935 he was nominated to be on the self-proclaimed "legal" Board of Directors, along with (in order of nomination), Robert K. Williams, E.D. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, John Szpila, Harold Emery, Charles Lawrence, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Chester Page, Horace Cronk, George Hullinger, Walter Robison, "Chauncey" DuProz, Mrs. Olive Lentz, Mrs. Mabel Busick, Lionel Crossland, J.H. "Dad" Ribbing and Cy Horney.

As expected, less than one fourth the required stock was represented at the Stockholders' meeting, so the colonists proceeded with the election of a new board of directors as planned. Those selected were: Robert K. Williams, E.C. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, Harold Emery, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Charles Lawrence, and Chester Page. Runners up were Mrs. Mabel Busick, Horace Cronk and John Szpila.

This new board tried to make improvements to colony life, but after the first year, finances were in such a state that the court appointed a receiver to help them straighten out their affairs. Two different receivers tried to calm the colonists and persuade them to work together, but this proved fruitless.

In June, 1937, as disaster loomed, some control was returned to Pickett when he was asked to be, first the Farm Superintendent, then the Ice Plant Manager, and finally in control of all colony industries. Unfortunately, it was too late; within months the receiver petitioned the court for permission to sell the land and soon began to divide the property into smaller lots which were sold at auction for much less than their actual value.

In 1936, he walked out to see former colonists, Mr. and Mrs. Weatherwax, and found that Mr. Weatherwax had been ill for a week. Their woodpile was not any smaller after his visit.

Also that month he shared an evening snack with his "twin" William Bingham's on his birthday.

He enjoyed a hilarious wood-cutting party in Mrs. Shutt's yard, where he helped Joe Winegar and Rosebud Cuno work up a sizable amount of fuel that was shared by a neighbor and a good time was had by all.

In August 1936 Charley, Doc Williams and Roy Parson made a hasty run to Shreveport searching for a much-needed "dado" or groove cutting machine to be used, but none could be found. While there, they stopped to inquire after two colonists who'd been some time in the Shreveport hospital -- E.A. Bennett and George Collins. It was too early for visiting hours, but they inquired of the head nurse and she assured them that both patients were doing finely.  

Post-Colony History: In 1940 he was living in a home in the unincorporated New Llano, Louisiana (site of the old colony) while working at a general store / lumber yard.  


Sources: "Llano Colonist": July 11, 1931, January 23, 1932, December 22, 1934, March 9, 1935, February 15, 1936, February 29, 1936, August 8, 1936; US Census: 1940  


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