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Eden Within Eden

Oregon's Utopian Heritage

James J. Kopp

Publication Year: 2009

Oregon has long been a destination for those seeking new beginnings. Since the establishment of the Aurora Colony in 1856, the state has been the home of nearly three hundred communal experiments. Eden Within Edenis the first book to survey this utopian history, from religious and Socialist groups of the nineteenth century to ecologically conscious communities of the twenty-first century. James Kopp examines Oregon’s communal history in the framework of utopian and communal experiences across America.

Eden Within Edenprovides rich detail about utopian communities—some realized, some only planned—many of which reflect broader social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of Oregon’s history. From the dawn of communal groups in Oregon—the German Christian colony at Aurora—to Oregon’s most infamous communal experiment—Rajneeshpuram—Kopp describes the range of attempts to establish ideal communities in the state. These include the Jewish agrarian colony of New Odessa in the 1880s as well as the “new pioneers” of the 1960s who captured the spirit of the counterculture and gave voice to growing concerns about the environment. Kopp explores other areas of Oregon’s utopian heritage as well, including literary works and idealistic city planning. The book’s appendix is a rich compilation that will guide students, scholars, and other interested readers to additional information on the profiled—and many other—communities.

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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p. ix

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pp. x-xiii

I have been seeking utopia in Oregon for over three decades, at least in a scholarly manner. I may have been seeking utopia in Oregon for years prior to that growing up on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and then as an undergraduate student at a time when there was a revival of interest in finding Eden, Nirvana, or whatever name one chose to identify their place ...

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Introduction: Oregon as Eden

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pp. 1-8

This last stanza from a poem that Abigail Scott Duniway wrote in 1872 captures the spirit of many who came to Oregon before her, as well as many since. Oregon was a land of promise, of new beginnings, and, for many, a land that conjured up images of the Garden of Eden. Duniway herself used the Eden metaphor in describing two sections of the state in ...

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Chapter One: Eden and Utopia: Background and Boundaries

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pp. 9-21

When Oregonians are asked what ideas come to mind when they think of Eden, words like paradise, perfection, ideal, innocence, beauty, and immortality come to mind. For some, the initial association is with apples, nudity, sin, and snakes. And for still others, words like expulsion and unachievable are mentioned.1 All of these ideas in one way or another relate ...

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Chapter Two: The American Utopian Tradition

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pp. 22-38

When Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 his destination was not Eden, but after encountering the “new world” by accident he thought he might have found it. As Louis B. Wright notes: “ If Columbus did not realize that he had discovered a new continent, he did believe that he had found the terrestrial paradise. On his third voyage, in 1498, he sailed along the coast ...

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Chapter Three: The Dawn of Utopia in Oregon: The Aurora Colony

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pp. 39-50

In this fashion A. T. Hawley described the small village of Aurora in 1888. Hawley’s description does not provide many details of Aurora but these few lines capture some important aspects of this settlement along the Pudding River that separates Marion and Clackamas counties. One is that the history of this “experimental German colony” was unknown beyond a few basic ...

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Chapter Four: Seeking the Ideal Community in Oregon in the 1880s and 1890s

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pp. 51-87

In the quarter century from the founding of the Aurora Colony in 1856 to its dissolution, there are no known successful attempts at establishing communal societies in Oregon. The years prior to, during, and immediately following the Civil War were a time of diminished activity in communal experiments nationally, particularly compared to the large number of such ...

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Chapter Five: No Place

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pp. 88-99

In addition to many attempts to establish utopian settlements in Oregon in the late nineteenth century that met with varying degrees of success, there were some that got little further than the planning stages. Many of these unrealized efforts have little, if any, record of their ideas and plans; they may have been nothing more than a scheme discussed around a dinner ...

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Chapter Six: Cooperation in Oregon in the Early Twentieth Century

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pp. 100-118

The ideal “convent” of Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, discussed in the previous chapter, was one man’s concept of what might be developed on some land in the Oregon Coast Range, and aspects of his plan for an Arts and Crafts colony were very detailed. But they pale in comparison to the plans for what was perhaps Oregon’s most significant attempt at a utopian settlement ...

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Chapter Seven: From Cooperation to Survival in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 119-132

While communal efforts did not disappear nationally in the first half of the twentieth century, there were some shifts in the pattern of such communities and there was an overall decline in number of new undertakings.1 But many communities founded earlier were still active at the beginning of the twentieth century. These included such groups as the Hutterites and the ...

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Chapter Eight: Rediscovering Utopia: The New Pioneers of the Late 1960s

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pp. 133-146

In a very perceptive and moving letter printed in the third issue of Communities in 1973, Margaret Ford, then in her seventies, provided some history, some hope, and some advice for those involved in the rebirth of communal groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s. ...

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Chapter Nine: The Dream Continues: From the 1970s to the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 147-168

A key criterion for groups is “low-cost land of marginal agricultural value, sometimes priced as low as $250 an acre.” Such land in 1971 was getting hard to locate and costs were reaching $1000 an acre or more. The article also provides other criteria of communes seeking land: “The typical group has five requirements. The property must be secluded, it must be picturesque, ...

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Chapter Ten: The Dark Side of Utopia

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pp. 169-179

Anyone familiar with Oregon’s past, communal or otherwise, may note the omission from previous discussions of two communities that have left a lasting mark on the utopian heritage landscape of the state. One of these likely is more widely known as it dominated the news of much of the mid- 1980s in Oregon and elsewhere. This was the Rajneeshpuram settlement ...

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Conclusion: Oregon As Utopia

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pp. 180-186

In a 1943 letter to his literary agent accompanying the manuscript for a utopian novel he was submitting for her consideration, Ellis F. Lawrence (1879-1946), founding Dean of the School of Architecture and Allied (Fine) Arts and campus architect at the University of Oregon, wrote: “I feel the times call for some positive idealism to renew faith—perhaps another ‘News from ...

Appendix: From Abba's Way to The Zoo: A Resource Guide to Oregon's Utopian Heritage

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pp. 187-306


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pp. 307-359


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pp. 360-370

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716249
E-ISBN-10: 0870716247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870714245
Print-ISBN-10: 0870714244

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: Maps, illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 794701186
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Eden Within Eden

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Subject Headings

  • Collective settlements -- Oregon -- History.
  • Utopias -- United States -- History.
  • Aurora Colony (Marion County, Or.) -- History.
  • Utopias -- Oregon -- History.
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