Museum the New Llano Colony

Chester Curtis "Chet" Page

Birth: He was born in Kansas in 1878.  

Family Information: Son of Susan Page.

Father of Curtis, George, Ralph, Jessie and Isabell Page.

His nephew, Bill Page also lived in the colony for some time.

He married Leo Frances Watson while living in the colony and became step-father to her children -- Sylvester and Arlene Watson.

Description: On his draft registration card dated September 12, 1918 he was described as having medium height and build with hazel eyes and dark brown hair.  

Pre-Colony History: In 1885 he was living in Kansas with his parents and siblings. He attended district school there until about age 9, when his parents migrated to the Topolobampo Colony in Old Mexico. In 1900 he was again living in Kansas, at that time with his grandmother, while he attended school.

Page had been the first to tell Job Harriman about the original property at Big Rock Creek (California) and took him out to see it; he furnished the $5 bill that was used to pay down on the property. He served as the first dairyman in the California colony.

In 1918 he was living in California and working as a blacksmith for L.A. Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. In 1920 he was living in California with his wife, Marie, and children and working as a blacksmith in a ship yard. In 1930 he was still living in California with his wife and children and working as a farmer.  

Home in Colony: In March 1933 he went along with Dick Brannon to Gila, New Mexico because he spoke Spanish fluently and it was thought he would be of great assistance in dealing with the Mexican neighbors. He returned to Newllano in July 1933 with his mother and children, after spending some time at the Gila, New Mexico location.

In April 1934 -- the scene at the hotel dining room included Chet Page changing the numbers on the line-up board; Motherly Mrs. Wright wiping the trays, handing one out to each in the dinner line; colonists filling food tins for those at home. The girls and boys behind the counter; Mrs. Watson and Sylvester forking out spuds, boiled or baked; those nice kids filling glasses of water and shuffling stacks of cornbread. Mrs. Matz grinning over her 20-gallon pot of fine Hungarian soup; Mary Fay keeping her braids out of the gravy as she twirled in the serving line; and Lafe Murray, assistant chef, snipping off scraps of meat and getting the tip nipped off his finger for punishment.

In January 1937 there was a re-shuffling of homes in the colony -- the Page family took a home, probably the largest residence in the colony, that had been vacated by Bill Brough who was alone, while the E.D. Carl family took the old Page home.

Job in Colony: In Louisiana, beginning December 1933, he managed the Hotel del Llano. In January 1934 he and Mrs. Matz were preparing dinner with the help of Mrs. Mahler and Mrs. Watson.

In April 1934 he reported that he thought he could improve the diet of the colonists for very little cost. He stated, "I feel that were the sweet tooth satisfied and the desire for fats and meats filled... there would be very little complaint about the food." In June 1934 he was reported to be the "chief cook and bottle washer" at the hotel.

In July 1934 he retired from running the hotel, having decided he wanted to get outside for a time, so he started working at the sawmill.

In September 1934 he was assisting Baldy (Baldy was the assistant General Manager) and he made a brief talk at the psychology meeting. Also that month, he and Doc Williams drove around to various gravel pits looking for some gravel to put around the new filling station, store and garage during the upcoming rainy season. As a starter, they made arrangements with one at Neame (about nine miles south of the colony) for 100 tons.

In 1935 he was the Industrial Manager and a member of Llano's Council. In August 1935, he was helping to fish the veneer logs out of the steaming vat to fill an order at the crate factory. Also mentioned in an ad for the planing mill "See Chet Page".

That same month he volunteered for extra evening work at the crate factory in order to fill an urgent order. Other volunteers included: Director Carl, editor and teacher Emery, Willie Brown, Mr. Jernberg and his son Elmer, Sylvester, Arlene and Mrs. Watson.  

Other Info: In December 1932 it was decided (by W.R. Gaylord, DeBoer, Chet Page, and Doc Williams) that Comrade Archer who was an expert on the piano, would take over on that instrument for theater performances and Bill DeBoer would take up the bass viol or clarinet in the orchestra; however, Bill would continue to play the piano for the dances while Archer played the sax or violin.

In 1933 Ida Ann Bartlett began promoting a better social life for colonists who did not dance. She organized Monday night gatherings which would feature cards, dominoes, chess, checkers, etc. Hikes and other outdoor activities would be included as the weather improved. The first party was held in her home and featured Victrola music as the entertainment. Among those present were Marcus Mardfin, Theodore Atworth, C.W. Fields, Ed Schott, H.G. Starkweather, Chester Page, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy, John Black, S.E. Broyles and Boyd Bartlett.

In June 1933 colonists at Gila had their own entertainment -- ladies were furnished with chairs from Chet's room and men sat on the floor. Harold and Clyde appeared with five or six inch brim new straw hats, Mr. Wooley in high heel boots, Chet in a hat -- well, no disrespect to Chet or the hat, but there was every reason to believe that it was not a new hat. The performers were Mr. Wooley with his violin, Mahler with a flute, two guitars and a violin, and Chet singing.

