The Communistic Societies of the United States
Part 2 out of 8
these, who are the owners of the place and of much property elsewhere,
there are twenty-five or thirty children of various ages, adopted by the
society and apprenticed to it, and an equal number living there with
parents who are hired laborers; of these hired laborers, men and women,
there are about one hundred. The whole population is German; and German
is the language one commonly hears, and in which on Sunday worship is
carried on. Nevertheless all the people speak English also.
The Harmonists themselves are sturdy, healthy-looking men and women,
most of them gray haired; with an air of vigorous independence;
conspicuously kind and polite; well-fed and well-preserved. As I
examined their faces on Sunday in church, they struck me as a remarkably
healthy and well-satisfied collection of old men and women; by no means
dull, and very decidedly masters of their lives. Their working dress has
for its peculiarity the roundabout or jacket I have before mentioned; on
Sunday they wear long coats. The women look very well indeed in their
Norman caps; and their dress, wholesome and sensible, is not in any way
odd or inappropriate. Indeed, when Miss Rapp, the granddaughter of the
founder of the society, walked briskly into church on Sunday, her
bright, kindly face was so well set off by the cap she wore that she
seemed quite an admirable object to me; and I thought no head-dress in
the world could so well become an elderly lady.
George Rapp, founder and until his death in 1847 head of the "Harmony
Society," was born in October, 1757, at Iptingen in Wuertemberg. He was
the son of a small farmer and vine-dresser, and received such a moderate
common-school education as the child of parents in such circumstances
would naturally receive at that time in South Germany. When he had been
taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, he left school and
assisted his father on the farm, working as a weaver during the winter
months. At the age of twenty-six he married a farmer's daughter, who
bore him a son, John, and a daughter, Rosina, both of whom later became
with him members of the society.
Rapp appears to have been from his early youth fond of reading, and of a
reflective turn of mind. Books were probably not plentiful in his
father's house, and he became a student of the Bible, and began
presently to compare the condition of the people among whom he lived
with the social order laid down and described in the New Testament. He
became dissatisfied especially with the lifeless condition of the
churches; and in the year 1787, when he was thirty, he had evidently
found others who held with him, for he began to preach to a small
congregation of friends in his own house on Sundays.
The clergy resented this interference with their office, and persecuted
Rapp and his adherents; they were fined and imprisoned; and this proved
to be, as usual, the best way to increase their numbers and to confirm
their dislike of the prevailing order of things. They were denounced as
"Separatists," and had the courage to accept the name.
Rapp taught his followers, I am told, that they were in all things to
obey the laws, to be peaceable and quiet subjects, and to pay all their
taxes, those to the Church as well as to the State. But he insisted on
their right to believe what they pleased and to go to church where they
thought it best. This was a tolerably impregnable platform.
In the course of six years, with the help of the persecutions of the
clergy, Rapp had gathered around him not less than three hundred
families; and had hearers and believers at a distance of twenty miles
from his own house. He appears to have labored so industriously on the
farm as to accumulate a little property, and in 1803 his adherents
determined upon emigrating in a body to America, where they were sure of
freedom to worship God after their own desires.
Rapp sailed in that year for Baltimore, accompanied by his son John and
two other persons. After looking about in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and
Ohio, they concluded to buy five thousand acres of wild land about
twenty-five miles north of Pittsburgh, in the valley of the
Connoquenessing. Frederick (Reichert) Rapp, an adopted son of George
Rapp, evidently a man of uncommon ability and administrative talent, had
been left in charge in Germany; and had so far perfected the necessary
arrangements for emigration that no time was lost in moving, as soon as
Rapp gave notice that he had found a proper locality for settlement. On
the 4th of July, 1804, the ship _Aurora_ from Amsterdam landed three
hundred of Rapp's people in Baltimore; and six weeks later three hundred
more were landed in Philadelphia. The remainder, coming in another ship,
were drawn off by Haller, one of Rapp's traveling companions, to settle
in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
The six hundred souls who thus remained to Rapp appear to have been
mainly, and indeed with few exceptions, of the peasant and mechanic
class. There were among them, I have been told, a few of moderately good
education, and presumably of somewhat higher social standing than the
great body; there were a few who had considerable property, for
emigrants in those days. All were thrifty, and few were destitute. It is
probable that they had determined in Germany to establish a community of
goods, in accordance with their understanding of the social theory of
Jesus; but for the present each family retained its property.
Rapp met them on their arrival, and settled them in different parts of
Maryland and Pennsylvania; withdrawing a certain number of the ablest
mechanics and laborers to proceed with him to the newly purchased land,
where he and they spent a toilsome fall and winter in preparing
habitations for the remainder; and on the 15th of February, 1805, these,
and such as they could so early in the season gather with them, formally
and solemnly organized themselves into the "Harmony Society," agreeing
to throw all their possessions into a common fund, to adopt a uniform
and simple dress and style of house; to keep thenceforth all things in
common; and to labor for the common good of the whole body. Later in the
spring they were joined by fifty additional families; and thus they
finally began with about one hundred and twenty-five families, or, as I
am told, less than seven hundred and fifty men, women, and children.
Rapp was then forty-eight years of age. He was, according to the best
accounts I have been able to gather, a man of robust frame and sound
health, with great perseverance, enterprise, and executive ability, and
remarkable common-sense. It was fortunate for the community that its
members were all laboring men. In the first year they erected between
forty and fifty log-houses, a church and school-house, grist-mill, barn,
and some workshops, and cleared one hundred and fifty acres of land. In
the following year they cleared four hundred acres more, and built a
saw-mill, tannery, and storehouse, and planted a small vineyard. A
distillery was also a part of this year's building; and it is odd to
read that the Harmonists, who have aimed to do all things well, were
famous among Western men for many years for the excellence of the whisky
they made; of which, however, they always used very sparingly
themselves. Among their crops in succeeding years were corn, wheat, rye,
hemp, and flax; wool from merino sheep, which they were the first in
that part of Pennsylvania to own; and poppies, from which they made
sweet-oil. They did not rest until they had established also a
woolen-mill. It was a principle with Rapp that the society should, as
far as possible, produce and make every thing it used; and in the early
days, I am told, they bought very little indeed of provisions or
clothing, having then but small means.
Rapp was, with the help of his adopted son, the organizer of the
community's labor, appointing foremen in each department; he planned
their enterprises--but he was also their preacher and teacher; and he
taught them that their main duty was to live a sincerely and rigidly
religious life; that they were not to labor for wealth, or look forward
anxiously for prosperity; that the coming of the Lord was near, and for
this they were waiting, as his chosen ones separated from the world.
At this time they still lived in families, and encouraged, or at any
rate did not discourage, marriage. Among the members who married between
1805 and 1807 was John Rapp, the founder's son, and the father of Miss
Gertrude Rapp, who still lives at Economy; and there is no doubt that
the elder Rapp performed the marriage ceremony. During the year 1807,
however, a deep religious fervor pervaded the society; and a remarkable
result of this "revival of religion" was the determination of most of
the members to conform themselves more closely in several ways to what
they believed to be the spirit and commands of Jesus. Among other
matters, they were persuaded in their own minds that it was best to
cease to live in the married state. I have been assured by older members
of the society, who have, as they say, often heard the whole of this
period described by those who were actors in it, that this determination
to refrain from marriage and from married life originated among the
younger members; and that, though "Father Rapp" was not averse to this
growth of asceticism, he did not eagerly encourage it, but warned his
people not to act rashly in so serious and difficult a matter, but to
proceed with great caution, and determine nothing without careful
counsel together. At the same time he, I am told, gave it as his own
conviction that the unmarried is the higher and holier estate. In short,
there is reason to believe that he managed in this matter, as he appears
to have done in others, with great prudence and judgment. He himself,
and his son, John Rapp, set an example which the remainder of the
society quickly followed; thenceforth no more marriages were contracted
in Harmony, and no more children were born.
A certain number of the younger people, feeling no vocation for a
celibate life, at this time withdrew from the society. The remainder
faithfully ceased from conjugal intercourse. Husbands and wives were
not required to live in different houses, but occupied, as before, the
same dwelling, with their children, only treating each other as brother
and sister in Christ, and remembering the precept of the apostle: "This
I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that
have wives be as though they had none," etc. These are the words of one
of the older members to the Reverend Dr. Aaron Williams, from whose
interesting account of the Harmony Society I have taken a number of
facts, being referred to it by Mr. Henrici, the present head of Economy.
The same person added: "The burden was easier to bear, because it became
general throughout the whole community, and all bore their share alike."
Another member wrote in 1862: "Convinced of the truth and holiness of
our purpose, we voluntarily and unanimously adopted celibacy, altogether
from religious motives, in order to withdraw our love entirely from the
lusts of the flesh, which, with the help of God and much prayer and
spiritual warfare, we have succeeded well in doing now for fifty years."
Surely so extraordinary a resolve was never before carried out with so
simple and determined a spirit. Among most people it would have been
thought necessary, or at least prudent, to separate families, and to
adopt other safeguards against temptation; but the good Harmonists did
and do nothing of the kind. "What kind of watch or safeguard did or do
you keep over the intercourse of the sexes," I asked in Economy, and
received for reply, "None at all; it would be of no use. If you have to
watch people, you had better give them up. We have always depended upon
the strength of our religious convictions, and upon prayer and a
"Do you believe the celibate life to be healthful?" I asked; and the
reply was, "Decidedly so; almost all our people have lived to a hale old
age. Father Rapp himself died at ninety; and no doubt many of our
members would have lived longer than they did, had it not been for the
hardships they suffered in Indiana, where we lived in a malarious
region." I must add my own testimony that the Harmonists now living are
almost without exception stout, well-built, hearty people, the women as
well as the men.
At the same time that the celibate life was adopted, the community
agreed to cease using tobacco in every form--a deprivation which these
Germans must have felt almost as severely as the abandonment of conjugal
The site of the Pennsylvania settlement proved to have been badly chosen
in two respects. It had no water communication with the outer world; and
it was unfavorable to the growth of the vine. In 1814, after proper
discussion, the society determined to seek a more desirable spot; and
purchased thirty thousand acres of land in Posey County, Indiana, in the
Wabash valley. Thither one hundred persons proceeded in June 1814, to
prepare a place for the remainder; and by the summer of 1815 the whole
colony was in its new home, having sold six thousand acres of land, with
all their valuable improvements, in their old home, for one hundred
The price they received is said to have been, and no doubt was, very
much below the real value of the property. It is impossible to sell off
a large and expensively improved estate like theirs all at once. It is
probably true that the machinery and buildings were worth all they
received for the whole property; and it would not be an overestimate to
give the real value of what they sold at one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. They had begun, ten years before, with one hundred and
twenty-five families; as after the second year they had bred no
children, and as they then lost some members who left on account of
their aversion to a celibate life, it is probable that they had not
increased in numbers. If they had property worth one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars, they would then have been able to divide, at the end
of ten years, at the rate of twelve hundred dollars to each head of a
family--a considerable sum, if we remember that they began with probably
less than five hundred dollars for each family; and had not only lived
comfortably for the greater part of ten years, but enjoyed society, had
a good school for their children, a church, and all the moral and civil
safeguards created by and incident to a well-settled community or town.
