The New International Encyclopædia/Harmonists

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HARMONISTS. A communistic society, founded by George Rapp, who was born in Iptingen, Württemberg, in 1757. He became convinced that the churches around him were not truly representative of Christ's teachings, and in 1787 began preaching a higher spiritual life. Although Rapp and his followers demeaned themselves as peaceable and law-abiding subjects, they excited jealousy and opprobrium, suffered persecution, and were fined and imprisoned. In 1803 they determined to emigrate to America, where a tract of 5000 acres of land was bought in Butler County, Pa., in the valley of the Connoquenessing. Here the Harmony Society was formally organized, February 13, 1805, and its constitution was adopted, in signing which all the members agreed to throw all their possessions into a common stock, to live and dress simply, to hold all things in common, and to labor for the good of the whole body. In the spring of 1805 the community numbered about 125 families, or not quite 750 persons. In 1807 the society was stirred by a profound religious awakening. The members became convinced that it was their duty to give up marriage and adopt the principle of celibacy as being the higher and holier estate. But no marked formalities of separation were instituted. Those who had been husband and wife continued to occupy the same house, with their children, but thereafter treated each other simply as ‘brother and sister in Christ.’ At the same time the use of tobacco was given up. Although the settlement on the Connoquenessing prospered, the location in a few years proved unsuitable to the needs of the community, and in 1814 a new tract of 30,000 acres was bought in Posey County. Ind.. at the site of the present town of New Harmony (q.v.), to which the Harmonists removed during the ensuing twelve months. At this place they increased and prospered, their enterprises flourished, and their membership rose to about one thousand souls; but they became again dissatisfied on account of unhealthy and other unfavorable local conditions. They sold their property to Robert Dale Owen (q.v.), and removed in 1825 to what became their permanent home in Beaver County, Pa. Here they built the village of Economy, on the Ohio River, about 20 miles north of Pittsburg, a place long celebrated as an example of neatness and industrial thrift. The community has suffered one serious division: In 1832 250 members, having become alienated umler the influence of a German adventurer, Bernhard Müller, who called himself the Count de Leon, determined to withdraw, and a separation and apportioimient of property were agreed upon. The management of the community was entirely in the hands of Rapp during his lifetime. After his death, in 1847, it passed to a board of elders, of whom Jacob Henrici was most prominent as trustee. Since 1891 John S. Duss has been the active manager. With not a few vicissitudes, throughout much of its career, the society has enjoyed great prosperity. In 1874 its property was valued between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000, and it had then 110 members, besides 25 or 30 children and hired laborers. The United States census in 1890 gave it 340 members. It was about that time heavily indebted, but has since been nearly freed from its obligations. The adoption of celibacy checked the growth of the sceiety, and tended to repel converts. At present (November, 1902) the membership has fallen to eight. Plans for the restoration of the community are said to have been formed. Consult: Aaron Williams, The Harmony Society at Economy, Pennsylvania, Founded by George Rapp, A.D. 1805, with an Appendix (Pittsburg, 1876); Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States (New York, 1874); William Alfred Hinds, American Communities (rev. ed., Chicago, 1902).