Ohio History Journal

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Ora et Labora:

Ora et Labora:

A German Methodist Utopia






IN ALL AGES men have toyed with plans for the regeneration of

the race, and a map of the world without utopias would be bleak

and uninteresting indeed.1

A new, unsettled land, like the United States, was especially ap-

pealing to utopian dreamers, and beginning with the colonial

period, scores of communitarian experiments flourished, for longer

or shorter periods, in America. Some were religious in origin and

used a communist pattern as the most practical way to hold their

group together. Others had no concern with religion, or were

even hostile to it, and concentrated on social and economic theory

to find the key to a better social order.

The great open spaces of the Mississippi Valley seemed ideal

for such experiments in communal living. Here there was plenty

of room, and if neighbors were not always hospitable, they were

generally tolerant. The majority of such American communities

were located in Trans-Appalachia, but other well-known settle-

ments could be found in the older East. The Shakers of New

England and Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance come immediately

to mind. Most of these experiments were of short duration; a few

persisted into the present century.

Among the millions of European immigrants who came to

America in the nineteenth century, attracted by its political freedom

and economic opportunity, there were some who dreamed of

establishing an entirely new social order. Among nearly every


* Carl Wittke is chairman of the department of history and dean of the graduate

school at Western Reserve University. He is also a member of the board of editors

of the Quarterly.

1 I am indebted to Lewis Beeson, executive secretary of the Michigan Historical

Commission, and Philip P. Mason, the commission's archivist, for help in preparing

this paper.