Communal – Before 1960

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Communal – Before 1960




Adonai-Shomo was an Adventist communal group founded in 1861 at Athol, Massachusetts, by Frederick T. Howland, a Quaker who had accepted the Adventist perspective on the imminent second coming of Jesus. Among the beliefs Howland taught the group of some 30 members was Sabbatarianism (worship on Saturday– then becoming a popular perspective within Adventist circles) and the equality of men and women. Howland also believed in physical immortality. The group faced a major crisis when Howland was killed in an accident a few years after the group was formed.

A short time after Howland's death, a man named Cook arrived and announced that God had sent him to become the new leader of the group. He was accepted as leader, but when he tried to institute some unconventional sex practices, the group revolted and had the local grand jury indict him. The next leader, a man named Richards, headed the group for many years. Under Richards, the group prospered for a generation, and the colony moved to a large house on an 840-acre tract of land near Petersham, Massachusetts.

By the 1890s the group had dwindled since many of the original members died and the younger members moved away. The end of Adonai-Shomo came in 1896 when a group of the young ex-members sued Richards in an attempt to gain some equity in the property. They won, but when the land was sold there was nothing left after the community's debts and legal fees were paid. The charter which had been granted in 1876 was dissolved and the group formally disbanded.


Communities of the Past and Present. Newllano, LA: Llano Cooperative Colony, 1924.

Webber, Everett. Escape to Utopia: The Communal Movement in America. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1959.




Altruria was a communal experiment that grew out of the attempt of merging liberal Protestantism with the communal thought of William Dean Howells. Howells was the author of A Traveler from Altruria(1894), a utopian novel in which he described his vision of the ideal society. It inspired the thinking of Rev. Edward Biron Payne, a Unitarian pastor in Berkeley, California, who had been advocating a form of Christian socialism in his sermons. Of the essence of Christian socialism was the idea of the immanence of God in the social context and a program of saving people by reorganizing society in such a way that the sinful structures perpetuated by capitalism would be discarded. Humanity would improve by learning to live in a more just society that emphasized brotherhood, cooperation, and good will.

Payne and a small group of idealists met in 1894 to draft plans for a cooperative colony based on democratic suffrage and equality of community goods with some retention of private ownership of personal possessions. A site was selected near Fountain Grove, California, and in October, 18 adults and six children moved onto the land. A community periodical, the Altrurian, kept the larger community of supporters informed of its progress and promoted the formation of Altrurian clubs across the state. Clubs emerged in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Pasadena, and Los Angeles. The clubs began to establish cooperative ventures and served as screening agencies for people desiring to move into the colony.

While attracting a number of new members, Altruria suffered from under-capitalization and poor financial planning. Within a year it was evident that bankruptcy was imminent, and in June 1895 a reorganization plan was announced. The colony's assets were liquidated and the entire effort restructured into several smaller units. Sixteen members moved to a new colony near Cloverdale, a second group moved into Santa Rosa, and a few remained at the original site. However, the restructuring only postponed the inevitable, and the next year all three of the sub-units had disbanded.


Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1953. 209 pp.


Amana Church Society (Community of True Inspiration)

℅ Kirk Setzer, President
PO Box 103
Middle Amana, IA 52307

The Amana Church Society, also known as the Community of True Inspiration, originated in Germany in the year 1714 among the Pietists who rejected Lutheran statechurch polity and ritualism, as well as state laws on military service and oath taking. Their leaders were Eberhard Ludwig Gruber and Johann Friedrick Rock. These men gathered a following attracted to the notion that the divine revelation and prophecy were as operative in their day as in biblical days. All the sayings of the spiritual leaders were recorded and circulated among the faithful.

The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were times of persecution of nonconformists, so in 1842, Christian Metz was placed in charge of a Committee of Four to find a new home in America. An initial tract of land was purchased in New York and Ebenezer Society organized. In 1845 a communal system of property ownership was established. After twelve years, the Society outgrew its land. In 1855, the move began to Iowa, and Amana was first settled. Then five other villages–-West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, East Amana, and Middle Amana-were established on a 26,000-acre tract. A new constitution, similar to the Ebenezer Constitution, was adopted in 1859. In 1861, the land of the whole community of Homestead was purchased in order for the society to have a community on the railroad line.

In addition to a complete faith in the Holy scriptures, the belief of the Amana Society is summarized in the Twenty-four Rules forming the Basis of the Faith, a short document channeled through J. A. Gruber. Subsequent revelations, paricularly those of Metz and his later contemporary, Barbara Heinemann, also have been published. Except for the orientation on the "Instruments" of revelation, the Amana Church Society's beliefs closely resemble those of the German Brethren. The Twenty-four Rules deal with the strict observance of the holy life and the christian community ethic.

In 1932, the Amana Society went through a thorough reorganization which separated the church and the temporal enterprises. The community system was abandoned, and each member of the community was given a share in the business enterprises, a very successful appliance corporation and farming. The community assets were distributed to members of the society in the form of stock certificates, in proportion to years of service. A community representative system of church government was adopted and power invested in a thirteen-member board of directors elected by the members.

The Amana Church Society continues as a church consisting of the members who live in the seven Amana communities. Economic communalism has been replaced by a wage system and private enterprise.

Membership: In 1997 the society reported 500 members in 1 congregation. There were 12 elders.

Periodicals: Amana Church Society Newsletter. Send orders to Box 103, Middle Amana, IA 52307.


The Amana Church Hymnal. Amana, IA: Amana Church Society, 1992. 238 pp.

Barthel, Diane L. Amana, From Pietist Sect to American Community. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

Rettig, Lawrence. Amana Today. South Amana, IA: The Author, 1975.

Scheuner, Gottlieb. Inspirations–Histories. 2 vols. Trans. by Janet W. Zuber. Amana, IA: Amana Church Society, 1976-77.

Shambaugh, Bertha M. H. Amana That Was and Amana That Is. Iowa City, IA: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1932.

Zuber, Janet W., trans. Barbara Heineman Landmann Biography/E. L. Gruber's teaching on Divine Inspiration and Other Essays. Lake Mills, IA: Graphic Publishing Co., 1981.


Association of Beneficents


The Association of Beneficents was established at Kiantone, Chatauqua County, New York in 1953 by John Murray Spear and a group of Spiritualists. Three years earlier, a blacksmith at Kiantone had gone into a trance in which information came forth that the area around a spring in the community had once been the site of a perfect society. Free love was one element in that perfection. The blacksmith sent samples of the water, which he believed had special magnetic and healing properties, to various prominent Spiritualists including Spear. A former Universalist, Spear had received communication from the spirit world instructing him to initiate some radical changes in society. He was told to inaugurate a model community and was even given the location, the design for domiciles, and a program for social reform. He decided that the site at Kiantone conformed to the information he had been given and would be an ideal location for building a city of universal harmony. In the spring of 1893 he constructed 10 small oval and octagonal homes, each approximately 10' × 14' and attracted upward of 40 members, though most wintered away from the site. The colony was also known as the Domain, Harmonia, and the Kiantone Community.

Those attracted were feminists and believers in Spiritualism and free love. These were all espoused in a large convention held on the site by Spiritualists in 1858.

In 1859 the colonists abandoned the site and headed down the Mississippi River to promote a "planetary congress" to bring peace on earth. At the beginning of their journey, they reorganized as the Sacred Order of Unionists. Their journey was interrupted by a side trip to Patriot, Indiana, where in early 1860 they established a second colony that survived until 1863.


Duino, Russell. "Utopian Themes with Variation: John Murray Spear and His Kiantone Domain."Pennsylvania History(April 1962).

Fogarty, Robert S. Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. 271 pp.


Bethel-Aurora Communities


The communities of Bethel (Missouri) and Aurora (Oregon) were the result of the leadership of William Keil (1812-1877), a former Methodist minister who launched his first communal experiment in 1844. Keil, an Austrian by birth, arrived in the United States as a young man. He became a tailor and then a Methodist preacher at Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania. Along the way he came to see himself as one of the endtime witnesses mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation. In the early 1940s some former members of the Harmony Society–at the time headquartered not far away at Economy, Pennsylvania–left and joined Keil's church. From them he possibly developed the idea of forming a community.

In the spring of 1844, with his congregation of 200 members (all German-speaking), Keil moved onto a 2,560-acre tract in northern Missouri. He named the new community Bethel, after the old biblical town. The town grew rapidly and tripled in size over the next three years. The colonists built a church in which Keil preached a simple Christianity that centered upon primary Christian affirmations and the Golden Rule. Keil preached at the monthly church services.

A first branch colony was founded at Nineveh, Adair County, Missouri, in 1847. At its height it housed some 150 people on 2,000 acres. In 1856 a second group left Bethel for the far West. They settled in the Willamette River Valley about 30 miles from Portland and build another town, Aurora. Keil chose to move with the group to Oregon.

The Bethel and Aurora communities prospered through the 1870s. However, Keil died in 1877 and soon afterward both groups dissolved their communal structures. Historic museums survive at both sites today to interpret the history to visitors and tourists, and many descendants of the colonists still live in the two towns.


Hendricks, R. J. Bethel and Aurora.1933. Reprint, AMS Press, New York, NY.

Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.


Bishop Hill


Bishop Hill was a pietistic Christian community that originated in the independent preaching of Eric Janson in the 1830s in Sweden. The Church of Sweden showed little patience with Janson and charged him with spreading heresy. Janson had rejected the writings of Luther and professed to preach the Bible alone. Members of the group refused to attend their parish church, a fact that brought them (and their leader) to the attention of the authorities. In he face of continuing repression, they commissioned one of their number Olaf Olson to search out possibilities of a new life in America. He arrived in 1845 and purchased land in Henry County, Illinois. Janson also came in 1845 (to avoid a jail term) and the group, 1,200 strong, arrived the next year.

In 1850 Janson was shot by a disgruntled former member of the community who had been prevented by Janson from marrying a community member. The community continued without him. It was not until 1853 that they surmounted the legal difficulties to their organizing as a corporation and formally established the community. The community was loosely organized. It was led in its business dealings by a board of trustees, and several foremen organized the work. There were several preachers among them who shared the Sunday preaching duties but otherwise labored with the rest of the men through the week. Two worship services consisting of hymn singing, prayer, Bible reading, and preaching, were held each Sunday.

The simple community life continued until a significant number of youth reached adulthood and complained of boredom with the life and disbelief in the religion. In several steps during 1861 and 1862, the communal organization was abandoned and the property divided among the members. The church gave way to two new congregations, the members becoming either Methodists or Adventists.

Today, the buildings of the old Bishop Hill community are open to the public, and a historical museum has been created to interpret the story of Bishop Hill to tourists and visitors.


Nordhoff, Charles. The Communistic Societies of the United States.1875. Reprint. New York: Schrocken Books, 1965. 439 pp.


Brotherhood of the New Life


The Brotherhood of the New Life was the collective name given to the followers of prophet and visionary Thomas Lake Harris, whose movement took on a number of different organizational forms during his lifetime. Harris was born in England in 1823. He was raised a strict Baptist, but as a young man became a Universalist. At some point he migrated to the United States and in 1844 emerged as the pastor of the Fourth Universalist Church of New York City. While serving that church, however, he read the writings of Emanuel Swedenberg and converted to the Church of the New Jerusalem, and in 1847 became pastor of a Swedenbergian congregation in New York. Swedenbergianism led him into Spiritualism, which was spreading across the nation during the decade. In 1851 he became involved in the short-lived Spiritualist Mountain Cove Community in Fayette County, Virginia.

In the years after the failure of the Mountain Cove experiment, Harris became a writer and editor and a champion of Christian Spiritualism (the Spiritualist community having been divided into Christian and non-Christian factions). He founded the Brotherhood of the New Life in 1861 in Wassaic, New York. The community moved to Armenia, New York in 1865, to Brocton, New York in 1868, and to Santa Rosa, California in 1875. The Brocton community remained active through 1881 and became a screening place for people before moving to Fountain Grove, as the California center was called.

Harris' teachings evolved out of Swedenbergianism and Spiritualism. In the attempt to live out of the spiritual world, two ideas came to the fore. Harris believed himself to have been singled out as the core person to be the priest/king of a new society. His community would consist of people who had learned to breathe in harmony with himself, the "pivotal man." They would then become the vortex of divine power. The special breathing techniques enabled people to inhale what was believed to be a divine vapor and to repel evil spirits seen as pervasive in the atmosphere.

