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George Edwin "Ed" Pelton

Ed Pelton
DOB: 6 Jul 1855 ME
DOD: 24 Feb 1901
Blanchard, WA

~ Married ~

Anne
DOB:8 Nov 1863
DOD: After 8 Nov 1963

Ed Pelton was Sarah Jane Pelton Irish's older brother. Sarah Jane was the wife of Edwin Irish.

It appears that Ed, his younger brother Ernest and Ernest's wife Anne probably traveled from Maine to Minnesota with the Edwin Irish family.

A few years prior to 1897, while in Minnesota, Ed was wounded during a political argument in which his brother Ernest was killed. He married his brother's widow, Anne.

The families (Ed Pelton & Ed Irish) returned to Maine where Ed worked in the woods, and occasionally left home to ride the rails throughout the country, particularly the South.

He became a avid believer in the Socialist way of life, encouraging his employeer, Norman Wallace Lermond, to actively seize upon a plan to socialize a state. Pelton and Lermond launched a voluminous correspondance with leading reformers throughout the country.

October 18, 1895 Lermond and two Warren Maine neighbors formed the first BCC (Brotherhood of the Co-operative Commonwealth) Local Union.

That winter Pelton organized the second at Damariscotta Mills, Maine.

During 1897 the group prepared to establish a colony and the search for a site began.

It was announced in August 1897 that Washington was the chosen state. The climate, growing conditions and natural resources were favorable. Equally significant, it's sparse population with the liberal disposition of voters demonstrated by recent Populist successes would make Washington easy to "capture." Gov. John Rogers was rumored to be sympathetic to the BCC. Furthermore, local BCC unions were functioning in the state, mostly on Puget Sound.

September 1, 1897 Ed Pelton, acting as BCC special locating agent, left for the Pacific Northwest to secure a colony site and make preparation to receive the pioneers.

After looking into other Washington sites, he arrived at Edison in Skagit County on On September 17, 1897.

He arranged to buy 280 acres just east of Blanchard from Mathias Decker for $10 an acre($2800) - purchasing the land under his own name to avoid local opposition then transferring title to the BCC on December 31, 1899.

Mr.& Mrs. Carey Lewis donated their home to provide a temporary headquarters and living space for the earliest arrivals.

On November 1, 1897, fifteen persons gathered at the Lewis home to form the first BCC colony, named Equality after the novel by Bellamy. In future years the Equality Colony commemorated this date with a great annual celebration.

In early March 1988, after a winter of long days filled with hard work, building and preparing the land, the original fifteen settlers greeted the first major body of colonists which included Mrs. Pelton, with their 2 daughters, and brother-in-law Edwin Irish with his family.

Ed Pelton, led the colony by his own example of hopefulness, dedication, friendliness, enthusiasm, and hard work.

He was just five feet eight inches tall with broad, slightly stooped from hard work, shoulders, blue eyes, brown hair and a sandy-colored mustache. He had a round, darkly tanned face with a friendly appearance. He was genuinely good-natured. He liked people, and just about everybody liked him. He was a workhorse always ready to work. Everything he did was well done. He preferred to work for socialism and the colony. That was the outlet for his intense, active, driving idealism.

He called his own personal idealistic formula "practical socialism," a term fitting for Ed and his faith. However, he judged other by himself and was slow to discover that this was a mistake. He came to Washington with unlimited faith in human beings. For him there was no doubting that the people coming to a colony would cooperate and exert their entire energies to building the new city in the forest, thus leading the way to the cooperative commonwealth.

The little crew that performed the miracles of hard work that built Equality responded to Ed's leadership and to his expectations. But, as the popluation expanded, there came those who were not socialists and those who had their one-of-a-kind brand of socialism. By May 1899, various frictions were producing various squeaks, and Ed had seen another view of the situation:

    The mainspring of all our troubles has been, as usual, the childish weakness of human nature, intensified by our poverty. Had we been made, altogether, of the stern stuff that is the composition of ideal pioneers most of our foolish troubles might have been averted, but, as a rule it was, except in theory, the average man that came to the colony, and it is a notorious fact that the average man is incapable of reason to any appreciable extent . . .

    Our troubles have been mainly of the minor order, but exceedingly irritating in their nature, and almost continual in their recorrence.

    The underlying cause has been the undisputable fact that as socialists most of us were "pulled before we were ripe." We thought we had reduced socialism to a science before we had masted the alphabet thereof. And furthermore we did not analyze our own natures to discover how much of the old competitive, murderous, individualistic spite yet lingered therein.

Pelton, who had wanted to avoid "spending a century in educating people up to an understanding of scientific socialism when there is a quicker and more effective way out" through the cooperative colony, began to realize that the "gradual growth of the cooperative spirit among the people" would take more time. He now saw the colony as:

    . . . one of the surface indications of the mighty conflict that is raging beneath the comparatively placid exterior of things, but which is destined to break out in a different form and with immensely superior forces within a few years.

True to his practical socialism, Ed assigned a practical role to the colony in the long-term revolutionay movement.

    As a center of agitation, a school of experience in which to fit oneself for a broader field of labor, an object lesson if properly conducted, and a recruiting camp for the cooperative commonwealth, a colony can be made a necessary, valuable and almost indespensable adjunct to the might, onward, irresistible movement of the new dispensation.

