Some Gilroy, California Convention Ground History
By Clair Bone, with input from Warren Bone and Bernitta (Bone) Woodward, 2008
Willie Jamieson and Irvine Weir had their first mission together in September 1905 in San Luis Obispo, according to James Bone’s Account. Bert and Retta Waite professed in their meetings and the Waite’s home was the first open home in California. The Waites were the parents of Eva who later married James (Jim) Bone, who were my paternal Grandparents. My Grandparents moved to Gilroy in 1955, and the first convention at Gilroy was held on their property in 1956.
Jim and Eva Bone had four children. Their daughter, Mable, married Roy Slater. Their oldest son, David, married Kay Hill and David was later killed in a plane accident. Their son, Bernard, married Wilma McKnight, and they had five children: Clair, Dellis, Warren, Colina (Bone) Drew and Bernitta (Bone) Woodward. Clair was in the work for 15 years. Jim and Eva’s daughter, Mary, married Milne Stearns and they have had the convention grounds at Buttonwillow, California; and their daughter, Barbara, has been in the work in Eastern Europe.
Eva Bone died in 1980, and Jim died in 1983. Bernard and Wilma lived on the Gilroy Convention grounds from 1980 to 1986. Mel and Edith Denio lived there for a few years in the late 1980’s. The Gilroy property was sold and a new convention was built at Mt. Ranch on the property of Warren and Sue Wainwright. The last convention at Gilroy was held in 1990 and the first convention at Mt. Ranch was held in 1991.
Grandpa and Grandma Bone had intended for their Gilroy home to become the home of Bernard and Wilma Bone after they were gone. My parents made their plans in the late 60’s and early 70’s centered around the fact that when it came time, they would be in a position to move to Gilroy and take care of Grandpa and Grandma Bone.
I believe it was in the early 70’s that Grandpa and Grandma moved a nice mobile home on to the Gilroy grounds near the main house and invited Ira and Corrine Reid to move into it. Grandpa and Grandma were in their waning years and the family felt it wise to have someone there who could keep an eye on them. Ira and Corrine had a child named April who had Down Syndrome, and they needed to be closer to her doctor. Ira and Corrine lived there until their daughter died. Some time around 1975, plus or minus, Truman Denio left the work and married June Arvig, and my grandparents invited them to move on to the place.
In 1980, Grandma suddenly died early in the morning on the first day of Gilroy preparations. That fall, my parents moved to Gilroy to take care of Grandpa, who died in January of 1983. At that time most of us five kids were already living away from home. Bernitta, the youngest child, spent a couple summers there and was married there. The next winter, Mom’s parents came out for a visit and ended up staying several months. Shortly before Grandpa and Grandma McKnight were planning to return to their home in Nebraska, in April of 1984, Grandma McKnight died. Three of my grandparents died on the Gilroy convention grounds in the same house.
After Grandpa died, things started going downhill for my folks. Grandpa’s estate had been incorporated for inheritance tax purposes a few years before, so Daddy was not the sole owner of the Gilroy property. The reason for the incorporation is found in a letter to Clinton Bone dated April 7, 1987, written by Eldon Tenniswood in which he stated:
“Two years before Eva died, Jim spoke with me and said that if either Eva or he would pass away the inheritance tax would be so great that the property at Gilroy would need to be sold in order to pay that tax. At that time I suggested having the place incorporated so the children would have more of an inheritance, and I mentioned that Jim J. Johnston would be able to advise him how best to do this as he had incorporation experience.”
Grandpa followed this suggestion and incorporated his farm. The name was Bone Farms, Inc. The shareholders were: James and Eva’s three surviving children, Bernard Bone, Mable Slater and Mary Stearns; and all of David’s children (David was a deceased son). Grandpa Bone was the president of the board until his death. Then Bernard was appointed president. The 3 surviving children and 2 of David’s children representing David’s family sat on the board. As issues developed regarding the sale of Gilroy, Jim L. Johnston and Ken Denio were elected to the board. Jim L. Johnston was appointed president of the board upon Bernard’s resignation as president, and Bernitta Woodward was appointed to fill Bernard’s place on the board when he resigned from the Board.