Setting aside these safeguards and enjoyments of a thoroughly organized
society, it seems to me doubtful if the same number of families,
settling with narrow means at random in the wilderness, each
independently of the others, could at that period, before railroads were
built, have made as good a showing in mere pecuniary return in the same
time. So far, then, the Harmony Society would seem to have made a
pecuniary success--a fact of which they may have made but little account,
but which is important to a general and independent consideration of
On the Wabash they rapidly built up a town; but, possessing now both
experience and some capital, they erected larger factories, and rapidly
extended their business in every department. "Harmony," as they called
the new town, became an important business centre for a considerable
region. They sold their products and manufactured goods in branch stores
as well as at Harmony; they increased in wealth; and, what was of
greater importance to them, they received some large accessions of
members from Germany--friends and relatives of the founders of the
colony. In 1817 one hundred and thirty persons came over at one time
from Wuertemberg. I was told that before they left Indiana they had
increased to between seven and eight hundred members.
"Father Rapp" appears to have guided his people wisely. He continued to
exhort them not to care overmuch for riches, but to use their wealth as
having it not; and in 1818, "for the purpose of promoting greater
harmony and equality between the original members and those who had come
in recently," a notable thing was done at Rapp's suggestion. Originally a
book had been kept, in which was written down what each member of the
society had contributed to the common stock. This book was now brought
out and by unanimous consent burned, so that no record should
thenceforward show what any one had contributed.
In 1824 they removed once more. They sold the town of Harmony and twenty
thousand acres of land to Robert Owen, who settled upon it his New
Lanark colony when he took possession. Owen paid one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars--not nearly the value of the property, it is said; but
the Harmonists had suffered from fever and ague and unpleasant
neighbors, and were determined to remove. They then bought the property
they still hold at Economy, and in 1825 removed to this their new and
final home. One of the older members told me that the first detachment
which came up from Indiana consisted of ninety men, mechanics and
farmers; and these "made the work fly." They laid out the town, cleared
the timber from the streets and house places; and during some time
completed a log-house every day. Many of these log-cabins are still
standing, but are no longer used as residences. The first church, now
used as a storehouse, was a log-house of uncommonly large dimensions.
I think it probable, from what I have heard from the older members, that
when they were comfortably settled at Economy, the Harmony Society was
for some years in its most flourishing condition. All had come on
together from Indiana; and all were satisfied with the beauty of the new
home. Those who had suffered from malarious fevers here rapidly
recovered. The vicinity to Pittsburgh, and cheap water communication,
encouraged them in manufacturing. Economy lay upon the main stage-road,
and was thus an important and presently a favorite stopping-place; the
colonists found kindly neighbors; there was sufficient young blood in
the community to give enterprise and strength; and "we sang songs every
day, and had music every evening," said old Mr. Keppler to me,
recounting the glories of those days. They erected woolen and cotton
mills, a grist-mill and saw-mill; they planted orchards and vineyards;
they began the culture of silk, and with such success that soon the
Sunday dress of men as well as women was of silk, grown, reeled, spun,
and woven by themselves.
In building the new town of Economy they displayed--thanks, I believe,
to the knowledge and skill of Frederick Rapp--a good deal of taste,
though adhering to their ancient plainness; and their two removals had
taught them valuable lessons in the convenient arrangement of machinery;
so that Economy is even now a model of a well-built, well-arranged
country village. As soon as they began to substitute brick for log
houses, they insisted upon erecting for "Father Rapp" a house somewhat
larger and more spacious than the common dwelling-houses, though not in
any other way different. This was advisable, because he was obliged to
entertain many visitors and strangers of distinction. The house stands
opposite the church; and has behind it a spacious garden, arranged in a
somewhat formal style, with box-edgings to the walks, and summer-houses
and other ornaments in the old geometrical style of gardening. This was
open to the people, of course; and here the band played on summer
evenings, or more frequently on Sunday afternoons; and here, too,
flowers were cultivated, I am told, with great success.
How rapidly they made themselves at home in Economy appears from the
following account of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who visited the place in
1826, only a year after it was founded:
"At the inn, a fine, large, frame house, we were received by Mr. Rapp,
the principal, at the head of the community. He is a gray-headed and
venerable old man; most of the members immigrated twenty-one years ago
from Wuertemberg along with him.
"The warehouse was shown to us, where the articles made here for sale or
use are preserved, and I admired the excellence of all. The articles for
the use of the society are kept by themselves; as the members have no
private possessions, and every thing is in common, so must they, in
relation to all their wants, be supplied from the common stock. The
clothing and food they make use of is of the best quality. Of the
latter, flour, salt meat, and all long-keeping articles, are served out
monthly; fresh meat, on the contrary, is distributed as soon as it is
killed, according to the size of the family, etc. As every house has a
garden, each family raises its own vegetables and some poultry, and each
family has its own bake-oven. For such things as are not raised in
Economy, there is a store provided, from which the members, with the
knowledge of the directors, may purchase what is necessary, and the
people of the vicinity may do the same.
"Mr. Rapp finally conducted us into the factory again, and said that the
girls had especially requested this visit that I might hear them sing.
When their work is done, they collect in one of the factory rooms, to
the number of sixty or seventy, to sing spiritual and other songs. They
have a peculiar hymn-book, containing hymns from the old Wuertemberg
collection, and others written by the elder Rapp. A chair was placed for
the old patriarch, who sat amid the girls, and they commenced a hymn in
a very delightful manner. It was naturally symphonious, and exceedingly
well arranged. The girls sang four pieces, at first sacred, but
afterward, by Mr. Rapp's desire, of a gay character. With real emotion
did I witness this interesting scene.
"Their factories and workshops are warmed during the winter by means of
pipes connected with the steam-engine. All the workmen, and especially
the females, had very healthy complexions, and moved me deeply by the
warm-hearted friendliness with which they saluted the elder Rapp. I was
also much gratified to see vessels containing fresh sweet-scented
flowers standing on all the machines. The neatness which universally
reigns is in every respect worthy of praise." [Footnote: "Travels
through North America, during the years 1825-26, by His Highness,
Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach." Philadelphia, 1828.]
This account shows the remarkable rapidity with which they had built up
the new town.
But perfect happiness is not for this world. In 1831 came to Economy a
German adventurer, Bernhard Mueller by right name, who had assumed the
title _Graf_ or Count Maximilian de Leon, and had gathered a
following of visionary Germans, whom he imposed, with himself, upon the
Harmonists, on the pretense that he was a believer with them in
religious matters. He proved to be a wretched intriguer, who brought
ruin on all who connected themselves with him; and who began at once to
make trouble in Economy. Having secured a lodgment, he began to announce
strange doctrines, marriage, a livelier life, and other temptations to
worldliness; and he finally succeeded in effecting a serious division,
which, if it had not been prudently managed, might have destroyed the
community. After bitter disputes, in which at last affairs came to such
a pass that a vote had to be taken, in order to decide who were faithful
to the old order and to Rapp, and who were for Count Leon, an agreement
was come to. "We knew not even who was for and who against us," said Mr.
Henrici to me; "and I was in the utmost anxiety as I made out the two
lists; at last they were complete; all the names had been called; we
counted, and found that five hundred were for Father Rapp, and two
hundred and fifty for Count Leon. Father Rapp, when I told him the
numbers, with his usual ready wit, quoted from the book of Revelation,
'And the tail of the serpent drew the third part of the stars of heaven,
and did cast them to the earth.'"
The end of the dispute was an agreement, under which the society bound
itself to pay to those who adhered to Count Leon one hundred and five
thousand dollars, in three installments, all payable within twelve
months; the other side agreeing, on their part, to leave Economy within
three months, taking with them only their clothing and household
furniture, and relinquishing all claims upon the property of the
society. This agreement was made in March, 1832; and Leon and his
followers withdrew to Phillipsburg, a village ten miles below Economy,
on the other side of the river, which they bought, with eight hundred
acres of land.
Here they set up a society on communistic principles, but permitting
marriage; and here they very quickly wasted the large sum of money they
received from the Harmonists; and after a desperate and lawless attempt
to extort more money from the Economy people, which was happily
defeated, Count Leon absconded with a few of his people in a boat to
Alexandria on the Red River, where this singular adventurer perished of
cholera in 1833. Those he had deluded meantime divided the Phillipsburg
property among themselves, and set up each for himself, and a number
afterward joined Keil in forming the Bethel Community in Missouri, of
which an account will be found in another place.
In 1832, seven years only after the removal to Economy, the society was
able, it thus appears, to pay out in a single year one hundred and five
thousand dollars in cash--a very great sum of money in those days. This
shows that they had largely increased their capital by their thrift and
industry at New Harmony in Indiana, and at Economy. They had then
existed as a community twenty-seven years; had built three towns; and
had during the whole time lived a life of comfort and social order, such
as few individual settlers in our Western States at that time could
III.--DOCTRINES AND PRACTICAL LIFE IN ECONOMY; WITH SOME PARTICULARS OF
The Agreement or Articles of Association under which the "Harmony
Society" was formed in 1805, and which was signed by all the members
thenceforward, read as follows:
"ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION.
