Challenge of the Big Trees
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Chapter Four:
Parks and Forests: Protection Begins


The End of the Kaweah Colony

The acts of September 25 and October 1 provided little specific instruction for administering the two new reservations. It was left to the secretary of the interior to develop the procedures and regulations required to execute the acts' rather general goals.

In late October Secretary Noble responded to his new assignment. On October 21, the same day that Stewart and his friends learned of the enlargement of Sequoia, the interior Department issued a list of eight regulations governing the new reservation. The first named the reserved tract "Sequoia National Park." Additional provisions prohibited hunting, fishing, and the possession or use of alcohol, while another section designated that the park would be under the immediate control of an officer of the government entitled Superintendent of Sequoia National Park." [18] The rules and regulations were printed on cloth and forwarded immediately to the local agents of the General Land Office with the instruction that they be posted in and near the park. On the same day that the regulations were issued, Secretary Noble addressed the War Department, enclosing copies of the acts creating the three new Sierran national parks and requesting that military authorities in California investigate whether the parks would require military protection during the coming winter. By December 3, Secretary Noble had his answer from the secretary of war:

From the best information I can obtain, the best protection these park reservations can have during the winter consists of the heavy snows which cover them. . . . I therefore recommend that action be deferred until spring, when small parties of mounted men might be sent there to warn off, and, if necessary eject, timber cutters and sheepmen with their herds. . . . [19]

In all his initial actions regarding Sequoia and General Grant national parks, Secretary Noble followed rather closely the precedents set in the nation's only previous national park—Yellowstone. Troops had been detailed to Yellowstone in 1886, after an unsuccessful attempt at civilian law enforcement, and the rules and regulations for the California parks strongly resembled those issued for Yellowstone. Even the name "Sequoia National Park" imitated the earlier "Yellowstone National Park."

The immediate problem faced by the Department of the Interior in Sequoia National Park was what to do with the Kaweah Colony. During the summer of 1890, prior to passage of either act, the colonists' road work had finally reached the edge of the conifer timber. There they erected a small, portable, steam-powered sawmill at a place they called Colony Mill. By late summer, while Stewart's campaign to protect the Garfield/Hockett country reached its climax, the colonists began cutting the surrounding pine and fir. Several miles of rugged canyon country still separated them from their goal of the Giant Forest with its sequoias.

Despite the confidence shown by the colonists' continued road-building activity and their initiation of logging at Colony Mill, the question of the colony's title to its five-year-old Giant Forest land claims remained unsettled. The temporary withdrawals that had been placed on the lands they had claimed back in 1885 remained in effect. In June 1890, the GLO had initiated a new investigation of the colony. Assigned to this task at the request of Congressman Vandever was temporary special land agent Andrew Cauldwell. (Again, it is not clear why Vandever was involved in this issue.) Cauldwell's first report, filed in mid-July, represented the colony favorably and recommended that they be given an opportunity to take title to Giant Forest. The following month, again at Vandever's request, Cauldwell undertook a general survey of the state of the Big Trees under the control of the Stockton and Visalia federal land offices. His report, dated September 18, 1890, documented a radical and mysterious change of heart regarding the colonists. Suddenly, he saw them as illegal squatters on government land, operating an illegal sawmill. When he visited Colony Mill in August, Cauldwell warned the colonists that they were operating outside the law. [20]

Representative Vandever, still driven by an agenda we may never fully understand, continued his involvement. Twice, once late in October and again in early November, he wrote the GLO of his concerns about the actions of the colonists in the new park. [21] In late November, apparently at Vandever's urging, Cauldwell returned to the scene. In a stormy meeting, colonist J. J. Martin told Cauldwell that the colony would continue cutting timber until the government stopped them with force. Cauldwell reported the confrontation, and on November 30 U.S. Marshal Myron Tarble, backed by two deputies, arrested four of the colony's directors—J. J. Martin, Burnette Haskell, H. T. Taylor, and William Christie. The four were taken to federal court in Los Angeles on December 1, 1890, where they entered not guilty pleas and posted bail. Interestingly, Cauldwell reported all this at some length in a letter to Congressman Vandever, which survives in the National Archives. In the letter Cauldwell called the colonists "rascals" and offered to resign, perhaps implying that he had now completed his work for Vandever. [22]

The fate of the Kaweah Colony rested upon the shoulders of Interior Secretary Noble, to whom fell the decision as to whether the colony's claims would be considered public lands and therefore a part of the new park, or whether they were private lands and thus subject to the clause in the legislation that specifically recognized the continued privacy of previously alienated lands within the new reservation. On April 6 Noble announced his decision: since the land claims in question had never formally been transferred to the claimants and since Congress had made no provision for the colonists, it was the duty of the GLO to reject their claims and manage the lands in question as a part of Sequoia National Park. [23] Seven weeks later, the GLO itself responded with a contrary opinion from the assistant attorney general citing a number of rulings which suggested that land claimants who had followed all procedures were entitled to their lands and noting the ex post facto nature of the land sale suspensions that were the heart of the issue. [24] Nothing came of the internal disagreement, however, and when the colonists had their day in court in mid-April, they were found guilty of timber trespass and fined several hundred dollars each. In Tulare County, where the colonists had been popular, the court decision was not well received. George Stewart, speaking for a probable majority of his neighbors, found the whole spectacle disturbing. If the enlargement of the park had been carried out properly, none of this would happened, he complained. [25]


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/chap4d.htm — 12-Jul-2004