Harris became best known for his doctrines on sexuality. God, he taught, was bisexual, and he found sexuality expressed throughout nature. However, Harris called for a spiritualized sex life. Harris believed that one came closest to God when united with one's sexual counterpart. One's true counterpart existed in the spirit world and was able temporarily to inhabit a human body, but rarely did it inhabit the body of one's earthly spouse. Union with the counterpart could be obtained only in exalted states of consciousness reached through the breathing technique he taught.

His arcane doctrine was perfectly attuned to the separation of spouses living in the community and the living of celibate lives. Harris fathered two children by his first wife, but lived a celibate life with his second and third wives. However, Harris' writings were filled with sexual language that was easily misunderstood by the average reader who did not understand the metaphysical system out of which Harris operated. On several occasions, the community life was disturbed by accusations of sexual improprieties.

Harris came under strong attack in 1891 when Margaret Oliphant, whose cousin Laurence Oliphant had been a member of the Brotherhood, and Alzire A. Chevaillier both published accounts of the community. Oliphant accused Harris of sexual immorality and improper financial maneuvering. Chevaillier centered her attack on Harris' strong control over the community, but also hinted at sexual wrongdoings. Harris left and settled in New York and attempted to manage the community from across the country. It continued after Harris' death in 1906. Gradually, the spiritual teachings of the group died out and in the 1920s the property reverted to Kanaye Nagasawa, the last of the community members.


Fogarty, Robert S. Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. 271 pp.

Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1953. 209 pp.


Bruderhof Communities in New York

PO Woodcrest, Rte. 213
Rifton, NY 12471

History. Bruderhof Communities in New York, Inc. (formerly known as the Hutterian Brethren of New York, Inc. and the Society of Brothers) was formed in post-World War I Germany around the leadership of Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935). Arnold had had a background in the Christian Socialist Movement and the Student Christian Movement, out of which he began to preach a radical form of Christianity based upon the demands of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In 1920 he rented Sannerz Villa where work on both publishing and gardening began and the writings of the Anabaptists and Hutterian Brethren studied. Upon learning of the continued existence of the Hutterian Brethren in the United States and Canada, the small group instituted a fellowship with them that led in 1930 to a merger. This union continued until 1956.

In 1935 Arnold died and a collective leadership emerged. His death was followed by moves to England (1936), Paraguay (1940), and the United States (1954). The group's initial move from Germany was forced by the Gestapo, who would not allow the Bruderhof to sustain either its pacifist stance or communal way of life. Both the break with the Hutterian Brethren and the move to the United States spurred changes. Some Hutterite forms were abandoned. At this time the Bruderhof consisted of 1,717 residents in nine communes in the United States, Paraguay, Uraguay, Germany, and England.

The first settlement in the United States was on a 100-acre site near Rifton, New York, named Woodcrest. The group was joined almost immediately by half of the members of another already existing commune, Macedonia, who brought with them a light industry, Community Playthings. It soon became the major source of income for the Bruderhof. In 1955, the Forest River, North Dakota, colony of he Hutterite Brethren-Schmiedeleut decided to join the Bruderhof. A third colony was begun at Oak Lake (now New Meadow Run) near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1958 Evergreen, now Deer Spring Bruderhof, was established near Norfolk, Connecticut.

The early 1960's were years of crisis for the Bruderhof. The realization came more and more that the movement had wandered far from the enthusiastic beginnings in Germany and there was a great wish to find these early radical Christian roots again. In the process many left (though over the following years many of these returned to the renewed brotherhoods.) From the nine hofs(centers) in 1956, only four remained. Membership was consolidated in the United States and the lone British colony. About this same time, Eberhard Arnold's son, Heini Arnold (d. 1982), was unanimously appointed elder of all four communities. He remained in that position for the next two decades as the Bruderhof movement experienced an increasing appropriation of the Spirit in which it was founded. During this time Darvell Bruderhof in East Sussex, England, was established (1971) and the Eastern colonies were reunited with the Western Hutterian movement (1974) through mutual reconciliation, and took on once more much of the dress and customs of the older movement. This has led to much interchange with the Western colonies including many intermarriages and mutual aid. More recently the following Bruderhofs have been started: Pleasant View, Ulster Park, New York (1985), Michaelshof, Germany (1988), Spring Valley, Pennsylvania (1990), Catskill, Elka Park, New York (1990).

Beliefs. The Bruderhof remains in the Anabaptist theological tradition of the Hutterites, taking a strong stand on community of goods, nonviolence, and nonresistance, and faithfulness in marriage and sexual purity. The common life, which the Bruderhof believes is ordained of God and has Him as its center, is demonstrated in work, learning, play, and worship.

Worship is centered in the Gemeindestunde (a brotherhood gathering, very much like a prayer meeting) which is held most evenings. It includes a talk by a servant of the Word, silent prayer waiting in the Spirit (resembling a Quaker meeting), and a closing prayer by the servant. The religious experience of the Bruderhof is joy, expressed in singing and the closeness of life together.

Organization. Bruderhof is governed by a chief servant or "Vorsteher," the elders or servants of the Word (usually three in each colony), and the stewards, witness brothers, and house mothers. Great emphasis is placed, however, upon the consensus of the community in decision making.

The differing work loads that sustain the community are distributed to the different hofs. Community Playthings and Rifton Equipment for the Handicapped are located in sections at all bruderhofs, Woodcrest, New Meadow Run, Deer Spring, Pleasant View, and Darwell, and supply the basic financial support for the community. Plough Publishing House is located at Spring Valley Bruderhof, Farmington, Pennsylvania. In recent years it has published ten new books per year.

Membership: In 1997 there were approximately 2,500 residents of the five Bruderhof communities, of whom 250 live at the two centers in England.

Periodicals: The Plough. Send orders to Plough Publishing Company, Spring Valley Bruderhof, Farmington, PA 15437.


Arnold, Eberhard. Foundation and Orders of Sannerz and the Rhoen Bruderhof. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing Company, 1976.

——. Why We Live Communally. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1976.

Arnold, Ebehard, and Emmy Arnold. Seeking for the Kingdom of God. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1974.

Arnold, Emmy. Torches Together. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1971.

Eggers, Ulrich. Community for Life. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988.

Hutterian Society of Brothers, and John Howard Yoder, eds. God's Revolution. New York: Paulist Press, 1984.

Mow, Merrill. Torches Rekindled: The Bruderhof's Struggle for Renewal. Ulster Park, NY: Plough Publishing, 1989.

Zablocki, Benjamin. The Joyful Community. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1971.




Celestia was a nineteenth century communal group that grew out of the Adventist excitement over the predicted imminent return of Christ. Among those affected by the preaching of Christ's return were Peter E. Armstrong and his wife Hannah Taylor Armstrong, who together operated a paper store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Armstrong became convinced that Christ had been rejected during his life on earth because the people had not been prepared for his arrival. In his study of the Bible, he was drawn to Isaiah 40:3, "In the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord." He saw this passage as a personal message to himself and he began to act upon it literally. In 1850 he purchased a tract of land in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, and began to lay plans for the building of a city modeled upon the one described in Revelation 21:6. Eventually other pieces of land were added, bringing the total to some 600 acres by 1860.

Celestia (the new city) was to be on a mountain top and to be laid out in a set of squares. The people attracted to the new city would live in a theocracy apart from human law. The theocracy included a communal lifestyle. Armstrong moved onto the property in 1860; Celestia was formally organized in 1863. The group was supported by farming and the operation of a few businesses. In 1864, Armstrong, in his most remembered action, deeded the land to God. Armstrong also created a second village which served as a probationary stopover for people inquiring about joining Celestia.

The community survived through the 1870s, though it never prospered. In 1876, the local county treasurer demanded the back taxes from God's property. The land was sold; Armstrong's son became the legal owner. Armstrong died in 1887 and the community faded away. His widow settled in Philadelphia.


Bender, D. Wayne. From Wilderness to Wilderness: Celestia. Dushore, PA: Sullivan Review, 1980.

Miller, Timothy. American Communes, 1860-1960: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.


Chapter of Perfection


The Chapter of Perfection, frequently referred to as the Woman in the Wilderness community, was a pietistic Rosicrucian group founded in Germany in the seventeenth century by Johannes Jacob Zimmerman. The original members were primarily Lutheran scholars ready to delve into the inner mystical mysteries of life. Zimmerman had also been affected by two female seers who, drawing upon their personal psychic visions, had published their speculations about the return of Jesus, possibly in 1694.

Zimmerman proposed that the members of the chapter leave the relatively hostile atmosphere of Germany and accept the offer of land tended by William Penn, should they migrate to the new colony of Pennsylvania. There they would await the second coming. Zimmerman died in 1693, before the group finished preparations for leaving, and was succeeded by Johannes Kelpius. The group arrived in Philadelphia on June 24, 1694, just in time to celebrate the summer solstice on St. John's Eve.

The group settled in Germantown north of Philadelphia, adjacent to Wissahickon Creek. There they constructed a headquarters building, shaped as a cube, each side being 40 feet in length. Numerologically, 40 was believed to be a perfect number. The building had a sanctuary, study room, and a mediation room. On the roof they established their astronomical laboratory where during the evenings they scanned the sky for evidence of the soon appearance of Christ. In the meantime, the brothers (all the members were male) founded a school for the neighborhood children, served as doctors for the community, and did astrological work for any who requested it.

The community lived through a series of disappointments when Christ did not return in 1694 or in 1700. Matthias died in 1708 after a lengthy illness. The chapter began to disintegrate after Matthias' death. The surviving members remained in the area as individual healers and psychic practitioners. Their work seems to have led directly to the practice of the hexen-meisters, magical practitioners who can still be found in rural southeastern Pennsylvania.


Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. London: Turnstile Press, 1951. 240 pp.

Melton, J. Gordon. "Pioneers… in Land, in Knowledge, in Astrology!" American Astrology 41, 10 (December 1973): 18-21,


Christian Commonwealth Colony


Among the more important experiments in Christian socialism, the Christian Commonwealth was formed by the merger of two previously existing efforts, the Willard Cooperative Colony and the Christian Corporation. It was organized for the purpose of demonstrating to the world the desirability of Christian cooperative activity as a means to building a Christian civilization. The Willard Cooperative colony had been formed in 1895 at Harriman, Tennessee, by a group of some 50 prohibitionists who sought an alternative to capitalist society. Frances Willard, then the prominent president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, lent her name and support to the project. After its founding, the colonists settled on land near Andrews, North Carolina. The Christian Corporation was founded in 1896 by George Howard Gibson. The colony was located in Lincoln, Nebraska, and included some 26 members.

Both colonies experienced some instability, but in 1896 merged their efforts into a new colony in Muskogee County, Georgia, and were united by a vision of Christian brotherhood, a belief in making Christianity practical, and the desire to continue the cooperative life. Members of the two older colonies were joined by new members attracted by accounts of its plans in The Kingdom, a socialist magazine. The colonists began their own periodical, The Social Gospel.

The colony was supported by the Right Relationship League, a socialist group headquartered in Chicago, which advanced it some initial capital. The colonists began a textile mill and publishing concern. By 1898 the mill was producing and selling towels.

The colony ran into trouble in 1899. The textile business failed, and several ex-members began to vocalize charges of mismanagement. In 1900, the Right Relationship League took steps to secure its investment. By the summer of 1900 the corporate assets went into receivership and the colony effectively disbursed. At its height, some 90 people resided in the community.


Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.


Christ's Church of the Golden Rule

Ridgewood Ranch
16200 N. Hwy. 201
Willits, CA 95490

Christ's Church of the Golden Rule emerged in 1944 following conversations between a group of Christian men and women who shared a concern about existing religious and economic practices and their perceived failure to meet the spiritual and material needs of humanity. These conversations were held in the context of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially the Golden Rule and Jesus's words, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (right-use-ness) and all these things will be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). These men and women concluded that these directions had not, to their knowledge, been followed since the days of the early Christian church described in Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32. They agreed that they should respond to Jesus's words and actually attempt to live Jesus's teachings and thus demonstrate to their contemporaries whether living such principles would overcome poverty, war, and insecurity, and in the process make possible a worldwide brotherhood of humanity.

They investigated the manner to best structure their ideals and concluded that the formation of a church was the best way both to modify their understanding in a community and meet the necessary legal requirements that would allow them the greatest freedom of action. They formed Christ's Church of the Golden Rule in January 1944.

The church's creed is the Golden Rule, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12). The church understands the Rule as working in one direction; it never applies to the manner in which others treat you, but always the way you others. The church's goal is stated in its vision: "A World free from want, with liberty and justice for all, and with understanding love toward God and one another. This day's work is dedicated to the end that we may prove that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that it is true that giving does not impoverish nor does withholding enrich."

