4 Jul 2019

Good Company

Kathleen M. Fernandez. Zoar: The Story of an Intentional Community. Kent State University Press (30 Jun. 2019)

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In 1817, a group of German religious dissenters immigrated to Ohio. Less than two years later, in order to keep their distinctive religion and its adherents together, they formed a communal society (eine guter gemeinschaft or "community of goods"), where all shared equally. Their bold experiment thrived and continued through three generations; the Zoar Separatists are considered one of the longest-lasting communal groups in US history.

Fernandez traces the Separatists' beginnings in Wurttemberg, Germany, and their disputes with authorities over religious differences, their immigration to America, and their establishment of the communal Society of Separatists of Zoar. The community's development, particularly in terms of its business activities with the outside world, demonstrates its success and influence in the 19th century. Though the Society dissolved in 1898, today its site is a significant historical attraction. Zoar is based on ample primary source material, some never before utilised by historians, and illustrated with thirty historic photographs.