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The Bohemian Grove




July 21, 2013


1872 - Bohemian Club was founded in 1872 by nine San Franciscans who took it as their mission to be caretakers of the arts on the Pacific Coast at a time when American culture was seen to exist exclusively in New England and New York.... They were anything but rich and famous. There were, among them, a Shakespearean actor, a winemaker, two successful merchants and, heaven help us, five journalists.

In 1878, the club held its first encampment as a farewell party for the actor member, who was moving to New York. According to the club's official historian, Alfred Baxter, everyone had such a good time they decided to make it an annual event.


That first one was on Lagunitas Creek in Marin County. The site is now Samuel Taylor State Park. In 1879, they camped on Freezeout Creek in Duncans Mills; in 1880, just east of Guerneville; in 1881, west of Guerneville. The next four years, they were at (Camp) Meeker's, from 1887 to 1891 at Elim Grove on Austin Creek, and in 1892 they went back to Marin, to Muir Woods. 

Then in 1893, they found a campsite in a long narrow stand of old-growth redwoods owned by Sonoma Lumber Co., known as Westover Canyon...

There are about 115 camps in all. Maybe more. Some are tents and platforms; others are pretty elaborate, with servants. Medicine Lodge consists of doctors living in teepees; members of Highland Camp come to dinner in kilts. One camp, Mandalay (Jerry Ford was a member) is so far up the canyon wall there's an incline railway to haul supplies.


Some have silly names like Pig 'n Whistle and Dog House. I seem to remember that Owl's Nest was Reagan's camp. There's even one called "Snob Hill."


They are obviously having fun out there -- about 2,000 of them on weekends, maybe less than half that during the week ... it happens every July. There may be more or fewer, I cannot say, and I'm certainly not of a mind to sneak in and count them.

The permanent structures are rustic and unremarkable, with the exception of The Lodge at the narrow end of the canyon, designed for meetings by the estimable Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck in the early part of the 20th century.

During World War II, The Lodge was chosen by government officials looking for a hideaway for the world's top physicists to meet and discuss top secret plans for what would become the Manhattan Project and, ultimately, the atom bomb. [Source]

1 map of the grove.jpg
1 map of the grove.jpg
1 Bohemian grove map - highlanders and p
1 Bohemian grove map - highlanders and p


Piedmont Camp is located on Snob Hill next door to Better 'Ole, across the street from Pelican. Founded in 1923 by William G. Volkmann and William (Buzz) White, it has 18 members.


Piedmont Camp has a long history of avid domino play. Camp tradition has long required a special flag to be flown for 24 hours whenever a "skunk" has occurred on the deck. During the 2015 Encampment, one frequent competitor from Midway gifted Piedmont a new flag. The flag displays two skunks in an intimate manner, in which one skunk is clearly enjoying himself more than the other. Since that endowment, Piedmont domino matches have gained an added sense of urgency, as no one wants to have that flag hung in his honor.

Letters from my Nephew Slim, by Carl S. Smith 1965

(PAGE 68):

Let's go all the way back to the days with the Thorntons. I worked as chauffeur, butler, and assistant cook. I was cook when the maid was off, or quit. I started going up to the Bohemian Grove, the Bohemians consisting of very wealthy gentlemen all across the nation. There are only three groups of people — no ladies during allowed in the Grove, which consists of beautiful redwoods, trees that were here when Christ walked the earth. These three groups are: members, special guests and employees. Each camp in the grove at that time was allowed to invite guests according to its size. There were at that time 28 camps.

There were many hotel chefs, private cooks, and many waiters and bartenders from hotels, clubs, and private homes, that planned their vacations at that time, from about July 15th to August 1st.


I must have worked up there about 6 years, 5 years before the war, and again in 1950.


I worked at the Piedmont camp. A Mr. William (Bill) Volkman was captain, and my boss, Mr. Harry Albert Thornton, was assistant captain. Mr. Volkman died during World War Two, and Mr. Thornton after the war. Many of the old timers are dead now, and in some cases I have heard that their sons are members. I met and served great men like President Hoover, who was special guest of Mr. William Cavalier of Piedmont, and Mr. J. P. Morgan; also the heads of the Chrysler Corp., who were members, the great Mr. John Charles Thomas - Mr. Volkman was an heir to the Schilling Corp. He gave Mr. Thornton a used cream in my coffee since. That was more than 25 years ago.

I also met the then Governor of California, in the person of the Honorable Earl Warren, in 1950. Chief Justice Warren was the special guest of Mr. Joseph Knowland, owner of the Tribune and father of the former Senator Knowland. I first served Mr. Knowland 27 years ago up at the Grove. There were many others.

I had the pleasure of taking my wife through the Grove, on the off season in 1947.

piedmont camp - grove - Santa_Rosa_Repub

Piedmont Camp

Santa Rosa Republican - Fri - Sep. 11, 1931


Oakland Tribune - Mon - Jul. 19, 1965

Piedmont camp - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jul

Piedmont Camp

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Jul. 25, 1954

Piedmont at the Grove:

American Heritage:

 Soon, every social faction in Bohemia developed a yen to stake out its own camping spot, surround it with a bark stockade, furnish it with paper lanterns, cut-glass punch bowls, canvas chairs, and a tree-stump bar. Before long there were dozens of little camps within the great encampment—camps for railroad executives, bank presidents, tenors, baritones; camps for men from Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Hillsborough, and Piedmont; camps for university professors, for the 60 per cent income-tax bracket, for the upper ranks of the Republican party. As for the Jinks, that erstwhile Scottish drinking game, it took flame like a pagan bonfire.

Piedmont Camp:

The Shurtleff and Lawton families : genealogy and history
by Shurtleff, William, Publication date 2005

In November 1916 Roy joined the prestigious and exclusive Bohemian Club and remained an active lifelong member. At the Bohemian Grove, he joined the Piedmont Camp to be with his close personal friends from Piedmont—the Witters, Dollars, etc.—instead of joining a business camp. He later often remarked how tough it was, after an evening of rehearsing for the Grove Play, combined with drinking and good fellowship, to make the long ferry trip home, only to have Hazle put him in charge of their crying baby. In the mid-1970s he decided to discontinue his annual trips to the grove, because he said it now took him longer than 10 minutes after he woke up there to figure out where he was! In 1984 Roy was the senior member of the Club's "Old Guard," his membership predating that of any other living member.

boho grove plate_edited.png
Bohemian grove art martinez picture.jpg
Bohemian grove art martinez picture.jpg

Sign at the Grove says:
Señor Don Xavier Timoteo Martinez 

Artista Pintor

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