Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

D. J. Desmond
Stephen Mather's Weapon for Destroying David Curry
And Daniel Joseph Desmond never knew

What Stephen Mather did from 1914 - 1921 was to launch a series of assaults on the Curry Company.  His rationalizations for his attempts to remove the Currys from the control of the business they had capitalized and built themselves included a series of misstatements and outright lies.  He accused them of over-charging; not providing appropriate sanitary facilities; serving questionable meals, and of being more interested in profits than in serving the public.  In fact, Camp Curry was the largest and most popular destination in the Valley due to the hard work put into the operation by the family and those they hired. And employees loved working at Curry. Was it perfect?  Probably not - but it was affordable for middle-class patrons who wanted to spend time in Yosemite.  Having only a year to year concession it was not possible for the Currys to borrow money to put in better facilities.  These limitations made providing services to tourists difficult, but they worked to make Curry welcoming and succeeded in doing so. 

Every complaint uttered by Stephen Curry was an attempt to cover Mather's designs on ownership of Camp Curry. If it has been known Mather was engaged in self-dealing, with the cooperation of so many individuals who stood to profit by the institution of the National Park Service Congress would never have authorized establishing it.  Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane would have made haste to distance himself from any project associated with either Mather or Albright. 

Mather had granted Desmond Park Service Company (DPSC) a 20-year concession immediately.  In 1999 when Horace Albright's book, Creating the National Park Service:  The Missing Years, was published we discover Mather had actually been granting the concession to himself, as the majority owner of Desmond Park Service Company..

Mather was the major 'investor' in the Desmond Park Service Company and knew perfectly well this was illegal since he was the Director for the Park Service.  The money he poured into the Desmond Company, which was a cover for him, hemorrhaging money in his attempts to force David Curry into bankruptcy.  Mather was never a businessman.  His 'fortune' , considerable, he would be a billionaire in today's money, was all made through self-dealing.     

Instead, he depleted his fortune and desperately needed to get control of the Curry Company by 1917 - 1918.  David Curry died on April 30, 1917.  In his book, Albright's attitude was shocking.  As an attorney working for the Department of the Interior, it was his clear responsibility to report Mather for this train of felonies.  Instead, he covered for him.  

Horace Albright should have been charged; lost his bar card; and gone to jail with Mather.  But at the end of his life, Albright wrote a book, "Creating the National Park Service - The Missing Years,"  confessing what he had done, when he had known, and that his love of Mather had moved him to continue these criminal acts. 

In Chapter 8: Exploring the Parks, North by Northwest, 1915 of  the Albright confessional, The Missing Years, Albright writes, "Mather instantly assigned me to talk with David Curry, to relay Mather's intentions of strengthening his rival, the Desmond Company, and warning him to be quiet and take orders or find his lease nonrenewable.

I found the Curry situation a mixed one. Curry was as combative and difficult as everyone had said, but from the first moment I met her I loved his wife, Mary Curry, fondly called "Mother" Curry by all who knew her. I was sure no man was worthless who had a wife like her, and through the years her intelligence, good humor, and great common sense kept me from allowing anyone to do real harm to the Curry Company.

Mather was immersed in Desmond Company matters. He kept me out of them except for a bare sketch of his decisions. I felt he really didn't want me to be involved or even to know too much of the inner workings of that outfit. This was probably because he knew I was concerned and suspicious about the whole concession plan he and Dohrmann and the others had set up. Actually, I was more worried about his own financial involvement in that company."

1915 - 1918 not only resulted in the death of Curry's owner, David Curry, but saw Mather squander his own money, covertly fed into the company headed by Desmond, but owned by Mather, intended to drive Curry out of business. 

When this failed, the attempts to destroy Camp Curry continued. In Chapter 13, "Troubling Signs, 1916,"  you find out exactly when Albright was told what was happening and understand that, since the actions and cover-up continued to the day Albright died, his estate is still liable for the prosecution today, along with that of others who assisted, including Mather.  There is no statute of limitations when a death or grave bodily injury takes place.  

"Although Mather had cleaned up the Yellowstone concession problem, he certainly had not solved the concession problem in Yosemite. It was in worse shape than it had been the year before. His old enemy David Curry had slammed his foot in the door of a car and, because of diabetes, had contracted gangrene and died in April 1916. He had a bad apple of a son, and soon Mather and Foster Curry were locking horns. The whole mess was simply too much for Mather, so he tossed the Curry problem to me."   For Albright, being a 'bad apple," means fighting to defend yourself, your family and your property.  Albright goes on in a clear attempt to placate what conscience he has left by throwing Jennie Curry a bone.  You can rest assured Mather, using Desmond, already had issued himself a concession for multiple years through Desmond Park Service Company.  

