Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Donnan Jeffers, Edith Emmons Kuster, Garth Jeffers, Hawk Tower,, Jeffers, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster

Robinson and Una Jeffers – Build Tor House and Hawk Tower

In 1919 we built Tor House on a knoll where stones jutting out the treeless moor reminded us of tors on Dartmoor.  Our favorite walk had been along the grass drown track that wound around the Point.  At that time there were no houses, except the Reamer’s and Driftwood Cottage, beyond Philip Wilson’s at 14th and San Antonio.” (Una Jeffers) (1)

Tor House

The area of Carmel Point had been surveyed and subdivided into building lots around 1909. Few lots had sold and the plotted streets had not been made when the Jeffers decided to buy sixteen lots for $200 each in 1919. They had future plans to eventually own the entire block which contained thirty-six lots, and a few years after their initial purchase they did acquire more. By 1929 they owned the entire block, purchasing the last three lots for $3,000 each. 

Una had very specific ideas for the design of their home; she wanted it to be small, built of stone, and resemble a Tudor barn that she had seen on one of their trips to England. The Jeffers hired Michael J. Murphy, who had been building homes in Carmel since 1902, and Pierson, a stone mason out of Monterey. Maybe for economical reasons, Robin and Una decided to use the granite available from the beach below their lot, instead of Carmel chalkstone.  They had heard that the chalkstone did not hold up well in heavy weather conditions, which they were sure to face on the barren Carmel Point. 

Before the first stones could be laid, the labor intensive foundation had to be excavated by a horse-drawn scraper and pick and shovel.  Then Mr. Murphy would construct a wooden railway from the beach to the top of the tor.  A cart pulled by horses would bring the heavy granite boulders from the beach up to the construction site. 

The picture above was taken in 2013 from the beach directly below Tor House.  One can see how far the rocks would have to be moved in order to get them up to the home site. Hawk Tower can be seen in the upper right of the photograph.

Perhaps because he saw his bank account dwindling with every stone laid on his house, or perhaps he just felt the need to get involved in the actual construction, Robin took an interest in stonework. Having no skill when it came to masonry, or physical labor of any kind, for that matter, Robin convinced Mr. Murphy to hire him to mix the mortar and act as the hodman (the one who carries supplies) to the master mason.

Finally Tor House was ready for occupancy and the happy family, Robin, Una, three year old twins Garth and Donnan and bulldog “Billie” moved in on August 15, 1919.  Ted and Edith Kuster continued to be good friends with the Jeffers.  The picture above shows Ted, the twins and Billie in front of Tor House on the day the Jeffers moved in. 

The house consisted of a long living room with windows that faced westward over the ocean and southward toward the Santa Lucia Mountains and Point Lobos. Una’s Steinway piano, a possession from her marriage to Ted Kuster, was placed in this room.   In the northwest corner off the living room was a guest bedroom to which Edith Kuster frequently occupied on her visits be with Una.  On the first floor there was also a small kitchen and bathroom.  Above the living area reached by a short steep stairway brought from Una’s childhood home in Michigan, and trap door, were two attic rooms.  One occupied by Robin and Una consisting of a bed, writing desk and a reed organ.  The other under the sloping roof line was the twins bedroom. 

The  house had running water but no electricity, gas, or telephone.  None of these were obtainable at this time on Carmel Point.  Yet, it is interesting to note that even when they did become available the Jeffers family chose not to install them.  It was not until 1941 when Una and Robin wanting to keep in touch with their adult sons,  was a telephone installed. And it wasn’t until both kerosene and wicks for the homes numerous oil lamps became more difficult to obtain that electricity was finally installed in 1949. A system of pipes in back of the living room fireplace heated the water pumped from a storage tank to supply hot water for cooking and cleaning.

The Garage

Shortly after moving into their new home, it was decided that the family needed a garage to protect their Model T Ford from rusting in the salt air.  Using his new masonry knowledge, Robin built a stone garage separate from the main house that he finished in 1920.
Donnan writes, “Soon after its [the garage] completion he [Robin] chanced to read that, for proper support, a Roman arch of this kind should have a width of masonry on each side of it of the same size as the arch itself.  He went to gaze with horror at the arch of his garage, which had no such support.  He could detect no sign of incipient failure, but nevertheless hastened to add a massive buttress on each side.” (2)
When Robin and Una purchased the lots on Carmel Point, the land was desolate, looking nothing like it does today.  The Jeffers were warned that the wind could be fierce there and that it would be best to build the roof line low to stand against the wind.  They were also advised that the ceiling should also be built low in order to keep the heat in during the winter months. Still with all the planning, Una, the ever protective mother, feared that the windows in the living room would not stand up to the winds on the point, and warned Garth and Donnan never to stand near these windows during storms. 
Though the windows did bulge in the living room when hit by the high winds, they never broke.  But during one storm over Christmas in the early 1920’s, the winds were powerful enough to cave in the garage doors and lift the garage roof off in one piece and carefully deposit it further down the tor. Not phased, Robin replaced the garage roof, strengthen the garage door with a bar and added shutters to the living room windows. 
In order to shelter their home further from the winds, Robin bought and planted Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress and Eucalyptus trees, approximately 2,000 in all.  This took years.  He painstakingly watered each of them until they could survive on their own. Today the trees line the city block the Jeffers owned at one time. Robin single handedly transformed Carmel Point from a barren sand dune to the majestic forest that exists today.

