The Oneida Community Essays

The Oneida Community Essays

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The Oneida Community

Throughout the early years of the United States, Utopian communities seemed to be quite prevalent. Though most did not last long, their ideas of perfection have long outlasted the settlements themselves. Of the many trial settlements one of the most noted was that of the Oneida community that was founded in the late 1840’s by John Humphrey Noyes. Noyes’ society of self-proclaimed perfectionists was started after he lost his preaching license in an attempt to spread his new ideas of communal living. 1 The Oneida society, like many societies of this era, was based on seemingly radical religious as well as societal ideas. In the early years, the community thrived partially because there was no conflict between its scientific and religious ideas. As the society grew and progressed toward it’s downfall, a significant separation of science and religion was becoming evident. Many believe that it was this growing conflict between science and religion that was ultimately the deteriorating element of communal living among the members of the Oneida experiment.

John Humphrey Noyes, son of John Noyes and Polly Hayes Noyes, was born on September 3, 1811 in Brattleboro, Vermont. As the son of a well-educated businessman and an inquisitive mother, the young John was encouraged to love learning. After attending many schools in Vermont and Massachusetts John entered Dartmouth in hopes of completing his education. After his graduation from college in 1830 with a degree in law, Noyes moved to Chesterfield, New Hampshire.2

Around this time there was a large revivalist movement taking place. John Noyes’ parents were to hold a meeting of this group at their home in Putney, Vermont. Upon the request of his mother, John, a...


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1. Peyton Richter edt., Utopias Social Ideas about Communal Living, (Boston: Holbrok
Press, 1971) 137.

2. Constance Noyes Robertson, Onedia Community, (New York: Syracuse University Press,
1970) 2.

3. Robertson, 3.

4. Robertson, 3.

5. Robertson, 4.

6. Robertson, 5.

7. Robertson, 5.

8. Robertson, 8.

9. Randall Hillebrand, The Shakers/Oneida Community
(http://www.nyhistory.com/central/oneida.htm) 2.

10. Ira Mandelker, Religion, Society, and Utopia in Nineteenth-Century America (
Amherst, MA: The Universtiy of Massachusetts Press, 1984) 117.

11. Mandelker, 118.

12. Mandelker, 113.

13. Hillebrand, 3.

14. Robertson, 14.

15. Robertson, 20.

16. Robertson, 21.

17. Mandelker, 119.

18. Mandelker, 119.

19. Mandelker, 132.

20. Mandelker, 92.

21. Mandelker, 147.

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