"To solve this, I went to Secretary Lane, knowing he shared my fondness for Mrs. Curry and my sympathy for her difficulty in operating the company and reining in her son. After some discussion, we decided to let Curry matters drift, giving the company a decent franchise of five years and Mrs. Curry an opportunity to plan the future. Lane's only stipulation was that this was his plan, his plan alone, in case Mather got upset by the solution and turned on me."

"Lane had been frank with me in questioning Mather's volatile mood changes. I assured him that Mather was fine, that it was only stress. He had so much on his mind, especially Yosemite. " 
  As it true with psychopaths, they cannot be relied on to feel gratitude and, no matter what crimes they commit, they always think it is justified.   

"Desmond had resigned and left a financial disaster behind him. Two of his hotels burned down under suspicious circumstances. Then there were two huge hotels in the works, one at Glacier Point, and another, the Grizzly, on which construction hadn't gotten beyond some foundations. The service, food, accommodations, and bookkeeping were in their usual mess. Creditors were howling like wolves at the door. The San Francisco backers paid a cash advance of seventeen thousand dollars and then were forced into a voluntary sixty-percent assessment on their shares."   D. J. Desmond came from a respectable family and, if he shared the details of his venture with them they would have demanded he leave.  Nothing further is heard from Desmond.  

"Of course, Mather was financially involved in all this. I never asked and I never knew the exact details. His Chicago attorney handled it all. From a legal standpoint, though, this scared me as it had earlier. Should Mather's involvement become common knowledge, he would probably be dismissed from the Interior Department, and the high regard in which he was held might be permanently damaged—and the National Park Service with it."  Albright clung to the idea that allowing tourists into lands that were to be preserved in trust in perpetuity justified his actions.  But this is not the case and was not the motivation for Mather, who used the Park System for the ends of his corporate associates, which Albright should have known. 

"I delicately tried to talk to Mather about it, but he just clamped his mouth shut and would not say a word. Fortunately, once more, by telling me nothing, he kept me out of the situation, but I knew he was deeply concerned and worried about his favorite park and his favorite project."   The classist distinction which is clearly exhibited in Albright's statements was coming into existence in America from other sources as well, but it must be noted that the vehicle by which these were gestated includes the University of California at Berkeley and other major institutions paid for by taxpayers.  Horace Albright was not a member of the elite.  But he came to crave the advantages of money.

"To get his mind off his problems, Mather did two things. First, he engaged in a frenetic social whirl. Mrs. Mather lived in Chicago. He lived at the Cosmos Club in Washington. He hated being alone. He rarely was. He loved entertaining friends and did so with a lavish hand. There were luncheons for congressmen, writers, and anyone else whose company he enjoyed, dinner parties at the Cosmos Club for men only, and lovely suppers at the finest hotels, with theater parties afterward, for mixed groups.

One of the most beautiful evenings was a large party he gave in honor of Grace's twenty-sixth birthday on October 23, 1916. It was at the Willard Hotel. At her place at the table was her birthday present, twenty-six pink roses in a magnificent Dresden china bowl. After dinner, we all went to the Belasco Theater to see The Boomerang, then to a supper club for a midnight repast and dancing. Mather was one of the most thoughtful, kindly, and generous men I ever knew."

When Mather died at age 62 on January 22, 1930.

The arrogance and disregard of the law confessed by Horace Albright did not end with the theft of the Curry Company by the D. J. Desmond Company.  It went on until he finally died on  March 28, 1987.  He instructed his publisher to wait to publish his book until 1999, long enough he hoped for his crimes to be forgotten. 

The Assault on David Alexander Curry and his family's business

Oakland Tribune, July 13, 1915 Page 9

Oakland Tribune, July 20, 1915 Page 12

Desmond Park Service Company first makes it appearance in 1915 during Mather's built up to justify creating the National Parks.  This began only after he and his partner in crime, Thomas Thorkildsen, had successfully fleeced their previous employer, Borax Smith of a fortune.  Thorkildsen went directly into a life of excess and dissipation in Los Angeles; Mather decided on a new enterprise.  He would take control of the concessions in the National Parks, claiming a monopoly was the only way to improve services to tourists.  This, he believed, would allow him to steal the equity built up by David Curry and his family, who had founded and run Camp Curry since starting with seven tents in the spring of 1899.  Even   If those then running the Parks for the Department of Forestry had allowed concessionaires licenses for long enough periods to justify their own investments in infrastructure there would never have been a question on this.  

