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Title: Social Community Experiments
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At the beginning of the 19th century both Europe and America began dealing philosophically with social problems. Robert Owen was Englands's first socailist, and Frederick Rapp who had emigrated from Wittenburg, Germany, to Pennsylvania was the first socialist in the United State of America. The majority of Rapp's followers were German Lutherans and located at New Harmony, Indiana in the year 1814. Many persons over widely distributed territory in the United States became interested in the socialistic movement of Owen in Scotland and Rapp on the banks of the Wabash in Indiana. Among them was a group in Warren county, Ohio, who concluded to establish a community. They began their organization about 1820 and finally decided to located near Stone Bluff, in Fountain county. They adopted a constitution for their government and named their organization "The Coal Creek Community and Church of God." In deed record number 1, page 121, in the office of the recorder of Fountain county, Indiana, can be found a copy of their constitution, but for the purpose of this article, I am interested now in article 27 thereof, which is as follows: "This constitution by unanimous consent and agreement of every member who signed the Original Manifest of the Church of God is by unanimous consent adopted in lieu of said Manifest, and all rights, immunites and benefits held by any memeber in the former Church of God, concerning property of any kind and the means to promote happiness is and shall be held by every member as in the principles contained in this constitution, and the society formerly known as the "Church of God" shall hereafter be known by the name of the 'Coal Creek Community and Church of God.' In Witness Whereof we hereunto set out hands and seals this fifteenth day of December, eighteen hundred and twenty-five. Signed:
Jonathan Crane (Seal)
Oliver Osborn (Seal)
Haziah Crane (Seal)
Mathia Dean (Seal)
Isaac Romine (Seal)
William Ludlow (Seal)
Elizabeth Romine (Seal)
Ann Ludlow (Seal)"

The following were also member of the community: Daziah Crane, Ruth Crane, Hannah Chadwick, Phoebe Crane, Harry Crane, Chester Chadwick, Hulda Osborn, Jacob Crane, and Enoch Boling.

On the fourth day of February 1832 William Ludlow, one of the members of the sociery, filed a complaint in the Fountain Circuit court in which he says that sometime in 1823, in the county of Warren and State of Ohio, he entered into an agreement with Jonathan Crane, Mathias Dean, and Enoch Boling who were all of them resideing in Warren County, State of Ohio, in which a constitution was agreed upon to form a society which was known as "Church of God and "Coal Creek Community." That their object in forming such a constitution was to ameliorage the condition of men by destroying individual aspirations for wealth, and establishing a system of equal rights and privelages upon the principle of the golden rule; to hold property , both real and personal; in short, to inculcate and foster every principle calculated to increase the sum of human happiness, in this world of strife and conflicting wants. He further declares that in order for more effectually increase the operation of the society it was agreed that each individual should furnish whatever money he could raise for the purpose of purchasing land, which land should never be held or descended individually. It was expressed in said constitution, he says, that not only those who were but those who might become members, might enjoy ownership of the property, both real and personal.

That an application was made to the United States government for the entry of land with the request that patents should be issued according to the membership and all who should become members of the society, which was refused by the officers at the land office on the ground that no corporation existed and the land must be entered in the name of one or more persons. Individual entry was made of fourteen tracts of land in the name of Jonathan Crane, Isaac Romine, Enoch Boling, Olive Osborn, and Mathias Dean, on behalf of said society. The lands thus entered were situated on Bear and Coal creeks, in Fountain county, State of Indiana, in all 1182 acres. Immediately after purchasing the land the members of said society expressed their determination to remove to the lands entered in Fountain county for the purpose of going into practical information according to agreement. That that constitution, on account of some omission was rescinded and a new constitution by unanimous consent adopted, not changing in the slightest the original design of the society but containing clauses calculated to carry the designs more completely into effect.

Mr. Ludlow further says that he moved with his family to said lands with the firm conviction that the original agreement would be carried out, and that his family would be provided with a comfortable life, secure form the buffetings of adveristy and removed from the reach of avarice and strife.

