In yesterday's post, we learned that it was Oscar who first visited Ripon township in Wisconsin to check out the land that was being opened up to settlers in the 1840s. Hard to imagine that Wisconsin was wilderness so short a time ago, but there it is. Oscar, as you'll recall, returned to South Gilboa, New York and "organized a colony of its members" for a move to Wisconsin [Bouton Papers, Efner file].
It was Amos Loper who was mentioned several times in Mayham's book, and I was curious to know how Oscar was related to him, so I went to my first-choice source for second-hand information, WorldConnect at RootsWeb. Oscar, I learned, was Amos' son. Oscar had moved to a place in Wisconsin called Ceresco, according to the notes in the Wehling family tree. I'd never heard of Ceresco and wondered if it was near Lyndon, where Ezekiel Efner settled, or perhaps near Ripon, where Ezekiel's sister Catherine Whiting settled.
So next I googled "Loper Ceresco Wisconsin." The first thing I read was this:
The first claim on the north side of the river was made by Mr. O. E. Loper while it was still Indian lands and not open to legal settlement. After the Indian title was extinguished by the government at the treaty of Poygan, the lands were rapidly taken up and now they are cleared and improved. A small cranberry marsh was cultivated on the western margin of the town. Mr. Loper, who was first to settle north of the river, had been a member of the Fourier community at Ceresco. [Lawson, p. 332]That confused me a little... was this the right O. E. Loper? I was looking for the one from Schoharie County, New York. And what's a Fourier community? So I searched for Fourier in the same book, and found this:
Mr. Lester Rounds had come from Ceresco, where he had been secretary of the community of Fourites under the name of the Wisconsin Phalanx of the Fourier association... ." [Lawson, p. 331]Phalanx? Fourites? Hmm, back to Google... and what I found next was so unexpected that I thought the whole story blogworthy:
François Marie Charles Fourier (April 7, 1772 – October 10, 1837) was a French utopian socialist and philosopher who... envisioned a society organized in units called “phalanxes” composed of male and female representatives of 810 personality types, in which natural interaction would automatically result in peace and harmony. In these communities the status of manual labor would be elevated by making work enjoyable and satisfying. Fourier also advocated the emancipation of women and coined the word féminisme in 1837.Read more about Fourier at New World Encyclopedia.
Having come of age in the late 1960s, on occasion I had toyed with the idea of joining a commune myself. I've always had a fondness for unconventional ideas, I admit. I did read quite a bit about it at the time. I'm surprised I don't remember any mention of Fourier, and if there was any reference to commune experiments in the previous century, it made no lasting impression on me. Nevertheless, I did let the commune idea pass. It seems I'm a staunch adherent of the A Fool And His Money Are Soon Parted school of philosophy and couldn't quite release my grip on the purse-strings.
Neither do I recall, by the way, ever hearing of Fourier in relation to the term feminism when it was on everyone's lips (including mine) in the 1970s. So for me, this discovery casts a pretty interesting light on the 1840s!
But, what about Ceresco? The commune was begun in 1844 and enjoyed some successful years until 1850 when it disbanded and became first the village of Ceresco and later part of Ripon. I found the following three websites particularly interesting and informative:
- Ceresco: A National History Day Resource (with documents and newspaper clippings)
- Ceresco: Utopia in Fond du Lac County (with footnotes galore, on Fond du Lac Public Library's website)
- Discover Historic Downtown Ripon, Wisconsin (with photos, and a bit about the birth of the Republican Party
I find it hard to imagine that a Blenheim Hill anti-renter would fight for the right to own his own property, and then turn right around and go all the way to Wisconsin to join a commune. For that reason, I suspect the Lopers were among those who joined the Ceresco community as a financial investment rather than a lifestyle choice.
I wish there existed a list of all who joined Ceresco. It would be interesting to know if there were others from Blenheim Hill.
My third great-grandfather, Ezekiel T. Efner, went to Wisconsin in 1848. I have no reason to believe that he ever lived at Ceresco or Ripon--I've seen only Cascade and Lyndon mentioned with regard to him. And by the time Charles and Catherine Efner Whiting arrived at Ripon in 1854, the Ceresco commune was history. Still, this fascinating bit of history was a part of the culture at the time. I wonder what they thought of it.
What do you think of it?
Lawson, Publius V. History, Winnebago County, Wisconsin Its Cities, Towns, Resources, People. Chicago: C.F. Cooper and Co, 1908.
For further reading: The Spirit of the Age