Until 1913 Daniel Joseph Desmond was finishing his work for the Los Angeles Aqueduct Project, providing meals for the construction crews.   We may never know how Mather found Desmond.  But, as is true with psychopaths, Mather could be persuasive and he knew from the outset he needed to have a fall guy if things went wrong.  Desmond, like most decent people, likely could not imagine the ugliness he could be facing.  

Self-dealing is a felony, and this is what Mather planned from the beginning.  Since he knew this he needed a frontman, lighting on D. J. Desmond.  There is no evidence Daniel Joseph Desmond had the kind of resources which made it possible for him to start a company that could undertake so many expensive projects simultaneously.    Horace Albright reports in Chapter 4: Enter Stephen Tyng Mather, 1914-15,"  his book,  he met Mather in December of  1914.  Albright writes, "I never referred to Stephen Mather as Steve or even Stephen. He was always "Mr. Mather." That summed up the love and respect I had for the man. He altered my life forever and made me a better man for it. There was an old saying: "These fellas remind me of each other—they're so different." That fit Mr. Mather and me. And yet the longer we were together, the more we melded into one team, an indivisible unit. The relationship we formed in 1914 not only deeply enriched my life, but I believe proved of great significance for our beloved country.

It all began in December 1914. By now I was handling most of the work assigned to Adolph Miller's vacated office as well as tasks in Secretary Lane's office on a regular basis, various inter bureau problems, and congressional matters. I also was forming plans to leave Washington permanently when the winter was over.

Unknown to me, Lane was investigating a new man to fill Miller's position. It came about in this way. There were always hundreds of letters to Lane with complaints of one sort or another. He was a diligent worker and actually read scores of these and, what's more, paid attention to some. He even answered a few in longhand. One day in the late fall of 1914, a particularly critical but very interesting letter came to his attention. It was written by a Stephen T. Mather of Chicago. It seems he was a native Californian, had become a millionaire with a borax business he had out there, was a member of the Sierra Club, made frequent vacation trips, climbed mountains, and took an active interest in the national parks of the region—and happened to be a graduate of the University, of California."

Horace Albright was bowled over by Mather, who introduced him to a life style far removed from the one he had grown up with in Bishop, California.  

David Alexander Curry and his family were not Stephen Mather's only victims. You are about to meet Daniel Joseph Desmond, the younger son of Daniel Desmond, who opened the original Desmonds in Los Angeles.  You will also get to know Cornelius Charles Desmond, who took over the company when his father died in 1903 and was respected for his continuous work and donations to local charities of all kinds.  His two sons, Cornelius and Daniel, would go north to San Francisco in the wake of the Earthquake and Fire to provide relief.  ​ ​​

You will also get to know David Foster Curry, a young man of rectitude who grew up in a business he was to lose. Superintendent Washington B. Lewis, who was appointed a superintendent for Yosemite on March 3, 1916, after the departure of Mark Daniels, was placed because, as remarked by Horace Albright, he would do anything asked of him.  In this case, the anything was to denounce Foster Curry and so grease the skids to clear the way for the takeover of the Curry Company by Stephen Mather, this carried out by Don Tressider.  

The Curry Family

David Alexander Curry & Jennie Foster Curry

David Alexander Curry, born February 15, 1860, at Bloomington, Indiana
Married on April 6, 1886
Jennie Etta Foster, born October 12, 1861, Rushville, Rush County, Indiana

Their Children

David Foster Curry
born May 9, 1988, Died November 21, 1932

Married 1st - May 27, 1912
Mary Cherry of Sonoma

Children of Foster David Curry & Mary Cherry 

Katherine Cherry Curry
Married June 17, 1933
William M. Randle, Los Angeles

Married 2nd - June 11, 1925
Ruth Woolsey of Los Angeles  

Children of Foster David Curry & Ruth Woolsey Higgins

David Andrew Curry
John Curry
Jeanette Ruth Curry

Mary Louise Curry
Born November 29, 1893, Died October 29, 1970, Ahwahnee, Yosemite

Donald Tresidder June 18, 1920
Tresidder died January 28, 1948 
     No Children of Union

Marjorie Lucille Curry
born April 11, 1895, died July 10, 1975 in Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii
Robert Tatman Williams Sr, born September 24, 1895,
died, November 6, 1987

Majorie and Robert's Children

   Robert Tatman Williams Jr.
born October 31, 1918, died March 25, 1994
              Married, February 27, 1943, Yosemite to:
   Roberta Kincaid Williams
 born March 2, 1916, died July 6, 1987

 Marjorie Williams Woods
 born December 15, 1920, died October 6, 1987

Daniel Joseph Desmond