Hawk Tower
Una was captivated with the round towers of Ireland and Robin was captivated by his muse, Una.  Shortly after the garage was finished, Robin began work on the tower, a project that would take him almost five years to complete.  But Robin did not build this alone he had help from Garth and Donnan.
Hawk Tower was built on a foundation of bedrock.  For the first two stories of the tower, Robin rolled the granite stones up a series of inclined planks similar to that devised by the Egyptians. 
For the third and fourth stories of the structure he installed a block-and-tackle system to hoist the heavy rocks up the side of the tower, rest them on a corner and then roll them along the wall into place.  When completed the walls were forty feet high and some six feet thick.
In the December 12, 1928 edition of The Carmelite, Ella Winter, a neighbor and journalist with radical views, wrote, “The same figure [Robin] was watched by indifferent and then increasingly curious neighbors…as it [Robin] hauled great granite boulders from the beach and rolled them up an inclined plane, higher and higher in the course of the five or six years that Robinson Jeffers took to build his Hawk Tower.  Early Carmelites recall how in those days they first wondered, then ceased to wonder, as the phenomenon took on the slow unchangeability of the cliffs and the ocean and the herons flying.  You cannot wonder all of six years.  And so Robinson Jeffers came to be accepted in his home surroundings as on with the nature he loves so well, as permanent and unperishable.”  
Tor House
If you should look for this place after a
     handful of lifetimes:
Perhaps of my planted forest a few
May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the
     coast cypress, haggard
With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils.
Look for foundations of sea-worn granite,
my fingers had the art
To make stone love stone, you will find some remnant.
But if you should look in your idleness after ten
     thousand years:
It is the granite knoll on the granite
And lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the
     mouth of the Carmel
River-valley, these four will remain
In the change of names.  You will know it by the
     wild sea-fragrance of wind
Though the ocean may have climbed or retired a little;
You will know it by the valley inland that our sun
     and our moon were born from
Before the poles changed; and Orion in December
Evenings was strung in the throat of the valley
     like a lamp-lighted bridge.
Come in the morning you will see white gulls
Weaving a dance over blue water,
the wane of the moon
Their dance-companion, a ghost walking
By daylight, but wider and whiter than
any bird in the world. (3)

Next: Robinson Jeffers Garden Party Part 1- Tor House
Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una Jeffers

Credits and Photos

Black and White Photo – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 4 – “On the reverse of this photograph, Mother has written, “Robinson Jeffers and white English bulldog ‘Donovitz Master’ (‘Billie’) walking along the Sea Road, 1918.  They are walking northward and directly behind them is the tor by which Tor House was built.” (Donnan Call Jeffers)

Black and White Photo – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 9 – “Father had the job of assisting the mason, Pierson.  In this photograph, taken in 1919, he is holding a screen that might have been used in preparing sand for mortar.” (Donnan Call Jeffers)

Black and White Photo – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 12 – “Mother has written on this photograph: “Teddy Kuster, Donnan and Garth and King.  August 15, 1919.  The day we moved into Tor House and Teddy’s birthday.”  Ted Kuster was mother’s first husband and a frequent visitor.  He later built his own house nearby.” (Donnan Call Jeffers)

Black and White Photo – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 16 – “The garage, pictured here in progress in 1920…” (Donnan Call Jeffers)

Black and White Photo – Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 21 – “Father in 1921 with helpers.” (Donnan Call Jeffers)

(1)The Carmel Pine Cone, January 10, 1941.

(2) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1993, Reprinted Ryan Ranch Printers, Monterey, California, 2008), 14.