"_Whereas_, by the favor of divine Providence, an association or
community has been formed by George Rapp and many others upon the basis
of Christian fellowship, the principles of which, being faithfully
derived from the sacred Scriptures, include the government of the
patriarchal age, united to the community of property adopted in the days
of the apostles, and wherein the simple object sought is to approximate,
so far as human imperfections may allow, to the fulfillment of the will
of God, by the exercise of those affections and the practice of those
virtues which are essential to the happiness of man in time and
"_And whereas_ it is necessary to the good order and well-being of
the said association that the conditions of membership should be clearly
understood, and that the rights, privileges, and duties of every
individual therein should be so defined as to prevent mistake or
disappointment, on the one hand, and contention or disagreement on the
"_Therefore_ be it known to all whom it may concern that we, the
undersigned, citizens of the County of Beaver, in the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, do severally and distinctly, each for himself, covenant,
grant, and agree, to and with the said George Rapp and his associates,
as follows, viz.:
"ARTICLE I. We, the undersigned, for ourselves, our heirs, executors,
and administrators, do hereby give, grant, and forever convey to the
said George Rapp and his associates, and to their heirs and assigns, all
our property, real, personal, and mixed, whether it be lands and
tenements, goods and chattels, money or debts due to us, jointly or
severally, in possession, in remainder, or in reversion or expectancy,
whatsoever and where so ever, without evasion, qualification, or
reserve, as a free gift or donation, for the benefit and use of the said
association or community; and we do hereby bind ourselves, our heirs,
executors, and administrators, to do all such other acts as may be
necessary to vest a perfect title to the same in the said association,
and to place the said property at the full disposal of the
superintendent of the said community without delay.
"ARTICLE II. We do further covenant and agree to and with the said
George Rapp and his associates, that we will severally submit faithfully
to the laws and regulations of said community, and will at all times
manifest a ready and cheerful obedience toward those who are or may be
appointed as superintendents thereof, holding ourselves bound to promote
the interest and welfare of the said community, not only by the labor of
our own hands, but also by that of our children, our families, and all
others who now are or hereafter may be under our control.
"ARTICLE III. If contrary to our expectation it should so happen that we
could not render the faithful obedience aforesaid, and should be induced
from that or any other cause to withdraw from the said association, then
and in such case we do expressly covenant and agree to and with the said
George Rapp and his associates that we never will claim or demand,
either for ourselves, our children, or for any one belonging to us,
directly or indirectly, any compensation, wages, or reward whatever for
our or their labor or services rendered to the said community, or to any
member thereof; but whatever we or our families jointly or severally
shall or may do, all shall be held and considered as a voluntary service
for our brethren.
"ARTICLE IV. In consideration of the premises, the said George Rapp and
his associates do, by these presents, adopt the undersigned jointly and
severally as members of the said community, whereby each of them obtains
the privilege of being present at every religious meeting, and of
receiving not only for themselves, but also for their children and
families, all such instructions in church and school as may be
reasonably required, both for their temporal good and for their eternal
"ARTICLE V. The said George Rapp and his associates further agree to
supply the undersigned severally with all the necessaries of life, as
clothing, meat, drink, lodging, etc., for themselves and their families.
And this provision is not limited to their days of health and strength;
but when any of them shall become sick, infirm, or otherwise unfit for
labor, the same support and maintenance shall be allowed as before,
together with such medicine, care, attendance, and consolation as their
situation may reasonably demand. And if at any time after they have
become members of the association, the father or mother of a family
should die or be otherwise separated from the community, and should
leave their family behind, such family shall not be left orphans or
destitute, but shall partake of the same rights and maintenance as
before, so long as they remain in the association, as well in sickness
as in health, and to such extent as their circumstances may require.
"ARTICLE VI. And if it should so happen as above mentioned that any of
the undersigned should violate his or their agreement, and would or
could not submit to the laws and regulations of the church or the
community, and for that or any other cause should withdraw from the
association, then the said George Rapp and his associates agree to
refund to him or them the value of all such property as he or they may
have brought into the community, in compliance with the first article of
this agreement, the said value to be refunded without interest, in one,
two, or three annual installments, as the said George Rapp and his
associates shall determine. And if the person or persons so withdrawing
themselves were poor, and brought nothing into the community,
notwithstanding they depart openly and regularly, they shall receive a
donation in money, according to the length of their stay and to their
conduct, and to such amount as their necessities may require, in the
judgment of the superintendents of the association."
In 1818, as before mentioned, a book in which was recorded the amount of
property contributed by each member to the general fund was destroyed.
In 1836 a change was made in the formal constitution or agreement above
quoted, in the following words:
1st. The sixth article [in regard to refunding] is entirely annulled
and made void, as if it had never existed, all others to remain in full
force as heretofore.
2d. All the property of the society, real, personal, and mixed, in law
or equity, and howsoever contributed or acquired, shall be deemed, now
and forever, joint and indivisible stock. Each individual is to be
considered to have finally and irrevocably parted with all his former
contributions, whether in lands, goods, money, or labor, and the same
rule shall apply to all future contributions, whatever they may be.
3d. Should any individual withdraw from the society or depart this life,
neither he, in the one case, nor his representatives in the other, shall
be entitled to demand an account of said contributions, or to claim any
thing from the society as a matter of right. But it shall be left
altogether to the discretion of the superintendent to decide whether
any, and, if any, what allowance shall be made to such member or his
representatives as a donation.
These amendments were signed by three hundred and ninety-one members,
being all who then constituted the society. No other changes have been
made; but on the death of Father Rapp, on the 7th of August, 1847, the
whole society signed the constitution again, and put in office two
trustees and seven elders, to perform all the duties and assume all the
authority which Father Rapp had relinquished with his life.
Under this simple constitution the Harmony Society has flourished for
sixty-nine years; nor has its life been threatened by disagreements,
except in the case of the Count de Leon's intrigue. It has suffered
three or four lawsuits from members who had left it; but in every case
the courts have decided for the society, after elaborate, and in some
cases long-continued trials. It has always lived in peace and friendship
with its neighbors.
Its real estate and other property was, from the foundation until his
death in 1834, held in the name of Frederick (Reichert) Rapp, who was an
excellent business man, and conducted all its dealings with the outside
world, and had charge of its temporalities generally; the elder Rapp
avoiding for himself all general business. Upon Frederick's death the
society formally and unanimously imposed upon Father Rapp the care of
the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of the little
commonwealth, placing in his name the title to all their property.
But, as he did not wish to let temporal concerns interfere with his
spiritual functions, and as besides he was then growing old, being in
1834 seventy-seven years of age, he appointed as his helpers and
subagents two members, R. L. Baker and J. Henrici, the latter of whom is
still, with Mr. Jonathan Lenz, the head of the society, Mr. Baker having
died some years ago.
The theological belief of the Harmony Society naturally crystallized
under the preaching and during the life of Father Rapp. It has some
features of German mysticism, grafted upon a practical application of
the Christian doctrine and theory.
At the foundation of all lies a strong determination to make the
preparation of their souls or spirits for the future life the
pre-eminent business of life, and to obey in the strictest and most
literal manner what they believe to be the will of God as revealed and
declared by Jesus Christ. In the following paragraphs I give a brief
summary of what may be called their creed:
I. They hold that Adam was created "in the likeness of God;" that he was
a dual being, containing within his own person both the sexual elements,
reading literally, in confirmation of this, the text (Gen. i. 26, 27):
"And God said, Let us make man in _our_ image, after _our_
likeness, and let _them_ have dominion;" and, "So God created man in
his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female
created he them;" which they hold to denote that both the Creator and the
first created were of this dual nature. They believe that had Adam been
content to remain in his original state, he would have increased without
the help of a female, bringing forth new beings like himself to replenish
II. But Adam fell into discontent; and God separated from his body the
female part, and gave it him according to his desire; and therein they
believe consisted the fall of man.
III. From this they deduce that the celibate state is more pleasing to
God; that in the renewed world man will be restored to the dual Godlike
and Adamic condition; and,
IV. They hold that the coming of Christ and the renovation of the world
are near at hand. This nearness of the millennium is a cardinal point of
doctrine with them; and Father Rapp firmly believed that he would live
to see the wished-for reappearance of Christ in the heavens, and that he
would be permitted to present his company of believers to the Saviour
whom they endeavored to please with their lives. So vivid was this
belief in him, that it lead some of his followers to fondly fancy that
Father Rapp would not die before Christ's coming; and there is a
touching story of the old man, that when he felt death upon him, at the
age of ninety, he said, "If I did not know that the dear Lord meant I
should present you all to him, I should think my last moments come."
These were indeed his last words. To be in constant readiness for the
reappearance of Christ is one of the aims of the society; nor have its
members ever faltered in the faith that this great event is near at
V. Jesus they hold to have been born "in the likeness of the
Father"--that is to say, a dual being, as Adam before the fall.
VI. They hold that Jesus taught and commanded a community of goods; and
refer to the example of the early Christians as proof.
VII. They believe in the ultimate redemption and salvation of all
mankind; but hold that only those who follow the celibate life, and
otherwise conform to what they understand to be the commandments of
Jesus, will come at once into the bright and glorious company of Christ
and his companions; that offenders will undergo a probation for
VIII. They reject and detest what is commonly called "Spiritualism."
As the practical application to their daily lives of the religious faith
which I have concisely stated, Father Rapp taught humility, simplicity
in living, self-sacrifice, love to your neighbor, regular and
persevering industry, prayer and self-examination.
In the admission of new members, they exact a complete confession of
sins to one of the elders of the society, as being a wholesome and
necessary part of true repentance, requisite to secure the forgiveness
On Sunday two services are held, besides a Sunday-school for the
children; and the preacher, who is the head of the society, does not
stand up when delivering his discourse, but sits at a table on a
platform. The church has two doors, and the men enter at one, the women
at the other, each sex occupying one end of the building by itself; the
pulpit being in the middle, and opposite a raised and enclosed space
wherein sit the elders and the choir.
They observe as holy days Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, and
Pentecost; and three great festivals of their own--the 15th of February,
which is the anniversary of their foundation; Harvest-Home, in the
autumn; and an annual Lord's Supper in October. On these festival
occasions they assemble in a great hall; and there, after singing and
addresses, a feast is served, there being an elaborate kitchen adjacent
to the hall on purpose for the preparation of these feasts, while in the
cellars of the same building are stores of wine of different ages and
They live well; all of them eat meat, and but a few abstain from pork.
They rise between five and six, according to the season of the year; eat
a light breakfast between six and seven; have a lunch at nine; dinner at
twelve; an afternoon lunch, called "_vesper brodt_" at three; to
which, when they have labored hard in the fields, they add wine or cider;
supper between six and seven; and they go to bed by nine o'clock.
Father Rapp taught that every one ought to labor with his hands, and at
agricultural labor where this was possible. He was himself fond of
out-door employments, and liked to be in the fields, helping the plowmen
or harvesters. The women attend to the housekeeping; and as this is
simple and quickly done, they are fond of working in the gardens
attached to the houses. In the old times, women as well as men labored
in the fields in harvest time, or at other times when work was pressing;
and the younger women still follow this habit, which was probably
brought over from Germany.
Each household consists of men and women to the number of from four to
eight, and usually in equal numbers. The houses have but one entrance
door from the street. They carpet their floors, and generally deny
themselves no comforts compatible with simplicity of life.
