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Mrs. Herbert Hoover Tells of Time in Acton



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Lou Henry was born March 29, 1874, in Waterloo, Iowa, and was raised in Whittier and Monterey, Calif., where her father, Charles Delano Henry, was a banker. At an early age she developed a particular interest in rocks — perhaps partly the result of an extended trip to the Acton area in 1891 when her father consulted on a gold mine. She entered Stanford University in 1894 and became the first woman in the U.S. to graduate with a degree in geology four years later. Along the way she met her future husband, a fellow geology student, Herbert "Bert" Hoover, whom she married in 1899.

Bert quickly became a world-renowned mining engineer. Headquartered in London, Bert and Lou were in China for the Boxer Rebellion, and Bert subsequently spent much time consulting on mines in Australia, South Africa and elsewhere including California. Meanwhile Lou is credited with translating an important 16th-century mining encyclopedia that is still in print.

By now millionaires, Bert and Lou spent the first part of World War I in London, organizing relief efforts for starving Belgians. It got the attention of President Woodrow Wilson, who in 1917 tapped Bert to head the U.S. Food Administration.

For her part, Lou was conscripted into the leadership ranks of the newly formed Girl Scouts of the USA. Lou served as president of the national organization from 1922 to 1925 while Bert served as Commerce Secretary under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. The latter announced in 1927 he wouldn't seek a second term, opening the door for the highly popular cabinet secretary. Bert, who'd been a Bull Moose (Teddy Roosevelt) Republican, took office in 1929. Later that year the stock market crashed, and it took a couple of years for the full effects of the Great Depression to set in.

Lou continued to advocate for the Girl Scouts during her husband's administration and served as national president again afterward, from 1935 to 1937. Predeceasing her husband by 20 years, she died of a heart attack Jan. 7, 1944, in New York City.

1933: Mrs. Herbert Hoover Told It Like It Was to Meryl Adams of Acton

When Mrs. Herbert Hoover became First Lady in the White House during the term of President Hoover (1929-1933) and remembered to send a contribution to the Acton church during that time, there just had to be a reason for Lou Henry Hoover to remember Acton. I learned the story of her love for Acton directly from Mrs. Hoover in 1933. Here it is.

The Hoovers left the White House in 1933, the same year I graduated from college in Santa Barbara. I came home to Acton that summer, returned to Santa Barbara in the fall, worked part time and began study with the hope of entering the field of professional Girl Scouting.

I attended a Regional Girl Scout Conference at Pacific Palisades in the fall of 1933. Mrs. Herbert Hoover was there as a special guest. Vaal Stark, our Girl Scout Regional Director, instructed us to file by Mrs. Hoover, shake hands and tell her our names. I decided my name would mean nothing to Mrs. Hoover, [so I] decided on "Acton" instead. I shook hands with Mrs. Hoover and said, "Do you remember Acton?" Her face became radiant with pleasure. Her reply was quick: "My dear, do you live there?" My reply was also quick. "Acton his my home." She then said, "come and talk to me later" — which I did.

Mrs. Hoover's conversation about Acton was vivacious as I answered her questions about Acton and my family in 1933 and she answered my questions about Acton and her family in 1891. Lou Henry was a young lady of sixteen when she came to Acton. Her father, Charles D. Henry, served as superintendent of the Union Mine to advise on tests of ore. Her love of the out-of-doors was evident as she told of riding horseback over the Acton Valley and up on Mt. Gleason. The Henry family bought eggs, butter and milk from the Rev. John F. Robbins family who lived nearby. Mattie Robbins, 19-year-old daughter of our Acton minister, and Lou Henry became good friends. Mattie Robbins was teaching Sunday School at the time and continued to serve the church in Acton for 60 years. This, Lou Henry never forgot — therefore, the Acton Church received a loving donation from Mrs. Herbert Hoover, living in the White House, while Mattie Robbins was Mrs. Arthur Hubbard, living at Acton. By 1929 the church was Acton Presbyterian Church.

Five additional times Mrs. Hoover and I visited about Acton, for I did enter professional Girl Scouting in 1934 and Mrs. Hoover was a devoted Girl Scouter. At Sky Meadow in Big Basin in 1934, I held hands with Mrs. Hoover in the Girl Scout Goodnight Circle, under the stately redwood trees, as we sang "Taps" and Mrs. Hoover said, "Let's think about Acton." Three national Girl Scout Convention meetings: San Francisco, 1935; Savannah, Geo., 1937; Kansas City, 1938 — whenever I heard someone call out, "Acton, Oh Acton!" I turned to look and there was Mrs. Hoover waving at me across the hotel lobby. I rode the cable car (on the outside!) with Mrs. Hoover in San Francisco. We serenaded Mrs. Hoover at Asilomar. We, in Girl Scouting, were so proud of this great lady.

I am also proud that Lou Henry Hoover is part of the heritage of Acton.

The 24th Annual Convention of the National Council of Girl Scouts was held Oct. 10-14, 1938, in Kansas City, Mo.

Mrs. Herbert Hoover journeyed to Kansas city from Palo Alto by train, as enthusiastic about her arrival as any Brownie Scout would be to be going on an early sunrise hike. Girl Scouts, young ones, or Girl Scouters, adults, were always a delight to our friendly Mrs. Hoover.

The hour of arrival was 7:15 a.m. as a smiling Mrs. Hoover, in her gray-green uniform, was met by MRs. Clyde H. Porter, Kansas City commissioner; Mrs. Paul Rittenhouse, national director from New York; and other leaders here for the convention.