(3) Edited by Tim Hunt, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 2001), 181.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Donnan Jeffers, Edith Emmons Kuster, Garth Jeffers, Hawk Tower,, Jeffers, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster

Robinson and Una Jeffers

Robin and Una were married August 2, 1913, and for some reason remained friends with Ted Kuster and his new wife Edith Emmons Kuster.  In her 1939 memoir, Of Una Jeffers, Edith writes, “One evening, a year after Una and Robin were married, Robin was reading aloud to us.  He picked up a book and said, “There is the most perfect description of Una in this.  I couldn’t have written a better one.  De Quincy wrote it, describing Dorothy Wordsworth:

She was short and slight, a glancing quickness in all her movements, with a warm, even ardent manner and a speech…agitated by her excessive organic sensibility.  Her eyes not soft but wild and startling which seemed to glow with some subtle fire that burned within her…

I may sum up her character as a companion by saying that she was the very wildest (in the sense of the most natural) person I have ever known, and also the truest, most inevitable, and at the same time the quickest and readiest in her sympathy with either joy or sorrow, laughter or tears, with the realities of life or the eager realities of the poets…

An exquisite regard for common things  a quick discernment of the one point of interest or beauty in the most ordinary incident was the secret of her spell on all who met her.” (1)

Robin and Una
The Early Years

Robin received the inheritance from John Robinson, his mother’s cousin and guardian, in 1912.  This small windfall seemed to the the newlyweds enough money to enable them to move to Lyme Regis a village on the southern coast of England. They had plans to leave in October when fares for the Atlantic crossing were lower, but their plans changed when they found out that Una was pregnant.

Instead of moving out of the country, they rented a house in La Jolla. Their friends, Ted and Edith Kuster, decided to joined them in La Jolla for a few months and the two couples went on numerous excursions together.  Edith writes, “Una and Robin lived in La Jolla in a little house called “Breezy Nest.”  It was perched high on a hill above the sea.  We used to visit them there and had great fun walking over the rocks and cliffs.” (2)

A month before their baby was due, Robin and Una moved to an apartment near Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.  On May 5, 1914 their first child a ten pound baby girl they named Maeve was born. Sadly she lived only one day.

The Jeffers moved in with Robin’s parents in Pasadena while they determined what they should do and where they would live next. By now World War I  had started and they had completely given up any plans of moving to England.

A friend of Una’s from her years of marriage to Ted, Fred Clapp, told them about a quaint new village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was attracting artists and writers and just might be the perfect place for the Jeffers. In the fall of 1914, Robin and Una traveled north to Carmel.

Dream of the Future (To U.J.) 
Faithful and loved, you know when at first we came
Out of the too-bright land,
from a shore without trees,
Though mighty of rocks,
and clothed with the same blue wave, –
You know how our hearts
were moved at looking down 

From the high peninsular yoke;
the breath of the morning
Hung in the pines; and this, we felt, was our home;
This, the narrow bay; the promontories;
The islands, each one rock; the capes beyond,
To the left, of Lobos, and yonder of Pescadero.  
We were glad; we had found our place. (3)


The Carmel that Robin and Una discovered “was a small village with an unpaved main street called Ocean Avenue, leading down to a white sand beach and a sparkling sea, a few small shops  a post office, and a scattering of houses.  From El Camino Real to the ocean, the view was unbroken by anything but a succession of rolling, white sand dunes.

By night there were no street lights, no flashlights; the homes were lighted for the most part, by kerosene lamps or candles.  Late strollers used a contrived miner’s lamp of coffee-can and candle, to light their way.  A bulletin board near the post office carried the news of the day…There were few automobiles, as most persons kept a saddle horse.  An eight-horse team made the run between Monterey and Carmel as well as Gould’s auto-stage which met the train at Monterey.

Milk was delivered to the neighborhood “milk shrines” instead of at individual back doors.  The local butcher ruled his customers’ menus with a heavy cleaver, giving them not what they wanted but what he needed to dispose of….There were four hotels and four churches…[and] a permanent resident population of about 350 persons…joined in the summer months by professors and their families from Stanford University and the University of California.  There were [also] a number of artists and writers among the permanent residents…” (4)

The first time Robin and Una saw Carmel they knew that they had found the place where they belonged.  “When the stagecoach topped the hill from Monterey,” says Jeffers, “and we looked down through the pines and sea-fogs on Carmel Bay, it was evident that we had come without knowing it to our inevitable place.” (5)

Robin and Una decided to rent a cabin in a grove of eucalyptus and pine trees at Fourth and Monte Verde. It was in this tiny log cabin, built in 1902-03 by Alameda attorney George H. Richardson, that Una joyfully kept house while Robin wrote poetry.

