Museum the New Llano Colony

Viola (Demaree Hendricks) Gilbert

Birth: Born in 1889 in Kansas.  

Family Information: Daughter of Leonard Demaree and Rosella (Demaree) Voorhees.

Step-daughter of Arthur Voorhees.

Sister of Riley Demaree.

Married William "Billy" Gilbert while living in the colony.  


Pre-Colony History: In 1895 she was living in Kansas with her mother and brother. In 1900 she and her brother were living in Kansas with both their parents. By 1905, both children were living with their mother and step-father, Arthur S. Voorhees, in Topeka, Kansas.

In 1910, she was still living with her mother and step-father, though by that time they had moved to Utah where she worked as a salesman at a grocery store. In 1920 she was boarding with the Chas. Stouder family in California while working as a clerk at a dry goods store.

At some point in the 1920's, (probably 1922), she and her mother visited the Harriman family in California (where Billy was acting as nurse for Job Harriman, who was ill), then sold their place in Los Angeles and the two of them traveled by Southern Pacific train to Newllano, arriving at the end of April, 1922.  

Home in Colony:  

Job in Colony: First worked at the laundry where she ironed. Then, after a minor injury to her ankle, was sent to the kindergarten where she assisted in the kitchen for a few weeks before being put in charge of it. It was her duty while there to teach a different crew of three youngsters each week to assist with preparing vegetables, setting their little table and clearing it after the meals.

Once, while Myrtle (probably Kemp), the regular teacher, went to Baton Rouge to take a course in the Montessori method of teaching, she was put in charge of the school. Thirty or more children came around 8 am, had their naps there, did indoor and outdoor work, and played games. The children had some chickens and a little garden to care for. The youngest was eighteen months and the oldest was six years.

She also helped to line coffins made by the colony for their own use and to sell.  

Other Info: She suffered from typhoid while living at Newllano, and felt that she would not have survived if not for the good care received from her mother and Billy.

The couple remained in the colony until 1924, when they were part of a group who supported the Commonwealth College in their dispute with Pickett and decided to move with the college to a new site near Mena, Arkansas.

Post-Colony History: In 1930 she and Billy were living in Arkansas where she worked as a flower maker, making ribbon flowers. Her step-father, A.S. Voorhees was boarding with them at the time.

In 1932 New Llano colonists, Doug Bridger and E.T. Hiatt, visited Mena, Arkansas where they saw Billy and Viola. The couple told them that if the colony could soon send a truck that way, there were many things like plants, crates, etc, that could be readily disposed of.

A few years later, when George T. Pickett was promoting the Self-Help Co-operative idea in Washington and asked for assistance to develop farm units near the city of Washington, she donated $1.00 to the cause.

In 1940 the couple were still in Arkansas where she worked as a corsetiere at a ladies wear store. At some point they opened their own small machine shop business at Ink.

Death: Died in 1989 in Oklahoma and was buried in Ink, Arkansas.  

Sources: Family Source: Karen and Dick Watts; Photo Archives; "Autobiography of Viola Gilbert": Unpublished; Kansas State Census: 1895, 1905; US Census: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940; Llano Colonist: May 6, 1922, May 13, 1922, May 7, 1932, May 12, 1934; US SSDI;  


Viola (Demaree) Gilbert

William "Billy" and Viola Gilbert.

Group outing -- Viola is standing to the right, Pearl Wooster is standing to the left of her and Ernest Wooster is kneeling in front of them with the adopted Wooster twins.

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