March 31, 1832, Jonathan Crane and Olive Osborn filed an answer to this compaint in which they say that an association was formed in 1823 as described in the complaint, and that the agreement under which such society was formed in writing and signed by the members was called "The Manifest of the Church of God." They set out the names of some of the signers and say; "It was expressed in said manifest that no person should be considered a member whose debts exceeded the amount of stock brought by him into the community, altho he signed the manifest, and further say that they do not admit that all members of society should, while they continue such, be entitled to an equal participation of comforts and benefits with a right when anyone ceased to be a member to receive back the property by him advanced in kind, quantity and quality of its value, and nothing more unless gratiously given by the society, of all property or money brought into the society by each member, which was so kept and the members who lived upon the community's land were to contribute labor and skill for the common benefit. But it was contrary to every understanding, principle or agreement of the society tat these services should form the basis of a claim upon any member upon his withdrawal." They admit the purchase of fourteen tracts of land mentioned. The entry was made variously inthe names of some or all of the members not individually, as charged but as trustees or members of the said community, and the answer states that on January 18, 1830, the complainant, William Ludlow, pursuant to the provisions in said constitution to that effect, broke off his connection with said society and movd to New Harmony, with all the male members of his family, where he remained nearly a year. The female part of his family in the meantime were supported out of the funds or property of the society pursuant to the philanthropy upon which the constitution was based. On the return of the complaintant, at his urgent request, it was granted to him out of pure charity and not as yielding to any right of his that he might go upon a portion of the lands of the community, that since his said withdrawal he has never according to the consitution been received as a full member and has never brought any money or added stock into the common fund; and that on October 9, 1830, said Ludlow by act and decision of community being no longer a member, in effect had tendered to him the amoung of funds by him contributed, which had not been entirely repaid to him before concluding his interest; and shows further that the fifth article of the constitution providing a person ceasing to be a member should be paid what he has contributed in kind, quantity, and value within a certain time after it is demanded, and they deny that it is not now nor never was their intention to enrich themselves by getting into their hands property of any other person and deny departure in their behalf from the true ends of the association and all fraud or conspiracy among the society or among other persons but show that on the contrary several members have withdrawn since the association has been formed, and have been reimnbursed pursuant to the constitution; That on April 24, 1824, shortly after the formation of the society and before the new constitution and indenture was entered upon and sealed by all the members thereof expression of a relinquishment of any apparent individual interes, or title which they might have in land by fructuary interest which all the members were intended to have under the manifest and which deed or indenture was made in accordance with said manifest and its true intent explained by the constitution afterwards adopted. The community and equality of interests in the property of the members and not the ownership, the economy and mode of operation of the labor, and thereafter it was expressly provided what each should be entitled to upon his withdrawal.

A separate answer made by Enoch Boling on same day sets up the same facts and further says that on the 15th of June 1827 he formerlly withdrew from said community and received what he had advanced to his satisfaction, and that he received the north-east quarter of section 26, town 20 N. range 8 west and has no further connection with said society. He states further that to some of the defendents the constitution has been a continual expense, while others derived more than their share of benefits from the society.

In 1850 Isaac Romine, who had been a member of the society, associated himself with John Wittles, Esther Wattles, A.L. Childs, Alvin High, Thomas Scott, George Brier, John Gass, Washington Waltz, Lucy Waltz, Leroy Templeton and Edgar Ryan and organized the Grand Prairie Harmonial Association. Mr. Romine had been a member of the Coal Creek community and Church of God in Fountain county, and still thinking that such a community might be successfully conducted to the advantage of its members and to society in general donated two thousand dollars in trust for the use of this association and placed it int he hands of John Wattles to be by him expended in the purchase of real estate, and in the erection of buildings, and after such purposes and labor the whole to be deeded to the trustees to be held in trust by them for the uses specified in the constitution and by-laws; and it was provided that all property like that of Fountain County Community of which Mr. Romine had been a member, should be held in common, controlled by a board of trustees, and that conduct and labor should be regulated by constitution and by-laws.

