Oneida Community Cooking or “A Dinner Without Meat”

In the 1870s, the Oneida Community kitchen prepared and served twice-daily meals, mainly vegetarian, for more than 200 men, women and children.  In addition, the Community hosted, entertained and provided food for visitors from near and far who flocked to Oneida, not just out of curiosity related to their rather bizarre social arrangements, but to sample its renowned cooking.  The O.C. strawberry shortcake was famous in its day.  The public clamored for its recipes, and it is no surprise that the O.C. produced a cookbook and that Harriet Skinner was its voice.  Her culinary philosophy is strikingly modern; she believed that local fresh ingredients are the key to delicious food and healthy eating.  As she famously remarked, “freshness is the sauce and seasoning for everything.”  This new edition of Oneida Community Cooking first published in 1873, includes footnotes and many photographs from the OC photographic archive.

In July 2010, I moved with my husband, Frank Christopher, to the Oneida Community Mansion House.  We spent hours everyday reading through the fascinating letters, journals and documents that reveal the personal stories and history of the Oneida Community.  One day, I discovered a folder of menus from 1877 in the treasure trove of papers. I was intrigued by questions of what this remarkable and little known community of so-called Bible Communists ate and how they prepared meals for a family of 200.  Surely, they must have had recipes and cookbooks.

I mentioned my interest in Oneida Community cuisine to Patricia Hoffman, Executive Director of the Oneida Community Mansion House, and she unearthed a photocopy of “Oneida Community Cooking” that sparked my imagination.  Her enthusiastic support of my endeavor to produce an updated version of the book was critical to its creation.  Anthony Wonderley, Curator of the Collections and Interpretation of the Oneida Community Mansion House, provided access to the Oneida Community photo archive.

Victoria Carver, editor of Oneida Community Cooking

1-Front Cover Tiff

 

Oneida Community Cooking is available for purchase in the Oneida Community Mansion House gift shop or by mailing a check payable to Subpix for $20 (shipping via US First Class Mail to continental US included) to the following address:

subpix

108 No. Allegheny Street #4

Bellefonte, PA 16823

 

 

Celebrations in the Mansion House

Wedding in the Big Hall

Each summer weddings are celebrated in the Oneida Community Mansion House – in the Big Hall or in the Quadrangle.   For those of us who make the Mansion House our home, it is a major event in our day, and often of our late night as well, as reception bands rock the lounge and all of our apartments.

While weddings and receptions don’t make up much of the income that supports the educational mission of the Oneida Community Mansion House, formal weddings, receptions and informal picture taking sessions on the extensive lawns, following a wedding in a nearby church, sustains an enduring local connection with the Mansion House.

Bridal Party at the Mansion House

There is the obvious irony of the modern wedding ceremonies taking place in the home of a religious community that abolished individual marriage in favor of “complex marriage” where all members of the OC were married to each other.

The association with romantic monogamous marriage has long been associated with the products of Oneida Limited, the modern day descendant of the Oneida Community.  The silverware produced by Oneida Ltd. has for a nearly one hundred years been a treasured bridal gift, symbolizing quality and endurance, reflecting the vows of newly weds ~ to honor and cherish each other all their lives.

When I see a bride and groom beginning their lives together in a ceremony performed in the Mansion House, I can’t help but imagine so many other events that the OC celebrated during the years it was active as a Bible Communist Community from 1848-1880.  Many members kept diaries or wrote extensively about these events.  Here are a few examples:

Tirzah Miller 1873

On April 28, 1873, Tirzah Miller wrote in her diary about her future husband and her mother:  “Mr. Herrick, who has been here five years on probation, joined the Community by marrying Mother as its representative.”  While Tirzah does not describe the ceremony, she did say she had practiced the “Wedding March” in preparation for the celebration of James Herrick being accepted as a member of the Community.

Charlotte Leonard

Charlotte Leonard wrote a letter to her mother describing a ceremony that took place in the Big Hall on May 11, 1873, celebrating the pairing of Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee as a couple chosen by John Humphrey Noyes to conceive a Community child as part of the stirpiculture experiment.  From Charlotte’s description we can almost see the ceremony as a scene in a film.

The Big Hall in the Oneida Community Mansion House is filled to capacity.  Nearly three hundred men, women and children, members of the Community, occupy chairs arranged in rows on the floor and in all the seats in the balcony above.  From the balcony, we see a couple in their late twenties, Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee, walk from the back of an elevated stage to its edge.  They stop and look out at the audience for a moment and then kneel on the stage floor with their heads bowed and their hands clasped.  The audience rises and begins to sing a Community song, “Blessing on Begetting”, to the tune of the old Christian hymn, “Old Hundredth”.

“Great Giver of the righteous seed, before Thy throne Thy children plead that they are nevermore their own but live to worship Thee alone.”

As the singing continues, we see among the audience, framing the joyous singing faces, the bearded face of John Humphrey Noyes, the sixty-two year old Community leader.  The singing continues as we see the kneeling couple.

“Our Father, on these two who kneel our blessing with Thy blessing seal; and grant in coming joyous days; a noble child may lisp Thy praise.”

