Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Harmonial Vegetarian Society

I've written previously about experimental, utopian communities of the 1800s in America in general and southwest Missouri in particular. Examples I've cited include the town of Liberal in Barton County, which was founded as a haven for free-thinkers, and the Reunion Community in Jasper County and the Friendship Community in Dallas County, which were founded by Alcander Longley as experiments in what he called "practical communism."
Apparently there was only one such experimental settlement in the Arkansas Ozarks. It was founded by physician James E. Spencer about 1857 in Benton County two or three miles east of Maysville. Spencer called the site Harmony Springs, while the group itself was called the Harmonial Vegetarian Society. It was patterned after the earlier Oneida Community of New York state. Unlike Longley's communities and the town of Liberal, the Harmonial Vegetarian Society professed Christianity. One thing that the Harmonial Vegetarian Society had in common with the Missouri experimental communities, however, is that it was an object of scorn from some locals. For example, since the Harmonial Vegetarian Society set aside no particular day for religious services, the members were accused of breaking the Sabbath and were charged with the offense in Benton County Court. Goodspeed's 1889 history of Benton County even claimed that the Harmonial Vegetarian Society renounced marriage, although there is no evidence of this. Lack of local acceptance may have contributed to the demise of the Harmonial Vegetarian Society, but the fact that Spencer left the group after about three years probably had more to do with it. The final blow came in the spring of 1861, as the Civil War came on, when Brigadier General N. Bart Pearce took over the property at Harmony Springs to use as a training ground for his troops.


Blogger Sandy Clark said...

Dear Larry,

I'm digitizing letters from the Wattles family out at Wilson's Creek (Museum number: WICR 32323). In folder 14 there is a brief letter from Susan Wattles to her daughter in Texas mentioning that travellers had stopped into Harmony Springs on the way up from Texas. I wondered what that community was and found your post. Thanks,

-Sandy Clark

June 13, 2012 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Glad to hear you found the blog, regardless of how you came across it, and hope you'll check back occasionally.

June 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM  

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