Father Rapp taught them to love music and flowers; almost all the people
can read music, and there are but few who have not learned to play upon
some instrument. In their worship they use instrumental music; and it
forms an important part in their feasts. They do not practice dancing,
to which they have always felt opposed. As they study plainness of
dress, they use no jewelry.
They once had a museum, which has been sold. Father Rapp's house
contains a number of pictures, among them a fine copy of Benjamin West's
"Christ Healing the Sick;" the church and assembly hall have no works of
art. The people read the newspapers; and those who wish for books have
them, there being a library; but "the Bible is the book chiefly read
among us," I was told.
Father Rapp taught that it was advisable for the society to make all it
could for itself; and he had an intelligent appreciation of the value of
labor-saving machinery. Economy has therefore complete and well
furnished shops of various kinds. Its steam laundry is admirably
contrived; and its slaughter-house, with piggery and soap-boiling house
near by; its machine shop, with a cider-boiler annexed; its saw-mill,
wagon shop, blacksmith shop, tannery, carpenter's shop, bakery, vinegar
factory (where much cider is utilized), hattery, tailor's and
shoemaker's shops, tin shop, saddlery shop, and weaver's shop, show how
various were and are the industries followed here, and how completely
furnished the society was, from within, for all the wants of daily life.
I saw even a shop for the repair of clocks and watches, and a barber's
shop; the barber serving the aged and sick, and being otherwise foreman
of the tailor's shop.
[Illustration: A STREET VIEW IN ECONOMY]
[Illustration: FATHER RAPP'S HOUSE--ECONOMY.]
In this long list I have not specified the brewery, grist-mill, a large
granary, a cotton and a woolen mill; nor the two great cellars full of
fine wine casks, which would make a Californian envious, so well-built
There is also a school, and the Harmony people have always kept up a
good school for the children in their charge. They aim to give each
child an elementary education, and afterwards a trade; and as the boys
learn also agricultural labors of different kinds, they are generally
self-helpful when they pass into the world. The instruction is in German
and English; and the small girls and boys whom I examined wrote very
Each family cooks for itself. There were formerly bake-ovens in every
block, one being used by several families; but there is now a general
bakery, whence all carry bread in indefinite and unlimited supplies.
Milk, too, is brought to the houses, and from what each household
receives, it saves the cream for butter. When the butcher kills a beef,
a little boy is sent around the village, who knocks at each window and
cries out "_Sollt fleisch holen_"--"Come and get meat"--and the
butcher serves to each household sufficient for its wants. Other supplies
for the household are dealt out from the general storehouse at stated
periods; but if any one needs more, he has only to apply. Tea is not
Clothing is given out as it is needed by each person; and I was told
that the tailor usually keeps his eye upon the people's coats and
trousers, the shoemaker upon their shoes, and so on; each counting it a
matter of honor or pride that the brethren shall be decently and
"As each labors for all, and as the interest of one is the interest of
all, there is no occasion for selfishness, and no room for waste. We
were brought up to be economical; to waste is a sin; we live simply; and
each has enough, all that he can eat and wear, and no man can use more
than that." This was the simple explanation I received from a Harmonist,
when I wondered whether some family or person would not be wasteful or
In the season, all the people who are not too old labor more or less in
the fields and orchards. This is their habit, and is thought healthful
to body and soul.
The Harmonists have usually attained a hale and happy old age. I had
access to no mortuary records, and there are no monuments in the
cemetery, but a great part of the people have lived to be seventy and
over; and they die without fear, trusting that they are the chosen
people of the Lord.
Such is Economy at this time. Its large factories are closed, for its
people are too few to man them; and the members think it wiser and more
comfortable for themselves to employ labor at a distance from their own
town. They are pecuniarily interested in coal-mines, in saw-mills, and
oil-wells; and they control manufactories at Beaver Falls--notably a
cutlery shop, the largest in the United States, and one of the largest
in the world, where of late they have begun to employ two hundred
Chinese; and it is creditable to the Harmony people that they look after
the intellectual and spiritual welfare of these strangers as but too few
"Is there any monument to Father Rapp?" I asked; and the old man to whom
I put the question said, quietly, "Yes, all that you see here, around
His body lies in a grave undistinguishable from others surrounding it.
There is no portrait of him--for he always refused to sit for one. But
his memory is most tenderly and reverently cherished by his followers
and survivors. From a number of persons I gathered the following
personal details, which give a picture of the man: He was nearly if not
quite six feet high; well-built, with blue eyes, a somewhat stately
walk, and a full beard, which he was the first in the society to wear.
He was extremely industrious, and never wasted even a minute; knew
admirably how to use every spare moment. He was cheerful, kindly,
talkative; plain-spoken when he had to find fault; not very
enthusiastic, but somewhat dry and very practical. In his earlier years,
in Germany, he was witty; and to the last he was ready and apt in
speech. His conversation centered always upon religion and the conduct
of life; and no matter with whom he was speaking, or what was the
character of the person, Rapp knew very well how to lead the talk to
The young people were very fond of him. "He was a man before whom no
evil could stand." "When I met him in the street, if I had a bad thought
in my head, it flew away." He was constantly in the fields or in the
factories, cheering, encouraging, or advising the people. "He knew every
thing--how to do it, what was the best way." "Ah, he was a _man_; he
told us what to do, and how to be good." In his spare moments he studied
botany, geology, astronomy, mechanics. "He was never idle, not even a
quarter of an hour." He believed much in work; thought hard field-work a
good cure for spiritual as well as bodily diseases. He was an
"extraordinarily eloquent preacher;" and it is a singular fact that,
dying at the great age of ninety, he preached in the church twice but
two Sundays before his death; and on the Sunday before he died addressed
his people from the window of his sick-room. He was "a good man, with
true, honest eyes." He "always labored against selfishness, and to serve
the brethren and the Lord." He appears to have abhorred ostentation and
needless forms and ceremonies, for he sat while preaching; never
prescribed any uniform dress or peculiar form of speech; and neither in
their worship nor in their daily lives taught the people to make merely
formal differences between themselves and the world at large. That he
did not feel the necessity of such outward protests against "the world,"
and relied for the bond of union in the community so entirely upon the
effect of his teachings, seems to me one of the surest and most
significant proofs of his real power.
Such is the report of their founder and guide from the older men now
living, who knew him well. That he was a man of great force and high
character it seems to be impossible to doubt. It has often been reported
that he was tyrannical and self-seeking; and that he chose his people
from among the most ignorant, in order to rule them. But the present
members of the Harmony Society cannot be called ignorant: they are a
simple and pious people, but not incapable of taking care of their own
interests; and their opinion of their founder is probably the correct
one. Their love and reverence for him, their recital of his goodness, of
his abilities, and of his intercourse with them, are the best testimony
as to his character; and their continuance in the course he laid out for
them, for more than a quarter of a century since his death, shows that
not only did his teaching and life inspire confidence, but also that his
training bore wholesome fruit in them.
He made religion the most important interest in the lives of his
followers. Not only did he preach on Sundays, but he admonished,
encouraged, reproved, and advised constantly during the week; he divided
the people into companies or classes, who met on week-day evenings for
mutual counsel in religious matters, and with these he constantly met;
he visited the sick; he buried the dead--with great plainness and lack
of ceremony. He taught that they ought to purify the body, and he was
himself a model of plain and somewhat rigid and practical living, and of
self-abnegation; and I think no thoughtful man can hear his story from
the older members of the society who were brought up under his rule, and
consider the history of Economy, and the present daily life of its
people, without conceiving a great respect for Father Rapp's powers and
for the use he made of them.
Pecuniarily Rapp's experiment has been an extraordinary success. The
society is now reported to be worth from two to three millions of
dollars. By an investigation into all its affairs and interests, made in
the Pennsylvania courts in 1854, by reason of a suit brought by a
seceding member, it was shown to be worth at that time over a million.
In these days of defaulting bank officers and numerous breaches of
trust, it is a singular commentary upon the communal system to know that
the society has never required from its chiefs any report upon their
administration of the finances. The investigation in the courts was the
first insight they had since their foundation into the management of
their affairs by Rapp and his successors; and there the utmost efforts
of opposing lawyers, among whom, by the way, was Edwin M. Stanton,
afterward Secretary of War, failed to discover the least
maladministration or misappropriation of funds by the rulers; and proved
the integrity of all who had managed their extensive and complicated
business from the beginning.
As Father Rapp grew older, his influence over his people became
absolute. His long life among them bore fruit in an unwavering
confidence in his sound judgment and unselfish devotion. He appears to
have led them in right paths; for, though probably few will be found to
subscribe to their peculiar religious tenets, all their neighbors hold
them in the highest esteem, as just, honest, kindly, charitable,
patriotic; good citizens, though they do not vote; careful of their
servants and laborers; fair and liberal in their dealings with the
Of Economy as it now is, what I have written gives a sufficiently
precise view. The great factories are closed, and the people live
quietly in their pretty and simple homes. The energies put in motion by
their large capital are to be found at a distance from their village.
Their means give employment to many hundreds of people in different
parts of Western Pennsylvania; and wherever I have come upon their
traces, I have found the "Economites," as they are commonly called,
highly spoken of. They have not sought to accumulate wealth; but their
reluctance to enter into new enterprises has probably made them in the
long run only more successful, for it has made them prudent; and they
have not been tempted to work on credit; while their command of ready
money has opened to them the best opportunities.
The present managers or trustees ("_verwalter_") are Jacob Henrici
and Jonathan Lenz. The first, who is also the religious head, being in
this respect the successor of R. L. Baeker, who was the successor of
Father Rapp, is a German by birth, and a man of culture and of deep
piety. He was educated to be a teacher; and entered the Harmony Society
in 1826, a year after its removal to Economy. Rapp appears to have
appreciated from the first his gentle spirit, piety, and sincere devotion
to the community, as well as the importance of his culture and talents.
He lived long in the house with Father Rapp, and was his intimate and
confidant. Upon Frederick Rapp's death, Father Rapp appointed Baeker and
Henrici to attend to the temporal concerns with which he was then
charged; and upon the Elder Rapp's death, these two were chosen to take
his place. When Mr. Baeker died, Mr. Henrici was chosen to fill his
place, and he selected Mr. Lenz to be his coadjutor.
Mr. Lenz was born in the society in 1807, and has lived in it all his
life. He also is a man of some culture, of gentle and pleasant manners,
and an excellent business man.
