Eyes of World
Man's a Man
Son of Father
Long Ago Told
To My Sons
I know Him
BSC no numb.
Hall Photo Co.
Matt's Cabn RP
Matt's Cabn tnt
Matt, Mollie, etc
Uncle Ike RP
Uncle Ike Tint
Bennett Sp. Tint
Bennett Spr RP
1925, Son Father
1925. Brian K
1926, Barb W
1935, When Man
1936, The Mine
1936, Wild Brian
1937, West Gold
1937, Out West
1937, Secret Vly
1959, Shep (TV)
Indiana U. Libr.
E Clampus Vitus
Photos to Enlarge
According to the Redlands News, September 5, 1964, "[Harold Bell]
Wright's career as a preacher touched Redlands between February and
October, 1907 when he was pastor of the church still standing at Olive
Avenue and Nordina Street." That structure, shown in this 1913 photo at
left, is no longer standing, but the two homes he lived in are.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in
Redlands was not a thriving congregation in 1907. The Church
Clerk tells the members in the Quarterly
Reports of the Christian Church, Redlands, Calif.,
April 1, 1907, that the membership of the church at the
of the first quarter was
of the quarter. The Financial Secretary laments that "the
running expenses of the congregation" each week were $38.50
while "we received per week only $18.65." And the
Treasurer presents the disturbing news that the church had borrowed
during the quarter $200 "for current expenses." This
loan, considering that the total disbursements for the
were $616. The cash on hand at the end of the quarter
was $63.48, down from $112.27 at the beginning of the quarter.
The church paid the pastor during that quarter,
$200. Most likely they had no pastor in January and most of
February, so the $200 was probably for the
months of the quarter that Harold
is never mentioned by
month. Or perhaps they were paying $50 per month, split between
Wright and an interim pastor.
It is clear from this report that the
congregation was in serious financial trouble. They borrowed
the pastor's entire salary for the quarter, nearly one third the
total church budget, and they were still not able to pay normal
expenses without depleting half their cash. One more quarter
like this would almost certainly require the church to lay off the
pastor. It seems unlikely the bank would extend another
$200-300 the second quarter since the church was paying only the
interest on two similar loans from 1905, and they clearly had no way
to repay these three loans.
Where was the church's wealthy board
chairman, William F. Holt? (A January 5, 1913 church bulletin
lists Holt as Chairman of the Official Board, an Elder, and a member
of the Benevolent Committee). Undoubtedly the flood in the
Imperial Valley, which had been draining Holt's resources for two
years and was not yet under control, left him with little money to
donate to the church. In better years the church may have
gone into debt early in the year, and then been bailed out
by large year-end gifts from Holt. But if that had ever
been true, or would be true in the future, it was clearly not
happening from 1905 to 1907 when the Colorado River was washing away
Holt's assets by the acre.
before paying the
two months of Wright's pastorate there.
The reason for Wright's departure from
the Christian Church in Redlands after only a few months has never
been completely clear, but the Quarterly Report for 1907 suggests
Wright's poor health or his
desire for a change in
occupation, the congregation may have not been able to pay his
salary. It would be interesting to learn the date of the next pastor's
arrival and how much he was paid, or if he was paid.
The Sunday School superintendent, C.T.
Wright, offers some brighter news on the back page of the Quarterly
"Our Sunday School shows a steady increase, but its
rate of growth is seriously impeded by our present cramped
quarters. Mr. Washburn's class, with an enrollment of 18, is
crowded into the little room back of the pulpit. It is only
with the greatest difficulty that the class can be seated in this
room. Take a look at the room next Sunday morning. The Baraca class of young men, the Bible class, and others are equally
crowded. In fact, all are working under disadvantages, due to
lack of room, such that early relief is imperative, if our Sunday
School is to do the work of the church which it is capable of doing.
"During the first quarter of 1907 the
average [Sunday School] attendance has been 131. During the
first quarter of last year the average attendance was 97, showing a
gain of 35 per cent for the present year."
