|History of Gavin’s Cabin
By Norm Hammond
Gavin's Cabin at Moy Mell
photo courtesy of
|This last photo is from the Virgil Hodges
collection, it shows Gavin's Cabin at Moy Mell in the
The view is looking northwest. The large building in the
foreground was the Community House. The next building
back is Gavin's Cabin. This photo was taken sometime in
the early 'thirties.
Chester Alan Arthur III (“Gavin”) was the grandson of the
21st President of the United States, Chester Alan Arthur. Gavin
was also the founder of Moy Mell, a Utopian colony in the sand
dunes of Oceano. He began construction of the colony in
September, 1931. Timber was dragged behind horses into the dunes
for the first building, which was Gavin’s personal cabin. The
Community House was the largest building at Moy Mell, and a
house warming for its dedication was on April 29-May 1, 1933.
Eventually, there would be five buildings constructed at Moy
During World War II, Gavin ceremoniously turned Moy Mell over
to the U.S. Coast Guard as a contribution to the war effort. For
the duration of the war, Moy Mell was used as an outpost for
soldiers who were patrolling the dunes on horseback.
Gavin enlisted in the U.S. Army during the early part of the
war, but was discharged before the war was over and then served
in the Merchant Marine. When the war was finally over, in 1945,
the high dunes had begun to move into the area of Moy Mell.
Partly because of this, Gavin had abandoned Moy Mell. The taxes
had not been paid and the county was about to auction it off for
Oceano realtor Harold Guiton Sr. knew most of the people in
the dunes, and he knew Gavin well. One day he happened to see
the listing for the public auction notice in the court house,
and the buildings at Moy Mell were on the list. He knew that
Gavin had been out of the area and might not even be aware of
the auction. As a gesture of friendship, he decided to pay the
small amount of back taxes for Gavin.
Later, when Harold happened to run into Gavin on the street,
he explained what he had done and said jokingly, “You owe me!”
Gavin laughed and said that he was no longer using Moy Mell,
and that Harold could have it. They both knew the dunes were
moving in and a twenty-foot dune was about to cover the two
remaining buildings, and time was running out. Gavin suggested
that perhaps Harold could salvage the lumber from what was left
of Moy Mell, and then they would be “square.”
That seemed to be a fair agreement, so they shook hands on the
deal. Later, on August 23, 1946, Harold gave Gavin an extra
$100.00 for the cabins.
Around that same time, Harold dismantled the Community House
for lumber. This was the largest of the buildings at Moy Mell
and the only one left with a fireplace. The fireplace was
salvaged and remains today in the home of Harold Guiton’s son,
Harold Guiton Jr. in Oceano.
Gavin’s cabin was jacked up and skid of long timbers was placed
underneath it. A bulldozer was brought in and a path was made
through the dunes to the cabin. The bulldozer was chained to
each side of the runners of the skid, and then the cabin was
dragged through the dunes to the beach. Once the cabin was on
the beach it was jacked up again and wheels were put under it.
It was then taken to Oceano where sat for many years on Paso
Robles Street and 15th Street.
The cabin was eventually donated to the Oceano Depot Association
by owner Harlis Wall. On September 14, 2010 it was moved to the
Depot grounds on Highway 1 where it remains today, as the last
remaining cabin from the Dunite era…