The following is a copy of the deed of the trustees of the Warren county society:

Know all men by these presents, that we, John O. Wattles and Esther Wattles, his wife, of Tippecanoe county, State of Indiana, in consideration of the premises and one dollar to them in hand paid, the receipt whereof if hereby acknowledged, do hereby give, grant, convey, bargain and sell, to Horace Greeley, of New York, Thoams Trusdale, of Brooklyn N.Y., Edgar Ryan, Charles High and James R.N. Bryant, of Warren County, Indiana, trustees, and to their heirs and assigns the following real estate to-wit: The north east quarter of section 5, township 23 north, range 9 west, containing one hundred sixty acres more or less, also the east three-fourths of the south-west quarter of the south-east quarter of the same section, containing thirty acres more or less; also the north east quarter of the south east quarter and the east half of the south west quarter and the east half of the north west quarter of the northeast quarter of section 8, in the aforesaid township and range, containing 120 acres more or less, together with all the privelages and appurtenances thereunto belonging, to have and to hold unto the said Greeley, Trusdale, Ryan, High, and Bryant and their heirs and assigns forever in trust to and for the uses named viz: For the occupation of an associations for educational and social reform purposes.

In a short history of Warren county it is said that among promoters of this scheme were Carpenter Morey, who donated two thousand dollars, and Isaac Romine, who also aided with a considerable gift, giving two thousand dollars or more. Two buildings were erected, fences and other improvements made and at one time it seemed that the question of cooperative education and labor would be fairly tested. The land was open prairie and lumber to erect buildings was hauled from a saw-mill near West Point. The plan was contenanced and its projectors encouraged by such men as Robert Dale Owen Robert Brisban, and other advanced thinkers. Dr. Childs, a finely educated and talented man, was brought from the East and placed in charge of the school, but the people in the vicinity looked upon the whole plan with distrust, and after a few years the school was abandoned for lack of money and pupils. The enterprise is more notable for the character of the men that were engaged in it however than the success or failure which followed the effort. It had its inception during the period when social reforms were agitating people to a very considerable degree.

Harry Evans, superintendent of the Warren county schools, had an article on the Grand Prairie Harmonial Institute in the Indiana Magazine of History for December 1916 which I give here in full:

"In 1851 a company of people who felt that their best interests could be better served by a community form of living, organized "The Grand Prairie Harmonial Institute, or as it was generally known 'The Community Farm.' This was located in Prairie township, Warren county, Indiana, where William Goodacre now lives. This farm at one time comprised about three hundred fifty acres. It was the intention of the founders of the institution to teach handicraft, especially blacksmithing, carpentry and allied trades, and to allow students to work their way thru school.

"The country was entirelty new, much of the soil was still covered with the native verdue; game was plentiful, deer, geese, ducks, cranes and prairie chickens could be seen in great numbers at almost any season of the year. Their attempt at this distance, seems unique. An unimproved country where there was little need of skilled labor was to become the seat of an institution of learning where the pupils were to be taught various trades. To us it seems that such an attempt was the limit of the visionary. The Transcendentalists at the Brook Farm in Massachusetts and the Owen experiment at New Harmony seem now to have been as vague as the little colony set down in the midst of a vast prairie country with no neighbors and no demand for their work.

"The first president and one of the moving spirits in the enterprise was John O. Wattles, a man who had a more than ordinary education and who had spent some time at New Harmony, where he may have imbided some of the communistic ideas of the Owens. The Wattles family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Wattles and their three daughters, Lucretia, Harmonia, and Pheano (or Theanna as it was spelled in a deed). Lucretia was born at "Fryback Hall" an institution similar to the Harmonial Institute and located in Pine township, a few miles east of the 'Community Farm.' She had a right to such a name, for her mother had traveled all day in the rough conveyance at that time, and had reached 'Fryback Hall' in the evening. That night (during the most severe storm, the little one made her entrance into the world about two o'clock.