Both are aged, Henrici being seventy, and Lenz sixty-seven. Both are
tall, firmly built, and fine-looking men, with a peculiarly gentle and
lovable expression of face. They live together in the house built for
Father Rapp, where also live several of the older members, among them
Miss Gertrude Rapp, a granddaughter of the founder, a charming old lady,
with a very bright, intelligent face. All these old people are so well
preserved, and have so free and wholesome an air, that intercourse with
them is not a slight argument to the visitor in favor of their simple
manner of life.
There is a council of seven persons, from among whom the trustees are
It is a curious fact that among the hired people of the society, living
in Economy, are a number whom they adopted as children and brought up,
and who conform their lives in all respects, even to the celibate
condition, to the rules of the society, but prefer to labor for wages
rather than become members.
The society does not seek new members, though I am told it would not
refuse any who seemed to have a true vocation. As to its future, little
is said. The people look for the coming of the Lord; they await the
appearance of Christ in the heavens; and their chief aim is to be ready
for this great event, when they expect to be summoned to Palestine, to
be joined to the great crowd of the elect. Naturally there are not
wanting, among their neighbors in Pittsburgh, people who are tormented
with curiosity to know what is to become of the large property of the
Harmonists when these old people finally, in the course of nature, pass
away. "The Lord will show us a way," is the answer at Economy to such
inquiries. "We have not trusted him in vain so far; we trust him still.
He will give us a sign."
THE SOCIETY OF SEPARATISTS,
THE SOCIETY OF SEPARATISTS AT ZOAR.
The village of Zoar lies in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, about half-way
between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, on a branch of the railroad which
connects these two points. It is situated on the bank of the Tuscarawas
Creek, which affords at this point valuable water-power. The place is
irregularly built, and contains fewer houses than a village of the same
number of inhabitants usually has; but the dwellings are mostly quite
large, and each accommodates several families. There is a commodious
brick church, a large and well-fitted brick schoolhouse, an extensive
country tavern or hotel, and a multitude of sheds and barns. There are,
besides, several mills and factories; and in the middle of the village a
somewhat elaborate, large, square house, which was the residence of the
founder and head of the society until his death, and is now used in part
as a storehouse.
Zoar is the home of a communistic society who call themselves
"Separatists," and who founded the village in 1817, and have here become
quite wealthy. They originated in Wuertemberg, and, like the Harmony
Society, the Inspirationists, and others, were dissenters from the
Established Church. The Separatists of southern Germany were equivalent
to what in New England are called "Come Outers"--protestants against the
prevailing religious faith, or, as they would say, lack of faith.
These German "Come Outers" were for the most part mystics, who had read
the writings of Jacob Boehm, Gerhard Terstegen, and Jung Stilling; they
cherished different religious or doctrinal beliefs, were stigmatized as
fanatics, but were usually, I judge, simple-hearted, pious people,
desirous to lead a more spiritual life than they found in the churches.
Their refusal to send their children to the schools--which were
controlled by the clergy--and to allow their young men to serve as
soldiers, brought upon them persecution from both the secular and the
ecclesiastical authorities, resulting in flogging, imprisonment, and
fines. The people who finally emigrated to Zoar, after enduring these
persecutions for ten or twelve years gathered together in an obscure
part of Wuertemberg, where, by the favor of a friend at court, they were
permitted to settle. But even from this refuge they were hunted out
after some years; and, finding no other resource left, they at last
determined to remove in a body to America, those few among them who had
property paying the passage of those who were without means.
Their persecutions had, it seems, attracted the attention of some
English Quakers, who aided them to emigrate, and with kindly forethought
sent in advance of them to certain Quakers in Philadelphia a sum of
money, amounting, I have been told, to eighteen dollars for each person
of the company, with which their Philadelphia friends provided for them
on their landing. This kind care is still acknowledged at Zoar as an
They arrived at Philadelphia in August, 1817, and almost immediately
bargained with one Hagar for a tract of five thousand six hundred acres
of land, which they were, with the help of their Quaker friends, enabled
to buy on favorable terms. It was a military grant in the wilderness of
Ohio, and they agreed to give for it three dollars per acre, with a
credit of fifteen years, the first three years without interest.
Joseph Baumeler, whom they had chosen to be their leader, went out to
take possession with a few able-bodied men, and these built the first
log-hut on the 1st of December, 1817. During the following spring the
remainder of the society followed; but many were so poor that they had
to take service with the neighboring farmers to earn a support for their
families, and all lived in the poorest possible way.
At this time they had no intention of forming a communistic society.
They held their interests separately; and it was expected that each
member should pay for his own share of the land, which had been
purchased in order to be thus subdivided. Their purpose was to worship
God according to their faith, in freedom, and to live, for that end, in
But, having among them a certain number of old and feeble people, and
many poor who found it difficult to save money to pay for their land,
the leading men presently saw that the enterprise would fail unless it
was established upon a different foundation; and that necessity would
compel the people to scatter. Early in 1819 the leaders after
consultation determined that, to succeed, they must establish a
community of goods and efforts, and draw in to themselves all whom
poverty had compelled to take service at a distance. This resolution was
laid before the whole society, and, after some weeks of discussion, was
agreed to; and on the 15th of April articles of agreement for a
community of goods were signed. There were then about two hundred and
twenty-five persons--men, women, and children. The men were
farm-laborers, weavers, carpenters, bakers, but at first they had not a
blacksmith among them.
From this time they began to prosper. "We could never have paid for our
land, if we had not formed a community," the older people told me; and,
from all I could learn, I believe this to be true.
At first they prohibited marriage, and it was not until 1828 or 1830
that they broke down this rule.
On forming a community, Joseph Baumeler, who had been a leading man
among them, was chosen to be their spiritual as well as temporal head.
His name probably proved a stumbling-block to his American neighbors,
for he presently began to spell it Bimeler--a phonetic rendering. Thus
it appears in deeds and other public documents; and the people came to
be commonly spoken of as "Bimmelers." Baumeler was originally a weaver,
and later a teacher. He was doubtless a man of considerable ability, but
not comparable, I imagine, with Rapp. He appears to have been a fluent
speaker; and on Sundays he delivered to the society a long series of
discourses, which were after his death gathered together and printed in
German in three ponderous octavo volumes. They concern themselves not
only with religious and communistic thoughts, but largely with the minor
morals, manners, good order in housekeeping, cleanliness, health
observances, and often with physiological details.
In March, 1824, an amended constitution was adopted. Between 1828 and
1830 they began to permit marriage, Baumeler himself taking a wife. In
1832 the Legislature formally incorporated the "Separatist Society of
Zoar," and a new constitution, still in force, was signed in the same
"As soon as we adopted community of goods we began to prosper," said one
of the older members to me. Having abundance of hands, they set up
shops; and, being poor and in debt, they determined to live rigidly
within their means and from their own products. They crowded at first
into a few small log-cabins; some of which are still standing, and are
occupied to this day. They kept cattle; were careful and laborious
farmers; and setting up blacksmith's, carpenter's, and joiner's shops,
they began to earn a little money from work done for the neighboring
farmers. Nevertheless their progress was slow, and they accounted it a
great piece of good fortune when in 1827 a canal was built through their
neighborhood. What with putting their own young men upon this work, and
selling supplies to the contractors, they made enough money from this
enterprise to pay for their land; and thenceforth, with free hands, they
began to accumulate wealth.
They now own in one body over seven thousand acres of very fertile land,
including extensive and valuable water-power, and have besides some land
in Iowa. They have established a woolen factory, where they make cloth
and yarn for their own use and for sale. Also two large flour-mills, a
saw-mill, planing-mill, machine shop, tannery, and dye-house. They have
also a country store for the accommodation of the neighborhood, a large
hotel which receives summer visitors; and for their own use they
maintain a wagon shop, blacksmith's and carpenter's shops, tailors,
dressmakers, shoemakers, a cider-mill, a small brewery, and a few looms
for weaving linen. They employ constantly about fifty persons not
members of the community, besides "renters;" who manage some of their
farms on shares.
They have now (in the spring of 1874) about three hundred members, and
their property is worth more than a million dollars.
II.--RELIGIOUS FAITH AND PRACTICAL LIFE.
The "Principles of the Separatists," which are printed in the first
volume of Joseph Baumeler's discourses, were evidently framed in
Germany. They consist of twelve articles:
"I. We believe and confess the Trinity of God: Father, Son, and Holy
"II. The fall of Adam, and of all mankind, with the loss thereby of the
likeness of God in them.
"III. The return through Christ to God, our proper Father.
"IV. The Holy Scriptures as the measure and guide of our lives, and the
touchstone of truth and falsehood.
"All our other principles arise out of these, and rule our conduct in
the religious, spiritual, and natural life.
"V. All ceremonies are banished from among us, and we declare them
useless and injurious; and this is the chief cause of our Separation.
"VI. We render to no mortal honors due only to God, as to uncover the
head, or to bend the knee. Also we address every one as 'thou'--
"VII. We separate ourselves from all ecclesiastical connections and
constitutions, because true Christian life requires no sectarianism,
while set forms and ceremonies cause sectarian divisions.
"VIII. Our marriages are contracted by mutual consent, and before
witnesses. They are then notified to the political authority; and we
reject all intervention of priests or preachers.
"IX. All intercourse of the sexes, except what is necessary to the
perpetuation of the species, we hold to be sinful and contrary to the
order and command of God. Complete virginity or entire cessation of
sexual commerce is more commendable than marriage.
"X. We cannot send our children into the schools of Babylon [meaning the
clerical schools of Germany], where other principles contrary to these
"XI. We cannot serve the state as soldiers, because a Christian cannot
murder his enemy, much less his friend.
"XII. We regard the political government as absolutely necessary to
maintain order, and to protect the good and honest and punish the
wrong-doers; and no one can prove us to be untrue to the constituted
For adhering to these tolerably harmless articles of faith, they
suffered bitter persecution in Germany in the beginning of this century.
Subject to the above declaration they have a formal constitution, which
divides the members into two classes, the novitiates and the full
associates. The former are required to serve at least one year before
admission to the second class, and this is exacted even of their own
children, if on attaining majority they wish to enter the society.
The members of the first or probationary class do not give up their
property. They sign an agreement, "for the furtherance of their
spiritual and temporal welfare and happiness," in which they "bind
themselves to labor, obey, and execute all the orders of the trustees
and their successors," and to "use all their industry and skill in
behalf of the exclusive benefit of the said Separatist Society of Zoar;"
and to put their minor children under the exclusive guardianship and
care of the trustees.
