Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16




Free Love in Ohio: Jacob Beilhart

and the Spirit Fruit Colony



During the closing years of the nineteenth century, Americans

frequently read newspaper and magazine reports of a new wave of

communitarianism. Just as individuals of good hope united in the

antebellum period to create the Bethels, Zoars, Fruitlands, and

other utopias, colony building likewise flourished after the Civil

War, particularly during the cataclysmic depression of the mid-

1890s. While these latter-day communitarians might be divided

conveniently into secular and sectarian categories-as so often

occurs with utopian groups of the 1830s and 1840s-a more precise

classification would distinguish those who were cooperative colon-

izers, political pragmatists, and charismatic perfectionists. Gener-

ally, the cooperative colonizers and the political pragmatists showed

little or no interest in organized religion. The former emphasized

economic cooperation and seemed uninterested in political ideolo-

gies, while the latter sought to test and popularize pet reform

schemes. Political pragmatists, unlike cooperative colonizers,

usually de-emphasized the notion of "community" with its homoge-

nized lifestyles; their overriding concerns centered instead on dis-

covering immediate or lasting relief from hard times and the ex-

ploitive qualities of American capitalism.1

Of the three types, colonies of charismatic perfectionists were

the most numerous. Such settlements were either based on the

potential personal sanctity of the membership or on special gifts



Robert S. Fogarty is Associate Professor of History at Antioch College

and is Editor of the Antioch Review and H. Roger Grant is Associate Pro-

fessor of History at the University of Akron.



1. See Robert S. Fogarty, "American Communes, 1865-1914," Journal

of American Studies, 9 (August, 1975), 145-62; and H. Roger Grant, "The

New Communitarianism: The Case of Three Intentional Colonies, 1890-

1905," Indiana Social Studies Quarterly, 30 (Spring, 1977), 59-71.