The Hoovers spent many happy years at Rancho del Oso, south of Pescadero. When Mildred died in 1940, Theodore was grief-stricken but found solace in the memory of the Taj Mahal he had visited decades earlier. He recalled that this “wonder of the world” had been built in honor of a lost love–and Rancho del Oso–his natural wonder–was a testament to Mildred, his lost love.
Hoover eloquently expressed this sentiment in the epilogue of Mildred’s memoirs.
“I now understand,” Hoover wrote, “and see clearly that it was his attempt to form a concrete expression of that haunting mixture of pain and pleasure that is in the hearts of all good men who have ever loved and long loved and lost a loving and good woman.”
Theodore Jesse Hoover died at age 85 at his beloved Rancho del Oso in 1955. He never achieved the fame and notoriety of brother Herbert–but he lived a full life and is remembered fo rhis great love for a wonderful woman.
Theodore “Tad” Hoover was an early conservationist–and an honorary Fish and Game warden, a job he took very seriously.
In the 1930s, near full retirement, he was patrolling Waddell Creek on a Sunday, as was his custom, when he discovered three high school boys. They were fishing the headwaters of Waddell Creek far up in Big Basin country outside the Hoover preserve.
Upon questioning the kids, Hoover discovered they had been fishing without a license and had caught more than the legal limit of trout–way over the limit.
The boys explained that part of the catch was from the previous day and that they intended to bring home the entire batch to friends and family to show what great fishermen they were.
If that excuse wasn’t good enough, the boys offered another: the only reason they were there was because the game warden’s brother, President Hoover, had had terrific luck at that spot.
Theodore Hoover was unimpressed with both explanations even though one of the boys was the son of a state senator. He arrested them, confiscating as evidence the prize of their efforts, a magnificent 24-inch trout.
When the case came to trial, it was Theodore who urged the judge to be lenient.
Yes, the Pescaderan’s called Theodore (“Tad”) Hoover, “Our Mr. Hoover.”
One story that was told and retold–never failing to bring a smile–probably took place in 1935 when former President Herbert Hoover attended a barbecue with Stanford faculty and students at brother Tad’s ranch. On the beautiful drive to the Waddell, the ex-president’s car had a flat tire near the Old Davenport Landing.
A neighbor, County Supervisor Pinkham, offered to help. When he recognized the famous passenger, Pinkham said, “You’re ‘our’ Mr. Hoover’s brother, aren’t you?”
Mildred and Theodore (“Tad”) wanted to move in full time to their house at Rancho del Oso but Stanford University and Palo Alto had too many claims on them.
Theodore was still the dean of the School of Engineering and Mildred helped organized the Palo Alto Art Club, known today as the Pacific Art League. She was president of the club when the membership included the famous newspaper cartoonist James Swinnerton and artists Elizabeth Norton and Phimster Proctor.
Art club member and Stanford geologist Bailey “Earthquake” Willis had a special relationship with the Hoovers. Bailey’s son, Cornelius, wed the Hoover’s daughter, also named Mildred, at Rancho del Oso in 1922.
But the Hoovers visited Rancho del Oso at every opportunity.
As brother Herbert Hoover’s fame continued to skyrocket–ultimately as the 31st president–Theodore’s reputation as a resident of the Waddell also grew. After all he was he the president’s brother. To the locals, he was “Our Mr. Hoover.”
(to catch up, please see previous stories 1-6….Theodore and Mildred Hoover purchased property in the Waddell Canyon, south of Pescadero…Hoover was the dean of the Engineering School at Stanford, a conservationist and the older borther of the 31st president. Mildred was a writer whose books were published about California history).
Mildred’s study of the Waddell proved to be a labor of love. She learned its name was derived from William W. Waddell, a Kentucky woodsman who established a sawmill at what was t hen called “Big Gulch.” To move the lumber from deep within the Waddell canyon to a wharf near Ano Nuevo on thhe Pacific, Waddell had constructed a five-mile tramway., marked with more than 10 bridges, an amazing achievement.
This rough-and-tumble man also raised flowers in a hot-house near his home and built living quarters for his mill workers.
Waddell had prospered for a quarter century, taming nature but then nature, almost in retaliation, saw fit to cut him down. Waddell’s life ws ended as the result of an attack by a grizzly bear.
Upon Waddell’s death, the logging industry fell into decline–but the descendants of the mill stayed on, scratching out a living by farming and whatever else they could do to make ends meet. The Hoovers, who knew every inch of the property, befriended these folks and found them to be remarkable sources of local history.
At some point it became clear to many that Herbert Hoover was destined for greatness. He fulfilled that expectation by becoming a post-World War I international hero and later the 31st president of the United States.
By contrast, brother Theodore’s future appeared more modest, although he did become the dean of the School of Engineering at Stanford and traveled extensively with wife Mildred.
Theodore never had high political ambition but when something caught his fancy he could become willful and tenacious.
By 1898, he was enthralled with the sight of the beautiful Waddell Canyon near the San Mateo-Santa Cruz county line. Describing the stunning natural grandeur, he wrote of the “fern-carpeted redwood forest,” the “polychromic blue Pacific” and the “little Waddell river with its still pools and singing ripples running through the meadowed valley into the wide lagoon…”
The scenery was unforgettable, a setting of incomparable beauty, bursting with energy. “The Waddell” became an indelible image, forever a part of Theodore Hoover’s life.
He may have been Theodore to the world, but when they were alone Mildred affectionately called him “Tad.”
The young Iowa-bred couple had much in common. Similiar childhood experiences gave them a special understanding of each other. Tad knew how to comfort Mildred, emotionally scarred by the loss of her mother, who died of complications during Mildred’s birth. He had suffered similar grief losing his parents as a small child. They thought of themselves as “orphans,” providing inner strength for these “soul mates.”
It was not radom choice that led Theodore to Stanford. He had joined his younger and more ambitious brother, Herbert, also enrolled as an engineering student. Herbert excelled in the fields of geology and mining, and, like his older brother, he too fell in love with and married a gal from their home state of Iowa.
In 1899, Mildred Brooke, a schoolteacher from Iowa, and Theodore, an engineering student at Stanford, also from Iowa, were to be wed in a Palo Alto church.
Once the young couple had set the date, things moved quickly. The day before the wedding found Mildred on a train speeding from Iowa to California. As the train raced through the changing scenery, click-clacking closer to the big day, she passed the hours chatting with newfound friends.
Bubbling over, she described her soon-to-be husband: Reserved but a good raconteur, under the right circumstances, the life of the party.
When Mildred got off the train in California on June 6, she handed the new friends her “visiting” card. It read: “After tomorrow in Palo Alto as Mrs. Theodore Hoover.”
“You have had a half-century of splendid companionship and have the memories of them: for forty years you have had the beautiful, modest, dark-eyed Mildred of Penn College as a treasure in your keeping: treasure these memories and recount them.”
–John Jessup in a letter to Theodore Hoover upon the death of his beloved wife.
The passing of Mildrew Crew Brooke Hoover in Palo Alto in 1940 left husband Theodore desolate. How painful the loss was. He wondered if and how he could continued without her.