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A Utopia on the prairie

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 4:23 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 10:20 p.m. CST

A dream that is now some 170 years old can be an illusive thing to track down much less to fully understand. There was this dream of creating a Utopian community in early Illinois, only 25 years after we had become a state. Americans have a long history of experiments with trying to devise better communities through intentional planning. The central focus or motivation for such experiments usually centered on improving social welfare, economic, philosophical or religious themes. Such a  proposal was utilized in an attempt to establish a Utopian social community near LaMoille, Illinois.

The state legislature chartered the “Lamoille [sic] Agricultural and Mechanical Association” on March 6,1843. The association was to have three directors, all of whom had emigrated to the LaMoille area from New England. The planned community, aka The Bureau County Phalanx, was to be based on an adherence to the social and mathematical concepts and theories of the French philosopher, Charles Fourier.

This was intended to be no small dream. The state charter provided for a potential of as many as 2,000 shareholders who could control some 160,000 acres of land. The LaMoille effort, unfortunately, seems never to have progressed much beyond the initial planning stage.

Over the course of our nation’s history, hundreds of similar social, economic or religious communal experiments have been attempted. Almost none of the experiments have produced lasting results and have subsequently, after a year or two, drifted into obscurity. As historian, William Hinds, has noted; “The financial losses in such cases may have been the least; for “the setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun: the brightness of our life is gone.”

As a local retired teacher and researcher, I am currently seeking any information about this ill-fated Bureau County Utopian dream. I may be reached at 815-379-2279 or by e-mail at teacherstwo_no.3@mchsi.com.

Robert Glaser


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