The Republic of North
Bonnie Wayne McGuire
nce upon a time there was a place known as The Republic of North California. It was nestled on the forested slope of Banner Mountain located between the early gold mining towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City, California. According to some journalists, it was a storybook setting about...shall we say....the smallest government in the world.
Physically the Republic resembled a ten acre farm, but it's the story of the philosophy and achievements of it's inhabitants. The population of the tiny republic was two. Our step-father Val Baima (pictured left) was President; a man of many talents besides being an organic gardener extraordinaire. Our mother Lilly Belle (with Val by their sign) was Governor. She was equally gifted and wrote the re-Declaration of Independence and Proclamation of Emancipation for their Republic in 1957. According to Val, it's purpose was "to protect our natural-born rights, inalienable rights...the rights to survive and to be let alone." Their greatest concern was the moral decay and corruption taking place in America's Judicial system that conflicted with the original intent of America's Constitution and Bill of Rights. Below is Their Republic of North California Re-Declaration of Independence with their official seal.
They had first hand experience with the system after the District Attorney told Lilly Belle that the Constitution wasn't worth the paper it was written on (although he probably swore to uphold it.) He later threatened Lilly Belle that there were mental health laws permitting officials to put people like them away. When it eventually happened, the process seemed more like communist Russia than America. (Years later I saw a Parent Teachers Association presentation about an international gathering of Psychologists in Russia. We were shown that those who disagreed with the State were incarcerated in a mental hospital to readjust their thinking.) Here in America...without warning, Mom and Val were suddenly confronted by a deputy sheriff who removed them from their home and transported them to a mental institution for about three days of observation...on the premise that they might harm themselves or others. During this time doctors could do and say what they wanted to make the patient look like a nut, with no outside witnesses. No crime involved. I thought it amazing that the D. A. responsible for their incarceration was a staunch advocate for the Miranda Rights that protects suspected criminals from answering any questions that might incriminate them.
It all began when Mom and Val made a deal with an adjoining land holder to buy a few acres from her. Unknown to both parties, the real-estate broker made a deal with the Nevada Irrigation District that would allow them to build a pump station on the property the our parents were buying. They weren't consulted, and naturally didn't want it there. The deal bogged down with neither side budging. However, I'm inclined to believe the real-estate broker and NID were out of line. The land was subject to access rights by the Nevada Irrigation District, whose ditch tenders and maintenance crews had became an annoyance to many people. The NID property tax became a protest issue, provoking the NID to use the mental health law the District Attorney mentioned. Following their three days of institutional confinement they were given a Court hearing before a Judge. An attorney told us that the doctors always recommended commitment because the state paid the hospital around $200 for each placement. They were institutionalized in 1961. During their brief confinement a doctor told me that most of the people in DeWitt didn't belong there, but rather were put there by people who wanted them out of the way. Mom and Val fit that category. Not only was she forced to have electric shock treatments (considered cruel punishment in prisons), but suffered from the stigma surrounding commitment. Clint Eastwood's 2008 true story movie Changeling (starring Angelina Jolie) reminds me of what happened to them and many others.
After their release, they continued to educate themselves and help others hopelessly confined. As Val put it, "We have written this story with our blood, sweat and tears." Then Ronald Reagan ran for Governor of California. During his campaign he stopped at the Nevada County Air Park near the Republic. Mom and Val (right) were among those who were there to support him. I remember mom corresponding with Ronald Reagan after he became governor of California discussing her concern that America was gradually going back to the old Kings Laws of Europe, where the people had nothing. He shared the same concerns. He was told about the abuses of our state mental hospitals. The Governor listened and investigated. A Judge reviewed hundreds of cases, and came to the conclusion that too many people didn't belong there, but were committed for all the wrong reasons. Money, convenience and politics. DeWitt State Hospital was closed. Those losing their jobs made a big fuss about turning those poor demented people out onto the streets, but Reagan knew better, and set them free. This was the beginning of my real-life education, and realization why the uneducated are still attacking Reagan. It occurred to me that if Jesus Christ showed up he might not get the death sentence for saying he was a Son of God, but he probably would be imprisoned in a mental institution by those who disagreed, or considered him to be a threat to their social position. After almost 50 years it finally dawned on me what was accomplished by their terrible experience, their speaking out, and a truly caring statesman who listened, investigated and put an end to the atrocities. I think all involved learned from the experience, and it made us all more aware, and better. And what about the disputed land deal that caused so much heartache? The money sat in escrow and the land became part of the broker's estate. When he died, I mentioned it to mom, but she said she didn't care about it anymore. After her death in 1986, we purchased the land when it came up for auction.