In the Pine Cone, January 10, 1941, Una wrote of their first years in Carmel, “So began our happy life in Carmel, full and over-full of joy from the first…Robin was writing poetry…There was housework, and continual wood chopping to fill the maw of the great fireplace in our drafty cabin.  We bought simple textbooks on flowers, shells, birds, and stars, and used them. We explored the village street by street, followed the traces of the moccasin trail through the forest, and dreamed around the crumbling walls about the old mission.  When we walked up from the shore at sunset scarfs of smoke drifting up from hidden chimneys foretold our own happy supper and evening by the fire.  It was pleasant to sniff the air and recognize the pungent scent of eucalyptus, the faint, somehow nostalgic quality of burning oak, the gun-powdery smell of driftwood, redwood like ripe apricots, and keener than all, the tonic resin of pitch pine.”

Shortly after their move in 1914, Una wrote to Edith Kuster telling her of how ecstatic she and Robin were to have found Carmel and invited Edith for a visit. Edith writes, “I couldn’t get there fast enough.  Una and Robin met me at the train in Monterey.  I peered eagerly out of the window and saw that beautiful bay filled with little blue Spanish and Italian fishing boats…Robin picked up my bags and put them underneath the seat of the surrey Una was driving…I marveled at Una – she handled those two spirited horses so expertly…As we drove up the steep grade toward Carmel, Una stopped to let the horses rest and to point out to me the Monterey Bay behind us – a perfect, blue crescent, one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  To the east of it, behind a black line of pine trees, is Del Monte…When we reached Carmel, we got out and left the horses at Hodges, then Gould’s, Livery Stable.  We walked the rest of the way down the joyous little path to the log cabin…The log cabin era is one of my most beautiful memories.  The cabin was not large, a living room with and enormous fireplace, one bedroom and bath and an excessively small kitchen.  Una cooked all the meals on an old iron stove.  She did it so gaily.” (6)   

Before the Jeffers had lived one year in Carmel, Robin’s father would pass away at 76 years of age. Dr. Jeffers made sure that his family was well cared for after his death.

The terms of the will of Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers established a trust that would provide an income of $200 a month for his widow, and two sons. Adding this to his earlier inheritance of $10,000, Robin and Una felt that they could now begin to plan building their own home in this still very undeveloped village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Yet five years would pass before they made that move. 

In October 1916, Robin’s second book of poems, Californians became his first book accepted by what he considered a genuine publisher, Macmillan.  A month later, Una gave birth to their twins, Garth and Donnan in Pasadena.  The twins were healthy, but after her experience with Maeve, Una decided to stay for seven months with them in Southern California with Robin’s mother, while Robin headed back to Carmel in search of a larger home for his family. Which he found in a wood frame house constructed in 1914 for Adelaide J. Trethaway.  This was just up the street from their log cabin, on Lopez Avenue. Trethaway cottage had stunning views of Carmel Point.

The Tretheway cottage worked for awhile, but Una wanted a home that would be their own to which Robin agreed and in the spring of 1919 they purchased a parcel of land at Carmel Point that had been one of the families favorite picnic spots and to which they had been gazing at for 3 years from their current home. 

Next:  Robinson and Una Jeffers – Tor House and Hawk Tower
Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster

Credits and Photos

Black and White photo of Robinson Jeffers and Una Jeffers by Genthe from A Tour of Tor House Home of Robinson Jeffers, Editing Jean Ritter-Murray (Tor House Foundation, 2003), 6.

Black and White picture of Ted, Edith, and Robin in 1915, Photographed by Una – Edith Greenan, Edited by James Karman, Of Una Jeffers, A Memoir (Story Line Press, 1998), 26, Photograph Jeffers Literary Properties.

Color picture – the beach below Tor House, off Scenic Drive – L.A. Momboisse 2013

Black and White photo – Sharon Lee Hale, A Tribute to Yesterday ( Valley Publishers, 1980), 38. – Ocean Avenue looking east in 1916.  Schweniger’s Grocery, Carmel Bakery, and Slevin’s are on the right side of the photo.

Black and White photo – Monica Hudson, Images of America, Carmel-by-the-Sea (Arcadia Publishing, 2006), 22. – This is the Carmel Stage, pictured c. 1905, the stage would pick up visitors at the Southern Pacific depot in Monterey.  The three-mile trip over the hill would take about two hours.  At the steepest part of the grade, the men were often asked to get out to ease the load on the horses.  – Harrison Memorial Library collection.

Black and White photo – Hudson, 26. – Robinson Jeffers on horseback by their log cabin home at Monte Verde and Fourth Avenue in 1914. –  The Tor House Collection.