"The [Sunday School] offerings for the
present quarter have amounted to $68.50 as compared with $28.66 for
that of last year, being a gain of 139 per cent for the present
Daily Facts, July 14, 1928, carried the announcement that the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation would soon begin
construction of their new church building a mile or two to the east
of the one
Wright preached. That new building is
still standing, though it was sold in November, 2000 to a Filipino
Seventh-day Adventist congregation.
In recent years the First United Methodist Church bought the old
Christian church from the Lutherans. The Methodists demolished the
structure Wright preached in, shown on the left in the late 1950's, to
provide more parking space for their members who meet just across the
street to the North.
It is not difficult to understand that Redlands residents have
shown limited interest in Harold Bell Wright until recently. In 1907 they called him from Missouri to pastor their Olive
Avenue Christian Church where William F. Holt, originally from Missouri
himself, served as chairman of the board of trustees. Redlands was at
that time a resort town for the wealthy folk from the East, priding itself
in its claim to have more millionaires per capita than any other city
in America. Wright stayed only a few months, resigned from the ministry, and
later published The Eyes of The World which
some people thought portrayed the local
citizens as snobbish and evil. Click
here to read a modern statement of his place in Redlands
In 1916, at the premier
showing of the movie, The Eyes of the World, a local Redlands paper
reported that Wright said he used the town for atmosphere but found his inspiration for the
characters among people he knew in the East. Click
here to read the complete story.
Redlands has a wonderful historic library, the A. K. Smiley Public
Library, that has developed an impressive collection of Wright
materials, including one of the five custom sets of blue leather HBW
books [the Book Supply Company titles] that were specially produced by
Appleton and presented to each member of Wright’s immediate family in
The museum people can tell you how to find the homes Wright
lived in while here: 314 South Buena Vista, shown in the right two
photos below, and the Holt mansion at 405 West Olive, in the left
photos. Apparently Wright and family lived for some time in the guest
house (pictured on far left, below.)
The William F. Holt mansion at Olive and Alvarado is an expensive
private home today.
When it was for sale and empty in the early 1990's, I went into the
back yard and looked at a plaque that stated that Wright wrote The
Winning of Barbara Worth in the [open air] tower room on the front
of the house. Unfortunately, when the current  owners moved into
the house, that bronze plaque and the rock it was mounted on had both
Click to see larger photos. Left to right: Holt guest
house, Holt mansion, Wright house.
The brochure advertising the Holt mansion said, "A charming feature on the second floor
is the tower room incorporated into the master suite. And it was
here that Harold Bell Wright, (the best selling novelist and Minister)
wrote The Winning of Barbara Worth, with Holt as the Hero.
Wright was the house guest while the 'Emperor' and his family took long
trips to Mexico and all over the United States in Holt's luxurious
railroad car given him by Harriman, the President of the Southern Pacific
R.R." The Redlands News, September 5, 1964, says Wright
"came to write parts or all of several novels in the garden of the
mission-style Holt mansion . . . ."
It is clear from the records
of both Harold Bell Wright and E. W. Reynolds, his publisher, that The Winning of
Barbara Worth was written in El Centro, in the arrow-weed studio, not
in Redlands. However, it is highly likely that Wright did
considerable writing in this house or garden, including much writing related to The
Winning of Barbara Worth. William F. Holt was the
main source of information about the reclamation of the Imperial
Valley. As it says in the sales brochure, "It was at this time
[beginning in 1901] that Holt founded Holtville, El Centro, and Brawley,
laid out the water systems, built the electric company, an interurban
railway, and enticed the Southern Pacific to run a line to the Imperial
Valley. It was at this time that the Colorado River was accidentally
diverted, formed the Salton Sea and it's said that Holt headed the team
that put that giant back to its original bed. A dreamer, a planner,
a banker, a surveyor, a builder, a husband, a father, and visionary.
He made the desert bloom and was aptly called, "the Emperor of the
Obviously, even if Wright
hadn't become a close friend of Holt's, which he did, he would have spent
much time in Holt's house, listening to stories, getting the facts right,
taking notes, and writing the story descriptions and ideas to be assembled later in his studio
in the Imperial Valley.
