Next Biography

biographies by
 Faculty Discipline

Black Mountain
College Project


       William Edmund Treichler  

of birth:
July 24, 1924




1949 Spring Semester


Martha Treichler
Treichler Cottage


Recent issues of  The Crooked Lake Review.


Bill Treichler was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and moved with his parents in 1928 to a farm near Troy Mills, 24 miles north of Cedar Rapids. On graduation from high school, he took a three-month, defense-training course in engineering at Iowa State College at Ames. He then worked for the Corps of Engineers at Rock Island, Illinois, until he was drafted. Bill entered the army in September 1943, and in early 1945 was a B-17 bomber crewman stationed at Great Ashfield in East Anglia, UK. He returned home in November 1945, and took agronomy, forestry and animal husbandry courses at Iowa State College in the spring of 1946.

Bill’s mother first read about Black Mountain College in Milton Wend’s How to Live in the Country Without Farming (1944, Doubleday, Doran & Co., Garden City, New York) in which several schools, including Black Mountain, were mentioned. She encouraged Bill to apply, and he was accepted for the 1947 fall term.

On his arrival, Bill, whose parents had driven him from Iowa to Black Mountain, was dismayed by the unkempt appearance of the grounds and would have returned to Iowa had his parents not insisted that he give the college a try. Ray Trayer, who ran the college farm, willingly let Bill use the farm tractor and mower to cut weeds along the entrance road and around the Studies Building and library areas. A few people objected to the grooming, but when Albers, who was on a sabbatical returned for a visit, he gave the project his stamp of approval.

Shortly after his arrival, Bill was appointed student work coordinator. He was responsible for scheduling students with their choice of work-program jobs. In the spring of 1949 he was a staff member, responsible for grounds maintenance and other projects. Bill’s sister, Ann, came down from Bennington College in January 1948 for her winter work term and did various jobs.

On their farm in Iowa, the Treichler family was interested in organic farming and in the decentrist, rural, self-sufficient, three-generation-family life-style promoted by Ralph Borsodi. While Bill was stationed in England, he visited the Haughley research project where organic culture was compared to chemical farming practices. At Black Mountain he enrolled in Natasha Goldowski’s introductory chemistry class and continued in her physics and organic chemistry courses. She supported his desire to learn more about biochemical reactions related to soil fertility and plant and animal nutrition.

At a decentralist conference, Bill had been very impressed by a man who wore a homespun suit he had woven, and Black Mountain’s weaving curriculum had been an attraction for him. He enrolled in Trude Guermonprez’s weaving class and was provided with a loom for practice and experiment. The class visited Burlington Mills, and Biltmore Industries near Asheville. He also took Max Dehn’s “Mathematics for Artists,” Johanna Jalowetz’s bookbinding lessons, and Frank Rice’s German class, among others.

The Treichler parents remained enthusiastic supporters of the Black Mountain College ideal. In 1949 his mother joined him at the college to help with various projects. His father planned to join them later. By the end of the 1949 summer, however, there was little money for improvements, and when his father arrived, the family returned to the Iowa farm. Bill recalled that although he was disillusioned with Black Mountain College when he left, his classes, camping trips with faculty and many happy experiences with other students and staff were a balancing factor. He met his future wife, Martha Rittenhouse, also from a farming family, and they were married in April, 1950.

For fifteen years the Treichlers practiced their ideas about organic farming and decentralized living in a three-generation family setting. They settled on his parents’ farm where Bill, with his father, designed and built their home, a cottage using boards sawn from logs from the farm, purchased plywood, and cement. They salvaged bricks for a chimney and stone for flooring. Martha helped dig holes for footings, peel poles, and paint walls and shelves. Their five children—Rachel, Joe, George, Barbara and John—were born on the farm. In 1954, Martha and Bill organized a three-day Homesteaders Conference in the village of Troy Mills. Ralph Borsodi came and talked on living the good life. Other experienced conferees presented demonstrations on good nutrition, clothing, and owner-built rammed earth and concrete home construction.

By the 1960s a new dam was proposed on the Wapsipinicon River that would flood and force abandonment of the farm. Martha and Bill needed more income than farming, sawmilling, selling farm-produced whole wheat flour, fresh sweet corn and garden vegetables, and doing odd jobs to provide for their family of five growing children. They applied to teach organic gardening at small, private farm-based boarding schools and were offered a position at Colorado Rocky Mountain School. In 1966 they moved their family to CRMS near Carbondale, Colorado, where they farmed and gardened for the school. Two years later they moved to another rural, college-preparatory, boarding school, The Mountain School, at Vershire, Vermont, where, in addition to farming and gardening activities, Martha taught French and English and Bill taught science courses.

In the summer of 1975 the Treichlers moved to a farm they had bought in 1971 near Hammondsport, New York. In addition to homemaking, Martha worked as a food service director and a consulting dietitian at local hospitals and nursing homes to earn necessary money. Bill restored their 1830s farmhouse and farmed their 87 acres. They still raise much of the food they eat, heat with wood, and do their own construction.

The Treichlers presently live on the Hammondsport farm. Although their children hold jobs, four live at home or nearby, continuing the practice of multi-generational continuity and interdependency. Their daughter, Rachel, a lawyer advocates for the Green Party; John is an electrical engineer; Joe, a farmer and private contractor; George, a mechanical engineer; and Barbara, a lawyer, a homemaker who homeschools her her children in Tokyo.

In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal. The first 100 issues appeared monthly. Presently, it is published quarterly.


black mountain college project   biographies by  Surnames         Profession         Faculty Discipline       Order Added to Site