8 Ball In The Wind

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Great Grandson of Anarchy

I was watching an episode of Sons of Anarchy from the first season, and a reference to the 19th Century anarchist Emma Goldman got me thinking of the little town I grew up in.  The towns name is Home, but in the 1890's it was called the 'Mutual Home Colony".  My brother and his wife still live there.

Home was founded in 1897, by three men and their families.  Their concept was pretty basic.  The would lean more towards individualistic anarchism, where there would be an "...absence of all laws, rules, and regulations."  This pretty much left the members to be free to follow "their own line of action no matter how much it may differ from the custom of the past or present." Basically you could do whatever you felt like doing, as long as you didn't interfere with your neighbors right to do their own thing as well.

Home soon had the first of several newspapers, the 'New Era'.  Which invited "all who believed in man's rights to do and think as he pleased..." to come to Home, and settle there.  There was a real feeling of everyone being able to do their 'own thing'.  Without any problems from the community, the church, or law enforcement.  Home was proud to boast that it had "...no sidewalks, no churches, and no police."  The nearest law enforcement was in Tacoma, a nearly40 mile roundtrip steamship ride away.  So the law pretty much left Home to do as Home wanted to do.

Article from the New Era

Many different free thinking folks moved to Home, and not all of them were anarchists.  Many were socialists, 'free lovers', athiests, vegetarians, and those who believed in a wide array of spiritual beliefs.  

The little town was soon growing.  Everything had to be shipped in by steamship from across the Puget Sound, as there weren't any roads out along the Key Peninsula yet.  Soon the waterfront and hillside were cleared and two acre homesites were going up.  They erected a community hall that was named "Liberty Hall".  It was there, in Liberty Hall that; school was taught, the colony's members could come and enjoy social interaction with each other, talk about the latest news, or listen to speeches by famous anarchists who traveled to Home.  Emma Goldman was one of those speakers.

Mutual Home Colony circa 1900  Photo from the Univ. of Washington collection

Mutual Home Colony circa 1900  Photo from the Univ. of Washington collection
Teacher & students in front of school  aka "Liberty Hall" circa 1900
from the Univ. of Washington collection
In 1905, Home's peaceful isolation came to a sudden and bitter end.  The assasination of President McKinley by an anarchist suddenly had law enforcement, and especially the mainstream press of the day casting a distrustful eye on the little coveside community.  The Tacoma Daily Ledger even published an article that called upon citizens to "exterminate the Anarchist", and further went on to state that "Each anarchist should be killed as a wild beast, a mad dog".  Yep, the times, they were a changing for Home alright.

Front Page of the Discontent from Aug. 8, 1900
Photo from the Washington State Univ. collection

The second newspaper in Home, 'The Discontent', carried many articles in it espousing 'free love'.  While not quite what we would think of it today (and most folks outside of Home thought about it back then), the articles considered free love as an expression of a woman's right's in sexual relations.  The articles gave the general public in Tacoma, and around the country where the newspapers were mailed to subscribers, the image of mass orgies in the little town.  This got people in Tacoma, riled up about 'those vermin' in Home.  The Grand Army of the Republic (similar to today's VFW but with veterans from the Civil War, and later conflicts) decided to 'clean the rabble out of their nest'.  They would purchase tickets aboard the local steamship, and would attack the community.  Or that was their plan anyway.  Word got back to Home, and a resistance party was organized.  Virtually everyone with a gun, or weapon was waiting at the dock when the regularly scheduled steamship arrived. Funny thing, not a single person got off the steamship that day.

Home still wasn't out of the woods.  It wasn't long before the US Postmaster General got in on the act.  I swear, for such a small little village, these guys had some heavy weight enemies.  Citing the 'lewd' material in the newspapers being sent through the mail across the United States to subscribers, the Postmaster General ordered the town of Home's post office closed...their rights to a post office revoked.  That was over 100 years ago, and if you go to Home now, you will find a post office.  But it is the Lakebay post office.  Home still isn't allowed to have it's own post office.  So instead, they have the post office for the town a few miles down the road in downtown Home.  It is the only post office I know of that is in the wrong town.  Go figure it's in Home.

'Lakebay' Post Office...in Home, WA

The simple expedient was to just pack the editions of the Discontent, and it's subsequent replacement, the 'Demonstrator' to Lakebay to be mailed out.  Which was just a pain in the ass, but it worked.

There were some rather rowdy types in Home.  Or ones who had a past of what today would be called 'terrorist activities'.  In 1910, Jay Fox, who took part in the Haymarket bombings and riots, moved to Home and started the fourth Newspaper, 'The Agitator'.  In his newspaper, Mr Fox promoted the socialist labor movement the I.W.W., also known as 'The Wobblies'.  Who were a rather violent element of the labor movement.  They actually rioted in Centralia, WA, and many were shot down by government tropps...but that is a different story for a different time..maybe.  Two of the 'accomplices' to the Los Angeles Times bombing were found in Home eventually, and arrested.

Front Page of The Agitator
photo from the Washington State Univ. collection

In time, Home became more of a main stream community.  The children of the anarchists seemed to swing back away from their parents teachings.  Many of those from the old anarchist colony days were still alive and around when I was a boy.  I respected them, not just because of their age, but because they ahd such wonderful tales to tell of the place I was living and growing up.  They filled a young boys mind with images of things that had long since ended, and gave meaning to things I took for granted.  The steamships no longer plied the waters of Puget Sound, so the towns large dock was to me only for fishing and diving off of.  I only learned of its original purpose while listening to the older folks in town, and imagining what it must have been like.

There is still a sense of not quite conforming in Home that is deeply rooted in me.  I grew up in an old house built in an anarchist/socialist/free love colony.  As I grew older, and thought about it with an adult mind, I came to enjoy the idea, and reasons for all the doors leading outside from the house.  The only room in the house that didn't have an exterior door was the one bedroom.  It had a small door in the wall just above bed level that led into the kitchen.  The bathroom even had an exterior door next to the toilet.  One never knew when you might have to make a hasty exit when the spouse arrived home.  

My mothers stepfather was the son of anarchists.  So, I guess that makes me a "Great-Grandson of Anarchy". To this day, I am proud to say I 'grew up' in Home.  So many stories from that little town, an dplaces that have fallen into history that were such a treasure.  Now they only exist in my chaotic memories.  Besides being the place I rode my first bicycle, and my first motorcycle, Home holds a special place in my heart and soul.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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