Ten notable American communes

Talk of pooling income and possessions thrived in the hippie era, though it rarely took form in practice – and, when it did, the results were often disastrous.

More common was the kind of shared rent arrangement like the farm I describe in my novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.

Here are ten from American history. Utopian socialism was a common theme.

  1. New Harmony, Indiana. Robert Owen, 1825-1829.
  2. Oberlin Colony. Ohio, 1833-1843.
  3. Fourier Society. Based on the ideas of French philosopher Charles Fourier, communes existed in New Jersey, 1841-1858; New York state, 1844-1846; Wisconsin, 1844-1850; Ohio, 1844-1845.
  4. The Transcendentalists. Brook Farm, George and Sophia Ripley, 1841-1846, and Fruitlands, Amos Alcott, 1843-1844, both in Massachusetts.
  5. Oneida Colony. John H. Noyes, New York state, 1848-1880. The first of a series of communes with radical ideas about free love and open marriage. (I love the name of one of those in Ohio, 1854-1858: Free Lovers at Davis House.)
  6. Icarians. Followers of French philosopher Etienne Cabet established communes in Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and California, 1848-1898.
  7. Home, Washington. 1895-1919, based on an anarchist philosophy.
  8. Twin Oaks. Virginia, 1967 to the present.
  9. The Farm. Stephen Gaskin, Lewis County, Tennessee, 1971 to the present.
  10. East Wind Community. Ozark County, Missouri, 1973 to the present.

Any you’d add to the list?

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5 thoughts on “Ten notable American communes

  1. First one that came to my mind was Love Inn in upstate New York, though I don’t know if that would fit the “commune” definition.

    There’s also a darker streak that I noticed you stayed away from the Manson “family,” the Children of God and many similar communal undertakings which were more about the leader than the movement.

    • Lorne, you have me thinking about a list of what would be considered cults, not that such groups ever label themselves that. Would all of them fit under the darker streak? Curious thought.
      I wasn’t familiar with Love Inn, but now see that I wasn’t living that far away before I moved to the ashram, which also was built around a leader, our guru. The New York Times piece is pretty sympathetic but makes me wonder how everything played out in the time since.
      Sounds like you have some great ideas for a Tendril!

      • Or perhaps evolve into something else, as the Moravian colonies did?
        It’s a fascinating perspective.
        The Shakers continued in a light-filled way that, of course, led to their extinction.
        Even though communal life was never my ideal, I had a taste of it in the ashram, which took some darker turns after I moved on.
        So what about the Farm in Tennessee? Has it managed to continue?

  2. According t o Wikipedia The Farm is still going. Last time I looked (about three years ago) there were still half a dozen Shakers in Maine. Their loss will be extremely sad, though the world won’t even notice their demise..

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