Bernard and Wilma Bone
Bernard Bone had sole responsibility for decisions regarding what was done on the grounds. The head worker of California, Eldon Tenniswood, objected to some of the ways Daddy was trying to farm the place. Daddy’s goal was for the Gilroy property to be self-supporting so he would not have to depend on other properties Grandpa held to support the Gilroy place. But the workers didn’t agree with his methods. Eldon went to other family members and got their input and in so doing caused friction amongst the surviving children.
When Daddy stood by his convictions, he was asked by Eldon Tenniswood to have the place appraised and to sell it to one of the friends; or the workers would “feel it would be best to change the location of the convention.” And that is what started Eldon’s attempts to get my Dad off the place that was his rightful inheritance. When a man came to Jesus about dividing an inheritance (Luke 12:13), Jesus didn’t want anything to do with it. However, ET thought he had a right to be involved, and he wrote Clinton Bone:
“Personally I feel the part the ministry had in this situation was very necessary. The ministry had nothing to do with the dividing of the inheritance. Our brother, Jim Bone, left a will stating how the inheritance should be settled…Never once did I feel that some of their children and grandchildren would be so quarrelsome and covetous for the things that belong to this life.”
One of the California friends, Mel Denio indicated an interest in purchasing the Gilroy convention grounds, and the workers approved.In an effort to be cooperative, my parents allowed the Denios to move into the big house before any papers were signed. My parents moved into the mobile home on the property. It was initially thought that the sale would go through during preparations or convention, and Daddy wanted a smooth transition. He didn’t want to stay in the big house any longer after he had been asked to leave.
The first two appraisals came in over $800,000. Daddy asked Mel Denio if $800,000 was a fair price, and Mel agreed to this price but said he needed some time to get the funds together. Mel and Daddy worked out a deal where Mel would trade some income property in the Lancaster area in exchange for Daddy’s share of the property payment and would pay the rest in cash for equal value to the appraised value of the property. The assumption was that as soon as a deal went through on some other property Mel owned, he would put the money down on Gilroy.
It was on the basis of this understanding, and in the belief that this deal would be closed shortly before convention, that Daddy agreed to allow Mel and Edith to move on to the property, and my parents moved into the aforementioned mobile home. And a little while later, my parents moved to Bakersfield. So in good faith, my parents moved out of their home, and off their land, believing they would be paid shortly.
However, after moving onto the place, Mel delayed in concluding the purchase. The Denios lived on the place and paid nothing for the privilege. My Dad had received no payment from Mel. As Mel continued to stall, Daddy was put in a terrible financial bind and finally had to ask for some consideration, in order for him to help Auntie Mable (in accordance with Grandpa’s will) and also to provide Dad and Mom with some income on which to live.
After consulting with his accountant, Daddy suggested that Mel pay him and Mable for options on their shares. They were legally able to negotiate payment to them individually as options on shares that they personally owned. If Daddy had asked for rent or interest, that amount would have had to be shared by all shareholders, and that was a larger financial burden than Mel was capable of at the time.
Daddy also asked that upon settlement, the other shareholders be paid an equal amount as interest on their portion of the sale. Mel agreed to this payment but delayed paying it. Finally, he made his payment to Daddy and Auntie Mable. On the check, he noted “Rent,” in direct contrast to Daddy’s express request. But, they were very desperate for the money, and Daddy didn’t want to delay further by insisting on changing this notation. Upon the final sale, Daddy’s share was reduced by this amount.
Mel had already taken possession of the property on the basis of the original agreement, and living on the property gave Mel leverage in the negotiations. Mel then asked for a change in terms. Instead of payments for three years at 10% interest (I think) as he had originally accepted, he asked for three years interest-free (this would have meant $240,000 less than the original agreement). This was refused by the board.
Then Mel obtained another appraisal based on the value of the property for a “walnut orchard,” which came in close to $500,000, which was substantially lower than the other two appraisals Daddy received. There were three appraisals made altogether. Daddy received two appraisals that were in excess of $800,000 and Mel’s appraisal for a “walnut orchard.” Appraisals are supposed to have as a basis, the property’s “highest and best use.”