Black and White photo – Robin, Great Aunt Mary, Una, and Billie at the Log Cabin in 1915 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

Black and White photo – Kent Seavey, Images of Carmel A History in Architecture (Arcadia Publishing, 2007), 62. – Robin and the twins in 1917 at Trethaway cottage on Lopez Avenue. – Tor House Foundation Archival Collection.

Black and White photo – Garth Sherwood Jeffers, Memories of Tor House (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2011) – “This photograph was probably taken by Father, at the Trethaway House in 1919, before we moved into Tor House.  I am holding the tether of Selysette and appear to be about to receive a scolding or worse.”  (Garth Sherwood Jeffers).

(1) Edith Greenan, Edited by James Karman, Of Una Jeffers, A Memoir (Story Line Press, 1998), 16.

(2) Greenan, 25.

(3) Tim Hunt, ed., The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, vol 4 (Stanford University Press, 2000), 178.

(4) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 68-69.

(5) Powell, Robinson Jeffers: The Man and His Work, page 13.

(6) Greenan, 28-30.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle,, Jeffers, Joseph Jeffers, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster

Robinson Jeffers attained his Bachelor of Arts degree at 18 years of age from Occidental College in 1905.  After summer vacation he immediately enrolled in graduate school at the University of Southern California, signing up for classes in Spanish and Oratory, a course in Old English and having time for just one more class he decided to brush up on his German and signed up for Miss Borthwick’s Advanced German where the class would read and discuss the classic German legend, Faust.

Una Call Kuster Jeffers

Una Call was born January 6, 1884 in Mason, Ingham County Michigan.  Her father, Harrison Orlando Call was from New York and her mother Isabelle Lindsay from Michigan. Isabelle’s father, who lived with the Call’s, was from Ballyminstra, Killinchy, County Down, Ireland.  It was her Irish grandfather, who taught Una how to play the organ and encouraged her love of music.  She was also well educated and encouraged by her family to go to college.

At age 17, Una left her hometown to attend the University of California at Berkeley.  It was here that she met a young attorney, Edward “Ted” Kuster. Within the year they had married. 

The newlyweds moved to Los Angeles, where Ted set up a law practice.  Una adjusted well to the roll of a successful lawyer’s wife, she enjoying all of the upper-class social events that went along with the title Mrs. Edward Kuster. 
Una was intelligent and outgoing, tiny, a little over five feet, and had beautiful chestnut hair that she wore in a braid either long down her back or in a big loop around her head. But having married young and having left Berkeley before completing her degree, Una soon became restless with being just Mrs. Edward Kuster.  Ted adored Una and was very accepting of  her desire to return to college to complete her bachelor’s degree, as long as it did not interrupt the busy social or private life that they had together.

With Ted’s approval, Una returned to school in 1905, this time at the University of Southern California.  She registered for Miss Borthwick’s Advanced German and it was in this class that Robinson Jeffers met Una Call Kuster.  

To Canidia
Nay, is there need of witchcraft still,
Witch-girl, to  break my stronger will?
Of strange enchantments, and of song
In far pine-forests all night long?
What use is there of woven charms?
Have I not held you in my arms?
And is there stronger spell than this,
The burning memory of your kiss?
Or mightier charm can you prepare
Than the long wonder of your hair?
But tho’ the madness of desire
Burn body and spirit as with fire,
Tho’ the wild longing never cease
To seek out you and find out peace,
I, being more strong than you, no more
Will set my feet to seek your door. (1)

Robin and Una

“Una had an unusual and dangerous combination of gifts:  brains, beauty, and distinction.  Because of these gifts she attracted both men and women to her, making a lasting impression on all who knew her and exerting a strong influence on most of them.  There were few men who met Una who were not attracted to her.  Una herself was conscious of their interest with almost naive wonder, occasionally testing her power with doubting hesitancy in mild flirtations.

This was the young woman, then, who had attracted Robin.  It was not long before he was walking Una home from college, carrying her books like any other young man with his girl.  That their interest in each other at this time was very deep is doubtful.  When Nettie Carter, Una’s neighbor and good friend, asked her about Robin, Una answered, “Oh that’s just a young man who attends my German class.  He’s very gifted linguist and writes very immature verse.”” (2)

After the completion of his first year in graduate school, Robin accompanied his parents back to Europe where they lived at the Pension Tiefenau, and Robin entered the University of Zurich.  With instruction mostly in German, he took courses in Philosophy, Old English, Dante’s Life and Work, and, just because he had some extra time, Spanish Romance Poetry.

Then Robin became restless. His parents had hoped he would stay in Zurich, but in September 1906, when he had completed these courses, he returned to the United States.