From the Kansas City railroad station, Mrs. Hoover went to the Hotel Muehlebach, settled into her suite and then proceeded with a round of conferences. Her title of Honorary Vice President indicated that she was a "working honorary" as she cheerfully took up her "Girl Scout Patrol duties."

Mrs. Hoover brought greetings from 1920 to the 1,000 Scouters at the convention with a compliment: "By looking at all of you in the eve, I know that you have the wisdom, spirit and courage which is to be needed from 1940 to 1960. Future in your hands."

The "Old Settlers" luncheon on Thursday of the week-long convention was hosted by Mrs. Hoover. In addition she participated in many of the discussions scheduled for the four-day session.

I was in attendance at Kansas City as Girl Scout Executive from Santa Barbara, a position I held from 1938-1943.

This time I was in the lobby of Hotel Muehlebach when I heard the call, "Acton! Oh, Acton!" from Mrs. Hoover. We had one of our precious visits about Acton, California, in Kansas City.


1891: Lou Henry Met R.E. Nickel at Acton, California

Lou Henry, age 16, and her father, Charles D. Henry, came to Acton by train from their home in Whittier during the summer of 1891.

Mr. Henry was a banker in Whittier, Calif., the first bank, which he organized in that city. Whenever he could arrange to be away from his bank duties, he and his daughter, Lou, adjourned to the out-of-doors for camping and enjoyment of the beauties of flowers, trees, and reenactment of history of our pioneers in covered wagons and our explorers of the past. Lou Henry learned about the great outdoors of our beautiful country from her loving father. Bird identification and their songs also became and enjoyable experience for this devoted father and his daughter.


Meryl Adams as the Girl Scout Executive at Santa Barbara, 1938. Click to enlarge.

Another specialty of knowledge for Mr. Henry was rocks, identification, values and prospects. He taught Lou about rocks, aroused her interest in geology to the extent that she became the first woman graduate of Stanford to have majored in the subject.

Mr. Henry was a man of means who could afford to be away from his banking duties by making proper arrangements from time to time. This trip to Acton to advise on testing of ore at the Union Mine was just another learning step for Lou before she decided to enter Stanford in 1894 where she majored in geology.

Gustav Kruger, owner of the Acton Livery Stable, always met the morning passenger train with his best surrey and a good team just in case a stranger might arrive and need transportation.

When Mr. Henry and Lou arrived at the Acton railroad station they were delighted to find Gustav Kruger willing to take them to the Union Mine with their camping gear and baggage.

The next day, Lou borrowed one of the Union Mine donkeys for the three and a half mile ride to Acton to check on the mail and to mail a letter to her little mother back in Whittier to let her know of the safe arrival in Acton.

Mr. R.E. Nickel, postmaster and storekeeper, introduced himself to his visitor and welcomed Lou Henry to his place of business on the main street of Acton.

He said, "Miss Henry, I want to take your picture in my Acton Art Gallery so that you will have a remembrance of this occasion."

Miss Henry thanked Mr. Nickel and informed him that she would rather have a picture of herself on the donkey she had ridden to Acton. Her eyes sparkled, her smile was joyful, her voice happy as she told Mr. Nickel, "On the coming week-end my father and I are going on a camping trip to Mount Gleason. This donkey I have today is the one I am to use, and today is for us to get to know each other, so if you take our picture we can find out how he reacts. Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Nickel. This will be fun."

"Fine, fine, Miss Henry. We'll go outside, find some good trees for background. I see you have your gun. Let me get my camera and tripod and I shall take a 'Fine Aristo Photo' — guaranteed." Which Mr. Nickel did.

Lou Henry was born March 29, 1875, at Waterloo, Iowa, by the Cedar River. Her loving parents were Charles D. Henry, an enthusiastic outdoorsman, and her mother, Florence Henry, beautiful and physically frail.

Lou and her father became loving companions as Charles D. Henry began to share with his receptive daughter his devoted love and knowledge of the great wonders of nature. At last [when] she reached the happy age of 5, her father took her fishing on the Cedar River. The next year at the age of 6 he began to teach her to ride horseback, which enlarged their circle of exploration in the beautiful state of Iowa, where Lou really received her absorbing foundation of love of nature.

The Henry family moved to Whittier, Calif., in search of a climate which hopefully would be of benefit for Mrs. Henry's bronchial asthma. Charles Henry almost always took Lou with him as they adventured in the "wilds" of this new State of California.

Lou entered eh Bailey Street grammar school of Whitter, where she was recognized as a leader of ability and by the year 1889 was the outstanding girl of the school.

Lou and Mr. Henry were well prepared for their expedition to Acton in 1891 and their camping trip on Mount Gleason.

Lou Henry met Herbert Hoover during their student days at Stanford University. They were married Feb. 10, 1889, in Monterey, Calif.

When Girl Scouting was organized in the United States in 1912, Mrs. Hoover found that she had a background in nature appreciation from the loving instruction she received from her father, Charles D. Henry. Her camping experiences had also come from this thoughtful, generous gentleman and their many outdoor expeditions.

Mrs. Herbert Hoover was a leader for many years in the National Organization of the Girl Scouts of America. She passed on to our Girl Scouts and their leaders her own reverence for the wonders of nature which she had discovered from the development of her power of observation as she learned from her sharing father, Charles Delano Henry. The beneficiaries of the Girl Scouts accepted and passed on to family and friends the unselfish sharing of this kindly man.

LOU HENRY (HOOVER) IN ACTON

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Nickel Photo 1891

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