"Horace Greeley was said to have been a silent member of that Grand Prairie Harmonial Institute company, one deed showing him to be a trustee. John Gass, father of Will Gass, formerly of Attica, was another prominent member and at one time the treasurer. Alvin High, Cyrus Romine and a number of others were connected with the movement. The school was managed by a board of trustees, of whom Ida Greeley, Thomas Truesdale, Alvin High and John Gass were the last to hold office. For a time a number of families seemed to have lived in communal like, but, like all such experiments, it failed. While the race is gregarious, there must be a certain amount of rivalry to make life a success. We seem to need the stimulus of competition to spur us on to do the best that it in us. Whatever the cause of failure in this experiment of community living, it lasted little more than a year.

"The property remained in the hands of the trustees for nearly twenty years, when an order from the United States District Court for Indiana gave possession of the land to Mrs. Wattlers. The family had been away for some time, going to Kansas, where Mr. Wattles had again tried to carry out his favorite idea of communial living. After his death, which occurred about the beginning of the Civil War, his widow, moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where she placed them in the college at that place. Later she sold to Isaac C. Anderson and James McDaniel the land that the court had decreed to her and thus ended another altruistic experiment.

"For years the 'Community House' was a noted landmar. Its site on the top of what was the highest ridge of land anywhere near made it conspicuous. Then there is always a sort of charm and at least a little air of mystery about such a place. Fancy may build golden dreams of higher forms of life where competition shall be forever banished, rilvary unknown and the Golden Rule the measure of our actions."

As a matter of fact the leading person in the founding of the Grand Prairie Harmonial Institute was Isaac Romine, who had been a member of the Fountain county association. His friend, Robert Dale Owens, of New Harmony, was perhaps instrumental in interesting John O. Wattles, of Tippecanoe county, (with whom he had become aquainted while Mr. Wattles was living in New Harmony), Col. James R. Bryant, of Williamsport, and Horace Greeley, of New York. William Ludlow, of Fountain county association, and the male members of his family had spent a whole year at New Harmony with the Owen community, and Robert Dale Owen was an occasional visitor at the home of the Romines and Cranes at Stone Bluff as well as at the home of Bryant as the delegate from the district, to which position he was elected. That Mr. Bryant was a man of more than ordinary ability and local reputation is shown clearly inthe fact aht he was held in high esteem by Judge David Davis and Abraham Lincoln. Whitney says in his life of Lincoln:

"Judge Davis often delegated his judicial functions to others. I have known of his getting Moon, of Clinton, to hold court for him in Bloomington for whole days; Lincoln to hold an entire term, and frequentl to sit for short times; and I even knew of Col. Bryant of Indiana, to hold court for him at Danville."

It was perhaps due more to the liberal view of Col. Bryant and Robert Dale Owne than to any other cause that our state constitution has endured so long. It is a significant fact that Robert Dale Owen and the New Harmony colony became spiritualists, as did the founders of the socialist community in Fountain county and the "Community Farm" in Warren county. The Church of Progressive Friends in Shawnee township and the "Free Hall" at Carbondale in Warren county were built by the same peole with the same community interest. The old sawmill and gristmill at Stone Bluff, as well as many of the old barns and houses in that portion of Shawnee township, were constructed by the communistic society in Fountain county.

