Bible Communists!

Today’s NYT has a very good story on the Oneida Community by a distant relative of some of its members. There was indeed some wild stuff going on in the old days. The hippies of the 20th century had nothing on these guys. Name me another free-lovin’, Bible-thumpin,’ Brave-New-Worldin’ bunch of Commies who ran a world-famous silverware factory.

6 Replies to “Bible Communists!”

  1. I don’t think they were very Bible-thumpin’. More New Age, actually. John Noyes would fall into “trances” and spout strange sermons and “criticisms” that his disciples took very seriously. “Free love” is a misnomer. A person didn’t marry one other person (which is what caused such scandals in that era), but they didn’t run around Sherril copulating like dogs, either. The Community was quite far from a sensical interpretation of the Bible.

    Noyes, a Vermont native, was run out of town with his kooky idears. He came to NY, the historical harbinger of all sorts of kooks (a tradition that continues to this day). Some of the group was run out of Utica, also. There was a lot of running– Joseph Smith of Mormon-hood was chased out of Bainbridge, NY, for “corrupting public morals.” So was Brigham Young.

    I’ve studied the Oneida Community, and visited it on a few occasions. It’s history always seems to titillate the public every once in a while.

  2. A decent book on the Oneida Community is “Without Sin” by Spencer Klaw.

    I work in the area. I’ve never visited the Mansion House, but drive by it often enough. The building and grounds are beautiful. And, regardless of what people say, the community isn’t entirely gone. There are actually a few descendants still living in the Mansion House, which is now apartments. And an awful lot of descendants living very close by.

    Most of Noyes’ ideas were a little (or a lot) off, and “kooky” is certainly a valid charge, but there was some good there, too. You know, their idea that women should able to choose when to have children and who to have them with was pretty radical at the time.

  3. Jim makes some good points.

    But remember, women already did (and still do) have the choice with whom and when to have their children: in faithful marriage to one man, or in abstinence.

    I think the “group” marriage was more controversial than the stirpiculture… but ironically, it was the stirpiculture and the group marriage that caused the Community to implode, as the second-generation members (experiencing the foibles of the Community’s shortcomings) refused to participate in such.

  4. Madison County was such an interesting place then… what with the Oneida Community and Peterboro. And yet, I have extended family in Madison County who have been there since the early 1800’s and they are as Bible-based as they come. I think my ancestors probably would not have approved of the Oneida Community, but you never know, because ALL of that stuff (sexual freedom, racial harmony, etc) was (in the view of the experimenters) Bible-based.

    Now, there’s just Turning Stone. :-) [not in Madison County but thereabouts]

  5. I can’t let a mention of famous upstate kooks pass by without a plug for Cyrus Reed Teed, formerly of Utica. Messianic religious leaders are a dime a dozen, but Teed has the unique distinction of being a genuine mad scientist. A botched experiment with a high-voltage device put him in psychic contact with the inhabitants of an advanced civilization living inside the hollow Earth, leading him to form a religious movement based on their ideals.

    Google up his name for the rest of the story. It’s pure gold.

  6. Enough tax breaks to lure companies to CNY (or to keep them from leaving). Enough civic planning for subsidized entertainment and housing districts to lure young professionals to CNY.

    How are we going to bring more Bible Communists to town?

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