Kaweah Colony

Kaweah Colony was a utopian settlement by established in 1885 by a group of residents wanting to own land in the Sierras of eastern Tulare County, California. The Kaweah Co-Operative Commonwealth colony residents claimed land under the Timber and Stone Act of 1878, which attracted the attention of Land Patent Office agents who suspected fraud and refused to approve the 12,000 acres of land for what they considered to be a large number of claims. Fifty-three claims were made by colonists, many of whom used the same address for their claims. While awaiting the adjudication of the timber claims, residents continued the process of establishing their utopian society near the Kaweah River.

Founded on the socialist principals of Laurence Gronlund, author of The Cooperative Commonwealth, and led by San Francisco labor activists Burnette G. Haskell and James J. Martin, the colony employed a labor-check method of payment that was dependent on work performed in exchange for cash. The colony had decided to use timber as the main source of income and built a road to the timber claims. By the end of four years, 18 miles of camp roads were built with simple tools while the government had opted for the creation of Sequoia National Park. This resulted in the denial of land patents to the residents of the Kaweah Colony and their future removal from the land.

Though membership never exceeded more than 300, by 1892 the colony had disbanded, yet vestiges of its brief existence still remain. Its newspaper, the Kaweah Commonwealth, which was printed on a weekly basis and had a running time of two years from 1890 to 1892, is extant. Also, the Kaweah Post Office and the road leading to California's first, and the United States’ second largest, national park are both contributions for which the colonists were responsible. The road built by the colonists represented part of the only entrance to Sequoia National Park until 1926.

Gustavo Adolfo Aybar

See also: Cooperative Commonwealth ; Gilded Age ; Gronlund, Laurence (1849–1899) ; Haskell, Anna Fader (1858–1942) ; Haskell, Burnette G. (1831–1889) ; Homestead Act (1862)


Elliott, John, and Sarah Barton Elliott, eds. “The History of Kaweah Colony,” Kaweah Commonwealth. http://www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/kaweahcolonyhistory.html . Accessed January 7, 2013.

Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1953.

O'Connell, Jay. Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony. Van Nuys, CA: Raven River Press, 1999.