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47 Kenneth and I ­ were not alone in our respect for the achievements of New Harmony’s founding fathers and mothers and in our love of the land. Thomas Mumford and John­ Elliott, whose New Harmony roots reached back as far as my husband’s, also returned to land their ancestors had farmed. Consciously or not, these descendants of British citizens who had arrived in New Harmony in the 1820s ­ were reenacting the early American tradition of sons who worked their ancestors’ land. This custom decreased during the transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. Sons left family farms for cities, and small towns withered. The story of human erosion is well known. We are less aware of exceptions to this pattern. These three ­public-­spirited and ­well-­educated men returned as farmers and civic leaders. They ­were not bedazzled by utopia, like the members of two previous societies. They had no thought of holding their goods in common, as did the Harmonists, or of realizing Robert Owen’s ambitious ChaptER 5 Harmonist Church and School 48 New Harmony, indiana plan for a quadrangular Phalanstery for communal living. Each one brought his ­city-­bred wife, who also embraced the town and its history. The regeneration of New Harmony resumed in the 1940s with the friendship and collaboration of the Owen, Mumford, and Elliott families, a nucleus for unfolding events. I thank heaven that we newlyweds did not enter a vacuum of nonremembrance. A small, caring minority of townspeople , who ­ were aware of the unmined gold that lay beneath their feet, welcomed us. They had lacked the means and the youthful energy to bring these riches to the light of day, but they had tried and in significant ways succeeded. Mary Fauntleroy, for instance, saved the Harmonist Community House No. 2 from de­mo­li­tion (19 on town map). Laura Corbin Monical was my nearest neighbor and first friend in New Harmony. This extraordinary “widow lady,” the local title for women who had lost their husbands, lived in her parents’ home, the fading , ­ white-­ pillared Rapp-Maclure-Owen House, across the lawn from the Lab. Miss Laura spent her mornings removing cobwebs from the­ fourteen-­ foot-­ high ceilings of the old ­ house. Her cleaning tool consisted of two broom handles joined together and topped with dust rags. For this daily ritual, Miss Laura covered her red wig with an ­ eighteenth-­ century ruffled linen cap and enveloped her short stature with a wide apron. Her words of friendship to me ­were, “If you see me in the morning, Jane, don’t speak because I will be very busy. Do drop by later in the day for a cup of tea.” Traces of beauty remained in her aged face; I could easily believe that a member of Indianapolis’s Fortune family had once sought her hand in marriage. My husband started his schooling in a building across Church Street from the Corbins’ ­ house and the Lab (9 on town map). He and generations of schoolchildren since 1874 had entered their classrooms through a door designed by Frederick Rapp, sometimes called the “Door of Promise ,” that had once been the principal entrance to the brick Harmonist church. I prize a photo of Kenneth’s grandmother and mother in a horse-­ drawn carriage before that handsome building. A brief history of the brick Harmonist church will be helpful. In 1822, the Harmonists began construction of a large brick church (on the west side of their original wooden church) that was finished not long before Harmonist Church and School 49 Robert Owen purchased New Harmony (20 on town map). The impressive church was one of the most significant buildings on the American frontier during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. During and after the Owen/Maclure Experiment, the cruciform church was unfortunately converted to secular purposes as New Harmony’s multipurpose hall. The east arm of the cross was used for dancing, the south arm for a theater, and the other two for libraries (the original location of the Maclure Working Men’s Institute). A clutter of ­ shed-­ like wooden structures had been added later for pork packing. Rumors of this desecration reached the devout Harmonists now living in Economy, Pennsylvania. They ­were understandably disturbed. Consistent with their practice of bringing important matters before the entire community, prayer sessions ­ were held in their church in Economy. With characteristic dignity and liberality, the Harmonists selected Jonathan Lenz, son of David Lenz, to return...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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