Wife Esther Murphy
Edgeplain, 1106 N. Nevada Avenue, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hill House, Halcyon, Oceano, CA 93445, and later Paso Robles St & CA-1, Oceano, CA 93445
Gavin Arthur (born Chester Alan Arthur III; March 21, 1901 – April 28, 1972) was a San Francisco astrologer and sexologist and a grandson of American President Chester A. Arthur.
He has been described as "an Ivy League dropout, an Irish Republican Army activist, an experimental-film actor, a commune leader, a gold prospector, a teacher at San Quentin, and a bisexual sexologist/astrologer. An early gay rights activist and a practical prototype for the hippies."
Arthur was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1901 to Chester Alan Arthur II and his wife, Myra Townsend Fithian Andrews. He was their only child. Arthur's father's part-ownership of a mining and ranching company gave the family a comfortable living. Arthur attended Columbia University, but did not graduate. After leaving school he married Charlotte Wilson in 1922; they were divorced ten years later.
After leaving college, Arthur worked in the Irish Republican Movement, living in New York, France, and Ireland. He was once jailed in Boston in connection with the movement. While in Europe, Arthur and Charlotte had roles in the 1930 avant-garde film, Borderline, which also starred Paul Robeson and H.D. In the early 1930s he moved to Pismo Beach, California, and adopted the name "Gavin," by which he would be known for the rest of his life. While there, Arthur founded an art and literature commune and published a short-lived magazine, Dune Forum. In 1934, he joined the Utopian Society of America. The following year, he married Esther Murphy Strachey.
In 1931, when Gavin and his friend, Carl Beckstead, began working on their Utopian Society, named "Moy Mell", within the dunes, the first order of importance was to build a cabin, one which would supply them with all the comforts of the outside life (minus running water and electricity). The ornate metal fireplace, one which had graced the family home in Montecito, became an object of curiosity to Gavin's fellow Dunites whose only fires were those made with whatever driftwood and brush that came their way. Gavin's promotion of a monthly magazine, with contributions made by friends who happened to be the top figures in the art and literacy fields of the times, brought the first edition of the Dunite Magazine, "Dune Forum" to the newsstands in January of 1934. The magazine folded four months later when it was found to be a bit too heady (and expensive) during those years of the Great Depression.
Most of the odd assortment of "free spirits" who inhabited the Oceano Dunes off and on during the first half of the XX century went to the londy hills of sand trying not only to escape "the establishment," but to seek solitude, and to create a Utopian society within the confines of the dunes. Gavin Arthur, unlike his fellow Dunites, came from an aristocratic background where money provided him with an education and life that was only available to the ultra-rich. Gavin inherited great sums of money from his family at various times in his life, money which he spent in chasing his dreams. Gavin embraced the life of a Dunite as a means of gaming enlightment. At 30 years of age, he was younger than most of the dune's squatters, and was considered to be highly educated man with many personalities and more than a bit eccentric.
Although Gavin was an architect, it was easier for him to inherit money from his wealthy relatives than to work for a living. "Hill House," the house that he'd built on the 45 acres that he'd purchased in Halcyon for a $5 an acre, was a stopping-off place for his friends who were passing through on their way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The open doors and the well-stocked bar made it a pleasant place to spend the night. Gavin, however, rarely spent time there and wound up selling half the property for $50 an acre in order to raise money when the taxes and insurance on the land became due. He lost the rest of the property while awaiting the demise of his Uncle Charlie, and the ultimate inheritance that he'd receive from his dear old uncle. Uncle Charlie's health held up longer than expected, and when the tax bill became delinquent again, Gavin sold the property for the amount owed. Shortly after the "Dune Forum" went under, Gavin left for New York to join "Mankind Unlimited," another group formed in search of the great Utopian dream. However, he returned every now and then to resume his life at the dunes.
Eschewing the Republican Party of his grandfather, Arthur served as secretary of the California Democratic Party in 1940 before resigning the following year, convinced that the party had betrayed his principles. At the outbreak of World War II, Arthur enlisted in the United States Navy.
During World War II, Gavin permitted the Coast Guard to occupy Moy Mell, and by 1942 soldiers manning machine guns were on the lookout for enemy submarines along the coast, a watch that continued for the duration of the war. In 1944 Gavin Arthur had a birthday party for Ella Young, a lesbian Irish poet, on her 77th birthday anniversary. Other guests included Noël Sullivan and John O'Shay, coming from Carmel. Eventually though, Gavin Arthur had enough of the dunes and Moy Mell was abandoned. His private house on Moy Mell was taken into the town of Oceano where it still sits near the corner of 13th and Paso Robles streets.
In the 1940s, Clifford McCarthy lived with Arthur at Hill House, and listed Chester Alan Arthur as contact person in his enlistment papers.
In 1945, Edmund Tolk was an interpreter in Camp Hartford, a branch German prison-of-war near Hartford, WI. At the time he was living at Hill House, Oceano, an house owned by Gavin Arthur.
After the war, Arthur moved to New York and undertook to write a family history, which was never completed. Returning to California in 1949, Arthur taught classes at San Quentin State Prison for several years and attempted a living as a gold prospector. In 1952, he finished his bachelor's degree at San Francisco State College. Often low on funds, Arthur sold newspapers on the streets of San Francisco in the 1950s and 60s. At the same time, he began to gain fame as an astrologer. Arthur and his second wife, Esther, were divorced in 1961.
In 1962, Arthur published The Circle of Sex, a book that analyzed human sexuality through the lens of astrology. Rather than the linear scale developed by Alfred Kinsey, Arthur envisioned sexuality as a wheel with twelve orientations. The twelve types corresponded to the zodiac and Arthur illustrated each with an historical archetype (e.g., Don Juan, Sappho, Lady C). Arthur, bisexual himself, was said to have been intimate with Edward Carpenter and Neal Cassady. Arthur was also a friend to many of the beat generation, including Allen Ginsberg and Alan Watts, and was active in the early gay liberation movement.
Arthur married for the third time in 1965 to Ellen Jansen. He wrote an enlarged edition of The Circle of Sex the following year. He used astrology to determine the date to hold the Human Be-In in 1967. In 1968, he debated fellow astrologer Dane Rudhyar on the topic of the Age of Aquarius.
Chester A. Arthur, III, one of the earliest "hippies," wound up selling newspapers from a roadside stand in San Francisco and teaching a class at San Quentin.
In 1972, Arthur died at the Fort Miley Veterans Hospital in San Francisco. Having no children himself, he was the last living descendant of his grandfather, President Chester A. Arthur. The funeral procession, filled with all of his hippie friends, created a sensation.
His papers, including many family papers, were donated to the Library of Congress.
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