His mother Annie’s physician had promised Robin a job back in California  translating German medical papers, which Robin accepted.  With this, Robin’s interest turned to medicine and he decided to enter medical school in the fall of 1907, at where else, the University of Southern California.

In 1908 Una Call Kuster received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California, and immediately began work on her master’s.  By this time, Robin and Una  were seeing each other almost daily.  Together, they were developing mutual interests and sharing social experiences. Neither ever considered including Una’s husband Ted in their adventures.  In fact  it had now been three years since Robin and Una met, and not one time in those three years had Una ever invited Robin to her home to met her husband.  

By 1910, Una’s marriage to Ted was in trouble and Robin and Una’s relationship had clearly moved beyond friendship. But Robin, thinking ahead, knew that he would not be able to support a family with Una until he received his inheritance from John Robinson’s estate in 1912, so he made the decision to put distance between himself and Una hoping that this would extinguish, or at least cool, their growing love for one another. So although Robin had distinguished himself in his medical school courses, and was offered a job teaching Physiology in Dr. Lyman Stookey’s medical clinic, he left medical school and along with his parents moved to Washington State where he switched gears again, this time entering the University of Washington to study Forestry. 

But this too would not last, less than a year into his studies of Forestry, Robin would be restless again.  Leaving Washington in the summer of 1911 and returning to Southern California, he spotted Una behind the wheel of her roadster in a busy intersection less than half an hour after arriving back in Los Angeles. This chance meeting reignited their love affair. 

In one last effort to try and save her marriage, Una agreed to travel by herself to Europe for a few months.  She and Ted had hoped that this time apart from each other, and Robin, would help them sort through their marital problems. Una left for Europe April of 1912.

It was that same year that Robin received his inheritance from John Robinson. With Una “out of the picture,” he decided to use some of this money to publish his first book of poetry, Flagons and Apples. It is in this book that Robin wrote of his turbulent on again, off again love affair with Una.  He sent a copy to her with this inscription on the inside cover:  “To my little Una, my dearest, Who is very responsible for this book but not to blame for it. R. J.” (3)

That same year, while Una was in Europe, her husband Ted met sixteen year old Edith Emmons, who was working in her fathers law office in Bakersfield. Though Ted was twice her age a courtship began between the two of them before Una returned from Europe later in the year.   

In 1913 divorce was scandalous, but in the case of Una and Ted, it was eminent.  The legal dissolution of their marriage became official August 1, 1913. The following day, August 2, 1913, Robin and Una were married, and so were Ted and Edith.      

Next: Robin and Una Jeffers
Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years 

Credits and Photos 

Black and White photo of Una Call Kuster 1908 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

Black and White photo of Una Call Kuster 1902, James Karman, Robinson Jeffers Poet of California, Photo from Jeffers Literary Properties.

Black and White photo of Una at Villa d Este near Tivoli, Italy 1912, Of Una Jeffers – A Memoir, Edith Greenan, Edited by James Karman, Published by Story Line Press, page 8, Photo from Photography Collection,  Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
(1) John Robinson Jeffers, Flagons and Apples (Grafton Publishing Company, 1912), 29.

(2) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 39.

(3) Bennett, 61.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle,, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years

Robinson Jeffers
The Early Years

Annie and William settled into life with their young son Robinson. In 1888, using some money from the $60,000 he inherited from his late wife’s estate, William built a three story brick house on Thorn Street in Sewickley, a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,  just a few miles from Pittsburgh along the Ohio River.

George Evans, a cousin of the Annie, writes of Robin during the early years, “During times when they lived within easy walking distance from Aunt Philena’s the Jeffers family usually came over in the evening.  My first pictures in memory of Robin are of a child of about four, being pushed in a child’s carriage by his father, who seemed to arch forward over it almost dangerously and gaze straight ahead at mother.  Then there came a couple of years later another baby, Hamilton, who took his place in the carriage.  Sometimes the mother would be pushing and in that case, the Doctor would be ambling on ahead, followed by Robin who would be imitating his father’s very walk and stoop and long steps.” (1) 

In the summer of 1891 Robinson traveled to Europe with his parents. In June, at age three, he started kindergarten in Zurich Switzerland. “He was allowed to dig in the sand to  make a little garden, planting his own seeds, the blooming to be eventually enjoyed some other little boy since Robin was taken out of the school in three weeks.  The following summer he entered in a kindergarten at Lucerne where he stayed for a somewhat longer period.” (2) 

In the fall of 1891 the Jeffers family returned from Europe to their home on Thorn Street in Sewickley. Much to William’s dismay, Robinson’s friends began to visit the house, a distraction that made it difficult for William to concentrate on his work.  There was only one way to rectify this situation, move.

In October 1893 the Jeffers sold their Thorn Street house and moved to Edgeworth, a borough in Allegheny County Pennsylvania about a mile from John Robinson’s house. This was far enough out in the country to give William the privacy that he desired, as it was too far for Robinson, now six years old to keep in touch with friends. The following year, 1894, Robinson’s little brother Hamilton was born.

By the time Robinson was ten, he had attended two kindergartens in Europe, a private school in Sewickley, the Park Institute in Allegheny, and the Pittsburg Academy.  Though well advanced in his schooling, he was starting to resent his father’s pressure to study constantly and ignore any contact with boys his age. 

Believing that his son’s would receive a better education in Europe, William decided that Robinson and Hamilton should attend boarding school in Europe.  Annie spent the next four years, from 1898 – 1902, abroad with her two sons, her husband joining them only during the summer.

For the first six months Robinson was in Europe, he attended Leipzig day school, where instruction was in German. In 1899 Robinson was moved to a school in Switzerland where the instruction was in French.  Now twelve years old he could speak German and French fluently, he had a good knowledge of Latin, and was able to read though not speak Greek.

When William visited his family that summer he decided to move Robinson again, this time to the school Château de Vidy at Lausanne, where he stayed for a year. Yet the next year he and his brother Hamilton, who was now seven, were placed in the pension at International Thudichum at Geneva. 

“Whether the doctor had an irrational compulsion about leaving his son in any school longer than a year or whether he had some definite plan, we don’t know, but every year that he joined his family in Switzerland he removed Robin from whichever school he was attending and placed him in another one.  It is no wonder that Robin kept to himself.  He probably thought that it was not worth the terrific effort it cost to make new friends, only to be snatched away from them.” (3)

Later Robinson Jeffers wrote of this period, “I had little or no companionship with other children, and spent much time in daydreams, but I don’t remember imagining companions (meaning playmates).  I was usually alone against the (imaginary) world,… Thus, up to fourteen or so, when I found satisfactory companionship of my own age.” (4)  

By 1902 Robinson’s early education must have been completed to his father’s satisfaction because Annie and her boys returned to America at which point Robinson, now 15, was enrolled at the University of Western Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) in September with a sophomore status.

In April 1903, William, now 67 years old and in poor health decided that the family should move again, this time to Long Beach, California.  The Jeffers lived there only a short time before a home was purchased for $4,000 in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, at 346 Avenue 57. 

That fall, Robinson now 16, enrolled with a junior status in Occidental College. It was here that he began to contribute his poetry to student magazines, The Aurora and The Occidental. The first poem Robinson received payment for, was published in the June 1904 in The Youth’s Companion.  He received $12 for his poem, “The Condor.”

The Condor
My head is bald with cleaving heaven,
And rough my feathers with the grip
Of clashing winds and clouds wind-driven.
But what of that?  My winds can dare
All loneliest hanging heights of air;
Above the jagged mountain-lip
Their solemn slant and downward dip
Greet the red sun each morn and even.
The storm knows well their broad expanse,
For they can breast its pulsing power
When even the steadfast planets dance
Dizzily thro’ the riotous rack
Of ruined, tattered clouds that scour
O’er heaven.  On the tempest’s back
I clasp my wings, and like a horse
I rein it, mastering its force.
Then, tiring of the sport, I stretch
Upward above its region, far
As if I strove to climb and fetch
The utmost little silver star.
Then I lean low with a flat wing
Upon the lucid air, and swing
Amid the regions of pure peace.
I reck not of the earth below,
But swing, and soar, and never cease,
In circles large and full and slow,
With such a movement, such a grace
That I forget my ugliness.  

For the first time since he had started school, Robinson continued in the same school for two years, graduating Occidental College with ten other students (the largest class at the time) on June 15, 1905 at 18 years of age.

Next:  Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part I Robinson Jeffers Family Background

Photograph Robinson Jeffers 1899 – James Karman, Robinson Jeffers Poet of California, Photo from Jeffers Literary Properties.

Photograph William, Annie, Robinson 1893 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

Photograph Robinson, Annie, and Hamilton Jeffers 1900 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

 (1) Letter from Evans to Melba Berry Bennett August 8, 1943 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 18.

(2)  Bennett, 21.

(3)  Bennett,  27.

(4)  Bennett,  23.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle, Family Background,, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers – Family Background

 Paternal Background

Robinson Jeffers grandfather, Joseph Jeffers, came to America in the early 1800’s from County Monaghan Ireland a Province of Ulster, his Grandmother Barbara’s family from Palatinate, Bavaria.  After their marriage, Robinson’s grandparents, who were members of the Covenanter Church, a Presbyterian movement, settled in Ohio where Joseph worked as a farmer and frontier schoolteacher. On May 1, 1838, in Cadiz, Ohio, William Hamilton Jeffers, Robinson’s father was born.

