You didn’t know? The Colony of Atascadero as we know it has it’s origins on July 4, 1913. Buried under a century of world wars, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, strategic (or not-so-much) installation of US 101, and the rubble of a devastating earthquake is the historical origins of a master plan that has never come to pass.
That doesn’t change the facts, however. On July 4, 1776, delegates from 13 then-British colonies adopted a Declaration of Independence that has stood for almost 250 years as one of the most significant and powerful documents of all time.
It is no coincidence that Edward Gardner and Mabel Gertrude Lewis signed legal ownership over 23,000 acres of Atascadero from J.H. Henry to Mrs. Lewis and the Women’s Republic.
Social norms are transient. That which is radical today may be the norm in a generation. That which is the norm today may be radical in a decade.
On the 137th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when the Anglo-Saxon patriarchs of 13 colonies declared that “all men are created equal,” the Women’s Republic made a signature statement with revolutionary implications — leading a growing call for women to be recognized as created equal, and a demand for equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
Men and women are not at all equal by any qualifications — different, and special each, but I digress … the fact that women were fighting for social recognitions and the right to participate in government nearly 130 years after the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights is a testament to the fragility of laws applied with deeply flawed ideologies and dogma — and decades later another round of civil rights battles would take place.
There has been a lot of dust kicked up and settled domestically and internationally since the Colony of Atascadero was born by the Lewis’ pen, but the dream was written in stone by four quotations still towering over Atascadero’s Civic Center.
Engraved in the Atascadero Colony Administration Building:
“The most valuable of all arts will be that of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” — Abraham Lincoln
“For lasting happiness, we turn our eyes to one alone, and she surrounds you now. Mother Nature.” — George Sterling
“Let us keep our faces to the sunshine and we will not see the shadows.” — E.G. Lewis
“Great Nature, refuge of the weary heart and only balm of breasts that have been bruised.” — George Sterling
The choice by Lewis to choose two quotes from contemporary poet Sterling — a founding member of the Bohemian, counter-culture, artist enclave community of Carmel-by-the-Sea — should be more revealing than it is puzzling; especially when placed in context.
Lewis was from the midwest, and placed two quotes from a play Sterling wrote named “The Triumph of Bohemia,” written in 1907 — less than a decade before Lewis decided to etch a phrase from the play in two parts on the centerpiece that still stands in the center of Atascadero … two phrases from Sterling, alongside one attributed to himself, and another from one of the most notable icons of American human rights and the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
I compel you to hold these truths to be self-evident, that the unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness were not lost on the founders of Atascadero.
The Colony of Atascadero was a defiance, not of the policies of the postal service or one political party or another, but it was a defiance of a corruption of the pure ideals that brought 13 delegates together in the 1700s, and a misguided progression since, including a long train of abuses and usurpations of the rights of all those not “men” as it was defined in 1776.
I can’t tell you that the Lewis’ knew what their defiance meant in 1913, or what it would mean in 2019, but I can tell you that our opportunity to recognize what it means in this day of freedom, independence, and equality for the character and identity of the city of Atascadero and what it meant to be a colony on the coast of California in 1913, is an opportunity to embrace with passion and patriotism. Celebrating the birthday of the USA, and celebrating the birthday of Atascadero (and the United States) as we know it, is less about the “how” it began and more about the “why.”
So, happy birthday USA. Happy birthday Atascadero. Happy birthday to that which has yet to be born of the spirit of freedom and independence that has been the catalyst of revolution and progress throughout time.
Join us on the 4th of July for the Atascadero Bluegrass Freedom Festival to enjoy the Declaration of Independence, the birth of the U.S.A., Atascadero, Great Nature, food, music, and fellowship of our citizenry at the Atascadero Lake Park, from 2 to 7 p.m. more info at atascaderofourthofjuly.com