Missouri and Ozarks History

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

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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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Communist Dream in Southern Missouri

I’ve written previously on this blog about Alcander Longley and his communist settlements in Jasper County near present-day Oronogo called the Reunion Community and in Dallas County just west of Buffalo called the Friendship Community. The former Community (Longley’s capitalization) existed from early 1868 to late 1870 and the latter from the spring of 1872 until the summer of 1877. However, Longley’s dream was far from over. He was nothing if not a true believer, and he spent the rest of his life trying to establish a successful communist settlement in Missouri. The son of a Universalist minister, Longley was born in Ohio in 1832 and was exposed to liberal views at an early age. As a young man he lived in several experimental settlements based on association and sharing. In his thirties, he embraced communism and came to St. Louis in 1867 to organize the Reunion Community. Longley thought of communism outside of politics and was not a fan of Karl Marx. He was, instead, an advocate of what he called practical communism, feeling that people should join together in mutual aid to form self-sustaining communes. Longley started publishing a newspaper called the Communist to promote his effort.
After the Reunion Community and the Friendship Community collapsed, Longley helped start a commune on forty acres near Lutesville in Bollinger County in May 1879. It was also called the Friendship Community, but it was even shorter lived than its like-named predecessor.
Longley lived in St. Louis at the time of the 1880 census, but by the spring of 1881 he was back living on the Dallas County property near Buffalo. On May 21, he and a few associates started the Principia Community in Polk County near present-day Halfway. Longley briefly joined the group but became disillusioned with way the community was being run and went back to Buffalo.
In July of 1883, Longley started another commune, called the Mutual Aid Society, on 160 acres about a mile north of the Glenallen railroad depot in Bollinger County. In June 1885, a woman left her home in Ohio in answer to a circular Longley sent out promoting the place. When she got to Glenallen, she found Longley the only person living on the farm. She left in anger, accusing him of trying to take her money.
Longley left Glenallen about April of 1885 and established yet another communist group, called the Altruist Community, at Sulphur Springs in Jefferson County. Longley himself stayed at the location only two months before once again going back to St. Louis.
But he never gave up on his dream. In the early to mid-1890s, he was involved in communist communities in Arkansas and northern Missouri. In late 1898 and early 1899 he helped organize a community called Altro about four miles northwest of Williamsville in Wayne County. He visited the place a few times but maintained his residence in St. Louis.
In 1901 Longley traded his land in Wayne County for an eight-acre plot at Sulphur Springs, where he once again proposed to start a new community. He spent the last seventeen years of his life promoting the Altruist Community, but his latest venture was hardly more successful than his earlier ones. He died at Chicago in 1918.


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