In November 1933 he been seen walking around and is reported to be getting "back on his feet" rapidly.

On May Day, 1935, some dissatisfied colonists -- most of them younger members who had not yet earned their right to vote on colony decisions -- held a meeting while Pickett was out of town and elected a new Board of Directors that didn't include George Pickett. Doc Williams, an on-again / off-again colonist from the early years in California, was elected President; Eugene Carl, a new member who'd only been at the colony about three months -- he was still a probationer and consequently didn't even have voting rights in colony matters, was elected Executive Director; and Walter Robison, also a recent arrival, was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Pickett and his supporters fought the action in the Vernon Parish courts, but even though the courts ruled the new board was not legal, they also refused to name Pickett's board as the legal directors, so the disagreements within the colony only continued to escalate.

Read the Court Judgment dated September 6, 1935.

In order to claim that an official board had been properly elected after the court judgment had been handed down, the new board and leaders held another election. They advertised for former colonists to send in their proxies and adopted a rule permitting all resident members who had been at the colony more than sixty days to vote in the election, provided too few proxies were received to hold a regular stock holders' meeting.

In September 1935 he signed a statement supporting John Szpila's letter, which had been published in the September 21, 1935 issue of the "Llano Colonist" and spelled out the reason's the overthrow of former General Manager, George T. Pickett, had been necessary.

In October 1935 he was nominated to be on the self-proclaimed "legal" Board of Directors, along with (in order of nomination), Robert K. Williams, E.D. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, John Szpila, Harold Emery, Charles Lawrence, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Horace Cronk, George Hullinger, Walter Robison, "Chauncey" DuProz, Mrs. Olive Lentz, Mrs. Mabel Busick, Lionel Crossland, Charles Derleth, J.H. "Dad" Ribbing and Cy Horney.

As expected, less than one fourth the required stock was represented at the Stockholders' meeting, so the colonists proceeded with the election of a new board of directors as planned. Those selected were: Robert K. Williams, E.C. Carl, Lester Caves, Crockett Campbell, Harold Emery, Chester Peecher, E.O. Joynes, Charles Lawrence, and Chester Page. Runners up were Mrs. Mabel Busick, Horace Cronk and John Szpila.

This new board tried to make improvements to colony life, but after the first year, finances were in such a state that the court appointed a receiver to help them straighten out their affairs. Two different receivers tried to calm the colonists and persuade them to work together, but this proved fruitless.

In May 1937, Ferguson -- the second court-appointed receiver -- appointed two groups to work with him in an advisory capacity as he tried to get the colony's finances sorted out -- first a membership committee who would settle questions about returning members, which might or might not be allowed. This committee consisted of H.S. Stansbury, chairman; George Pickett, E.O. Joynes, R.K. Williams and Carl Gleeser. The second was expected to organize the industrial work so as to ensure that everyone had a job somewhere. That committee consisted of Dr. Williams, chairman; Chester Page, Chester Peecher, Charles Worden and Crockett Campbell.

In June, 1937, as disaster loomed, some control was returned to Pickett when he was asked to be, first the Farm Superintendent, then the Ice Plant Manager, and finally in control of all colony industries. Unfortunately, it was too late; within months the receiver petitioned the court for permission to sell the land and soon began to divide the property into smaller lots which were sold at auction for much less than their actual value.

In February 1936, he and his daughter, Jessie left for Hot Springs, Ark., where both took a series of treatments. They returned in May -- Chet was said to be looking fine, "fat as a pig", and Jessie was said to be a lot improved, but still unable to walk without crutches.

In December he took both his mother and Jessie on a morning bus to Shreveport where the two women would receive treatments. He expected to return the following week.

Post-Colony History: In 1940 he was living in a home in the unincorporated New Llano, Louisiana (site of the old colony) with his second wife, Leo and her two children while he worked as an operator on a farm.  

Death: He died in Leesville, Louisiana in 1959 and was buried in the Evans Cemetery at Evans, LA.  

Sources: Kansas State Census: 1885; US Census: 1900, 1920, 1930, 1940; Draft Registration Card: WWI; Llano Colonist: December 10, 1932, January 14, 1933 (The Story of Llano), March 11, 1933, May 20, 1933, June 10, 1933, July 29, 1933, November 25 1933, December 23, 1933, January 20, 1934, April 7, 1934, April 28, 1934, June 30, 1934, July 14, 1934, September 15, 1934, August 24, 1935, October 12, 1935, November 2, 1935, February 29, 1936, May 16, 1936, July 11, 1936, December 5, 1936, January 30, 1937, May 1, 1937; Can We Cooperate by Bob Brown; US Applications and Claims Index; LA Statewide Death Index;  


Undated clipping from the "Llano Colonsit" -- "See Chet Page or Fred Parsons at Planing Mill."

Undated clipping showing Chester Page -- most likely in 1936 as it was mentioned in several articles of the time that he and his daughter were visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas for medical treatment.

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