New York Times
June 25, 1899

"Bohemia" in California

Club of Jolly Fellows Buys a Redwood Grove in Which to Perform "Midsummer High Jinks."

SAN FRANCISCO, June 20. - The Bohemian Club of San Francisco is unique in many ways, but its most recent claim to distinction is that it owns a redwood grove of 160 acres, where each year the "midsummer high jinks" are celebrated. For seven years the club has rented a magnificent grove of redwood trees on the banks of the Russian River, about ninety miles from this city, and has preserved the tract from the ravages of lumbermen and campers. Here have been held the ceremonies which mark thir [sic.] midsummer diversions. Last Saturday the club decided by vote to buy the redwood tract, together with more land surrounding it - 160 acres in all - for $27,500. The heavy timber covers about twenty acres.

In this grove the trees stand so thick together that at midday the sunlight filters through only dim rays. The trees are not so large as in many other parts of the timber belt of this State, but they are extremely graceful, rising like Greek columns to a height of 200 or 300 feet. The peculiarity of the redwood is the absence of all branches for the first 50 to 100 feet. Then the upper foliage has a feathery, delicate appearance that distinguishes the tree from the pine, hemlock, or cedar. The green of the foliage is the darkest shade known in nature, and the balsamic odor is more pronounced than that of the pine. The mases of dark foliage come out strongly against the cloudless blue of the sky and the deep red columnar trees, producing effects which few California painters have been able to faithfully reproduce, though many have attempted the task.

Nothing can exceed the solemnity and the stillness of the redwood groves of California, unless it be the great eucalyptus forests of Australia. The song of birds is seldom heard in these dimly lit aisles, and even the smaller animals do not appear to haunt the groves.

The Bohemian grove is reached by the Pacific or Donahue Railroad, which runs to Guerneville, on the Russian River, in Sonoma County, the heart of a wide belt of redwood forest. The grove is off the main line, and clubmen reach their camping ground by taking a queer old lumber railway that winds along the bank of the river and then plunges down through the heavy forest.

The "midsummer high jinks" is a beautiful open-air ceremony held in the night in a natural amphitheater in the heart of the grove. The members usually plan to present some spectacular play, in which frequently several hundred performers take part. The most noteworthy performance of the kind occurred in 1893 when Joseph D. Redding, now a lawyer in New York, devised a beautiful spectacle, "The Cremation of Care." Great attention was paid to all the details, and the Druid priests who figured prominently in the show bore all the insignia of their order on their vestments. Over 500 persons figured in the spectacle, and electric and calcium lights were used to illuminate the tableaus. There was a symphony orchestra and a grand chorus. A Druids' altar and sacrificial stone lent an air of realism to the scenes. Mr. Redding served as High Priest of Bohemia. Then came a procession of eight Druid priests bearing six chained captives-- a Gaul , a Celt , a Roman , a barbarian, and two men from the Far North. Each captive was in costume and each in turn pleaded his cause before the assembly, but was condemned to death. Only the Gaul, who represented Bohemia, was able to make a defense that lifted the sentence from the heads of the captives. A loving cup was then drunk by Druids, captives, and Bohemians. Mephisto and a number of devils rushed in and attempted to rescue Care from the catafalque. The devil made an impassioned address, saying that good fellowship was a mockery and that care could not be banished. Then the Druid leader drove them into the woods with a lighted torch, which he at once applied to the funeral pyre. After this came the low jinks, a species of amateur minstrel show.

Then the Bohemians retired to their tents and to such sleep as the wags and practical jokers of the club permitted them to take.

This midsummer jinks has become one of the most enjoyable festivals held on this coast. The club invites special guests and invitations are eagerly sought.

The Russian River adjoins the grove, and by damming the river a fine lake about three miles long has been formed. It is known as Lake Bohemia.