The trustees on their part, and for the society, agree to secure to the
signers of these articles "board and clothing free of cost, the clothing
to consist of at any time no less than two suits, including the clothes
brought by the said party of the first part to this society." Also
medical attendance and nursing in case of sickness. "Good moral conduct,
such as is enjoined by the strict observance of the principles of Holy
Writ," is also promised by both parties; and it is stipulated that "no
extra supplies shall be asked or allowed, neither in meat, drink,
clothing, nor dwelling (cases of sickness excepted); but such, if any
can be allowed to exist, may and shall be obtained [by the neophytes]
through means of their own, and never out of the common fund."
All money in possession of the probationer must be deposited with the
society when he signs the agreement; for it a receipt is given, making
the deposit payable to him on his demand, without interest.
Finally, it is agreed that all disputes shall be settled by arbitration
alone, and within the society.
When a member of the first or probationary class desires to be received
into full membership, he applies to the trustees, who formally hear his
demand, inquire into the reasons he can give for it, and if they know no
good cause why he should not be admitted, they thereupon give thirty
days' notice to the society of the time and place at which he is to sign
the covenant. If during that interval no member makes charges against
him, and if he has no debts, and is ready to make over any property he
may have, he is allowed to sign the following COVENANT:
"We, the subscribers, members of the Society of Separatists of the
second class, declare hereby that we give all our property, of every
kind, not only what we already possess, but what we may hereafter come
into possession of by inheritance, gift, or otherwise, real and
personal, and all rights, titles, and expectations whatever, both for
ourselves and our heirs, to the said society forever, to be and remain,
not only during our lives, but after our deaths, the exclusive property
of the society. Also we promise and bind ourselves to obey all the
commands and orders of the trustees and their subordinates, with the
utmost zeal and diligence, without opposition or grumbling; and to
devote all our strength, good-will, diligence, and skill, during our
whole lives, to the common service of the society and for the
satisfaction of its trustees. Also we consign in a similar manner our
children, so long as they are minors, to the charge of the trustees,
giving these the same rights and powers over them as though they had
been formally indentured to them under the laws of the state."
Finally, there is a formal CONSTITUTION, which prescribes the order of
administration; and which also is signed by all the members. According
to this instrument, all officers are to be elected by the whole society,
the women voting as well as the men. All elections are to be by ballot,
and by the majority vote; and they are to be held on the second Tuesday
in May. The society is to elect annually one trustee and one member of
the standing committee or council, once in four years a cashier, and an
agent whenever a vacancy occurs or is made. The time and place of the
election are to be made public twenty days beforehand by the trustees,
and four members are to be chosen at each election to be managers and
judges at the next.
The trustees, three in number, are to serve three years, but may be
indefinitely re-elected. They have unlimited power over all the
temporalities of the society, but are bound to provide board, clothing,
and dwelling for each member, "without respect of persons;" and to use
all confided to their charge for the best interests of the society. They
are to manage all its industries and affairs, and to prescribe to each
member his work; "but in all they do they are to have the general
consent of the society." They are to appoint subordinates and
superintendents of the different industries; are to consult in difficult
cases with the Standing Committee of Five, and are with its help to keep
the peace among the members.
The agent is the trader of the society, who is to be its intermediate
with the outside world, to buy and sell. This office is now held by the
The standing committee is a high court of appeals in cases of
disagreement, and a general council for the agent and trustees.
The cashier is to have the sole and exclusive control of all the moneys
of the society, the trustees and agent being obliged to hand over to his
custody all they receive. He is also the book-keeper, and is required to
give an annual account to the trustees.
The constitution is to be read in a public and general meeting of the
society at least once in every year.
The system of administration thus prescribed appears to have worked
satisfactorily for more than forty years.
"Do you favor marriage?" I asked some of the older members, trustees,
and managers. They answered "No;" but they exact no penalty nor inflict
any disability upon those who choose to marry. "Marriage," I was told,
"is on the whole unfavorable to community life. It is better to observe
the celibate life. But it is not, in our experience, fatally adverse. It
only makes more trouble; and in either case, whether a community permit
or forbid marriage, it may lose members."
About half of their young people, who have grown up in the society,
become permanent members, and as many young men as girls. They do not
permit members to marry outside of the society; and require those who do
to leave the place. "Men and women need to be trained to live peaceably
and contentedly in a community. Those who have been brought up outside
do not find matters to their taste here."
Baumeler taught that God did not look with pleasure on marriage, but
that he only tolerated it; that in the kingdom of heaven "husband, wife,
and children will not know each other;" "there will be no distinction of
sex there." Nevertheless he married, and had a family of children.
When a young couple wish to marry, they consult the trustees, whose
consent is required in this as in the other emergencies of the community
life; and the more so as they must provide lodgings or a dwelling for
the newly married, and furniture for their housekeeping. Weddings,
however, are economically managed, and the parents of the parties
usually contribute of their superfluities for the young couple's
When marriages began among them, a rule was adopted that the children
should remain in the care of their parents until they were three years
old; at which time they were placed in large houses, the girls in one,
boys in another, where they were brought up under the care of persons
especially appointed for that purpose; nor did they ever again come
under the exclusive control of their parents. This singular custom,
which is practiced also by the Oneida communists, lasted at Zoar until
the year 1845, when it was found inconvenient.
[Illustration: CHURCH AT ZOAR]
[Illustration: SCHOOL HOUSE AT ZOAR]
The sixty or seventy young persons under twenty-one now in the community
live with their parents. Until the age of fifteen they are sent to
school, and a school is maintained all the year round. Usually the
instruction has been in German; but when I visited Zoar they had an
On the blackboard, when I visited the school, a pupil had just completed
an example in proportion, concerning the division of property among
heirs; and I thought how remarkable it is that the community life ever
lasts, in any experiment, beyond the first generation, when even the
examples by which children of a community are taught arithmetic refer to
division of property and individual ownership, and every piece of
literature they read tends to inculcate the love of "me" and "mine." I
do not wonder that general literary studies are not encouraged in many
communities. As for the Zoar people, they are not great readers, except
of the Bible and the few pious books which they brought over from
Germany, or have imported since.
The Zoar communists belong to the peasant class of Southern Germany.
They are therefore unintellectual; and they have not risen in culture
beyond their original condition. Nor were their leaders men above the
general level of the rank and file; for Baumeler has left upon the
society no marks to show that he strove for or desired a higher life
here, or that he in the least valued beauty, or even what we Americans
call comfort. The little town of Zoar, though founded fifty-six years
ago, has yet no foot pavements; it remains without regularity of design;
the houses are for the most part in need of paint; and there is about
the place a general air of neglect and lack of order, a shabbiness,
which I noticed also in the Aurora community in Oregon, and which shocks
one who has but lately visited the Shakers and the Rappists.
The Zoarites have achieved comfort--according to the German peasant's
notion--and wealth. They are relieved from severe toil, and have driven
the wolf permanently from their doors. Much more they might have
accomplished; but they have not been taught the need of more. They are
sober, quiet, and orderly, very industrious, economical, and the amount
of ingenuity and business skill which they have developed is quite
Comparing Zoar and Aurora with Economy, I saw the extreme importance and
value in such an experiment of leaders with ideas at least a step higher
than those of their people. There is about Economy a tasteful finish
which shows a desire for something higher than mere bread and butter, a
neatness and striving for a higher kind of comfort, which makes Economy
a model town, while the other two, though formed by people generally of
the same social plane, are far below in the scale.
Yet, when I had left Zoar, and was compelled to wait for an hour at the
railroad station, listening to men cursing in the presence of women and
children; when I saw how much roughness there is in the life of the
country people, I concluded that, rude and uninviting as the life in
Zoar seemed to me, it was perhaps still a step higher, more decent, more
free from disagreeables, and upon a higher moral scale, than the average
life of the surrounding country. And if this is true, the community life
has even here achieved moral results, as it certainly has material,
worthy of the effort.
Moreover, considering the dull and lethargic appearance of the people, I
was struck with surprise that they have been able to manage successfully
complicated machinery, and to carry on several branches of manufacture
profitably. Their machine shop makes and repairs all their own
machinery; their gristmills have to compete with those of the
surrounding country; their cattle, horses, and sheep--of the latter they
keep no less than 1400 head--are known as the best in the county; their
hotel is a favorite summer resort; their store supplies the
neighborhood; and they have found among themselves ability enough to
conduct successfully all these and several other callings, all of which
require both working skill and business acuteness.
They rise at six, or in summer at daylight, breakfast at seven, dine at
twelve, and sup at six. During the long summer days they have two
"bites" between meals. They do not eat pork, and a few refrain entirely
from meat. They use both tea and coffee, and drink also cider and beer.
Tobacco is forbidden, but it is used by some of the younger people. In
the winter they labor in their shops after supper until eight o'clock.
Each family cooks for itself; but they have a general bakehouse, and
make excellent bread. They have no general laundry. They have led water
into the village from a reservoir on a hill beyond. Most of the houses
accommodate several families, but each manages its own affairs. Tea,
coffee, sugar, and other "groceries," are served out to all householders
once a week. The young girls are taught to sew, knit, and spin, and to
do the work of the household. The boys, when they leave school, are
taught trades or put on the farm.
In their religious observances they studiously avoid forms. On Sunday
they have three meetings. In the morning there is singing, after which
the leading trustee reads one of Baumeler's discourses, which they are
careful not to call sermons. In the afternoon there is a children's
meeting, where there is singing, and reading in the Bible. In the
evening they meet to sing and hear reading from some work which
interests them. They do not practice audible or public prayer. There are
no religious meetings during the week; but the boys meet occasionally to
practice music, as they have a band. The church has an organ, and
several of the houses have pianos. They do not allow dancing. There is
no "preacher," or clergyman. They have printed a hymn-book, which is
used in their worship.
Baumeler had some knowledge of homoeopathy, and was during his life the
physician of the community, and they still use the system of medicine
which he introduced among them. Like all the communists I have known,
they are long-lived. A number of members have lived to past eighty--the
oldest now is ninety-one; and he, strangely enough, is an American, a
native of New Hampshire, who, after a roving life in the West, at last,
when past fifty, became a Shaker, and after eleven years among that
people, came to Zoar twenty-eight years ago, and has lived here ever
since. The old fellow showed the shrewd intelligence of the Yankee,
asking me whether we New-Yorkers were likely after all to beat the
Tammany Ring; and declaring his belief that the Roman Catholics were the
worst enemies of the United States. He appeared to be, what a person of
his age usually is if he retain his faculties, a sort of
adviser-general; he sat in the common room of the hotel, and when any
one came in he asked him about his business, and gave him advice what to
The oldest German member is now eighty-six; and there are still between
thirty and forty people who came over from Germany with Baumeler. The
latter died in 1853, at the age of seventy-five.