After Robert Owen, the father of Robert Dale Owen, purchased the interest of the Rappites of New Harmony for one hundred fifty thousand dollars the Rappites moved out and the Owens moved in. Mr. Owen went back to England and sent back three hundred of his people including Robert Dale Owen, then twenty five years old. He was philosopher and not an economist and did not inherit the business qualifications of his father. Elbert Hubbard wrote of the New Harmony colony:

"For the first few weeks, all entered into the new system with a will. Service was the order of the day. Men who seldom or never before labored with their hands, devoted themselves to agriculture and the mechanical arts with a zeal which at least commendable, tho not always well directed. Ministers of the gospel, guided the plow and called swine to their corn instead of sinner to repentance, and let patience have her perfect work an unruly yoke of oxen. Merchants exchanged the yardstick for the rake or pitchfork, and all appeared to labor cheerfully for the common weal. Among the women there was even more apparent self-sacrifice. Those who had seldom seen inside of their kitchens went into that of the common eating house and made themselves useful among pots and kettles. Refined young ladies who had been waited upon all their lives took turns waiting upon others at the table. And several times a week all those who chose mingled in the social dance in the great dining hall.

"But notwithstanding the apparent heartiness and cordiality of the auspicious opening, it was in the social atmosphere of the community that the first cloud arose. Self-love was a spirit which could not be exorcised. It whispered to the lowly maidents, whose former position in society had cultivated the spirit of meekness- 'you are as good as the formerly rich and fortunate, insist upon your equality.' It reminded the former favorites of society of their lost superiority,and despite all rules tinctured their words and actions with 'airs' and conceit. Similar thoughts and feelings soon arose among the men; and tho not so soon exhibited they were never-the-less deep and strong. Suffice it to say, that at the end of three months the leading minds of the community were compelled to acknowledge to each other that the social life of the community could not be bounded by a single circle. They therefore acquiesed, tho relunctantly, in its division into many. But they hoped, and many of them no doubt believed, that tho social equality was a failure, community of property was not. Whether the law of mine and thine is natural or incidental in human character, it soon began to develop its sway. The industrious, the skillful and the strong saw the product of their labor enjoyed by the indolnet, the unskilled and the improvident and self love rose against benevolence. A band of musicians thougth their brassy harmony was as necessary to the common happiness as bread and meat, and declined to enter the harvest field or the work-shiop. A lecturer upon natural science insisted upon talking while the others worked. Mechanics, whose single day's labor brought tow dollars in the common stock, insisted that they should only work half as long as the agriculturalist whose day's work brought but one.

"Of course for awhile, these jealousies were concealed, but soon they began to be expressed. It was uselss to remind all parties that the common labor of all ministered to the prosperity of the community. Individual happines was the law of nature and it could not be obliterated. And before a single year had passed, this law had scattered the members of that society which had come together so earnestly and under such favorable circumstances and driven them back into the selfish world from which they came."

The writer of this sketch has since heard the history of that eventful years reviewed with honesty and earnestness by the best men and most intelligent parites of that unfortunate social experiment. They admitted the favorable circumstances which surrounded the commencement; the intelligence, devotion, and earnestness that was brought to the cause by its projectors and its final total failure. And they rested ever after int eh belief that man the disposed to philanthropy, is essentially selfish and a community of social equality and common property an impossibility.

Robert Dale Owen becmae a naturalized citizen of the United States and for several years was a member of Congress. At the time of the death of his father he was minister to Italy, having been appointed by President Pierce. At the time he was in Wales, and announced the passing of Robert Owne to the family at New Harmony, Indiana, in a letter dated Nov. 17, 1858.

The Rappites located in New Harmoney in 1814 and sold to Robert Owen in 1825 so they remained in Indiana eleven years. The Coal Creek Community in Fountain county bought its lands and came to this county in 1823 and continued as a socialistic community about ten years. The Owen community lasted only about one year in New Harmony when Robert Owen divided his holdings among his children and immediate relatives and, as he said, a few of his "staunch friends who have such a lavish and unwise faith in my wisdom."

The "Community Farm" in Warren county also was short lived, lasting less than two years. Those reformers failed to see that the second generation of communists did not coalesce and as a result that thirty-three years was the age limit for even a successful community; and that if it still survived it was because it was organized under a strong and dominant leadership. All of these socialistic communities are made up of two classes, those who wish to give, and those who wish to get, and in-as-much as they have usually been composed of about seventy-five percent of those who wish to get and a very small percent of those who wish to give they have failed.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001105
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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