ON ALL Day 2021 Site unsawn

Sawmill satellite location via Google Maps. The privately owned site is not accessible to the public.
ON ALL Day is an annual offering each May in Llano, CA. Beginning in 2017 with support from California Humanities, we consider Llano del Rio site(s) and invite artists to respond to the history and research. A Desert Reflection, 2017
The Sawmill ruin looking NE, 2/7/21
Promotional image from the Western Comrade, a monthly publication produced at the Llano del Rio Colony, 1914-1918
The Sawmill looking SE in 2017 toward the logging camp near Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest which suffered the Bobcat Wildfire in September 2020
A sawmill view looking SW. The excavation for the logging pool still exists. Paul Kagan Collection, Walter Milsap Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Building the Mescal Dam. Paul Kagan Collection, Walter Millsap Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The original water source for the colony was Mescal Creek, near Jackson Lake. Eventually Big Rock Creek was tapped to fill the system of ditches to irrigate the crops and orchards. Many of the aqueducts are still in place today.
Mr. B. J. Smith had written from Berkeley or up around the bay region saying that he had a sawmill that he would turn in for credit if it would entitle him to membership in the colony. After a considerable correspondence, they agreed to take this man and accept the sawmill as payment for himself, his wife and his family. The valuation of the sawmill was put at thirty thousand dollars. Nobody in the colony knew anything about a sawmill at that time. A sawmill made lumber, and that's all they knew. All they had to make lumber out of was Joshua trees, they did not amount to much but there was the national forest up around Jackson Lake somewhere, they had known about it when they were busy with Mescal activity and before the Big Rock activity started. There were big trees of white pine up there so in due time an arrangement was made with the government to get some of those trees and saw them for lumber, provided we would build a road up to the place where the trees were. The next thing to do was to find a crew that would tackle that road building job. They finally got the crew and after much argument and much hard labor, they had a road up to the Jackson Lake district, which is now used by the city of Los Angeles (or it was some time ago), to go up to a municipal playground in that region. Los Angelenos never went there and probably would have never found it, had we not built the road. The road was built and an old man by the name of Watkins, who knew about lumbering in the south, took charge of the crew to cut some trees. In due time the trees felled, the sawmill from Berkeley had been shipped in and unloaded out in the sand, near the town site, which was a long way from the Jackson Lake trees. But there it was, rusting. Whenever the mechanics needed a bolt or something, they went out to the sawmill and found one and used it.

― Walter Millsap, 1969 Oral History, UCLA Special Collections

Mr. Watkins, Sweet Family Albums, Private Collection, Fresno, CA

How to Be Alone in California, Louise Mathias, 2021

In November 1917, diehard colonists left the Antelope Valley, transporting parts of the sawmill by train to New Llano, a deforested timber town turned over to farming in Vernon Parish, Louisiana. These advertisements appeared in the Llano Colonist, published from 1922-1937. The New Llano Colony was abandoned by 1939.

A video by Charley Williams captures the Phillips Brothers Sawmill operating since 1897 in Oak Run, CA, showing part of the process of a steam powered setup similar to the one at the Llano del Rio colony. Note the footings which secure the blade, still in place at the Llano ruin.

...it was pulled up on the sand, like the printing machinery had been. But in due time, after much argument, it was finally agreed to set it up where it was instead of up there in the national forest, which they did not own. It would be pretty close to the machine shop and by running water from an irrigation ditch filling up a pond, they could float the logs around and get them to the mill, like other saw mills. So, well after a lot of work, they got the sawmill partially constructed. It was out on a barren stretch of desert and the pool had not been dug. There was no water in sight, and so the sawmill out on the sand was a never ending source of jackets, eventually they did bring down some logs, eight or ten of them, and sawed those. We had some very nice lumber for a while, it showed that lumber could be produced there.