Furthermore, E. W. Reynolds
tells us in A Biography Intimate and Authoritative, that "The
Uncrowned King," . . . was written in Redlands, California,
during the winter of 1909-10." It is very likely he was a guest
at the Holt home during that time and wrote that book there. The
Redlands News article says, "Even after Wright moved away from
Redlands and bought a ranch near El Centro, he would return to write in
the sylvan quietude of the Holt garden or in Mill Creek Canyon."
Much of the action in Wright's novel, The Eyes of The World,
takes place in the mountains east of Redlands. Redlands
News, September 5, 1964 says, "Ever the outdoorsman, Wright
roamed Mill Creek Canyon as if it were a valley of
enchantment. The Pipeline Trail, along the conduit leading to
the pioneer Edison Co. hydroelectric plant at the mouth of the
canyon was a favorite idyll. Parts of the canyon are described
in 'The Eyes of the World' and parts of other books were written in
a small wooden cabin still visible from Mill Creek Road."
Wright's own account, in
a letter to a Mrs. Knox, dated May 25, 1943, tells a somewhat
different story: "No, I have not seen Mill Creek Canyon since
long years ago. But I do have most delightful memories of the
days when I hiked those mountains. I have heard that the
Canyon people point out a hut near the old orchard as the place
where I wrote the story. But that can't be true because there
was no hut when I camped in the orchard. And while the scenes
of the story are indeed in the Mill Creek Canyon country, the story
was not actually written there--not a word of it. It
was written mostly at my ranch in Imperial Valley." (From a
letter in A. K. Smiley Public Library.)
sign in this unidentified and undated photo (courtesy Rick Gunter)
says, "This is the place where the book, 'The Eyes of the World' was
written by Harold Bell Wright. -- D. Rhea Igo, Owner." Since Wright
wrote the book mostly in the Imperial Valley (and finished it in
Tucson), and since this picture looks nothing like either the
Imperial Valley or Tuscon, it is probably safe to assume this sign
once stood along highway 38, near the orchard in Mill Creek Canyon.
The dark shadow behind the sign on the left side of the photo may be
a hut. The Igo family had lived in the Redlands area since the
has been up Highway 38 from Redlands to mile-high Forest Falls recognizes the wide valley Wright describes with the
"gates" that seem to open before you and close after you
as you enter the canyon. In the A. K. Smiley Public Library in
Redlands, CA, there is an undated brochure from the most famous and
popular facility in Forest Falls--Forest Home. The brochure is
a Real Vacation. Forest Home Famous Mountain
Resort." It was apparently published shortly
after 1915. The
brochure includes six photos of features included in Wright's
book. The photos appear to be of postcards (I have seen at least one of these six at a postcard show,
and I own several of the non-HBW cards pictured elsewhere in this brochure).
The copy reads:
“When Harold Bell
Wright wrote his famous book, “The Eyes of The World”—a work
which has thrilled millions and millions of people—he chose the
Forest Home region above all others for the mountain episodes of his
wonderfully gripping story.
Clustered about Forest Home are the
interesting places described by him—“Sibyl’s Cabin,” The
Pipe-line Trail,” “Granite Peak,” “The Sycamores,” “The
Barn in the Old Orchard,” and other points described.
They are all real places.
This is an added charm which awaits you when you come to
Forest Home—to trace the trail of Aaron King and Sibyl through
that fascinating story. This
adds a quaintness and charm not to be found at any other mountain
resort. Read the book,
then come and feel its atmosphere of romance.”
An additional note says, “Above are
pictured a few spots about Forest Home which are the scenes of the
mountain episodes of Harold Bell Wright’s famous story, 'The
Eyes of The World'.” The six probable postcards are numbered to match this legend:
“The Gate ‘Neith the Mistle-clad Oak.”
“When the Canyon Gates are Shut”
“The Pipe-line Trail”
A further note describes the trip as Wright
might have been familiar with it: "Forest Home is 17
miles east of Redlands and 90 miles from Los Angeles. There is
a splendid automobile road all the way--paved to within seven miles
of Forest Home and a wide, smooth, surfaced road the rest of the
way. All stream crossings are bridged. No switchbacks, no
difficult grades, and road signs all the way.
When you reach Redlands, go east on Colton Avenue and follow the
signs to Forest Home."
Your Questions and Suggestions are Welcome.
Click here for
This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced
by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright © 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh