During the past several months, I have gotten calls from descendants of early Atascaderans looking for information about their relatives.
The first inquiry was from a young man doing research on a great-aunt. He had learned that she may have lived in this community for a period of time but had no further details.
Her name? Marguerite A. Travis. “Of course I’ve heard of her,” I told him.
Travis was among the earliest settlers to arrive in Atascadero. She lived in Tent City until she built a beautiful home for herself, a 1-year-old young son and her mother. She was active in the formation of a local women’s club, was one of the earliest to receive a PTA honor from the local school district and penned what up until most recently was the most detailed history of the Colony’s first five years in her book, “The Birth of Atascadero.”
Travis’ first exposure to E.G. Lewis came in 1909, when she opened the door of her Boston home to greet what she called “a little old lady” selling subscriptions to the Woman’s National Weekly, which was a Lewis publication. She began reading about Lewis’ plans for a “dream city,” and, in her own words, “became acquainted with him and his plans and ideas through the pages of the little paper.”
A few years later, when Lewis’ Tent City was set up on the hill where Bank of America now sits and Travis’ husband lost his life in a drowning accident, she found herself here. She wrote that it was at this stage in her life, and on the advice of her doctor to “go away, far away, to some place you’ve never seen, to be among people whom you’ve never heard, where all interests will be fresh and new and have no relationship to the past,” that she headed for Atascadero.
“There were all kinds of tents on that emerald hillside in early May,” Travis wrote of arriving in Atascadero. Her son, Earle, by then 3 years old, was the first child to be baptized in the new Federated Church, which had been formed in Pine Mountain Stadium in 1915.
Travis wrote for the Atascadero News for 30 years until she retired in 1946. She was also the first PTA president in Atascadero, and, in March 1962, she was honored at a Founder’s Day program.
I sent all this information and more, plus photos, to the family.
Also this year, I had a request from the family of Dr. J.E. Littlefield, a local optician, about his presence here. Not only was he a businessman, he was an amateur gardener who produced bountiful amounts of fruit on his Atascadero Avenue property. He and his home were pictured often in the local newspaper in those first five years.
Right now his Colony home, which looks almost like it did the day it was built in 1915, is undergoing extensive renovation.
And it happens to be just across the street from the Marguerite Travis house, both on the 6700 block of Atascadero Avenue.