The teachings of the church are summarized in its brief "Declaration of Faith." It affirms belief in the one true God, conceived as Father-Mother; Jesus of Nazareth who came to reveal God to humankind and who was possessed of the eternal Christ (Truth); the authority of the Holy Bible; and salvation by repentance and regeneration through the Truth, the mind of God that is Jesus Christ. The church teaches that the essence of true religion is to love God and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It also teaches that equality in economic affairs is the only foundation upon which to build a humane world.

Through 1944 and 1945 some 850 people signed up as founding members of the church and gave up their personal wealth, family, and social ties, and moved onto the church's property. At the same time, some 100 pieces of property, primarily along the West Coast, were donated and a few additional pieces purchased for church use. Resident training centers were established on these properties.

By 1945 the church's property was valued at approximately three million dollars. That same year some of the founding members decided that they did not wish to remain church members. They withdrew and began legal proceedings to retrieve property they had donated. California's attorney general joined that effort and moved to place the church into a receivership. The church responded by filing voluntary bankruptcy proceedings in federal court. The legal battle, which finally went in favor of the church, lasted for six years and was costly. Not only did many members leave, but much of the church's property was sold during this period and the value of the church's holdings was reduced from three million to several hundred thousand.

In 1951, the church, in effect, had to begin answer to build the working model with which they had begun. In 1953, the church's seminary in San Francisco, an important training center, was sold and property purchased near Bolinas, California. In the early 1960s that property was included in a government plan to create the Point Reyes National Seashore Park. Thus in 1962 the church sold its property and moved to Mendocino County onto the large Ridgewood Ranch. Over the next few years the church's other centers, including those in Colorado and Wyoming, were closed and consolidated at the ranch. During the next two decades the property was improved to house up to 100 residents. Private housing for students, a chapel-dining room complex, a social lounge, a food processing unit, business and accounting office, a publications department, school building, and library were all erected. Facilities are available to welcome people making inquiry about church membership and other visitors.

The Church of the Golden Rule was legally recognized as a church in 1964. It is directed by an Advisory Board of Elders. All resident members of the church live communally. No property or income can inure to any individual and all is used for the benefit of the church. No outside donations are solicited, though gifts are accepted for the spread of the church's message, especially through its publications. The church operates a variety of business enterprises that have allowed the community to be largely selfsupporting. Members of the church are active in the larger community. The church's facilities are available to different religious, cultural, and educational groups.

Membership: In 2002 the church reported approximately 65 members, most of whom reside at the ranch in Willits. Other adherents subscribe to the church's teachings but reside elsewhere.

Remarks: The church has often been associated with a previously existing movement, Mankind United. Leaders of the church strongly deny any such connection beyond the bare fact that some of the founding members had been associated with that movement and the two organizations happen to share some concerns for the economic injustice present in society. However, the church was founded quite independently of that movement and has through its 50 years of existence demonstrated its adherence to its religious teachings.


The Essence of Our Teachings. Willits, CA: Christ's Church of the Golden Rule, 1971. 35 pp.

Our Golden Rule Crusade.2 vols. Willits, CA: Christ's Church of the Golden Rule, 1963.

Our Golden Rule Way of Life. Willits, CA: Christ's Church of the Golden Rule, 1967. 53 pp.


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Wight)


Lyman Wight was one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the Nauvoo, Illinois, years in the 1840s. With the formation of Texas as a new independent republic, Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. had considered it as a possible place of refuge for the embattled Saints. He commissioned Wight as the leader of a company to explore the opportunities in Texas, but the plan was postponed while Smith campaigned for president of the United States. It was further delayed by Smith's assassination in 1844. Brigham Young, who succeeded Smith as president of the church, disapproved of the plan. But Wight felt he had a commission from Smith and led a group of approximately 150 church members to Austin, Texas. The group settled near Fredericksburg and built a new town, Zodiac, in 1847. In 1848, Wight issued his sole statement relating his position to that of the church as a whole and defending himself against accusations made by Brigham Young. On January 1, 1849, the group formally organized a new church and elected Wight as its president. Young excommunicated Wight a month later. A temple was dedicated on February 17, 1849, though little is known of how much of the temple ceremony from the Nauvoo period was carried over. A communal life was adopted.

Meanwhile, events were moving swiftly in the Midwest. William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith, Jr. and patriarch of the church at the time of the assassination, fell out with Brigham Young and was excommunicated in 1845. In 1847 Smith emerged as the president and patriarch of a new church. During 1849 Smith began to look toward Texas as a place of refuge, and in 1850 he attempted to consolidate his work with that of Wight. As the two groups merged, Wight was named as Smith's counselor. Smith, because of his fraternal relationship to Joseph Smith, Jr., was granted the leadership of the church.

The church that Smith had created in the Midwest was never stable and had suffered a major controversy because of Smith's openness to polygamy. In the months following the merger, the organization completely fell apart and most of the membership, including Smith, moved into the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which had been constituted in 1852. With the disintegration in the Midwest, Wight's colony simply returned to its premerger organization.

Wight's colony prospered through the 1850s. Having to move because of flooding in 1851 and 1853, the group eventually settled near Bandera, Texas. In 1858 Wight suddenly died. No new leader arose, and a short time later the colony united with the Reorganized Church.


Hunter, J. Melvin. The Lyman Wight Colony in Texas. Bandera, TX: The Author, n.d.

Shields, Steven L. Divergent Paths of the Restoration. Los Angeles: Restoration Research, 1990.

Wight, Lyman. An Address by Way of an Abridged Account and Journal of My Life from February 1844 up to April 1848, with an Appeal to the Latter Day Saints, Scattered Abroad in the Earth. Austin, TX: The Author, 1848.


Church of the Brotherhood

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Church of the Brotherhood is a Hutterite-like body which no longer professes any formal or ethnic ties with the Hutterite Brethren. The two groups hold in common the fundamental doctrines: adult confession and baptism, reliance on Scripture rather than theology or doctrine, pacifism, and the effort to duplicate the communal Apostolic church. The Church of the Brotherhood differs from the Hutterites in its belief that communities must maintain their apartness while living in the world and transacting business with non-believers, all the while giving witness to the gospel. Members believe it idolatrous to adopt any practice which makes symbols, not life, the means of giving and maintaining identity. Thus they speak a contemporary language and wear no special clothing. Full members live in complete discipline, and dedicate all work and wealth to the community. Confessional members devote a minimum of a tithe of goods and wealth and a full day of work in service projects.

Ministers work in secular pursuits and are not salaried. No separate worship houses are built. Love feasts, washing of feet, and baptism are ordinances. The group operates four centers for emotionally disturbed children and has created more than fifty centers for slum families and migrants, which operate as autonomous facilites.

Membership: Not reported. In 1969 there were 200 disciplined members and 30,000 confessional members.


Church of the Covenant


The Church of the Covenant was one name for the religious community that arose in the larger community founded in the 1870s at Preston, California, under the leadership of Emily Preston. It was also referred to as the Church of Heaven or the religion of inspiration. The church began soon after H. L. Preston purchased some land several miles north of Cloverdale, California, and moved there in 1869. Over the next few years he purchased some 1,500 acres. After the railroad was extended to Cloverdale, other people began to arrive in the area and settled on or near the Preston land. Thus arose a town that came to be built around Emily Preston's healing and preaching work.

At Preston, a church building was erected and Emily became the preacher. As people moved to the community, attendance at the Sunday and Thursday church services was one requirement. Preston had learned some of the secrets of herbal medicine during her youth, and in the years before her marriage, Emily had worked as a healer in San Francisco. She gave up her healing work after her marriage, but her husband saw a need for it and encouraged her to begin again after they moved to Preston. Many were drawn to Preston for either a brief visit or as residents following their receipt of some healing potions sent to them through the mail.

Preston seems to have preached a simple, practical faith built around the worship of God and the Golden Rule. She believed that how one led one's life determined whether they would go to heaven or hell after death. Worship consisted of a time of singing, of quiet meditation, and Preston's preaching. She taught that verbal prayer was not needed as God knew what to do better than any humans did. It was proper to be thankful to God at all times. Her thoughts on religion were gathered in a book, The Hell and the Heaven, published in 1902. Preston had a peculiarity in generally referring to God as a Man (rather than a spirit). She referred to Christ as the Son of Man.

H. L. Preston died in 1887; Emily followed in 1909. At the time of her death some 100 people lived at Preston, either on the Preston land or adjacent property. For several decades through the early twentieth century, people continued to gather at the church for periods of singing and silent meditation. Many of the structures at Preston continued to stand and be used into the 1980s. In 1988 a fire swept through the area and destroyed many of the buildings.


Miller, Timothy. American Communes, 18601960: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990. 583 pp.

Preston, Mrs. H. L. The Hell and the Heaven. The Author, 1902.

Votruba, M. J. "The Preston Story." Unpublished paper in the collection of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, 1971. 40 pp.


Church of the Saviour

2025 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036

The Church of the Saviour was formed in 1946 in Washington, D.C., by a group of nine, headed by Gordon Cosby, a former Baptist. The vision of the new ministry was one of ecumenicity and evangelism, and total commitment of life and resources to Christ. The new communal existence was seen as representative of new humanity-reconciled and reconciling men and women. The result has been a community dedicated both to the nurture of the inner spiritual life and to the outward life of service.

The church has identified four missional thrusts: to Christ's church throughout the world, to the poor and oppressed, to the stranger in our midst, to the building of our common life. To carry out its missions, it has divided itself into nine faith communities, an Ecumenical Service, and the Ecumenical Council which coordinates and oversees the communities. Located in Washington, D.C. in the same headquarters as the council is the Seekers Church. Also located in Washington at various locations are the Eighth Day Church, the Jubilee Church, the Christ House Church, the Festival Church, the Lazarus House Church, the New Community Church, and the Potter's House Church. In Maryland is the Dayspring Church. Each of the nine faith communities has a number of mission groups which involve the members in corporate ministries. For example, Dayspring, through its Wellspring mission groups provides programs and a newsletter which attempt to build and nurture church growth among Christians not necessarily affiliated with the Church of the Saviour. The Jubilee Church ministers within the Jubilee apartments, a multi-family dwelling established and managed by Jubilee Housing. Other missional thrusts are concerned with peace, the rights of the elderly, health care for the homeless, and education of underprivileged youth.

Each faith community is under the guidance of one or more elders. Each community has its own worship services during the week, and there is an ecumenical service on Sunday mornings.

Membership: In 1992 the church reported 165 full members and 600 in its worshipping community.

Educational Facilities: The Servant Leadership School, Washington, D.C.

Periodicals: Wellspring. Send orders to 11301 Neelsville Church Rd., Germantown, MD 20874. • The Potters House Book. • The Servant Leadership Press. • Service Newsletter. Send orders to 1658 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009.


Cosby, Gordon. Handbook for Mission Groups. Washington, DC: Potter's House, 1973.

O'Connor, Elizabeth. Call to Commitment. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.

——. Cry Pain, Cry Hope. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987.

——. Eighth Day of Creation. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1971.

——. Journey Inward, Journey Outward. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

——. The New Community. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.


The Colony

Burnt Ranch, CA 95527

The Colony was begun August 18, 1940 by its prophet and founder, Brother John Korenchan (1886-1982), and eighteen members who settled on the Trinity River near Hawkins Bar, California. Brother John had his spiritual awakening in 1912, when, after five days of fasting and prayer, he was made to feel as a child without fault or law-breaking against the Creator. He wandered through the Siskiyou and Trinity Counties for years, and spent a few months in jail for his pacifism during World War I. As World War II began, he gathered a group of followers in Seattle. This group was finally led to California. Over the years, the group turned the area into a bountiful farm. Brother John was succeeded by Sister Agnes, the only surviving member of the original group.

There are no rules, not even grace at meals. Moderation, not abstinence, is the goal. Brother John taught that religion is meaningless unless it comes from within and is lived. Emphasis is placed on the guidance of the Power. The Power guided members to the Colony, brings in new members as it will, and discerns who is ready for the Truth, Christ.

Membership: In 1988 there were 13 residents of the Colony, all of whom had lived there at least 12 years. Others come in regularly for group activities.




Among the first of the nonconventional religions founded among the European colonists in North America occurred in New England in the years after the American Revolution (1775-83). A former British Army officer named Dorril claimed to be a prophet of God and to be receiving revelations from him. He worked in Massachusetts and Vermont and gathered groups of followers during the 1790s. At its height, membership was approximately 40.

