The Anacker and Lefever families probably met in 1956 when the Lefevers sent slides of their solar home and homestead to the School of Living (SOL) meeting which the Anackers attended. The Anackers realized the Lefever homestead was only about 25 miles north of their homestead at Maryland Line, so they came to visit. Through that visit, and more future activities, they became very close friends.
The SOL was started by Dr. Ralph Borsodi, who wrote many books, and you can research his background. This Ugly Civilization and then Flight from the City started the back-to-the-land community movement outside of New York City which was called the “Dogwoods.” Dr. Borsodi and his wife Myrtle built their homestead one small step at a time. It then became a working laboratory to make a self-sufficient life, create a healthy balance with nature, strengthen familial bonds, and become a school for living. Two well known people who got their start there were J.I. Rodale and his Organic Gardening magazine, and Paul Keene who started Walnut Acres.
Mildred Loomis became the Educational Director with Dr. Borsodi and organized all kinds of SOL conferences and homesteading seminars. She finally wanted to start an eastern center and that’s when Bill Anacker was approached about using some of their property for this. Bill was willing to sell the part of his land that included the old mill.
The call went out to SOL members to have them come to work for a whole week to get the mill ready for occupancy. Grace Lefever would organize all the food and meals for these work weeks. The Dee Hamilton family became the first caretakers and program directors at what became known as Heathcote Community. Many young people heard of this and began coming to be part of this learning experience. Mildred edited the magazine called Balanced Living, and later changed to the Green Revolution which was America’s original Back-to-the-Land magazine. There were many productive years with new Presidents of the SOL Board, and then lean years when people moved in and out of the community.
Mildred eventually left Ohio and Heathcote became the SOL Headquarters. Dr. Borsodi never got the real recognition that he should have received, but the new Green Revolution editor Bob Flatley is featuring a series of articles on the SOL history in 2011. Dr. Ralph Borsodi was one of the greatest thinkers and doers of the 20th century, who inspired many other famous decentralists, but he never received the recognition due him.
After many years of dramatic changes, Bill and Margaret left the original farm house and built their unusual round house up on the hill beyond the original buildings. Bill had a wonderful tree company and wherever he went and visited, he would work on people’s trees and put up swings. So he even had swings in the middle of his living room.
This article was written by Grace T. Lefever in 2011.
The top right photo is Bill and Margaret Anacker in 2001.
The photo above and to the left is a historic photo of the Heathcote Mill being restored.
The photo on the right at the bottom is Grace Lefever working on the Heathcote Mill.
Click here to see more historical photos of the SOL work weeks at the Heathcote Mill.