The property was appraised as one parcel, and not the three separate parcels that it was divided into at that time. In reviewing the comparables, it became obvious that even using that appraiser’s numbers, as three parcels it would appraise at about $800,000 – as a walnut orchard.
There were negotiations, and right or wrong, the workers took an active part in them. They brought pressure on other shareholders (family members), coercion, made veiled threats and omitted pertinent information necessary to make an informed, reasonable decision. The workers whittled and chiseled at the sales price with the family and shareholders, using the lowest appraisal in their persuasion attempts.
The workers’ idea of “fair market value” appeared to be whatever could be paid by the new convention ground owners they had approved (the Denios). When Daddy insisted on Mel upholding his original agreement, he was accused of being hard to deal with and fraudulent. In effect, the workers divided the family, which resulted in some longtime hurtful rifts among the family members.
Some corporations buy the homes of their employees when they have transferred the employee to another location. An average is taken of three independent appraisals, and that is the amount the company pays the employee for his home. Seems a fair method. But that wasn’t how this matter was handled. It was Mel’s appraisal as a walnut orchard to which the workers and the Director of Bone Farms Inc. (Jim L. Johnston) gave their full support.
James L. Johnston
The Director of Bone Farms, Inc., Jim L. Johnston, was brought into the picture to help come up with a settlement. JLJ was the man Eldon Tenniswood used a lot to help settle business problems. He placed a good deal of confidence in JLJ and rumor had it that JLJ invested Eldon’s and the workers’ money for them. Daddy warned ET regarding Jim Johnston, as he knew about JLJ’s business practices and but his warning fell on deaf ears.
As a shareholder, Warren Bone wrote a letter to Jim Johnston, the Director of Bone Farms, Inc. dated Dec. 16, 1986, in which he stated:
“You supported Mel going back on his offer of $800,000 cash. On the strength of Denio’s verbal offer ($800,000 in cash), Mel was granted occupancy because he was part of the church; he could be trusted to keep his word; and he would be moved in before convention preps began…I believe you should have used your energies and persuasive powers to encourage Mel Denio to honor his agreement. You should have maintained the position of a director by seeking and demanding the highest price possible for corporate property. You should have acknowledged the fairness of appraising corporate property, not as a walnut orchard only, not as a convention grounds, but as what it is, a piece of property with whatever value it has for any purpose; then allowed each shareholder the opportunity to sacrifice, for the sake of convention, any portion of the value due them that they so desired. You by your actions have not only denied us as shareholders full value for our property, but you have denied us as children of God the opportunity to sacrifice! In conclusion, I ask that you resign your position as Director and Officer on Bone Farms, Inc. because you have violated your fiduciary trust.”
Before the deal was finalized, Warren posed a good question to Jim L. Johnston, Director of Bone Farms, Inc. in a letter:
“Is it proper, then, for you to have a voice in the sacrifice we as individuals are or are not willing to make for convention; or is it more proper for you to do your best to secure the best price possible for the corporation and allow us the dignity of making or not making our own sacrifices as individuals before God.”
It wasn’t until everything broke loose in the San Francisco newspaper about James L. Johnston (some 5 years after the sale of the property) that Eldon made the break from JLJ. A legal investigation into Jim L. Johnston’s businesses resulted in him losing his California contractor’s license, his home, and much more. He and his wife moved out of state.
Comments by Warren Bone
Finally, Daddy and all his children reluctantly agreed with the other shareholders to let the place go for about 60% of the appraised value, and the final price was $500,000 or $550,000. The Buttonwillow property also sold for $500,000. The fight had been dragging on and on and Daddy wanted to be done with it. I remember telling him that I would only vote for it IF he was sure that he could put it behind him and move on…let it go.
After the property was sold, Jim Johnston refused to pay Daddy some remaining $100,000 owed him from the proceeds of the sale. JLJ claimed there were accounting “irregularities,” and until those were cleared up he didn’t want to release those funds. In the meantime, he spent over $60,000 of corporate money in a vindictive attempt to prove that Daddy had defrauded the shareholders of $100,000. One of my brothers, one of my sisters, and I went to visit the corporate accountant and the corporate attorney in an effort to understand any outstanding legal liabilities there might be.