Dorril organized his followers communally. There was not private property. Vegetarianism was strictly observed, and leather shoes were not allowed. It also appears that the group did away with marriage vows and practiced a form of free love, though the records of their exact patterns of behavior have not survived. They were attacked for their sexual license by one contemporary minister, the Rev. Joseph Lathrop of Springfield, Massachusetts, who also noted that they disregarded the laws of the land and worked on the Sabbath.

The end of the small band is reported to have been brought on by a confrontation between Dorril and a local unbeliever. Dorril had told his followers that he was immune to pain. He was challenged by a man who proceeded to hit him several times. The man did not stop until Dorril announced not only his pain, but also promised not to make any further supernatural claims. The group disbursed shortly after the incident.


Ludlum, David M. Social Ferment in Vermont, 1791-1850. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.


Ecumenical Institute

4750 N. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60640

The Ecumenical Institute, formed in 1957, grew out of a World Council of Churches meeting in Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, which called for the formation of regional institutes modeled on the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland. In 1957, an American regional institute was formed in Evanston, with Walter Leibrecht as its director. It existed as a center for continuing ecumenical discussion. At about the same time, The Christian Faith and Life Community, formed in Austin, Texas, as a lay institute, was inspired by direct visitation to many such institutes in Europe. Joseph Wesley Mathews, brother of Bishop James K. Mathews of the United Methodist Church, was its dean of studies from 1956 to 1962.

In 1962, the Joseph Mathews family and seven other families were called by the Church Federation of Greater Chicago to become the staff of the Ecumenical Institute in Evanston. Within a year, the work that had been previously focused on curriculum for local church clergy and laity had taken on the task of community development in a ghetto neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, where the staff relocated. The staff discovered that there was a group of people, many of whom were in the church, committed to being a leading force in the "movement to create the future." The Institute defined its task as providing structure, training, and models of possibility in order to bring about needed changes in a most practical manner.

The staff reorganized itself to operate as a family religious order–with a common economic, political, and cultural life, and with a common understanding of embodying the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. A unique theology for the twentieth century was developed by integrating major themes from the teachings of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, H. Richard Niebuhr, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, and Soren Kierkegaard, all leading modern Protestant theologians. The programs were designed to be applicable to any person regardless of race, religion, or nation, and a variety of people found them effective in making a difference in their local situations.

Beginning in 1968, institute staff were deployed outside of Chicago, starting with Australia and Malaysia. The Institute of Cultural Affairs, a program division of the institute, was separately incorporated in order to work more effectively in non-Christian settings. Between 1975 and 1978, human development projects were established around the globe with a central emphasis on the "human factor world development." These projects were celebrated as demonstrations of comprehensive, integrated human development in 1984 at the International Exposition of Rural Development in New Dehli, India. This exposition, which brought together the wisdom of local developments in some 50 nations, was sponsored by the Institute of Cultural Affairs and included the co-sponsorship of the United Nationa Development Program, the United Nations International Children's Education Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Council of Women.

The staff is organized around 18 units with resident centers in 23 nations and a work in 50 nations. Work in each nation is incorporated separately and is headed by a national board of directors and a national board of advisors. These national groups are part of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International, registered as a charitable association in Belgium.

In 1972 the Ecumenical Institute separately incorporated in Illinois as The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Through this new corporation the institute could work with local communities in rural villages and urban neighborhoods in non-Christian countries. The work was focused on comprehensive economic and social development including local commerce and industry, community identity and organization, education of all ages, both preventative and curative health. As this work developed in the 1970s, it was found that the basic methods could also be applied and adapted for work with organizations such as corporations, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and other not-for-profit organizations.

Membership: In 1997 the Ecumenical Institute reported 200 staffs in 23 countries worldwide plus an additional 20,000 associates and affiliates. There were 1,000 members in 10 centers in the United States and 200 members in one center in Canada (Toronto).

Periodicals: Highlights(quarterly)–newsletter. • Image. Available from ICA India, 13 Sankli St., 2nd Fl., Bombay 400-008, India. • Edges. Available from ICA Canada, 577 Kingston Rd., Toronto, ON, Canada M4E 1R3. • Initiatives(quarterly)–newsletter. Available from ICA West, 4220 N. 25th St., Phoenix, AZ 85016.• The Network Exchange(monthly)–newsletter. Available from ICA Brussels, rue Amedee Lynen 8, B-1030 Brussels, Belgium.


Cryer, Newman. "Laboratory for Tomorrow's Church."Together10, no. 3 (March 1966).


Esoteric Fraternity

Box 37
Applegate, CA 95703

The Esoteric Fratenity was founded in 1887 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Hiram Erastus Butler (d. 1916). Butler, after losing several fingers in a saw-mill accident, became a hermit in a New England forest for fourteen years and, as a hermit, began to receive revelations from God. In the late 1880s, he began to tell these revelations to others, gathering around him a dozen followers, all single men and women. They pooled their resources, moved to Applegate, California, and established a monastic-like community. The basic ideas of the Fraternity was that to believe in God one must live the life of a celibate. When man gives up the sex act, the kingdom of God will be established on earth. This belief has tended to keep the group small. At its height, around the beginning of this century, there were only forty members.

The Esoteric Faternity teaches Esoteric Christianity. Members believe in reincarnation and that the population of the world remains constant, as old souls are constantly reborn. They believe that the Fraternity consists of the chosen ones, the Order of Melchizedek as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. They will grow to be 144,000 in number and then the kingdom of God will begin. They would be rulers of the earth for eternity.

Following Butler's death, Enoch Penn, a prolific writer (as was Butler), succeeded him. Penn was editor of the Esoteric Christian, the popular periodical of the fraternity which ceased when Penn died in 1943. The next leaders were Lena Crow (d.1953), William Corecco (d.1972), and Fred Peterson, the current president. Peterson, a former Mormon, had converted to the group in the 1950s. A large business in Butler's and Penn's books continues.

In August 1973, one elderly male member of the fraternity was murdered. His killer has not been apprehended.

Membership: Not reported. In 1981 there were only three members.


Butler, Hiram E. The Goal of Life. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1908.

——. The Narrow Way of Attainment. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1901.

——. The Seven Creative Principles. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1950.

——. Special Instructions for Women. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Fraternity, 1942.

Penn, Enoch. The Order of Melchisedek. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Fraternity, 1961.




Fruitlands was a communal experiment established as a visible expression of the Transcendentalist Movement in nineteenth century New England. Transcendentalism was an idealistic spiritualized philosophy, the end product of the questioning of Christian orthodoxy that began in Unitarianism. Whereas Unitarianism had found its base in rational thought, Transcendentalism was based much more clearly in the affections. Its main exponent was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who admonished the readers of his many essays to embrace the spiritual realities that stand behind the visible world and to come to a comprehension of the oneness of spiritual reality. His thoughts would, in the late-nineteenth century, lead directly to Christian Science and New Thought.

Fruitlands began in the idealism of Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May Alcott and an associate of Emerson. In 1842 Emerson loaned the financially embarrassed Alcott money to visit England, where a school had been established on a model of the school Alcott had established in Boston. While in England, Alcott met three men who shared his ideals and his vision of an ideal society. When he returned to America, two of the men (Henry Wright and Charles Lane) and Lane's son William, accompanied him. They also brought a large occult library. Charles Lane put up the initial capital to obtain the land upon which Fruitlands could be founded.

The young idealists and the Alcott family moved to Fruitlands, a 90-acre farm about two miles from Harvard, Massachusetts.

The first goal of the Fruitlands program was personal reform, which was focused in a number of behavior changes. The group accepted a strict vegetarian diet that banished even milk and butter. They did not drink coffee, tea, or alcoholic beverages and existed on a diet of apples, bread, cereal, herbs, and roots. The life at Fruitlands was to be a simple one that allowed for the nurturance of culture. However, the group rejected the idea of using animals to assist in farming and soon found that their leisure time was taken up in the realities of farm life. Culture soon was limited to after-meal conversations. No form of religion was adopted, Transcendentalism being best expressed in individual mystical appropriation of a spiritual vision.

A communal dress was adopted. It consisted of linen tunics and shoes made of cork and canvas (rather than leather). The men had trousers and hats; the women wore bloomers. Daily baths were taken in unheated water.

While many came to see what Alcott had established, few stayed to join. They were unwilling to don the strange dress and accept the rigid diet. In the winter after the first year, the capital was used up and the community was forced to close. The land was sold at the beginning of 1844. At its height it had approximately 20 members.


Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.

Lawson, Donna. Brothers and Sisters All Over This Land: America's First Communes. New York: Preager Publishers, 1972. 142 pp.

Webber, Everett. Escape to Utopia: The Communal Movement in America. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1959. 444 pp.


Harmony Society


The Harmony Society was a prominent communal group that originated in the pietistic preaching of a farmer, George Rapp, who began to preach to his neighbors in a rural area of Wrttemburg, Germany. He was one of a number of unofficial preachers and Bible teachers who had emerged as purveyors of a popular pietistic religious faith to supplement the rather dry and ritualistic experience many had in the local Lutheran parish church. The Lutherans viewed such movements, such as those led by Rapp, as challenges to authorities rather than the natural outgrowth of faith. Rapp and some of his followers were fined, imprisoned, and subjected to various attempts to discourage their assembling. Such activity merely led to the group's expansion.

In 1803 Rapp left for America in an attempt to find land where the group could settle. He initially purchased land north of Pittsburgh in southwest Pennsylvania, and the next summer the group of more than 700 people migrated. They survived on their own through the winter of 180405, but in 1805 they assembled on the land Rapp had purchased and formally organized the Harmony Society. At this time the group adopted a communal order that included a common purse, a simple form of dress, and a plan to care for the elderly and the children. They then turned to the task of building a community based upon farming and some related industries: a saw-mill, a tannery, a distillery, and a winery. Following a wave of religious fervor that swept the community in 1807, they adopted celibacy (though not nuclear family life) and gave up tobacco.

In 1814 the community bought 30,000 acres of land along the Wabash River in southern Indiana, and the following year the entire community in Pennsylvania moved and founded the town of New Harmony. In 1818 the group renewed their communal commitment, signaled by their burning all the records of what each person and family had originally contributed to the group more than a decade earlier. However, New Harmony, while a great success financially, was less than what the group had hoped, and in 1824 and 1825 the group moved back to Pennsylvania on land near their earlier location and created the town of Economy. Robert Owen purchased New Harmony and built his own community there. Economy prospered, as had the previous communities, and was disturbed only by a schism in 1832 when several hundred members were drawn away by a rival leader.

The community was built around the pietistic Lutheran faith espoused by George Rapp, usually called Father Rapp by his followers. He was ably assisted by an adopted son, Friedrich Rapp (d.1832), who handled much of the practical business and administrative affairs of the group. When Father Rapp died in 1847, he was succeeded by Romelius Baker and Jacob Henrici. In the late nineteenth century John Duss became the leader and during his tenure in the 1890s, the community suffered from a number of bad investments. Their economic problems led to a series of lawsuits and severe internal disputes that finally resulted in the colony disbanding in 1898.

After the end of the communal life, many of the colonists continued to reside in Economy and perpetuated the group's religious life into the first decades of the twentieth century. By World War I, however, almost all signs of the group had faded away.


Arndt, Karl J. R. George Rapp's Harmony Society, 1785-1847. Cranbury, NJ: Farleigh, Dickinson 1965.

——. George Rapp's Successors and Material Heirs, 1847-1916. Fairleigh Dickinson, 1972.

Duss, John. The Harmonists: A Personal History. Pennsylvania Book Service, 1943. Reprint, Philadelphia, PA: Porcupine Press, 1973.

Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. London: Turnstile Press, 1951. 240 pp.


Heaven City


Heaven City was a communal group founded by Albert J. Moore (d. 1963) in 1923 in Harvard, Illinois. Moore was born in Wales and migrated to Chicago as a young man. Claiming miraculous powers to assist people, he founded an organization called the Life Institute. In 1922 he was charged with fraud, and though initially convicted, his case was overturned on appeal. Shortly thereafter, he and 28 followers established a community on a 130acre farm near Harvard. The colony practiced a community of consumption, but was largely financed by the jobs held by some members who worked outside it. In the 1930s, Heaven City moved to Mukwonago, Wisconsin, where the group operated a motel, restaurant, and bar. Membership reached a peak of 75 in the mid-1930s.

Along with a strict communalism, the group started its own school. Sexual relationships were rather free, though marriages did occur. Moore believed that the sex instinct was the creative force of the world. Heaven City continued until Moore's death, though it had begun to decline. The motel was managed by his secretary Shirley P. Talcott who died in 1978 at the age of 95. She willed the hotel to two of its employees who have continued to manage it as a business.

