Cecile Page Vargo
On a hot summer
day, perhaps like the one you may be experiencing as you read this, Laura
Ingalls Wilder and her husband, worried over several dry years that were
scorching their Dakota Farm. She
knew she could sow the seed, but God would have to provide the much needed
water, and he just wasn’t doing that.
She speculated that God had created a higher atmosphere around the
earth that was full of moisture, just for the taking, and God had provided
man with the brains to figure out how to tap that force.
She had heard of a man in
named Charles Hatfield who supposedly
had learned how to do just that, and wrote about him in a little column
she wrote in May 1924.
Charles Mallory Hatfield, was known far and wide in the early 20th
century. Not only did the woman who
wrote “Little House” books about her own pioneer childhood days,
write of Charles Hatfield
and his drought curing abilities, he was legendary throughout
California, and the Western half of the United States, as well as Canada,
and Alaska. He was renowned as
“Cloud Coaxer”, “Water Magician,
“Moisture Accelerator, “Wizard
of Esperanza” or in plain English -
Wizard of Hope.. In
technical terms of the day, he
was a pluviculturist. As
Mrs. Wilder more simply referred to him, he was “Hatfield the
Born in Fort Scott Kansas in the year 1875, Charles Hatfield, and
his family moved to
sometime in the 1880’s. By
the 1890’s he was he was living on a
ranch or farm in Oceanside, California.
He went to school until
ninth grade when he decided to become a salesman for the New Home Sewing
Machine Company. When
he wasn’t busy selling sewing machines he was reading
“The Science of Pluviculture”, a book of crafting rain that was
had been written in 1871.
Soon he was brewing his own chemicals, and began experimenting at
the windmill on the property. Much
to his surprise, his secret mixture of 23 chemicals which may have
included hydrogen and powdered zinc, actually caused drizzle.
In 1904, At age 27, Hatfield had moved to
, and was still selling sewing machines, and still concocting his secret
rain remedies on the side. A
promoter of the day, Fred Binney, decided to let the world know about
Hatfield and his abilities, and began making promises that Hatfield could
come to your community and cure your drought woes.
Several Los Angeles ranchers saw Binney’s newspaper ads which
were appearing throughout California newspapers, and paid Hatfield $50 to
“lend nature just a little assistance.”
Charles, and his brother Paul, went to the slopes of Mount Lowe
and built a tall tower where he would then stand and release his
secret recipe into the atmosphere.. The
rain, as promised began to fall. The
ranchers, were so delighted they paid him twice his fee, and Hatfield
walked away with $100 and a new career.
The Weather Bureau of the day,
declared the Hatfield storm a small part of a larger storm that was
coming, but Hatfield’s believers made a folk hero out of him, and the
"Rainmaker" was well on his way to becoming famous.
required more rain as time went on, Hatfield
promised them 18 inches. He
produced all but a fraction of an inch of the 18 required, and received
$1,000 in cash. Charles took
the money and hit the lecture
himself more money and a new the
title. The “Professor”,
enjoyed spouting off
details of his rainmaking skills wherever he went.