The Colborns, Walter, Anna, and History?


The Colborns, Walter, Anna, and History

By Mike Meier

In preparation

One night, at a party, John Wright, Walter and Anna's grandson, told me the short version of the story his grandmother used to tell him about Walter. When done John insisted the story should be a book, and a movie. The following day I started on the book, and before long we were meeting with a producer.

The story is about Walter Johnston Colborn, aged three when his father Amos died while reparing a bridge the Confederates had destroyed during the previous war, and grandson of William, who had fought and died in that war. Walter grew up with his mother and sister in Peshtigo, WI, and worked in the lumber mills for a time before moving to Chicago to work in the steel mill at South Works. Like many did in those times, he boarded with a family, a family that had three young girls still at home, one of whom, Anna, would later marry Walter.

Life was good for the young couple, although work at South Works was difficult and dangerous, and this danger hit home when Walter was seriously injured on the job. After a long recovery, during which his first child was born, he returned to work, this time as a stationary engineer.

The story continues through the big steel strike of 1919, Walter's being blacklisted and eventually moving to California to find work, then being killed when Mulholland's Saint Francis Dam failed. From this point on this is a woman's story. Anna takes the family through the ups and downs of 1920s and 30's Bakersfield, then with her two sons and a daughter moves to Alaska to homestead.

This is a story of a resilient family that rolled with the punches and ultimately came through in reasonably good shape. It is a story of a family that experienced great social change, taking them from the dying days of the Victorian era, through the Progressive Era and the post-war boom, and into the space age.