Following Talcott's death some of Moore's family tried to lay claim to the motel property, and even briefly reorganized the Heaven City religion, but their effort failed in court.


Zahn, Michael. "Heaven City Dies with Founder."Milwaukee Journal (August 14, 1979).


Holy City Brotherhood


The Holy City Brotherhood was founded in 1914 in Los Angeles as the Perfect Christian Divine Way by William Edward Riker (1873-1969). Riker, a native Californian who moved to San Francisco as a young man, was an avid reader of occult and New Thought metaphysical literature, out of which he began to develop his own metaphysical world. Soon, he began to think of himself as The Comforter, the biblical name for the Holy Spirit sent by God to humankind. He started to travel the country preaching what he called the Perfect Christian Divine Science. In 1914, with a core of five close disciples, Riker established headquarters of the Perfect Christian Divine Way in Los Angeles. A second group emerged in San Francisco. Incorporation followed in 1918. Among his unique ideas was a racial understanding of humanity on the analogy of the human body, with Jews representing the mind (head) and Christians the heart (chest). Black people made up the legs and oriental races the arms. He felt humanity's great sin was race mixing.

In 1991 Riker purchased some 200 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains and moved there with his followers, who set about building Holy City. They created a self-sufficient community complete with an electric generator, barber shop, laundry, and cafe. They raised much of their own food and built a soft drink bottling company. Holy City itself was built on the road from San Jose to Santa Cruz and became a popular tourist stop. Riker ran for governor on several occasions.

Through the 1930s, Holy City prospered with 38 permanent members and up to several hundred who passed through for short stays. It began a long process of decline in the years after World War II as members moved away and few new members took their place. By 1956 only eight members (seven males and one female) remained. That year Riker sold the property to Maurice Kline, but the members were allowed to stay on the property. Riker and Kline soon disagreed over the future of the community and Riker sued to regain control of the property, but lost in court in 1958. Meanwhile, he passed the leadership of the Perfect Christian Divine Way to Robert Clougher. The property finally passed into the hands of the H. C. Development Company. In the late 1950s several fires destroyed much of the community. Finally, in 1966, the few remaining disciples were thoroughly alienated from Riker when he suddenly converted to Roman Catholicism. He died three years later, still a member of the Catholic Church.


"Holy City Brotherhood."Fortnight(March 2, 1955): 1617.

Plate, Harry. "Riker: from Mechanic to Messiah."California Today(August 30, 1978).


Hutterian Brethren-Dariusleut

Surpirse Creek Colony
Stanford, MT 59479

The second group of Hutterites to settle in the United States purchased a section of land in South Dakota on Silver Lake, north of the original Hutterite colony. (For the early history of the Hutterites, see separate entry on Hutterian Brethren-Schmiedeleut.) Under the leadership of Darius Walter, this second colony and those which sprang from it took his name. While establishing seven colonies in South Dakota, they had also spread to Montana (two colonies) and Manitoba, Canada (one colony) by the beginning of World War I. Abandoning all of their colonies, they moved to new colonies in Alberta, Canada. Not until 1935 did they reestablish a colony in the United States, in Montana. Since then they have become the most geographically spread out of the leuts, having colonies in Washington and Montana and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia in Canada. There is also an affiliated colony in Japan. The Dariusleut affiliated with the Society of Brothers for a short period (1931-1950).

The Dariusleut is the most loosely affiliated leut, as symbolized by the ability of new colonies to be founded without prior consent. Hooks and eyes are required on clothing. The minister is the first to enter the worship service.

Membership: In 1988 there were 133 Dariusleut colonies.


Allard, William Albert. "The Hutterites, Plain People of the West."National Geographic138, no. 1 (July 1970): 98-125.

Flint, David. The Hutterites. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Gross, Paul S. The Hutterite Way. Saskatoon, SK: Freeman Publishing Company Limited, 1965.

Holzach, Michael. "The Christian Communists of Canada."Geo1 (November 1979): 126-54.


Hutterian Brethren-Lehreleut

Milford Colony
Wolf Creek, MT 59648

The Lehrerleut dates to 1877, when the third group of Hutterites to migrate to America in the 1870s settled near Parkston, South Dakota. (For information on the early history of the Hutterites, see the item on the Hutterian Brethren-Schmiedeleut.) Upon arrival in the United States, the group decided to live communally under its leader, Jacob Wipf. Wipf was an accomplished teacher (lehrer), and the group derived its name from his ability. Slow to expand, the group had only four colonies at the beginning of World War I. Like the other leuts, however, it abandoned the American colonies and migrated to Alberta. Only after World War II was a new American colony established, in Montana. Present-day colonies are scattered across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana.

The Lehrerleut is the most liberal of the Hutterite leuts. From their founder's formal education, members have inherited a preference for high German, in which they are thoroughly schooled. They wear buttons on their clothes. Unlike ministers of other leuts, the Lehrerleut minister is the last to enter worship services.

Membership: Not reported.


Horst, John. The Hutterian Brethren, 1528-1931. Cayley, Alberta: Macmillan Colony, 1977.

The Hutterian Brethren of Montana. Augusta, MT: Privately Printed, 1965.

Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univeristy Press, 2001.


Hutterian Brethren-Schmiedeleut

℅ David D. Decker
Tachetter Colony
Olivet, SD 57052

The Hutterite Brethren are the only surviving group which adopted communal living in response to an Anabaptist vision of establishing a Christian community in which private property would be abolished. They were founded in 1528 among a group of Anabaptist refugees fleeing to Austerlize. (A word on the Anabaptists: They believed the church was the society of adult believers gathered together freely. They thus opposed infant baptism and protested the state church of any area in which they resided. They were continually persecuted by state churches. Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite Church, was an Anabaptist. He did not urge a communal lifestyle, however.) For the early Hutterites, the introduction of "community of goods" was at the time a religiously sanctioned necessity. The first colony or Bruderhof (common household) was founded in Austerlitz in Moravia. The group is named for Jacob Hutter. Not the founder, he became an early leader and organizer and was martyred at the stake in 1536. The pattern of persecution in Moravia became a common one for several centuries. Hutterites were tolerated, became successful and grew in numbers, were objects of jealousy, and finally were persecuted because of their success and their pacifism. This pattern repeated itself in Slovakia, Wallachia, and the Ukraine.

In the nineteenth century, living in close proximity to the Mennonites in Russia, the Hutterites' ideal was lost for a time, but in the 1850's, a renewal of communal living developed around the person and ministry of Michael Waldner. Waldner was a visionary, noted for his trances and psychic experiences. In a vision, an angel told him to reinstitute the Gemeinschaft of the Holy Spirit after the pattern of Jesus and the apostles. The phrase Gemeinschaft has no exact English equivalent; loosely translated, it is a brotherhood, a very closely knit group. The renewal took place in Hutterdorf, a Hutterite village in the Crimea. Two communal groups were established, one at each end of the village, and they became the basis of the division of the Hutterites into leuts (people) or colonies. The renewal of communal living among the Hutterites ran up against a renewal of nationalism in Russia. In 1871, universal compulsory military service was introduced and the Hutterites' requests for exemption were ignored. In 1874, migration to the United States and Canada was accomplished.

The Hutterites' beliefs arise from the Anabaptist tradition and in general follow the Schleitheim Confession. Like the Amish, the Hutterite Brethren adopted a plain dress. Some of them use hooksand-eyes instead of buttons, a tradition symbolizing their rejection of the soldiers, their persecutors, who wore large buttons on military uniforms. The Hutterites use electricity, drive cars, have powered farm equipment and telephones. However, they have no televisions and dancing, smoking, and playing musical instruments are forbidden. They are pacifists and follow the radical Anabaptist theology. While there is a similarity among all Hutterites, the three leuts (discussed below) show marked distinctions in dress and discipline, and they do not intermarry.

Approximately 800 Hutterites migrated to America between 1874 and 1876. Approximately one half of these homesteaded family farms and eventually affiliated with Mennonite churches and ceased to be part of the Hutterite community. The remainder settled in three colonies in South Dakota. These three colonies gave rise to the three "leuts" (people), each named for its founder. Each leut developed its own pecularities and each serves as an organizing unit for fellowship, discipline and administering the religious life of the colonies. The oldest of the luets is the Schmiedeluet.

The Schmiedeleut dates to the original renewal under Michael Waldner and was named for Waldner, who was called "Schmied-Michel" because he was a blacksmith. Upon arrival in the United States, Waldner's people settled the Bon Homme County in South Dakota in 1874. Waldner's continual visions remained a major motivating force in the communal patterns. By 1918, the Schmiedeleut had founded nine colonies. With the coming of World War I, the Hutterites German background combined with their pacifism led to heightened tension. One by one they abandoned their colonies and relocated in Manitoba. Only in 1934 did a group settle a new American colony (Rockport, near Alexandria, South Dakota).

Among the Hutterites, the Schmiedeleut is considered the most conservative, though it has dropped the requirement for hooks and eyes as a means of fastening clothes. In its worship, the minister is the first to enter the gathering place. Colonies are tied closely together, and the consent of all is required before a new one can be created.

Membership: Not reported.


Cobb, Douglas S. "The Jamesville Bruderhof: A Hutterian Agricultural Colony."Journal of the West9, no. 1 (January 1970): 60-77.

Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Peters, Victor. All Things Common. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Sturdivant, Lori. "The People of Jacob Hutter."The Minneapolis Tribune (October 16, 1977).




Jerusalem was the religious community founded in 1788 near Seneca Lake, New York, by Jemima Wilkerson, known to her followers as the Public Universal Friend. Wilkerson, raised as a Quaker, was deeply affected by the preaching of traveling evangelist George Whitefield, and by the New Light Baptists. Around 1774 Wilkerson became ill, and eventually fell into a coma. When she came out of the coma she claimed that Jemima Wilkerson had died and her soul had ascended to heaven. In its place was the "Spirit of Life" sent by God to warn the world, as the Methodists were preaching, to flee from the wrath to come. She told everyone that she was now to be called the Public Universal Friend and would no longer answer to her birth name. She began to preach to all who would listen.

Soon after her change, she acquired a small following, and with the band, toured Rhode Island and Connecticut. She travelled on a white horse and wore men's clothes over which she draped a flowing robe. Work was slow during the years of the American Revolution, but by 1782 she had three churches. As her evangelistic endeavors continued, she became a controversial figure when one member of a family who joined her was not followed by the rest of the household. In 1788, she obtained land in western New York to build a community. A faithful vanguard began to clear the land and prepare it for the movement of the main body of members. Jerusalem grew and prospered through the 1790s and by 1800 had received some 250 residents. It survived peacefully into the 1820s, but began a rapid decline after Wilkerson's death in 1819.

Membership: Not reported.


Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. London: Turnstile Press, 1951.

Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.




Joyful, a Christian utopian community, was funded in 1884 by Isaac B. Rumford, and his wife Sara Rumford, in Kern County, California. As early as 1880 Rumford had a visionary dream in which he pictured a heaven-like land where Christian love ruled. Already involved in a variety of reformist efforts, the Rumfords now felt inspired to create a community that would express their ideals of a simple Christian life. Integral to their vision was a new "Edenic" diet, a vegetarian diet based on the consumption of raw foods. Rumford had concluded that cooking destroyed the vital life of food substances. The Rumfords adopted the Edenic diet in 1881 and ascribed to it their continuing good health.

The Rumfords took steps to realize their communal vision in 1884 with the publication of the Joyful News Co-operator. "Joyful" was the name they had already given their fruit farm near Bakersfield, California. They also published a constitution for what they termed the Association of Brotherly Co-operators, the corporate name for the colony. Recruitment meetings were held in San Francisco, and a small number of converts moved to the farm. However, the movement never really got off the ground, and by the end of the year, the experiment was discontinued. The Rumfords continued active as reformers and advocates of the raw food diet.


Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1953. 209 pp.


Koreshan Unity


The Koreshan Unity was formed in 1888 in Chicago by the followers of Cyrus Read Teed (1839-1906), a physician and metaphysician who developed a religious system termed the cellular cosmology. The group was organized as a celibate religious organization. The followers of Koresh (Hebrew for Cyrus) moved into a home and, the next year, began to publish the Guiding Star, which after six months became the Flaming Sword. In 1894, a colony was established in Estero, Florida, where the climate was mild and communal living was tolerated. In 1903, the entire group arrived from Chicago. At its height the organization had more than 300 residents on 6,000 acres, and more than 4,000 followers throughout the United States. A press was established, and numerous books, pamphlets, and periodicals were produced up until 1949, when the press was destroyed by fire.