Raised in an extremely religious home, William Hamilton Jeffers graduated from Geneva College in 1855 and Xenia Theological Seminary in 1859, and became a minister.  In 1865 he took a position as a professor of Latin and Hebrew at Westminster College. From 1877 to 1885 he held a chair and was a professor of Old Testament Literature at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. By 1885, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers, A.B., D.D., LL.D., a brilliant scholar of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, with a doctoral degree in divinity and law, was a widower, and after the death of his two young sons, childless.

Maternal Background
Annie Tuttle was a descendant of William and Elizabeth Tuttle who came to America during the Great Migration from England on the ship Planter in 1635.  Born September 5, 1860, Annie was the second child of Edwin and Mary Tuttle of North East, Pennsylvania.  A few months after the birth of their third child, Mary Georgiana (Minnie), on May 19, 1863, Edwin Tuttle passed away leaving his thirty-one year old wife Mary Tuttle, in poor health herself, to care for their three daughters under 6 years of age.
Mary Tuttle lived eleven more years.  After her passing Annie, age fourteen in 1874, and her two sisters went to live with their father, Edwin’s first cousin, John Robinson, and his wife Philena in Sewickley, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
John and Philena had no children of their own, but having the means, he was a founding member of Robinson Brothers banking, they agreed to raise Annie and her sisters.
For seven years, Annie pursued the study of music. Then using her talent she taught piano lessons to the neighborhood children at John Way’s Edgeworth Seminary during the week, and on Sunday played the organ at the Presbyterian Congregational Church where her uncle John Robinson was an elder.
In 1884, Dr. Bittinger, the pastor of the Presbyterian Congregational Church who was in poor health requested a supply preacher.  Dr.William Hamilton Jeffers of Western Theological Seminary was contacted and asked to fill in during Dr. Bittinger convalescence. 
At the time it was customary for church elders to invite visiting preachers to their home for dinner. And it was here in the home of elder John Robinson, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers became acquainted with the church organist, Anne Tuttle.

Very soon it was evident to John and Philena that the visiting pastor was romantically interested in Annie.  “When the doctor asked John, “What is your objection to me?”  John replied tersely, “My objection is, you.”” (1)  But, the pastor finally won over the objection of the Robinsons. 

Dr. and Mrs. William Hamilton Jeffers
In a letter to her aunt Hetty Bosworth on February 10, 1885, Annie wrote, “A gentleman called here one evening, requesting a confidential talk with me, and when he went, I found myself engaged to be married! It happened a week ago, and I have hardly been able to take it in yet. I know you are surprised even more than I am, and I am awfully surprised.  He never paid me the least bit of attention publicly, and he lives in Allegheny, so it will be a perfect surprise for everybody here.  What is his name and business, and what does he look like, you say?  Prepare for another surprise, and perhaps a little disappointment.  His name is Rev. Dr. W. H. Jeffers, and he is a deal older than I am, and not a bit handsome; very tall and, in fact, quite homely but so good!  And so good and kind and thoughtful for me.  I am happy, and will be happy, though he is nearly twice as old as I am.”(2)
On April 30, 1885, 25 year old Annie and 47 year old William were married in the Robinsons’ parlor.  Immediately following the wedding, the newlyweds returned to Allegheny to a house at 723 Ridge Avenue where one of John Robinson’s brothers, Dr.Thomas Robinson and his wife lived. It was in this house on January 10, 1887 their first son was born.

Annie and William’s son was baptized April 30, 1887 of which Annie wrote, “Today being the anniversary of our wedding we thought it a very appropriate time to have the baby baptized. After considerable thought and discussion pro and con we decided to call our boy John Robinson.  Cousin John seemed pleased, and shows his appreciation in various ways; one way was by sending him a beautiful new dress for his baptismal robe…Cousin Thomas administered the baptism. The baby was just as good and sweet as possible all through the service; but afterwards when everybody began to talk and to crowd around him he looked around with a frightened gaze, his lips trembling and then such a piteous cry burst forth. He was soon pacified however, and just as good as ever…”(3) 

Next:  Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years 1891 – 1905 
Photo Annie Robinson Tuttle (Jeffers) – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966). 

Photo Robinson Jeffers, 7 months in baptismal dress from John Robinson  – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).       

(1) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers     (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 13.

(2) Bennett, 13.

(3) Bennett, 15.