The accountant told us there were some minor irregularities, but nothing that was unusual or unexpected in a family corporation. She further said that she had encouraged Jim Johnston, as President of the corporation, to end his investigation, disperse all monies and dissolve the corporation.
The attorney said he had encouraged JLJ to wrap things up several times, and expressed some exasperation that Jim Johnston, in the name of the corporation, was persisting in his vendetta. In the course of this conversation, I asked the attorney if the workers’ involvement could be considered “undue influence.” He said that was a strong likelihood and one that he had never considered.
Warren Wainwright Steps In
Mel Denio had agreed to purchase Gilroy. The assumption was that as soon as a deal went through on some other property Mel owned, he would put the money down on Gilroy. From time to time the folks would ask Mel how the deal was going, and he indicated the deal would be going through “any day now.” Under that assumption, my folks moved to Bakersfield. Well, that “day” never came and the deal never closed with Denios.
Mel backed out of his verbal agreement with Daddy, and eventually, it was determined that the Denios were not financially able to purchase the property.
When he was initially approached, Warren Wainwright from Merced, California, was not interested in purchasing the Gilroy convention grounds. However, he did eventually purchase the place, at the request of those who were trying to make it possible for the sale to go through for Mel. It was not WW’s intention to buy the Gilroy property immediately. Rather, there was a contrivance for WW to buy the property and then convey it to Mel.
It was to be handled in this manner so that existing legal judgments against Mel would not take precedence over the shareholders’ interest during the disbursement of funds from escrow. Even after Bone Farms, Inc. was paid, Mel continued to live on the place for a couple more years.
After a while, Warren Wainwright realized that he was never going to get paid by Mel, he took possession of the property. I believe Warren Wainwright had said from the onset that if it were him, he would sell the Gilroy property and move the grounds to property that did not have such high value, as it did not make sense to him to have property that valuable tied up on convention grounds.
Subsequently, Warren Wainwright built a new convention grounds at Mountain Ranch, California, and the first convention was held there in 1991. Part of the decision to move the convention grounds may have been because they were having problems with county codes for the changes and improvements they wanted to make at Gilroy.
AFTERWARDS – Comments by Clair Bone
My folks did not get very much of the proceeds of the Gilroy sale after it was divided among the heirs. If the place hadn’t been sold at such a ridiculously low price, the amount they received would have been enough for them to have bought a decent home. Daddy used some of the funds he received to pay off a loan Grandpa Bone had made to him a few years earlier. Some of the family returned the money Daddy sent them and others kept it. After they left Gilroy, Dad and Mom never really had a real home of their own. They mostly lived in shacks that they fixed up to be comfortable.
My parents moved from Bakersfield to Reno to help my brother Dellis in his business for a while. Then in 1988, they accepted an offer from Jake Hill to lease/farm his wheat ranch at Starbuck, Washington. Also in 1988, I left the work after 15 years and moved in with them. They farmed Jake’s place for five years. The last few years Daddy was alive, they lived in a nice home Warren provided for them in Hemet, California. Daddy turned 79 on December 6, 2004, and died on December 24, 2004.
A few years later after the Gilroy convention grounds had been moved to its new location at Mt. Ranch, we learned that someone offered Warren Wainwright a lot more money than he had paid for the former Gilroy convention grounds; somewhere between $2 mil and $2.5 mil. He went to the workers and asked them what they thought about the offer. He was told that it would be unethical for him to sell it for that much. Why? They didn’t want word to get out about how much the property was really worth at the time my father was forced to give up his share of the inheritance left to him by his father. He did sell the parcel on the one side of the road with the house for more than $1 mil.
Warren Wainwright sold the Gilroy property for more than four times what was paid to the Bone family. Why didn’t the workers say go ahead and sell the place and give a share of the profit to Daddy and Mom for the stress and grief those involved had caused Daddy and Mom in their sunset years of life?
AFTERWARDS – Comments by Warren Bone
We had three main arguments:
• (1.) Mel was dishonest and was not financially able to purchase the property.
• (2.) The property was worth more than we were being coerced to accept.