The cellular cosmology is based upon the belief that the earth's surface is concave and that man lives on the inside of a sphere, not on a ball in space. The earth is not four and one-half billion years old, but eternal. God is an eternal being dwelling in the central brain cells of aggregate humanity. God is both male and female, in one eternal form. Jesus Christ is God perpetuating himself in an individual person formed by parthenogenesis (virgin birth).

The cellular cosmology contains theories on the macrocosm and the microcosm. The macrocosm is viewed as a cosmic egg, a hollow egg. The inside of the "eggshell" is the surface of the earth; in the hollow center of the egg floats the sun, from which flow light, heat and the influence of gravity. The shell of the earth forms a limitation to the effects of the sun, expressed in the materialization of metallic and mineral substance. In a reciprocal relation, the shell of the physical cosmos gives forth the energies, decomposed from material substance, which by Levic force (the opposite of gravity) move toward the sun. By such reciprocity, eternal perpetuity is ensured.

Mankind is a microcosm of the macrocosm, having as its central sun, God, who has his eternal habituation in the enviromental circumference of humanity. From God, flow truth and love, which are reciprocated by worship-the highest and purest moral thoughts.

Membership: The membership of the Koreshan settlement in Florida peaked soon after the turn of the century and the departure of 30 members in 1906 signaled the beginning of a long period of decline. By 1940 the Unity had been reduced to 36 members. In 1960 the presidency of the group passed to Hedwig Michel, a Jew who had escaped from the Holocaust and joined the Unity in December 1941. She reorganized the small band of worshipers and led in the deeding of 300 acres of the group's land to the State of Florida in 1961. It became a state park in 1967 and was later designated a national historic site.

In 1965 Michel revived the former periodical, The American Eagle, and on the small amount of land remaining to the Koreshans, prepared for the emergence of the Koreshan Unity Foundation. She led in the building of a library/museum to house and preserve the community publications and artifacts. She died in 1982 and was considered to be the last Koreshan. The foundation has continued to preserve the property and open it to scholars and the general public. It also publishes The American Eagle which includes articles on Koreshan histoy and current events celebrative of the community's heritage.

Today the former community is open to the public as two sites, one a public part and the other the headquarters of the foundation. The foundation may be reached at Box 97, Estero, FL 33928.


Koresh [Cyrus R. Teed]. Cellular Cosmology, or, the Earth a Concave Sphere. Estero, Lee County, FL: Guiding Star Publishing House, 1922.

Koreshanity, the New Age Religion. Miami, FL: Koreshan Foundation, 1971.

Landing, James E. "Cyrus R. Teed, Koreshanity, and Cellular Cosmology." Communal Societies1 (Autumn 1981): 117.

Teed, Cyrus R. The Alchemical Laboratory of the Brain. Chicago: Eta Company, n.d.


The Lord's Farm


The Lord's Farm was founded in 1877 by Mason T. Huntsman. At some point in the 1870s, Huntsman, who had been raised an orphan, underwent a religious conversion. He took the name Paul Blandin Mnason, and settled in Westwood, New Jersey. He assumed some messianic pretensions and was known to his followers as the "New Christ." Members of the Lord's Farm lived communally and supported themselves by raising crops on their 23 acres of land and operating a furniture moving business. They had a policy of welcoming anyone to their farm and inviting them to partake of the community's activities and resources (food and shelter).

Mnason came to public attention in 1887 after he launched a vocal assault on the nearby village of Park Ridge, New Jersey, which he accused of being a corrupt and evil place. Residents, unappreciative of his words, manifested their disgust by attacking Mnason and cutting off his beard and long hair. Their actions did not stop Mnason, however, and he continued to preach and gather a following. However, he now faced a series of continued community reactions to his efforts. Between 1890 and 1893, members were harassed with a series of court actions on charges ranging from violation of sabbath laws to fraud. In 1893 Mnason was imprisoned for running a disorderly and immoral house. In 1899 he was convicted under New Jersey blasphemy laws for "impersonating the Saviour," and abducting two young girls (among his early followers).

The group continued until around 1910. At its height, it had 35 adult resident members, though there were always others living there for longer or shorter periods. The group was vegetarian, celibate (in spite of continued charges of nudity and sexual misconduct), and sought to live a simple life following their inner guidance. Mnason referred to the colony as "The City of God, Land of Rest and Peace, State of Eternal Bliss." In the end, Mnason's brother took control of the property and evicted the group.


Fogarty, Robert S. Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. 271 pp.

Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.

Miller, Timothy. American Communes, 18601960: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990. 583 pp.


Mount Zion Overcoming Body of Christ–The True Bride

Rte. 1
Crescent City, FL 32012

Mount Zion Overcoming Body of Christ–The True Bride was founded in 1944 in New York City by Mother Essie M. MacDonald. The founding of the group was directly connected to McDonald's recovery from a near fatal illness. Once recovered, she began to dress in white and refused to wear either a coat or cape. She carried a dive, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. For a time, she was affiliated with the Church of God in Christ (the largest of several predominantly black Pentecostal denominations), but the church eventually rejected her unconventional dress code.

She eventually moved to Florida, her original home, where her mother gave her a tract of land. Here she opened a mission house in a 100-room "ark" to which she invited the aged, infirm, the homeless, and any others simply in need of help. Some, attracted by her work, moved to the ark as resident members of the church.

The church is pentecostal in emphasis. Members believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues. They also have a strong belief in healing and invite the sick to receive the ministrations of Mother MacDonald. Worship is conducted daily, though Saturday is designated the Sabbath. The church is organized communally. The resident chambers, separate for men and women, are designated by names associated with the bride's chamber. Mother MacDonald is viewed as the "Bride of Christ" and in that role wears a white gown with a Star of David on its skirt. She teaches what is termed the "Female Principle," a belief in the important role of females on the earth. As part of communal life, members grow their own food. Members wear white clothes and no shoes. They have also painted the seats of the sanctuary white.

Membership: The group does not consider itself a denomination or organization, but as a house of prayer for all people.


DuPree, Sherry Sherrod. African American Holiness Pentecostal Charismatic: Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.


Mountain Cove


The Mountain Cove community was a commune founded in 1851 at Mountain Cove, Virginia by James L. Scott and Thomas Lake Harris. The original members of the community came from Auburn, New York, and the idea seems to have originated from the spread of Spiritualism from western New York where it had emerged in the mid 1840s. Spiritualism mixed with idealism over the possibility of founding a perfect Edenic society. Among the circle of Spiritualists was Ira S. Hitchcock who made the trip to Virginia and found the land at Mountain Cove. He believed that the spot was the site of the original Garden of Eden and that no humans had set foot on it since Adam and Eve were driven from the garden. An open letter dated December 14, 1851, called people to participate in the new community. It was described as a place of refuge to escape the vales of death. Among the participants at Mountain Cove was Thomas Lake Harris who would, a decade later, found the Brotherhood of the New Life as a Spiritualist communal movement.

The Mountain Cove community was led by Scott and Harris who acted as mediums and professed direct communication and inspiration from God. They gave guidance to the movement from their "channelings" from the divine. Members were required to donate their real property to the community and live from the community treasury. The temporal life of the colony was based upon agriculture.

In spite of the claims of divine guidance, the community soon found itself divided by internal bickering. Some rejected the arbitrary nature of leadership provided by Scott and Harris, and even suggested that members had become the equivalent of slaves to work the community farm. Others complained about the financial and property arrangements. As a result of the discord, the experiment collapsed in 1853.


Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.

Noyes, John Humphrey. History of American Socialisms. 1870. Rept. as Strange Cults and Utopias of 19th-Century America. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. 678 pp.


New Jerusalem


New Jerusalem was a communal group established near Cairo, Illinois, in the mid-nineteenth century. It was founded by Cyrus Spragg, who had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Expelled from a congregation (stake) in Michigan, he gathered a few followers and led in the founding of a commune noted for its disavowal of polygamy and its practice of nudism. It reportedly failed because of the bitter winter weather.

Following the collapse of his community in Michigan, Spragg led the remnant of his following to Illinois and organized New Jerusalem near Cairo. He had come to believe himself the Messiah, and had an ark built which was to save group members when a flood, predicted to occur in the near future, would overrun Cairo and the sight of the commune. In fact a heavy rain brought a flood, but it did not do the damage or reach the extent predicted. A short time later Spragg moved into the ark, announced that he was the Invisible Presence of God, and would never be seen again. He remained in touch with the members of the group through a window that had been cut in the side of the ark. He received food, and each evening he was visited by a virginal member of the group, one of whom, it was predicted, would become a Madonna, the mother of a messiah.

The new arrangement worked for some months, several children being born to the young women. Then a man who fell in love with one of the sacred virgins broke into the ark and claimed to have shot Spragg before fleeing the community. That night the young woman appointed to visit the leader reported that he had not been shot but was very much alive. The community resumed its normal course until Spragg's daughter-in-law accused her husband Obadiah Spragg and his brother Jared Spragg of having gone into the ark, disposed of their father's body, and having assumed his role each evening. Members of the community then went into the ark and discovered that Spragg was not there. The revelation led to the collapse of the community.

Remarks: No contemporary records of New Jerusalem exist. The site of the community is unknown and the main account, which appeared in the 1920s, was a "biography" of Spragg's daughter written in the form of a novel. Some have suggested that the story of New Jerusalem is a folk account derived from the account of James Jesse Strang, the Mormon leader on Beaver Island, Michigan. The parallels in Spragg's and Strang's lives are striking. Presently, there is no way to resolve the issue.


Bloomfield, Louis. Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1928.

Muncy, Raymond Lee. Sex and Marriage in Utopian Communities: 19th Century America. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1973.

Randolph, Vance. Americans Who Thought They Were Gods: Colorful Messiahs and Little Christs. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1943.

Webber, Everett. Escape to Utopia: The Communal Movement in America. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1959.


Oneida Community of Perfectionists


The Oneida Community of Perfectionists was a religious community founded in 1841 at Putney, Vermont, by John Humphrey Noyes (1811-1886). It was inspired by the spread in early nineteenth century America of both Methodist perfectionist thought and communal idealism. Having become something of a religious skeptic during his college days, Noyes was soundly converted in a revival in 1830 and a short time later felt a call to preach. He attended seminary but found the atmosphere cold and uninviting and he turned to personal Bible study. He concluded that Christians were called to be perfect. He also believed that Christ had made perfection humanly possible and as part of that perfection had taken away the need to observe earthly laws. He graduated from seminary, but the Congregationalists took back his license to preach.

During the next few years Noyes wandered around Vermont and New York and gathered a small following. He began a periodical, The Witness, and in 1837 he began an informal Bible study group in Putney. He instituted the practice of mutual criticism he had earlier learned at the seminary. In a very structured situation, members would allow the community to freely censure them and offer suggestions for change and improvement. All members underwent such criticism. Among the ideals that Noyes slowly espoused to the group was a new sexual order that put aside regulations against fornication and adultery. His wife Harriet and his converts also accepted the concept of a community of wives.

Noyes was greatly affected by the painful experiences of his wife, who had several miscarriages. He thought that celibacy would be the only alternative to preventing her further distress for unwanted pregnancies, but then discovered what he would term "male countenance." Male countenance was his name for an older technique widely practiced in some Asian cultures by which males were able to engage in lengthy sexual intercourse without reaching a climax. The technique, also called coitus reservatus and karezza, would later become the basis of the Oneida community's new sexual order.

In 1841 the group was formally organized as the Putney Society. As was Nayes' goal to initiate the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, he restructured the group by the imposing a system of complex marriage. Briefly stated, Noyes assumed (as did most of his contemporaries) that in the heavenly society monogamous marriages would be abolished. However, he departed from most other Christian thinkers by assuming that sexual relations would continue. For such to occur, sexual relations would have to continue without benefit of marriage. In the heavenly society, all the men would be "married" to all the women. The attempt to actualize such a situation, however, presented new problems. How would one keep from falling into mere libertinism? How did one regulate the random pregnancies and children that would result. To deal with these problems, Noyes developed the system of complex marriage.

In Noyes' system, the men and women of the community regularly changed partners, but instead of making random choices based upon momentary attractions, partners were assigned each month (according to the women's menstrual cycles). Men requested their partner for the next month, but the actual choices were made by the older women. Thus during any one month, a woman would have relationships with only one man. In case of an accidental pregnancy, the father would be known. Also, every person in the community had a new sexual partner each month, and pains were taken to see that no exclusive relationships developed that would distract individuals from their commitments to the community.

