The town of New Llano will celebrate its history on Saturday at the Museum of the New Llano Colony.
The event will start at 9 a.m. and will feature a presentation by artist Karyl Newman. She is the 2016-2017 Archibald Hanna Visiting Research Fellow at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Newman uses resources such as Walter Milsap Papers in the Kagan Utopian Communities Collection and from private collections as well.
Newman has gathered a great deal of research, exhibits, and fieldwork detailing the 200 colonists who traveled from Llano del Rio in the Antelope Valley in California, all the way to a small timber community in Louisiana called Stables (now New Llano).
Led by their founder Job Harriman, the colonists traveled to Stables in December of 1917, after purchasing 20,000 acres of land from the Gulf Lumber Company. The Gulf Lumber Company sold the land due to the depleted timber supply, and because their sawmill had burned down for the second time in three years. As the colonists moved in and the company moved out, the town of Stables was renamed New Llano.
Harriman was an ordained minister, who once ran for Vice President of the United States alongside Eugene Debs in 1900 on behalf of the Socialist Party. Harriman believed the only way to change people’s minds about socialism was to show that a socialist cooperative community could sustain itself, and that its people could thrive.
Within one year of relocating to Louisiana, Harriman became afflicted with tuberculosis and was forced to return to California. This did not stop New Llano from its mission toward becoming a self-sustainable socialist colony.
Throughout its time in Louisiana, the colony had its own school, hospital, sawmill, national newspaper, infirmary, ice plant, sheet metal factory, and even some recreational areas. The colony would survive for over 20 years before it was shut down due to the Great Depression that was crippling the rest of the United States at the time. In 1937, New Llano filed for bankruptcy and went into receivership. The colony assets were sold at a receiver sale in 1939.
The New Llano Cooperative Colony was the longest running Socialist colony in American history. More than 10,000 lived in New Llano during that time.
Beverly Lewis and Rick Blackwood who wrote the “New Llano Cooperative Community” entry for knowlouisiana.org stated in their article that “perhaps the most surprising fact is that the Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony lasted so long not in its initial home of California, a state with a reputation for tolerance and liberality, but in conservative, rural Louisiana.”