In the nineteenth century, other Protestant groups founded communities in the United States. One of the earliest and most successful was headed by “Father” George Rapp, a German religious leader. After migrating to Pennsylvania in 1804, he and his group of over 1700 followers founded a communistically organized colony in Beaver County, north of Pittsburgh. The Rappites shared their economic wealth equally. They believed the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and soon the Millenial Kingdom would be set up on earth; Rapp believed that his Society would prepare true believers for this event. People were attracted to Rapp both because of his charismatic leadership but also because of his common sense. His son, Frederick, was also an able businessman, administrator and organizer like his father. Following the deaths of the Rapps, an able group of administrators and trustees continued to guide the Society’ s affairs.
The accomplishments of the Rappite-Harmonists were many. Within two years, the community was virtually self-sufficient, due to Rapp’ s ability to attract hardworking farmers, builders and mechanics. In 1814 the community decided to cross the western frontier and set up a new headquarters, called “Harmony” in the Wabash Valley in Indiana. This new town became an important trade and industrial center for a large region. The community prospered and grew. But Father Rapp continued to preach to his followers to be good stewards of what God had provided and not to be overly concerned with riches. A decade later, in 1824-25, the group decided to move back to Pennsylvania, and sold their 30,000 acre community, buildings and all, to Robert Owen, who agreed to pay $150,000. The Harmonists had found the Wabash Valley unhealthy and surrounded by unpleasant neighbors. The new Pennsylvania site, called “Economy”, just fifteen miles from their original location near Pittsburgh, proved well-suited for manufacturing and business. One observer recounted:
They erected woolen and cotton mills, a grist-mill and sawmill; they planted orchards and vineyards; they began the culture of silk, and with such success that soon the Sunday dress of men as well as women was of silk, grown, reeled, spun and woven by themselves. (Nordhoff, page 77
The community at Economy thrived and attracted many well-known international visitors, as well as many westward-bound settlers. Despite a split in the Economy society in 1833, the Harmonists continued their way of life until the early 1900s.
The Zoar Separatists, founded by Joseph Bimeler in 1817, established a sectarian community in northeastern Ohio. They wished to separate themselves from the dominant society, did not vote or participate in political life, and became self-sufficient with a woolen factory, two flour mills, a sawmill, machine ship, and a summer resort hotel to attract tourism. They also brewed beer and milled cider. They lived communistically, that is, all property and wealth was held in common. In terms of goals, one member stated is this way:
‘Our object is to get into heaven, and help others to get there. . . . I formerly believed [our system] would spread all over the world. I thought every body would come into Communistic relations. I believe so still, but I don’ t know how far our particular system will prevail. In heaven there is only Communism; and why should it not be our aim to prepare ourselves in this world for the society we are sure to enter there? If we can get rid of our willfulness and selfishness here, there is so much done for heaven.
(Quoted in Hinds, pages 31-32)
This world’ s experiences as a preparation for the next. This seemed to be a recurring theme in the Christian communities. But what of the nonsectarian groups? With the exception of two or three short-lived efforts in the mid-eighteenth century, the vast majority were religious groups, seeking to live free from persecution.