In 1848, under pressure from legal authorities in Putney who complained of the immoralities among the Noyes group, the community moved to Oneida, New York. Here they built one of the most successful community experiments. The economy of the community came off of the sale of traps, silk, and horticultural products. In the 1870s they started a silverware industry that became their most successful business and continues to the present day.

At Oneida the practice of complex marriage was so successful that only a very few unplanned pregnancies occurred. The success led to further speculation on sexuality and the development of a new eugenics program–stirpiculture–centered upon children produced by the union of two "scientifically selected" parents. Some 51 children were born following implementation of the stirpiculture plan.

The community at Oneida lasted for more than three decades. Its long and successful existence is credited to Noyes, who became an astute student of the communal life and wrote one of the first books describing America's communal experiments, History of American Socialisms(1870). Through most of its existence it averaged some 300 members/residents. In 1851 it founded a second community in Wallingford, Connecticut. However, for reasons still not fully understood, on January 1, 1881, the community came to an end and reorganized the economic segment of the community to a joint stock company. Many of the former members then settled in Oneida in nuclear families.


Carden, Maren L. Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1969.

Foster, Lawrence. Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experiments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mormons. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University press, 1991. 353 pp.

Noyes, John Humphrey. History of American Socialisms.1870. Rept. as Strange Cults and Utopias of 19th-Century America. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. 678 pp.

Noyes, Pierrepont B. A Godly Heritage. New York: Rinehart, 1958.

Robertson, Constance Noyes, ed. Oneida Community: An Autobiography, 1851-1876. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1970.


The Peace Mission Movement

℅ The Woodmont Estate
1622 Spring Mill Rd.
Gladwyne, PA 19035

The Peace Mission Movement was founded as an organization in the early twentieth century by the Rev. Major J. Divine, better known as Father Divine. He was one of the most colorful and controversial leaders of a new religious movement in American history. By his own choosing, and in accord with his own religious conviction, Father Divine's life and activity are veiled in obscurity until just prior to 1919 in Brooklyn, New York, where he was known to be preaching about Jesus Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God.

From his own writings and the testimonies of those who knew him, it is believed that Father Divine left Brooklyn and went south just after the Jim Crow Law was passed in Grover Cleveland's administration. While in the South, he was in the hands of 32 lynch mobs because of his stand for brotherhood, eternal life, and salvation being free and without the payment of money. The first Mother Divine and others were witnesses of his treatment in the hands of lynch mobs. In the name of the Rev. Major J. Divine, he married Mother Peninniah Divine on June 6, 1882.

Father Divine appeared as an intinerant preacher on the east coast of the United States who found fellowship with others who were preaching that the Christ could be manifested as God in man. Samuel Morris, known as Father Jehovah, and John Hickerson, known by his followers as Bishop St. John the Divine, were two of these. Because of jealous rivalry, it is believed, Hickerson fabricated the story that Father Divine's name was really George Baker. Hickerson also is responsible for other biographical misinformation.

To remove himself from the turmoil, Father Divine went into seclusion in the little Long Island fishing village of Sayville, New York. It was here that his residence became known as "The Rescue Home for the Poor Only." He attracted those in need of food, clothing, shelter, and employment, as well as seekers who were drawn by the demonstration at the Sayville residence of "supernatural" abundance in the midst of seeming scarcity. Father Divine's work commanded more and more attention, and ever greater numbers flocked to Sayville to banquet with him, listen to his sermons, and receive healings of mind, body, and spirit, all gratis to everyone who came.

The influx of numbers of people into the town disturbed the residents. Their hostility led to a court case against Father Divine in 1931, the events of which created worldwide publicity. Although the local county court convicted Father Divine, fined him, and sent him to jail for 30 days, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York later condemned the proceedings as erroneous and prejudicial.

The vindication notwithstanding, Father Divine chose to move his headquarters to Harlem in 1933, where he could direct his activity to the masses, especially the African Americans who had gathered there after World War I. While gaining a large following from the Harlem public, he experienced continual harassment from the authorities, so that in 1942 he moved again, this time to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Peace Mission Movement is primarily of a religious nature, but its tenets have strong social, economic, and patriotic ramifications. Its members believe in the principles of Americanism, brotherhood, Christianity, democracy, and Judaism, and that all true religions are synonymous. Members believe that Father Divine fulfills the scriptural promise of the Second Coming of Christ, is the personification of God in a bodily form, and that heaven is a state of consciousness. This state is being materialized, in as much as the members believe that America is the birthplace of the Kingdom of God on Earth, which will be realized when everyone lives the life of Christ.

Father Divine founded the churches under the Peace Mission Movement which were incorporated in 1940 and 1941. Mother Divine, with the recognition of Father Divine's Ever Presence, became the Spiritual Head in 1965. There are no ministers and is no prescribed ritual in the church services. Those in attendance are free to testify, sing, read scripture or the Words of Father Divine or Mother Divine, or offer praise to God as they are led to do from any inner prompting. Services feature congregational singing. The only sacrament is Holy Communion, served daily as a full-course meal to which all are welcome. There are also two holidays: April 29, which is the celebration of Father Divine's marriage to His Spotless Bride (Mother Divine) to bring about the universal brotherhood of man and the propagation of virtue, honesty, and truth; and September 10-12, which is the consecration and dedication of Woodmont to universalize the Woodmont Estate as a symbol of the highest spiritual state of consciousness.

The mission stands for the absolute fatherhood and motherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. Its members believe that a person is a person–not a specified race, color, nationality, or religion, and they live integrated together as brothers and sisters in the family of God and as members only of the human race. They avoid all reference to color or race.

Members of the mission live communally in the churches and affiliated sorority and fraternity houses. They are strictly celibate men and women living in separate houses and on separate floors of the larger facilities. They observe Father Divine's International Modest Code which states: "No smoking, No drinking, No obscenity, No vulgarity, No profanity, No undue mixing of sexes, and No receiving of gifts, presents, tips or bribes." It is understood to include abstinence from all drugs.

The Peace Mission Movement was most active in the postdepression era when Father Divine preached peace, health, happiness, and abundance, and demonstrated that his teachings were practical as he provided food and shelter for all those in need at no cost to them. To others in dire circumstances, but who had a poverty-level income or less, Father Divine offered 15-cent meals and one dollar-per-week shelter, so that they could hold up their heads with a sense of individual worth and independence, since they were able to pay for their sustenance. The same abundance was manifested in the churches and extensions in various countries as well as those in the United States, where elaborate banquets are the custom.

After Father Divine's passing, his wife Sweet Angel, known to members as Mother Divine, assumed leadership of the movement. She had married Father Divine in 1946, and currently resides at Woodmont. The movement has a long history of being integrated, as was the marriage.

Membership: In 1995 the movement reported that it owned and operated two hotels in Philadelphia. Branches exist in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Central America, Great Britain, and Nigeria. No membership statistic are kept.

Periodicals: The New Day. Enlightenment.


Burnham, Kenneth. God Comes to America. Boston, MA: Lambeth Press, 1979.

Harris, Sara. Father Divine. New York: Collier Books, 1971.

Hoshor, John. God Drives a Rolls Royce. Philadelphia, PA: Hillman-Curl, 1936.

Mother Divine. The Peace Mission Movement. Philadelphia, PA: Imperial Press, 1982.

Weisbrot, Robert. Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1983.


People of the Living God

Rte. 2,
Box 423-46
McMinnville, TN 37110-9512

The People of the Living God was formed in 1932 by Harry Miller (a former minister in the Assemblies of God) and his fatherin-law (a former minister in the Presbyterian Church). They saw their action as a stand against sectarianism, and they opened a Bible training school in Los Angeles to prepare "non-sectarian" missionaries. During the next four years (1937-1941), some of them lived in Kentucky operating a free school in a bankrupt county and then moved into the mountains of Tennessee. The group finally settled in New Orleans, where it remained for many years.

Sectarianism is defined as holding doctrinal agreement a necessary requirement for fellowship. To keep free from it, the group maintains an open pulpit, from which laymen and ministers who wish to contest doctrinal beliefs can speak. Conduct, not opinion, is the rule in matters of fellowship (Acts 15:28-29). The doctrinal consensus of the group is close to the beliefs of the Assemblies of God. Members are Trinitarian Pentecostals and practice two ordinances–baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper (which is open to all). They believe that speaking in tongues is a sign of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The fellowship remains small. Headquarters moved from New Orleans to rural Tennessee in 1982. Members work inside the group, with a common treasury. All buying is done by a purchasing agent. Members receive no personal allowance. They run a free Christian school which any child may attend. The simple lifestyle allows a large percentage of money to be put into literature and into the support of nonsectarian missionaries overseas. The group publishes a series of booklets, mostly of a controversial nature, which is sent throughout the world.

Membership: In 1997 there were two centers and approximately 75 resident members. There are affiliated members in the Philippines.

Periodicals: The Testimony of Truth. Send orders to Rte. 2, Box 423, McMinnville, TN 37110.


Miller, Harry R. Community, A Way of Life. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.

——. Enchantments. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.

——. A Man of Like Passions. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.


The Pilgrims


The Pilgrims were a small group that arose in Quebec, in an area just north of the Vermont border in 1816. They were formed by Isaac Bullard, who recovered from a long illness with a determination to follow Christ. He began to preach and to gather a following that he organized along what he saw as a primitivist pattern. The group lived communally out of a common purse and became known for their constant prayer and frequent fasts. However, the most remembered characteristic by those who encountered them was their refusal to bathe. They also discarded their civilized "manufactured" clothing and donned animal skins. Their clothing–coupled with their refusal to bathe–led to their exuding an offensive smell.

In the summer of 1817, Bullard received a revelation to migrate toward the American southwest in a pilgrimage to a Promised Land. Meanwhile, Bullard had married and named his first child, a boy, Christ. As the pilgrimage began, the Pilgrims numbered approximately 55. As they traveled across New England, they were heard to mutter a prayer, "My God, My God, What wouldst thou have me do? Mummyjum, Mummyjum." As a result they were often dubbed the Mummyjums.

The pilgrimage took the better part of a year. They journeyed through New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Missouri. As they traveled, members dropped out, some because they fell ill, others because they came to reject the message preached by Bullard. Still others left to join the Shakers. When the group reached Arkansas in 1881, only about 10 people were left. They settled on an isolated island and the Pilgrims soon passed into obscurity.


Fogarty, Robert S. Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. 271 pp.

Ham, F. Gerald. "The Prophet and the Mummyjums: Isaac Bullard and the Vermont Pilgrims of 1817."Wisconsin Magazine of History(Summer 1973).


Shiloh Trust

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Rev. Eugene Crosby Monroe (1880-1961) was a businessman who in 1923 was ordained in the Apostolic Church, a Britishbased pentecostal body. Monroe served as a pastor of the Apostolic Church in Philadelphia until ill health forced his retirement from both his pastoral duties and his business career, which he had continued. He settled on a farm near Sherman, New York, to which young men and women came to continue under his ministry. Out of this situation evolved Shiloh Trust, a selfsupporting Pentecostal community, also known as the Church of Shiloh. A large-scale food business was established, through which baked goods, cheese, and other foods were distributed to retail outlets.

Monroe died in 1961, by which time Shiloh Trust had grown into a sucessful operation. He was succeeded by his son, who was later killed in a plane crash. James Janisch is the current Trustee. In 1963, the wholesale distribution of health foods to retail stores began to dominate the group's business interests. In 1968, headquarters were moved to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. Members of the community gather daily for meetings. Beliefs are similar to those of the Apostolic Church.

Membership: Not reported.


Societas Fraternia


The Societas Fraternia was a communal group founded in 1878 by George Hinde on land he had purchased near Fullerton, California. Hinde settled on the land in 1876, but the beginning of the community followed the arrival of Spiritualist, Dr. Louis Schlesinger, two years later. The major beliefs and practices seem to have been derived from those of Isaac B. Rumford and the Joyful Community, which had advocated a form of Christian Spiritualism and a diet of raw food named for the Garden of Eden. Buildings were erected on a circular pattern to allow the better circulation of air.

In 1879 Schlesinger was forced into court to answer charges that a child at the farm was being starved to death on a diet of apple, rice, and barley water. The case (in which Schlesinger was convicted and then later acquitted) initiated a period of controversy that led him to leave the colony in 1882. Hinde vanished the following year. Leadership was then assumed by Walter Lockwood, who led the group for almost 40 years until his death in 1921. During its years of existence, the colony's dietetic commitments led to its participation in the development of the fruit and vegetable industry in southern California. The colony dissolved a short time after Lockwood's death.


Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1953. 209 pp.