Val told a Sacramento Union news-paper writer (one of the many journalists who visited them) that "Basically, we are going back to the beginning of our country (America). We want to live the way the founding fathers meant it to be...Today, our government is nothing like they intended. We have nothing but tyranny by judicial decree." Then mom bristled and added, "The Jeffersonian philosophy of home rule, farmers rights and individual liberties have never had a chance to be tested."
Here they're visiting with the reporter in their kitchen. On the wall to Val's left was a picture of Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution. Later, The reporter's article in the newspaper focused on property rights triggering the birth of their small Republic that began in early 1945 when mom bought the land and married Val. They were Constitutionalists, conservationists, hygienists, vegetarians and probably the best organic gardeners in the County. For 25 years they won annual sweepstakes honors at the Nevada County Fair for their organic vegetables and fruit produce, and collected over 4,000 ribbons. In 1968 the State awarded them a medal and trophy for their unsurpassed achievements in agriculture at various county fairs.
Receiving their honors from the State in 1968.The beginning was the Baima Banner Mountain Home farm booths at Nevada County's Fair in 1947 and 1948 display crafts, artwork, mom's hooked rugs and produce.
Mom and Val spent over forty years dedicated to developing their Republic and self-sufficient living. Though they had electricity, they heated their water in coils in their wood stove. They supported them-selves as organic gardeners, selling their produce in local grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, Boy and Girl Scout summer camps, and the hospital. Val used to laugh that he was "the zucchini king of Nevada County." I remember that not long after they married, Val would ask mom how to grow this or that. She seemed to know all the answers, and he put all his energy into growing lush organic fruits, grapes, summer and winter vegetables.
This wonderful pool they built for irrigation and recreation reflects the beauty of their Republic. They had many friends, and visitors like actor Burgess Meredith (left) and Maidu Indian Chief Louis Kelly with mom and sister Virginia below.
While gardening, Val unearthed many early Indian artifacts of this area. It inspired him to write a story about Fairland....
"We never knew or met this unusual Banner Mt. Nevada County Indian woman whom we shall call "Fairland." But she lived, once upon a time on our Garden-Farm. Her memory is lost in the limbo of past ages. She went about her business, the struggle for survival for herself and her race, on our land....the so called "calling card" I found was an authentic Indian Pestle, which had been used by this particular woman to grind oak acorns for her children, her mate and herself. She was a typical mother, creator and sustainer of her Race..." Val found this ancient Indian rock painting on an Oregon beach during 1939. Scientists estimated that it was thousands of years old. It may be in a museum somewhere. All I could find is this picture. He enjoyed writing and contributed historical and agricultural articles to various publications. He was a poet, painter, sculptor, spoke fluent Italian, and loved to sing some of the Arias. Mom was a writer, artist, hooked beautiful rugs, sewed and made whatever she decided to do. I always thought she was one of the most capable persons I'd ever known. But she and Val could be pretty stubborn. They reminded me of the brave biblical characters like Moses, or Elijah stirring people with words they didn't want to hear. I used to laugh about it...and could see how such staunch characters eventually accomplished what they set out to do.Over the years I've been contacted by Journalists who did stories about them. One told me not to destroy any of their writings, because he wanted to read them. During November 2004 Charles Hillinger (a former writer for the LA Times) informed me about his book "California Characters, an Array of Amazing People" that includes a story about Val and Mom's Republic of North California. Lilly-Belle passed away in 1986, and Val followed her nine years later in 1995.On February 5, 2009 I received a wonderful email from Don and Jane Pelton about Mom and Val inspiring them to move to this area.
The old Republic sign they posted here in 1957was still standing in 2005 until someone stole it.