• (3.) The convention would not be able to stay on the property much longer anyway.
All of these positions were borne out by subsequent events, but nobody saw fit to acknowledge how wrong they were to oppose us in our now validated contentions. After everything came to light, neither Eldon nor any of the other workers ever came to my Dad and apologized. The closest Eldon ever came to making an apology to Daddy was when he told him in a private meeting at Parma, Idaho Convention in 1989, that if he had that Gilroy thing to do over again, he would do it a lot differently.
AFTERWARDS – Comments by Bernitta (Bone) Woodward
A couple of summers ago, I drove by the old Gilroy convention grounds. The side of the road Grandpa and Grandma’s house was on was well kept. Wainwrights had sold all but the piece where the house sits and the rest is enclosed in chain link fence. The house looks great, but the yard and orchards have been let go. The side where the convention was held looked a mess. The trees in the walnut orchard Grandpa had spent his last years planting and bringing into production were all dead or in the last stages of dying. It was so sad. This property was later sold to the Benders.
CLOSING – Comments by Clair Bone
In closing, I will just say this about the legacy I feel my Dad left me in regards to this tragedy. He would not and did not sacrifice his integrity and the principles he lived by for place or honor among men. I want to spend the rest of my life living up to that legacy.
Paul Abenroth would have attended the funeral service for Daddy if he could have gotten a flight down to California, but because of weather conditions in the area where he lived, he could not get a plane out, so he faxed a letter to the family to express his feeling about Daddy, which was read at the memorial service. Paul had this to say about Daddy’s integrity… “His integrity: When firmness in ethics and honesty bore a cost, he paid it.”
Through the years, Daddy was asked by several to write his story down on paper, but it always brought up stress and many emotions whenever he thought about what those whom he trusted and loved did to him in his final years. So he left it unwritten. With his death, we have probably lost forever the whole story; things he never told us of private meetings he and Mom had with Eldon and Sydney Holt and others who were involved.
CLOSING- Comments by Warren Bone
Sometime after the sale, a meeting was held in Sacramento with several members of our family (Dellis and his wife, Linda, Mom and Daddy, Warren and I believe Bernitta and her husband, David Woodward), and Eldon and a couple of brother workers. During that meeting, I asked Eldon how he came up with a value at $400,000 – the price for which he had been advocating. He said, “That’s just what I thought it was worth.”
I then asked him about his experience in appraising real estate, to which he replied he had none. I finally asked him if he thought it reasonable that we were expected to accept his valuation of the property at less than half the value that was established by two men who make their living appraising property, and whose reputations and incomes depended on accurate appraisals. He replied, “I don’t know, that’s just what I thought it was worth.”
I asked him this series of questions because we believed that his estimation of value came directly from JLJ. Eldon refused to acknowledge the source of his $400,000 figure.
Now for those of you who have wondered about the outcome of Gilroy, we have just touched briefly on what happened…there is a lot more that could be written. This is just a short account of the part different ones played in the disposal of the Gilroy California convention property.
The above is input from Bernard & Wilma Bone’s children:
Clair L. Bone, Warren G. Bone, and Bernitta (Bone) Woodward
The following are the responses of Bernitta (Bone) Woodward collected from the Truth-Meeting Message Board (TMB) on July 24, 2008:
TMB Comment: At heart, it’s a business deal that went awry. It left some folks in a terrible situation, and it is very sad and it is very depressing. (Although one must take it all with a pinch of salt since it is written exclusively from the perspective of those who see themselves as victims). I see this is as just another case of the human condition – weak, and foolish, and greedy – in a fallen world.
At heart, this has nothing to do with a business deal. Our family would have NEVER sold the property had we not been pressured to do so at the time. Please remember…to others, this was the convention grounds; to us, this was the family home where we celebrated holidays, gathered as a family, and had many, many memories of our lives together. To use one’s authority and position of influence in the church to coerce another to do something that is against their will and against their best interest is called abuse, not “a business deal.”
Secondly, while I participated in the telling of the story, I need to clarify…I do NOT see myself as a victim!!! This account is a small part of the story…the rest of the story for me is one of restoration.