The Society of the Separatists of Zoar


The Society of the Separatists of Zoar originated in a dissenting religious movement led by George Bimeler (originally Baumeler), a German weaver. The group, which grew up around the unofficial preaching of Bimeler, ran into conflict with state church authorities. They refused to send their children to the Lutheran Church-controlled schools and the young men refused to serve in the army. Most annoyingly, they refused to recognize the authority of government officials. They soon found themselves on the receiving end of church and government repression.

In 1817, with some money contributed by British Quakers, Bimeler was able to purchase 5,600 acres in northeast Ohio, and the group settled there in 1818. They had no plans to establish a communal society, but in 1819 they formally adopted a new corporate structure as a means of better group survival. They struggled until 1827 when many of the men were employed to work on the new canal that was being built through their county. The money their labor brought in provided the necessary capital to lift them out of poverty. In 1832 the group was incorporated as the Society of the Separationists of Zoar. Leadership was invested in a three-man board of trustees.

The Zoarites practiced a simple, quietist faith based upon the Sermon on the Mount. They did not use audible prayer, did not baptize or celebrate the Eucharist, and tended to avoid all ceremony. They had no religious functionaries except for Bimeler who delivered "discourses" (not sermons) at the Sunday gatherings. Hymns and music seemed to have been their chief form of entertainment. Like the Quakers, they tended to address people in the familiar tense with "thou." Originally they were celibate, but began to marry and have children in the 1830s, though the married Bimeler contended that celibacy was the better way.

The Zoarite experiment lasted into the 1890s when internal disputes among the aging group led to its dissolution; there were some 221 adult members at the time. Some have attributed the dissolution to a lessening of religious faith and zeal among the leaderless members (Bimeler having died in 1853).


Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. London: Turnstile Press, 1951. 240 pp.

Randall, E. History of the Zoar Society. N.p., 1904.


Straight Edge Community


The Straight Edge Community was a Christian Socialist community founded in 1899 in New York City by Wilbur F. Copeland and his wife. Its rather unusual name was derived from a line of reasoning that suggested that Jesus was a carpenter and that a carpenter's rule is a straight edge. Chapman placed an ad in the New York Herald asking for responses from any who might want to take the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously and to work in a cooperative endeavor based upon the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule became the constitution of the group and a set of bylaws were adopted from applicable Bible verses:

1. Thou shalt love thy neighbors as thyself. 2. In honor preferring one another. 3. Lay not up for yourself treasures upon earth. 4. I am in the midst of you as he that serveth. 5. Take heed that ye do not let your righteousness before men to be seen of them. 6. Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy, think on these things. The Straight Edge Community emerged as a school of methods for the application of the teachings of Jesus to business and society. A periodical, The Straight-Edge, was initiated. The Copelands' home became the center of the community, and a farm was purchased on Staten Island and several small industries were begun in Manhattan. The community averaged some 18 people at any one time, but more than 200 people passed through it during the years of its existence. Many entered out of poverty, but left with a skill and ready for financial independence. Workers were not paid a salary, but shared in the earnings of the corporation according to a complex point system that allowed some incentive for improving work skills and staying with the community. The community continued for more than a decade, but seems to have been disbursed soon after the turn of the century.

The Straight Edgers developed a school and camp program for the children of its member-workers where young people could learn the simple life without paying large sums of money. Children received a practical education that prepared them for work in industry.


Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.


Temple Society

℅ Dr. Richard Hoffman
152 Tucker
Bentleigh, Australia

The Temple Society, known earlier as the Friends of Jerusalem, was founded by Christoph Hoffman (1815-1885) in 1861 in Wurttemberg, Germany. Hoffmann had attacked the established churches as not having succeeded in bringing about the improved society envisaged by the prophets of Israel. Hoffman's alternative was to motivate people to strive for those conditions preached by Jesus as "the kingdom of God," which people should enter and achieve in their daily life on earth. He, with others, gathered likeminded followers and prepared them for settlement in the Holy Land where reformation of Christian life was most likely to be noticed and become an example for Christianity to follow.

During preparation for migration to Palestine, the run-down property of Kirschenhardthof became a settlement for 12 families. This settlement served as prototype for the New Jerusalem, which was to be established in the Holy Land. Georg David Hardegg, whose faith included a more literal belief in the various gifts of the spirit, was active in achieving the practical steps necessary for settling in Palestine. Hoffman's view of Christianity was based on what he considered to be the actual teachings of Jesus, as distinct from what people wrote about the person of Jesus. In an important work, "Sendschreiben ueber den Tempel und die Sakramente, das Dogma von der Dreieinigkeit und von der Gottheit Christi, sowie ueber die Versohnung der Menschen mit Gott," he demonstrated that the Trinity and deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is the work of people long after the death of Jesus. The incarnation may be viewed as the expression of God's creative thought in the mind and body of Jesus. Through belief in the resurrection, Christ became a "man-made God." Jesus showed the possibilities of human nature, changed humanity's attitude toward God, and thus established his kingdom as a better mental and social relationship among people. Sin is a disorder; faith is obedience to Jesus Christ and the courage to improve the world despite many obstacles. A state in which people live for the values taught be Jesus is the goal. Other than as symbols, the sacraments are not necessary. The true sacrament is manifested when a society decides to dedicate all its resources (time, talents, and material goods) to spreading Christ's kingdom.

Beginning in 1869, six settlements flourished in Palestine until the outbreak of World War II. Their official end came in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded. More than 300 Templers were sent to Australia for internment during World War II. These, with Templer migrants from elsewhere, mainly Germany, founded the Temple Society of Australia in 1950. This group is now the largest Templer group in the world. In the 1860s German immigrants to America and Russia also founded Templer communities. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, individual descendants of these Templers are finding their way back to the Templer community that has always existed around Stuttgart, Germany, since 1861. In America, communities were founded and formal organization occurred in 1866. By 1890 there were four congregations. This number had dwindled to two by 1916. These two congregations survived into the 1970s. Earlier, American Templers had been formally advised to join the Unitarians as World War made communications among Germans difficult. Today there are only individual Templers, not necessarily born there, left in the United States.

Membership: In 2002 the society reported more than 1,500 members. The numbers in Germany are approximately 450.


United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing

Current address not obtained for this edition.

Mother Ann Lee (1736-1787) was a psychic-visionary who gathered a group of followers around her while still in her native England. Included in her teaching was a deep sense of the sinfulness of humanity. After the death of her four children in infancy, she began to manifest her sense of sin by a vocal attack on the indecent act of sexual union. The name given to the group was the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing; the members are popularly called the Shakers.

In the 1750s Mother Ann Lee became associated with a group of Quakers who had been influenced by the French Prophets, people who prophesied and sometimes had visions. She gradually became their leader. Her leadership led to the group's acceptance of celibacy as a sign of folowing Christ. In 1774, encouraged by persecution, the group sailed for America. Because of their pacifism, Shakers became the object of scorn during the Revolution.

After the Revolution, they began to prosper, especially under the leadership of Joseph Meacham, who came to power in 1787 following Ann's death. The Shakers established communities across America. At the height of their development around 1830, they had 19 communities stretching from southern Kentucky to Maine, with 6,000 resident members. Books were being published and widely circulated. Products of various community interests further spread their reputation.

Shaker theology centers upon the belief that in the coming of Ann Lee, Christ had appeared. They accepted the common millennialist use of the 2,300-days prophecy (Daniel 8:14). They dated the beginning of this prophecy from 533 B.C. when it was given, and 2,300 years brought them to 1747, when James Wardley and his wife began their work in Manchester. It was out of this independent French Prophet/Quaker Society that Ann Lee rose to prominence. The most famous activity of the Shakers and the one from which they got their nickname was ecstatic dance. This activity was ritualized in to a communal exercise and has often been viewed as sublimation of the prohibited sexual activity.

The United Society has become an important aspect of American history, and one of its abandoned communities at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, is being reconstructed. A museum exists in the Shaker church at South Union, Kentucky, and at Old Chatham, New York. The community at New Lebenon, New York, was sold to the Sufi Order headed by Pir Vilayat Khan.

Membership: In June 1988, Gertrude Soule, one of the eight remaining members of the United Society of Believers died at the age of 93. Her death left seven remaining members (all females), two of which reside at Canterbury, New Hampshire, and five of which live at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. In 1965 all the remaining Shakers had agreed to admit no new members. Recently, the Sabbathday Lake group has broken that agreement and has admitted three new members, not recognized by the remaining members at Canterbury. In 1990, Bertha Lindsay, the last of the Shaker eldresses, died.


Andrews, Edward Deming. The Gift to Be Simple. New York: Dover, 1962.

Barker, R. Mildred. Poems and Prayers. Sabbathday Lake, ME: Shaker Press, 1983.

——. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker. Sabbathday Lake, ME: Shaker Press, 1978.

Desroche, Henri. The American Shakers. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1971.

Faber, Doris. The Perfect Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974.


WFLK Fountain of the World


Francis H. Pencovic (1911-1958) was born in obscurity, but as Krishna Venta; he died a martyr's death amongst followers who still thought of him as the reincarnated Christ. Pencovic spent part of his early life in Utah, where he both married his second wife, Ruth, and became enamored of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. According to belief, as Krishna Venta, he landed in America from the Himalayas in 1932. He had been sent from heaven to work among the Indians one hundred and forty-four years previously. Krishna established his group in Box Canyon in the San Fernando Valley of California, where it gained a reputation for fire-fighting activities. Venta was rumored to have developed an openly promiscuous sexual life, which seems to have been his downfall, for on December 10, 1958, two dissident sexual partners of Venta set off an explosion in the group's administration building, killing themselves, Venta, and seven others.

Members of the Fountain of the World believed that Venta was the latest of a series of "saviors" of mankind who have come from heaven. The first was Adam, then Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Constantine, Abraham Lincoln, and Joseph Smith. One by one, each gave up in disgust as the sins of men overcame them both spiritually and physically. Members lived communally, turning over any prior possessions to the group. Thus, they became united with one another spiritually, mentally, and through sharing their belongings. They were called upon to practice the virtues of wisdom, knowledge, faith, and love. The Fountain was headed by Krishna and twelve apostles.

Krishna's death in 1958 was a setback, but it did not destroy the group. Mother Ruth Pencovic assumed leadership of the Fountain of the World. The group survived into the early 1980s near Canoga Park, California. There was also second center near Homer, Alaska, set up by Krisha before his death.


Mathison, Richard. Faiths, Cults and Sects of America. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960.

Orrmont, Arthur. Love Cults & Faith Healers. New York: Ballantine Books, 1961.


Woman's Commonwealth


The Woman's Commonwealth was a communal society organized by Martha McWhirter in the late 1860s, in Belton, Texas. In the years immediately after the Civil War, the Holiness Movement, which offered to believers the possibility of entire sanctification, spread through all parts of Methodism. The movement was initially carried by informal prayer bands, many of those led by women. Thus it was that McWhirter, a life-long Methodist, called together a few women to meet for prayer, Bible study, and an exploration of the meaning of the sanctified life. They soon experienced sanctification and, as occurred elsewhere, their experience and the resulting censure they made of unsanctified church members split the local congregation. It also split families, McWhirter's included. Many of the women were cut off from any financial support. The idea of living together communally arose and was adopted.

To keep themselves together financially, the women began several businesses, including a boarding house and a laundry. Initially, many of the women worked at day jobs until the community businesses were prosperous enough to support all of them. As they prospered, initial hostile opinions gave way to more favorable ones. By the 1890s they had become an economic force in the small community and McWhirter was elected to the town council.

In 1898 the entire group relocated to Washington, D.C. In 1902 the group, consisting of approximately 24 members, was incorporated as the Woman's Commonwealth of Washington, D.C. McWhirter died in 1904 and was succeeded by Fannie Haltzclaw.

The group followed a Methodist Holiness theology. Believers could receive the Holy Spirit and be sanctified, and as most of the women had experienced sanctification prior to the community's establishment, the group lived as a community of the sanctified, and were frequently referred to as the Sanctificationists, a designation members did not find inappropriate. They believed that communal living produced the important virtues of honesty, sobriety, spirituality, happiness, and justice. They tried to organize their life according to the Golden Rule. As there were no men in the community, celibacy was a way of life. They also lived separate from involvement in local churches, though they had a positive view of the role and work of government.

In the end, because of their celibacy and reluctance to take in new members, the group died out, though remnants survived on their farm in rural Montgomery County, Maryland, into the 1930s.


Fogarty, Robert S. Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980. 271 pp.

Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908. 608 pp.

Miller, Timothy. American Communes, 18601960: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990. 583 pp.

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