You are bound to find some juicy facts the deeper you dig into your family roots. One of my ancestors was supposedly a member of the Oneida Community, researching the history of was quite enlightening.
A random handwritten family tree from the box of stuff mentioned that my gggg grandfather Josiah J Franks was a member of the Oneida Community. After some digging I found a cousin of my grandmother. He is in his nineties and as luck would have it he was an avid family historian! He sent me a wealth of information and also noted Josiah as a "member of oneida community". In addition he sent a letter dated 1856 between 2 of Josiah's sons:
“You ask how do I feel about going to Oneida to live, I can tell you that I would not live among such a set of people for anything at all. Every letter that Father [Josiah] writes to me he says more or less about me going to Oneida to live. He says he is going to send me money for me to come home but on the condition that I must spend a week at Oneida.“
Intrigued I started researching...
In 1848 the group naming themselves the Oneida Community moved to Oneida, NY. The Utopian movement was founded by the theories of John Humphrey Noyes and members lived communally under a doctrine religious and Perfectionist lifestyle. They had strict ideals and I found many of their theories to be very controversial. I'm especially interested to see how society responded to this progressive movement (more research to do!).
Life in the Oneida Community; Oneida, NY 1848
Gender Equality Men and Women worked alongside each other with equality in government and community leadership.
No monogamy allowed A principle belief: Complex Marriage "In Complex Marriage, every man was married to every woman and vice versa. This practice was to stay only within the community and had to stay within two main guidelines. The first was that before the man and woman could cohabit, they had to obtain each other's consent through a third person or persons. Secondly, no two people could have exclusive attachment with each other because it would be selfish and idolatrous*. Any two people found in any such situation would be separated and not allowed to see each other for a certain length of time."
*idolatrous?: "Given to blind or excessive devotion to something"
No babies The community discouraged it's members from having children up until 1869 when certain couples were granted permission as the prosperity of the community grew.
Public Reprimands Following an order of Mutual Criticism "each member of the community that was being reprimanded was taken in front of either a committee or sometimes the whole community to be criticized for their action."
The community was a very complex organization and it's rigid structure began to quiver. In 1880 the remaining members decided to incorporate as the "Oneida Community Ltd" and eventually "Oneida Ltd". This is the same Oneida known for their silverware and tableware and still in business today.
The original community house located in Oneida, NY is now a National Historic Landmark serving the community with tours of the property and preservation initiatives.
The Syracuse University Library has a special collection of original sources detailing the Oneida Community. I recently contacted them to see if they had any information on my ancestor- expect a follow up!
I'll never know why Josiah left family in Brooklyn to move with the Oneida Community, but having this little piece of info helps give shape to his legacy. I am also the proud owner of another of his legacies.
Thank you Frank Christoper! Check out his response to my post re:the oneida community, some very interesting information about my ancestor Josiah Franks!