Most of the members now are middle-aged people, and the society is
prosperous. Thirty-five years ago, however, it had double the number it
now counts. Occasionally members leave; and in the society's early days
it had much trouble and suffered some losses from suits for wages
brought against it by dissatisfied persons. Hence the stringent terms of
They use neither Baptism nor the Lord's Supper.
In summer the women labor in the fields, to get in hay, potatoes, and in
harvesting the grain.
They address each other only by the first name, use no title of any
kind, and say thou (_du_) to all. Also they keep their hats on in a
public room. The church has two doors, one for the women, the other for
the men, and the sexes sit on different sides of the house.
The hotel contains a queer, old-fashioned bar, at which the general
public may drink beer, cider, or California wine. In the evening the
sitting-room is filled with the hired laborers of the society, and with
the smoke of their pipes.
Such is Zoar. Its people would not attract attention any where; they
dress and look like common laborers; their leading trustee, Jacob
Ackermann, who has carried on the affairs of the society for thirty
years and more, might easily be taken for a German farm-hand. It is the
more wonderful to compare the people with what they have achieved. Their
leader and founder taught them self-sacrifice, a desire for heavenly
things, temperance, or moderation in all things, preference of others to
themselves, contentment--and these virtues, together with a prudence in
the management of their affairs which has kept them out of debt since
they paid for their land, and uprightness in their agents which has
protected them against defalcations, have wrought, with very humble
intelligence, and very narrow means at the beginning, the result one now
sees at Zoar.
The Shakers have the oldest existing communistic societies on this
continent. They are also the most thoroughly organized, and in some
respects the most successful and flourishing.
Mount Lebanon, the parent society, and still the thriftiest, was
established in 1792, eighty-two years ago.
The Shakers have eighteen societies, scattered over seven states; but
each of these societies contains several families; and as each "family"
is practically, and for all pecuniary and property ends, a distinct
commune, there are in fact fifty-eight Shaker communities, which I have
found to be in a more or less prosperous condition. These fifty-eight
families contain an aggregate population of 2415 souls, and own real
estate amounting to about one hundred thousand acres, of which nearly
fifty thousand are in their own home farms.
Moreover, the Shakers have, as will be seen further on, a pretty
thoroughly developed and elaborate system of theology; and a
considerable literature of their own, to which they attach great
The Shakers are a celibate order, composed of men and women living
together in what they call "families," and having agriculture as the
base of their industry, though most of them unite with this one or more
other avocations. They have a uniform style of dress; call each other by
their first names; say yea and nay, but not thee or thou; and their
social habits have led them to a generally similar style of house
architecture, whose peculiarity is that it seeks only the useful, and
cares nothing for grace or beauty, and carefully avoids ornament.
They are pronounced Spiritualists, and hold that "there is the most
intimate connection and the most constant communion between themselves
and the inhabitants of the world of spirits."
They assert that the second appearance of Christ upon earth has been;
and that they are the only true Church, "in which revelation,
spiritualism, celibacy, oral confession, community, non-resistance,
peace, the gift of healing, miracles, physical health, and separation
from the world are the foundations of the new heavens." [Footnote:
"Autobiography of a Shaker," etc., by Elder Frederick W. Evans.]
In practical life they are industrious, peaceful, honest, highly
ingenious, patient of toil, and extraordinarily cleanly.
Finally, they are to a large extent of American birth, and English is,
of course, their language.
The "Millennial Church, or United Society of Believers, commonly called
Shakers," was formally organized at New Lebanon, a village in Columbia
County, New York, in September, 1787, three years after the death of Ann
Lee, whose followers they profess themselves, and whom they revere as
the second appearance of Christ upon this earth, holding that Christ
appeared first in the body of Jesus.
Ann Lee, according to the account of her accepted among and published by
the Shakers, was an English woman, born of humble parents in Manchester,
February 29th, 1736. Her father was a blacksmith; she was one of eight
children; in her childhood she was employed in a cotton factory, and
later as a cutter of hatters' fur. She was also at one time cook in a
Manchester infirmary; and to the day of her death she could neither read
[Illustration: A GROUP OF SHAKERS]
About the year 1747, some members of the Society of Quakers, under the
influence of a religious revival, formed themselves into a society, at
the head of which was a pious couple, Jane and James Wardley. To these
people Ann Lee and her parents joined themselves in 1758, Ann being then
twenty-three years of age and unmarried. These people suffered
persecution from the ungodly, and some of them were even cast into
prison, on account of certain unusual and violent manifestations of
religious fervor, which caused them to receive the name of "Shaking
Quakers;" and it was while Ann Lee thus lay in jail, in the summer of
1770, that "by a special manifestation of divine light the present
testimony of salvation and eternal life was fully revealed to her," and
by her to the society, "by whom she from that time was acknowledged as
_mother_ in Christ, and by them was called _Mother Ann_."
[Footnote: "Shakers' Compendium of the Origin, History, etc., with
Biographies of Ann Lee," etc. By F. W. Evans, 1859.]
She saw the Lord Jesus Christ in his glory, who revealed to her the
great object of her prayers, and fully satisfied all the desires of her
soul. The most astonishing visions and divine manifestations were
presented to her view in so clear and striking a manner that the whole
spiritual world seemed displayed before her. In these extraordinary
manifestations she had a full and clear view of the mystery of iniquity,
of the root and foundation of human depravity, and of the very act of
transgression committed by the first man and woman in the garden of
Eden. Here she saw whence and wherein all mankind were lost from God,
and clearly realized the only possible way of recovery. [Footnote: "A
Summary View of the Millennial Church," etc. Albany, 1848.]
"By the immediate revelation of Christ, she henceforth bore an open
testimony against the lustful gratifications of the flesh as the source
and foundation of human corruption; and testified, in the most plain and
pointed manner, that no soul could follow Christ in the regeneration
while living in the works of natural generation, or in any of the
gratifications of lust." [Footnote: "A Summary View of the Millennial
In a volume of "Hymns and Poems for the Use of Believers" (Watervliet,
Ohio, 1833), Adam is made to confess the nature of his transgression and
the cause of his fall, in a dialogue with his children:
"_First Adam being dead, yet speaketh, in a dialogue with his
"_Children_. First Father Adam, where art thou?
With all thy num'rous fallen race;
We must demand an answer now,
For time hath stript our hiding-place.
Wast thou in nature made upright--
Fashion'd and plac'd in open light?
"_Adam_. Yea truly I was made upright:
This truth I never have deni'd,
And while I liv'd I lov'd the light,
But I transgress'd and then I died.
Ye've heard that I transgress'd and fell--
This ye have heard your fathers tell.
"_Ch_. Pray tell us how this sin took place--
This myst'ry we could never scan,
That sin has sunk the human race,
And all brought in by the first man.
'Tis said this is our heavy curse--
Thy sin imputed unto us.
"_Ad_. When I was plac'd on Eden's soil,
I liv'd by keeping God's commands--
To keep the garden all the while,
And labor, working with my hands.
I need not toil beyond my pow'r,
Yet never waste one precious hour.
"But in a careless, idle frame,
I gazed about on what was made:
And idle hands will gather shame,
And wand'ring eyes confuse the head:
I dropp'd my hoe and pruning-knife,
To view the beauties of my wife.
"An idle beast of highest rank
Came creeping up just at that time,
And show'd to Eve a curious prank,
Affirming that it was no crime:--
'Ye shall not die as God hath said--
'Tis all a sham, be not afraid.'
"All this was pleasant to the eye,
And Eve affirm'd the fruit was good;
So I gave up to gratify
The meanest passion in my blood.
O horrid guilt! I was afraid:
I was condemn'd, yea I was dead.
"Here ends the life of the first man,
Your father and his spotless bride;
God will be true, his word must stand--
The day I sinn'd that day I died:
This was my sin, this was my fall!--
This your condition, one and all.
"_Ch_. How can these fearful things agree
With what we read in sacred writ--
That sons and daughters sprung from thee,
Endu'd with wisdom, power, and wit;
And all the nations fondly claim
Their first existence in thy name?
"_Ad_. Had you the wisdom of that beast
That took my headship by deceit,
I could unfold enough at least
To prove your lineage all a cheat.
Your pedigree you do not know,
The SECOND ADAM told you so.
"When I with guile was overcome,
And fell a victim to the beast,
My station first he did assume,
Then on the spoil did richly feast.
Soon as the life had left my soul,
He took possession of the whole.
"He plunder'd all my mental pow'rs,
My visage, stature, speech, and gait;
And, in a word, in a few hours,
He was first Adam placed in state:
He took my wife, he took my name;
All but his nature was the same.
"Now see him hide, and skulk about,
Just like a beast, and even worse,
Till God in anger drove him out,
And doom'd him to an endless curse.
O hear the whole creation groan!
The Man of Sin has took the throne!
"Now in my name this beast can plead,
How God commanded him at first
To multiply his wretched seed,
Through the base medium of his lust.
O horrid cheat! O subtle plan!
A hellish beast assumes the man!
"This is your father in my name:
Your pedigree ye now may know:
He early from perdition came,
And to perdition he must go.
And all his race with him shall share
Eternal darkness and despair."
[Footnote: It is curious that the Jewish Talmud (according to
Eisenmenger) has a somewhat similar theory--namely, that Eve cohabited
with devils for a period of one hundred and thirty years; and that Cain
was not the child of Adam, but of one of these devils.]
The same theory of the fall is stated in another hymn:
"We read, when God created man,
He made him able then to stand
United to his Lord's command
That he might be protected;
But when, through Eve, he was deceiv'd,
And to his wife in lust had cleav'd,
And of forbidden fruit receiv'd,
He found himself rejected.
"And thus, we see, death did begin,
When Adam first fell into sin,
And judgment on himself did bring,
Which he could not dissemble:
Old Adam then began to plead,
And tell the cause as you may read;
But from his sin he was not freed,
Then he did fear and tremble.
"Compell'd from Eden now to go,
Bound in his sins, with shame and woe,
And there to feed on things below--
His former situation:
For he was taken from the earth,
And blest with a superior birth,
But, dead in sin, he's driven forth
From his blest habitation.
"Now his lost state continues still,
In all who do their fleshly will,
And of their lust do take their fill,
And say they are commanded:
Thus they go forth and multiply,
And so they plead to justify
Their basest crimes, and so they try
To ruin souls more candid."
The "way of regeneration" is opened in another hymn in the same
"_Victory over the Man of Sin_.