― Walter Millsap, 1969 Oral History, UCLA Special Collections

Sweet Family Albums, Private Collection, Fresno, CA
The Sweet brothers at the Logging Camp cabin near Jackson Lake. Sweet Family Albums, Private Collection, Fresno, CA
The Logging Camp. Promotional Postcard. Paul Kagan Collection, Walter Millsap Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The Steam Tractor near Jackson Lake. Sweet Family Albums, Private Collection, Fresno, CA
But by the time the lumber was produced, everybody was excited about going to Louisiana, that was a lumber district. The trouble was that the sawmill we’d taken in for thirty thousand dollars worth of cooperation stock was designed to handle hardwood lumber and was not designed to handle the kind of trees that they had in Louisiana nor the kind of trees that were in the National Forest in California. After much arguing and growling about the stock being issued for something we couldn't use, the time wore on and the most of the crowd went to Louisiana. A few pieces of the sawmill went to Louisiana, where they accomplished nothing. They were allowed to lay and rust because nobody could use them for anything, the thirty thousand dollars worth of sawmill was scattered all over the desert and strung between California and Louisiana. And nothing at all was accomplished with it.

― Walter Millsap, 1969 Oral History, UCLA Special Collections

Harvested, Tanya Kane-Parry, 2021

Willow doll furniture and baskets displayed at the Museum of the New Llano Colony in Louisiana, 2017

She Wove Moonbeams Into Her Baskets, Marlon D Sherman, 2016

[photo of Sam Lopez] Meet Sam Lopez, Dorothy's father, 1923. (Dorothy, the subject of the Moonbeams poem, later married Bill Frye, a Yurok.) In this head-and-shoulders portrait by Edward S. Curtis, Sam wears Tolowa ceremonial regalia, including a redheaded woodpecker scalp headdress and strings of dentalium shell beads, holding a traditional painted bow and an obsidian blade, a sign of wealth. Courtesy of the Edward S. Curtis Collection, Library of Congress.

[photo of Dale Ann in dress] Dale Ann, Dorothy's daughter, wears one of her grandmother's dresses as a teen.

[photo of Fiona and Dale Ann] Ceremonial dresses like the one Dorothy wore continue to be worn by Fiona, granddaughter of Dale Ann, Marlon's wife, 2016.

Basket Weaving by Monique Stevens
The Bobcat Wildfire destruction, 10/1/2020, InciWeb, with icons marking sites of inquiry, the Sawmill and the Logging Camp near Jackson Lake.
Juniper Hills, CA shortly after the Bobcat Wildfire, 10/11/2020

Post Bobcat Wildfire Regrowth, Monique Stevens, 2021

“The Seventh Fire prophecy presents a second vision for the time that is upon us. It tells that all the people of the earth will see that the path ahead is divided. They must make a choice in their path to the future. One of the roads is soft and green with new grass. You could walk barefoot there. The other path is scorched black, hard: the cinders would cut your feet. If the people choose the grassy path, then life will be sustained. But if they choose the cinder path, the damage they have wrought upon the earth will turn against them and bring suffering and death to earth’s people.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants


Louise Mathias is a poet and photographer, the author of two books of poems, most recently The Traps (Four Way Books). Based in Joshua Tree since 2009, she wanders widely.

Tanya Kane-Parry, director/choreographer in theatre, opera and dance. Artistic Director of Opera del Espacio. Full-time faculty Department of Theatre and Dance, Cal State LA. Current project brings together teaching work, artistic work and activism/advocacy work: Dreaming of Our Future/Soñando de Nuestro Future, a live-streamed performance centered on the challenges and terrorization of immigrants in the US.

Marlon D. Sherman, JD, Professor Emeritus, is Oglala Lakota, born in a log cabin outside Kyle, South Dakota and raised there on the Pine Ridge Reservation. After a harrowing brush with a law career, he worked in the areas of peacemaking, mediation, facilitation, leadership and multicultural issues for tribes and tribal organizations. He taught in the Native American Studies Department at Humboldt State University until retirement and now shares Lakota wisdom for money.

Monique Stevens is a lawyer, photographer, and weaver from Littlerock, California. She enjoys being outside studying nature, learning the history of desert places, and finding materials to make baskets with. She also makes jewelry using natural materials such as Juniper seeds and pine needles, and weaves tapestry and other decorative fabric using looms. Instagram: @mojave_mama https://www.flickr.com/photos/mojavemama/

Positional Projects is a project of Fulcrum Arts’ Emerge fiscal sponsorship program.

©Karyl Newman, Founder & Artistic Director || P.O. Box 931, Llano, CA 93544 || 323.660.2663


Images by author Karyl Newman unless otherwise noted.