Ed Pelton was forty-five years old on July 6, 1900. After almost three years, he had seen the cooperative commonwealth recede into a more distant future, the human raw material coming to the colony had revealed the immense scope of the re-education that must be undertaken, and Ed again saw value in politics.

He attended the populist county convention at Mount Vernon on August 18, 1900. His good reputation in the Samish country was attested to when he was elected committeeman from the first district.

In 1900, material conditions at the colony had improved, but as the hope of success on a grand scale faded and ideals lost fire, the irritations of colony life made hardships more burdensome.

The Pelton family had the qualities that were rare and most needed in colony life - willingness to work hard, enthusiasm for participation in work and play and all community affairs, contagious cheerfulness in everyday situations and habitual friendliness.

The Peltons were well liked in the colony and throughtout the Samish country - except by the few whose jealousy brought the sour sounds of gossip to every conversation. The carpers found that Mrs. Pelton was too friendly to all, while other women tended to make friends only in smaller circles. She did not show the respect toward masculine superiority that was considered proper for women in those days. There were complaints that Eva had too much energy and too much fun at the dances, and she and George Odell were sweeties. People who did nothing for others and little more for themselves blamed Ed Pelton for all their troubles.

After three years of leading by example, while the small chorus of faultfinders was never still, Anna Pelton's patience and endurance were exhausted. In the fall of 1900, taking her two daughters, she left the colony for a job cooking for the crew at the Stevens Ranch, the largest ranch between Blanchard and Edison. George Odell and Mahlon Daniel had leased the ranch as partners, and a fine crop of oats was ready for harvest. After a few weeks, Ed saw that he had to choose between the colony and his family. He chose his family and the Peltons moved to Seattle, where Ed found a job as a construction laborer.

From the city, he wrote that the McKinley prosperity, with the average worker's income at $500 per year, was "on the Chinese standard." Real estate sharks and the "employment-bureau-beasts-of-prey" made city life unattractive. All horizons were darkened with discouragement.

    No, I am more than ever convinced that there can be no true prosperity under this monopolistic botch of a system under which we exist, nor can our civilization itself, such as it is, long continue. At the same time, when we look at the ignorance and animal selfishness of the people the cooperative commonwealth seems but an iridescent dream.

Ed had not been in Seattle long when his trend of thought began to reveal that his only hope was where his heart was - in the colony.

    I have come to the conclusion that as an immediate relief measure, the cooperative colonization plan properly carried out is ahead of any other . . . But the great, overshadowing condition of success lies in starting a colony with the right kind of people, for there can be no cooperation witout cooperators, practical ones, too; but to be a practical cooperator calls for the possession of so much common sense that they are about as scarce as the proverbial hens' teeth in this land of Mark Hanna and the full dinner pail. There are a few, tho, and hard experience will increase their number.

After the harvest, Odell and Daniel had a falling out and George moved to Seattle - where his heart was. Eva and George were married on Eva's sixteenth birthday, December 5, 1900, and set up their home in Seattle.

As winter came on, Ed injured his back on the job and was unable to work. The contractor skipped out, leaving Ed and other workers to receive only a percentage of their earnings. These funds were quickly exhausted. William H. Benson owned a rooming house in Seattle and a country store at Brownsville near the colony, but his greatest interest was in the colony. He offered to pay all expenses for the Peltons to return to Samish. Mrs. Pelton agreed, provided they live in Blanchard - not in the colony.

Ed rented one of the well-built executive houses of the abandoned McElroy logging campsite on the hillside east of Blanchard school. It was on the Chuckanut foothill, with a sweeping view of the Samish flats and the Puget Sound islands.

In Februay 1901, Ed was busy making the house not only livable, but very comfortable, clearing the moss, leaves, and twigs out of the fine spring of clear, cool water, and putting in a good supply of firewood.

It was while falling a big fir tree for firewood that Ed Pelton was killed. As the great tree fell, it struck the end of a small cedar log, catapulting the log through the air with great force. It struck Pelton bringing instant death. That was on a Sunday morning, February 24, 1901, on an old logging road about a hundered yards up the hill from his house. Surrounded by Washington's majestic virgin trees, the woodsman from Maine died in the forest. Heckman, the schoolteacher, had come along to help Ed on the crosscut saw. He hurried to the colony to summon help.

A colony wagon carried the body down the hill to the flats, across the old, gray log bridge of the slough, past the unpainted Blanchard schoolhouse and along the Colonny Creek to the village. Equality was not alone in its grief; the neighbors on the Samish Flats who had come to know the colony leader were saddened by the loss of a friend.

The passing of Ed Pelton left the colony without leadership. This loss drained away all living inspiration and emphasized that the BCC had been a movement of the century that had passed. A new course of action geared to new conditions was necessary if the Colony was to survive in these new times. Now that the utopian hope had faded, education was the justification for the existence of the socialist movement and of the Colony.

 

LINKS

Anne Pelton - Wife

Charles - Brother

Back to Equality Colony

 

Irish Family Tree


INDEX

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
What is essential is invisible to the eye.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
The Little Prince


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