"Souls that hunger for salvation,
And have put their sins away,
Now may find a just relation,
If they cheerfully obey;
They may find the new creation,
And may boldly enter in
By the door of free salvation,
And subdue the Man of Sin.
"Thus made free from that relation,
Which the serpent did begin,
Trav'ling in regeneration,
Having pow'r to cease from sin;
Dead unto a carnal nature,
From that tyrant ever free,
Singing praise to our Creator,
For this blessed jubilee.
"Sav'd from passions, too inferior
To command the human soul;
Led by motives most superior,
Faith assumes entire control:
Joined in the new creation,
Living souls in union run,
Till they find a just relation
To the First-born two in one.
"But this prize cannot be gained.
Neither is salvation found,
Till the Man of Sin is chained,
And the old deceiver bound.
All mankind he has deceived,
And still binds them one and all,
Save a few who have believed,
And obey'd the Gospel call.
"By a life of self-denial,
True obedience and the cross,
We may pass the fiery trial,
Which does separate the dross.
If we bear our crosses boldly,
Watch and ev'ry evil shun,
We shall find a body holy,
And the tempter overcome.
"By a pois'nous fleshly nature,
This dark world has long been led;
There can be no passion greater--
This must be the serpent's head:
On our coast he would be cruising,
If by truth he were not bound:
But his head has had a bruising,
And he's got a deadly wound.
"And his wounds cannot be healed,
Light and truth do now forbid,
Since the Gospel has revealed
Where his filthy head was hid:
With a fig-leaf it was cover'd,
Till we brought his deeds to light;
By his works he is discover'd,
And his head is plain in sight."
It should be said that Ann Lee had married previously to these
manifestations, her husband being Abraham Stanley, like her father, a
blacksmith. By him she had four children, all of whom died in infancy.
It is related that she showed from girlhood a decided repugnance to the
married state, and married only on the long-continued and urgent
persuasion of her friends; and after 1770 she seems to have returned to
She and her followers were frequently abused and persecuted; and in 1773
"she was by a direct revelation instructed to repair to America;" and it
is quaintly added that "permission was given for all those of the
society who were able, and who felt any special impressions on their own
minds so to do, to accompany her." [Footnote: "Shakers' Compendium."]
She had announced, says the same authority, that "the second Christian
Church would be established in America; that the colonies would gain
their independence; and that liberty of conscience would be secured to
all people, whereby they would be able to worship God without hinderance
or molestation." Accordingly Ann Lee embarked at Liverpool in May, 1774,
eight persons accompanying her, six men and two women, among them her
husband and a brother and niece. They landed in New York in August; and,
after some difficulties and hardships on account of poverty, finally
settled in what appears to have been then a wilderness, "the woods of
Watervliet, near Niskeyuna, about seven miles northwest of Albany." In
the mean time Ann Lee had supported herself by washing and ironing in
New York, and her husband had misconducted himself so grossly toward her
that they finally separated, he going off with another woman.
At Niskeyuna, Ann Lee and her companions busied themselves in clearing
land and providing for their subsistence. They lived in the woods, and
Ann was their leader and preacher. She foretold to them that the time
was near when they should see a large accession to their numbers; but
they had so long to wait that their hearts sometimes failed them. They
settled at Watervliet in September, 1775, and it was not until 1780
that, by a curious chance, their doctrines were at last brought to the
knowledge of persons inclined to receive them.
In the spring of that year there occurred at New Lebanon a religious
revival, chiefly among the Baptists, who had a church in that
neighborhood. Some of the subjects of this revival wandered off, seeking
light and comfort from strangers, and found the settlement of which Ann
Lee was the chief. Her doctrines, which inculcated rigid self-denial
and repression of the passions, were at once embraced by them; they
brought others to hear Ann Lee's statements, and thus a beginning was at
New Lebanon, where the new converts lived, lies upon the border of
Massachusetts and Connecticut; and into these states, particularly the
first, the new doctrine spread. Ann Lee, now called by her people Mother
Ann, or more often Mother, traveled from place to place, preaching and
advising; in Massachusetts she appears to have remained two years. It is
asserted, too, that she performed miracles at various places, healing
the sick by laying on of hands, and revealing to others their wickedness
and concealed sins. For instance:
"Mary Southwick, of Hancock [in Massachusetts, where there was a colony
of Ann Lee's followers], testifies: That about the beginning of August,
1783 (being then in the twenty-first year of her age), she was healed of
a cancer in her mouth, which had been growing two years, and which for
about three weeks had been eating, attended with great pain and a
continual running, and which occasioned great weakness and loss of
"That she went one afternoon to see Calvin Harlowe, to get some
assistance; that Mother being at the house, Calvin asked her to look at
it. That she accordingly came to her, and put her finger into her mouth
upon the cancer; at which instant the pain left her, and she was
restored to health, and was never afflicted with it afterward.
"Taken from the mouth of the said Mary Southwick, the 23d day of April,
1808. In presence of Jennet Davis, Rebecca Clarke, Daniel Cogswell,
Daniel Goodrich, and Seth Y. Wells. (Signed) MARY SOUTHWICK."
The volume from which this formal statement is extracted contains a
number of similar affidavits, which show that miraculous powers of
healing diseases are claimed to have been exercised during Ann Lee's
life, not only by her, but by her chief followers, Elder William Lee her
brother, John Hocknell, Joseph Markham, and others. [Footnote:
"Testimony of Christ's Second Appearing," etc. Published by the United
Society of Shakers. Albany, 1856. [The first edition was printed in
It does not appear that Ann Lee made any attempts to settle her
followers in colonies or communities, or that she interrupted the family
life, except that she insisted on celibacy. But she seems to have
gathered her followers in congregations, because she from the first
required, as a sign of true repentance and a condition of admission,
that "oral confession of all the sins of the past life, to God, in the
presence of an elder brother," which is still one of the most rigorous
rules of the order.
She is reported to have said: "When I confessed my sins, I labored to
remember the time when and the place where I committed them. And when I
had confessed them [to Jane and James Wardley, in Manchester], I cried
to God to know if my confession was accepted; and by crying to God
continually I traveled out of my loss." [Footnote: "Shakers'
Also she said: "The first step of obedience that any of you can take is
to confess your sins to God before his witnesses." "To those who came to
confess to her she said: 'If you confess your sins, you must confess
them to God; we are but his witnesses.' To such as asked her
forgiveness, she used to say: 'I can freely forgive you, and I pray God
to forgive you. It is God that forgives you; I am but your
fellow-servant.'" [Footnote: "Summary View," etc.]
Ann Lee died at Watervliet, N. Y., on the 8th of September, 1784, in the
forty-ninth year of her age.
In the "Summary View of the Millennial Church," as well as in some other
works published by the Shakers, there are recorded details of her life
and conversation, from which one gets the idea that she was a woman of
practical sense, sincerely pious, and humble-minded. She was "rather
below the common stature of woman, thickset but straight, and otherwise
well-proportioned and regular in form and feature. Her complexion was
light and fair, and her eyes were blue, but keen and penetrating; her
countenance mild and expressive, but grave and solemn. Her manners were
plain, simple, and easy. She possessed a certain dignity of appearance
that inspired confidence and commanded respect. By many of the world who
saw her without prejudice she was called beautiful; and to her faithful
children she appeared to possess a degree of dignified beauty and
heavenly love which they had never before discovered among mortals."
[Footnote: "Summary View."] She never learned to read or write. Aside
from her strictly religious teachings, she appears to have inculcated
upon her followers the practical virtues of honesty, industry,
frugality, charity, and temperance. "Put your hands to work and give
your hearts to God." "You ought never to speak to your children in a
passion; for if you do, you will put devils into them." "Do all your
work as though you had a thousand years to live; and as you would if you
knew you must die to-morrow." "You can never enter the kingdom of God
with hardness against any one, for God is love, and if you love God you
will love one another." "Be diligent with your hands, for godliness does
not lead to idleness." "You ought not to cross your children
unnecessarily, for it makes them ill-natured." To a woman: "You ought to
dress yourself in modest apparel, such as becomes the people of God, and
teach your family to do likewise. You ought to be industrious and
prudent, and not live a sumptuous and gluttonous life, but labor for a
meek and quiet spirit, and see that your family is kept decent and
regular in all their goings forth, that others may see your example of
faith and good works, and acknowledge the work of God in your family."
To some farmers who had gathered at Ashfield, in Massachusetts, in the
winter, to listen to her instructions: "It is now spring of the year,
and you have all had the privilege of being taught the way of God; and
now you may all go home and be faithful with your hands. Every faithful
man will go forth and put up his fences in season, and will plow his
ground in season, and put his crops into the ground in season; and such
a man may with confidence look for a blessing."
These are some of the sayings reported of her. They are not remarkable,
except as showing that with her religious enthusiasm she united
practical sense, which gave her doubtless a power over the people with
whom she came in contact, mostly plain farmers and laborers.
[Illustration: THE FIRST SHAKER CHURCH, AT MOUNT LEBANON, NOW A
Mother Ann was succeeded in her rule over the society, or "Church," as
they preferred to call it, by Elder James Whittaker, one of those who
had come over with her. He was called Father James; and under his
ministry was built, in 1785, "the first house for public worship ever
built by the society." He died at Enfield in July, 1787, less than three
years after Mother Ann; and was succeeded by Joseph Meacham, an
American, a native of Connecticut, in early life a Baptist preacher; and
with him was associated Lucy Wright, as "the first leading character in
the female line," as the "Summary" quaintly expresses it. She was a
native of Pittsfield, in Massachusetts. Joseph Meacham died in 1796, at
the age of fifty-four, and it seems that Lucy Wright then succeeded to
the entire administration and "lead of the society." She died in 1821,
at the age of sixty-one. "During her administration the several
societies in the states of Ohio and Kentucky were established, and large
accessions were made to the Eastern societies." [Footnote: "Shakers'
Compendium."] While Joseph Meacham was elder, and in the period between
1787 and 1792, eleven societies were formed, of which two were in New
York, four in Massachusetts, two in New Hampshire, two in Maine, and one
Meantime, in the first year of this century broke out in Kentucky a
remarkable religious excitement, lasting several years, and attended
with extraordinary and in some cases horrible physical demonstrations.
Camp-meetings were held in different counties, to which people flocked
by thousands; and here men and women, and even small children, fell down
in convulsions, foamed at the mouth and uttered loud cries. "At first
they were taken with an inward throbbing of the heart; then with weeping
and trembling; from that to crying out in apparent agony of soul;
falling down and swooning away, until every appearance of animal life
was suspended, and the person appeared to be in a trance." "They lie as
though they were dead for some time, without pulse or breath, some
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