Communal Utopias and the American Experience: Religious Communities, 1732-2000

Front Cover
Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003 - History - 184 pages
1 Review

American communalism is not a disjointed, erratic, almost ephemeral part of our past, but an on-going, essential part of American history. This important study begins with an examination of America's first religious utopia at Ephrata, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1732 and traces successive utopian experiments in the United States through the following centuries. The author demonstrates that the utopian communal story is an integral facet of the Puritan concept of America as a city upon a hill and a beacon light for the world where the perfect society could be built and where it could flourish.

After discussing the Ephrata Cloister (1724-1812), the author turns to the dozen or so Shaker communities that spread utopian communalism from New England to the Ohio Valley frontier in the antebellum years. Next, he examines the various Separatists, as well as the Oneida Community. He traces the history of the Hutterite utopias from Russia to the Great Plains and Canada between the Civil War and World War I. In a chapter on California counter culture communities, he analyzes the Theosophist communes at Pint Loma and Temple Home. Finally, he discusses modern religious utopias ranging from the Koreshian Unity at Estero, Florida, to Zion City near Chicago, Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker Movement, the Sufi Utopia in the Berkshire Mountains, and the Pandanaram Settlement in Indiana.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I was born in Padanaram in 1967, delivered by home birth with a good birthing team of God fearing and God loving people. I have always loved Padanaram which we now call God's Valley.Many people are still here in the 2012 community, with a long history of success in learning to live daily with the Almighty God of Hosts. I have learned to rely on a leading from above in decisions regarding directions in life. I have met many unique people who have came through this place looking to be cared about and loved by some type of a team or a family.This is based on sincerity and has always in my mind been a family of great diversity, In a community like this you find everyone has a gift of some kind or another as a trade or some type of inheritence to offer. Some men are just real good with a shovel and that may be all. I experienced growing here that some woman are excellent mothers and very strong in survival skills above there own children they help children without and take them daily as their own. Many great things have happened here along with the rest of the world. There has been a major evolvement in here in different ways and is very different in very good ways. We still have land ownership here and share the tax burden as other places. First appearence these days in God,s Valley many are related with mates comming in as members from local schools and colleges just like the beginning days in that department.I moved to a single mens dorm when i was 12 yrs old and was excited to do so. Work is the back bone of existing and maintaning a residence in God,s Valley. I saw many lazies go down the road on Monday when work was enforced to eat. Many came by to join with lots to say on the weekend and was gone by monday at noon. Now in God,s Valley there are many technical trades and well developed businesses which all took a good bath in the resession3 a couple of years back. This community has become great and strong. The people here are friends and follow the leadings of God, his Christ, and his ways. This is a utopia to me and this is the way that works better for many. many have written favor or disfavor according to how they were affected. For example someone who is visiting and not working may offend someone of smaller element and may get straightened out and have to work in order to visit. Some here grew and did not like working so hard (being so small or umble )and so they sought there future in another environment with less work required for survival and did not want to invest in their kids future to be and others kids futures here in God,s Valley. The strong mothers here are respected greatly by all here and do marvels in this place for group organization and many other ways. At 45 years old i have learned the does and don'ts of communal living. This is a drive for the good of human kind to follow into a better world of trust and care for one another. This is advanced now and bountiful in many ways a great success story in action and work is still a priority for many. 4-28-12 a small part of my site. Wisdom the leader and Truth the guide. Disharmony comes from the nature of man and has to be possessed by truth in action in order to maintain peace between many.Those commandments obviously expose humankinds weeknesses that will be overcame by the grace and will of Great ALL.(GOD)Many stories written by many visitors are poluted by there own interests being denied and low status being pronounced by simple hard working inhabitants. Many PHD's have studied and studied the place until the changes for the good were interpreted. At a high point in evolvment many from this community went to a higher educating process and begain to gain favor among the relms of human endeavor. Today there are many very intelligent elete beings both male and female who have grown in this experience and are honored. 


The Ephrata Cloister
Shaker Communities
Separatist Colonies Harmonists BethelAurora Zoar Amana Bishop Hill
Oneida Perfectionists
The Hutterite Brethren
NineteenthCentury Jewish Farm Colonies
Californias Exotic Brotherhoods
TwentiethCentury Religious Communities
Selected Bibliography

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2003)

ROBERT P. SUTTON is Professor of History at Western Illinois University. He is the author of Immigration of the Icarians to Illinois (1987), and the translator of Etienne Cabet's Voyage en Icarie into English (1996).

Bibliographic information