My amazing Heavenly Father used this situation to drive me to himself. This was the very circumstances that brought me to a place of despair where I met HIM!!! While it was painful, and the losses were at times unbearable, my only regret is for those that have not yet found a place of peace in their lives after the turmoil this experience brought. God alone can heal the wounds, restore the loss of relationship with beloved family members over lies that were told and misunderstandings as a result…and while I have no understanding of how, I believe that God has promised me that the stolen years will be fully restored. I am believing Him fully for that, and I have begun to see it. The things that happened were devastating on many levels, and some have not yet recovered from that devastation, and I weep for them.
I no longer attend meetings; I found I could no longer find peace in a place where I had lost trust and there was no effort to restore it. But I know my Heavenly Father and trust Him with the out-working of all the details in this situation. God is good, and He has healed the wounds in my heart. I know that my father had begun to heal of the depression he suffered for many years after these events and from the deep sense of betrayal from those he loved and trusted.
One of my biggest losses was the loss of our father. Throughout the time my children were growing up, their grandfather was depressed and sad. They never knew the man who sang, wrote poetry, delighted in practical jokes, loved words, spun brodies in the snow, or chased wild pigs through the orchard in his Cadillac! We began to see that emerge again just before he died. He had started to sing again.
Upon reading the Bone story, someone commented: “I see this is as just another case of the human condition – weak, and foolish, and greedy – in a fallen world:
• …weak – agreed…
• …foolish – agreed…foolish to believe in those we had trusted all of our lives to be men of honor and integrity
• …greedy???? I’m not sure where this is being applied…please understand that the dollars from the sale of the property was divided amongst 4 families.
My parents had left their livelihood to care for my grandfather during the last years of his life, and during that time the income from the property went into the corporate accounts, and they were given a small stipend for their living expenses. They did this with the expectation that Gilroy would be their home for the rest of their lives – the issues of money were issues of survival for them as well as for other family members.
Greed? No, their rightful inheritance!
I would not put that label on others in the saga – I do not fully understand the motivation behind much of what took place. Much of it remains a mystery to me as to why different ones did the things they did.
And yes, it was written from our perspective…the only one we have. I spent many months on the board (of the corporation my grandfather left everything in) trying to gain perspective. It was my heart’s desire to come to a place of agreement and understanding. To this day I do not understand much of what took place.
I find it deeply troubling that it is so easy to brush aside the pain and suffering of others. What breaks my heart about this story is that so many people were so deeply hurt – and so many are ready to brush it aside with comments regarding “letting the past be the past” or “a business deal gone awry” and on and on…My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived lives of giving and serving, and the family was cast aside as trivial and meaningless with the convention grounds taking priority to the lives and well-being of the family. And this is a story that has been repeated over and over among this group of people.
The command of Christ was to love one another…that His people would be recognized by their love…my experience of being unloved, unwanted, and cast aside was one of the things that led me away from this religious group. I, too, dealt with deep depression and other health problems before finding comfort, healing, and solace in the arms of a loving Heavenly Father, who has since led me to fellowship with people who love Him and love one another…who prioritize people and relationship as a priority. Some of my family that I dearly love have not found the peace I have found.
Please don’t brush us off as people who see themselves as victims…I don’t! However, the wounds inflicted are still a deep source of pain to some of my beloved family. To be able to brush that aside with a broad generalization about victimization is to be callous toward hurting people…and Christ said that we were to “bear one another’s burdens…” So maybe rather than seeing this as a sad and depressing story, I could ask you to allow your heart to be moved with compassion, to pray for those who are still trying to find their way out of the pain, and to consider that while maybe “just a perspective,” it is a perspective of people who God dearly loves – and who Christ died on the cross for.
I am not a victim… I am a blessed and beloved daughter of the King of all Creation who has promised to fully restore all that has been stolen by the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy! Above all, I am blessed, I am precious in His sight, and He loves me. Above all, I trust the God of Heaven to fully vindicate and fully restore.
None of this story is told to whip up anger or in search of vindication – simply telling our story as best we can – this is the life we lived. This was our experience. This was our pain, our burden to bear.
And God is still good.
View two sale documents signed by Shareholders of Bone Farms, Inc.