After the singing has finished, a dozen couples walk on to the stage and hug the young man and woman, while the audience cheers.  With the couples behind him on stage, John Humphrey Noyes speaks to the audience.

“We seem to have got through the war.  We are getting out of debt; prosperity is rolling in upon us.  We are studying Darwin and the Bible.  The Community is ready, as with one heart, for a faithful trial of rational breeding.  Without immodesty, we ask all who love God and mankind to pray that we may succeed, for our success will surely be the dawn of a better day to the world.”

As Noyes sits down in the audience, Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee begin to play a duet on piano and horn.

Oneida Community Children

On November 21, 1870, Charlotte Leonard described in her diary a “baby shower” ceremony in the Big Hall.

“First, all the mothers were seated on the stage with their babies, also all the expectant mothers.  Then, the curtain rose and John Lord proceeded to weigh each baby, beginning with the oldest.  Humphrey’s weight was twenty pounds, four ounces.  Richard’s weight was twenty-one pounds, fifteen ounces, Rutherford’s nineteen pounds two ounces, etc.  This was quite an interesting performance, and the babies appeared to enjoy it as well as the audience.  Humphrey was constantly creeping to the edge of the stage and throwing his rattlebox down to the band, which sat first under the edge of the stage.  After the weighing, Richard and Humphrey were undressed and placed on the stage.  The little fellows hardly knew what to make of it, and Humphrey was so frightened we had to take him off the stage. “

Harriet Worden

Harriet Worden recorded a funeral in her journal in January 15, 1869.  It was unusual for the Community to hold a funeral.

“On account of so many hired men who have all summer worked under Mr. Conant, Mr. Woolworth & others informed them of his death.  And at ½ past 10, it was decided to have a regular funeral.  Mr. Bolles preached the sermon.  His extracts from the Berean were very appropriate and the whole subject inspiring.  At the close, he remarked that Mr. Conant was a good brother, and in many respects a great man.  He remarked upon the great resemblance he bears to Mr. Finney, the great Revivalist preacher.  The Resurrection Hymn was sung, and the ceremonies were closed.  Several of the hired men were observed to weep during his discourse.”

Corinna Ackley Noyes

In her book, The Days of My Youth, Corrina Ackley Noyes described a wedding that took place on December 17, 1879, after Complex Marriage had been abandoned and before the Community itself voted itself into a Joint Stock Corporation.

The marriage by contract came first and a sad spectacle it was to a child whose only ideas of marriage were the gorgeous affairs encountered in fairy tales.  The scene was set upon a bare stage, its only furnishings a flat-topped desk and four straight-backed wooden chairs.  When the excited audience was quiet, in from the wings came the contracting parties, two middle-aged men, Mr. Erastus Hamilton and Mr. Otis Kellogg, dressed in dark business suits, and the two women they were to marry, Miss Elizabeth Hutchins and Miss Olive Nash.  The women were wearing dark, short dresses.  Their hair was short and straight and they had apparently made no effort to beautify for the occasion.  That would have been deemed vain and insincere.

The two couples to be married seated themselves in chairs on each side of the desk, then Mr. Towner, a former judge, came in from the anteroom and, standing at the end of the desk facing the assembly, read the contract aloud.  The bridal couples then signed the contract and the deed was done.  There was no kissing of the brides, and if they shook hands with Mr. Towner, I don’t remember it.  Their own desire seemed to be to get out of the public eye as quickly as possible.

Modern Ceremony in the Big Hall

This was the beginning of wedding ceremonies that would continue to be performed in the Oneida Community Mansion House for more than 100 years to our own time.  While there was the wide variety of ceremonies performed in the Mansion House, except for the rare funeral, there were no religious ceremonies held in this religious community.  They worshiped Jesus daily in their thoughts and actions, and did not require formal public proof of their belief and love for God.

Music in the Big Hall

The Big Hall

Twice a year, in spring and fall, the Oneida Community Mansion House presents a lecture series, as part of the educational mission of the OCMH.  It is called the Adult Enrichment Series.

The topics of these lectures usually explore the history of the utopian and religious movements in the 19th Century.  The lectures are held in the Big Hall, the  theater space where the Oneida Community held its nightly meetings, entertainments and lectures.  It was part of the philosophy of the OC that each member would strive to improve his/her self, and education was held in high esteem as a means for self-improvement.  So the tradition of the modern lectures is a legacy of the Community’s winter lectures; discussions on history, languages, and science, led my one of the members.

The 2011 spring lectures were a departure from past series.  Rather than a lecture on the material culture of the Oneida Community or a comparison between the Shakers and the OC, the OCMH curator, Tony Wonderley, presented a set of four musical performances ranging from Shaker songs, jazz, blues and light opera.  The series was called, “If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On.”

The Jim O'Mahony Trio

Vicki and I attended three out of the four performances.  We had our first experience of the acoustics in the Big Hall when we heard the second in the series, “Changing Standards: A Showcase of New Music”, which featured the music of a jazz trio led by Jim O’Mahony on piano.  The trio of piano, bass and drums was playing together for the first time, but from the swaying heads in the auditorium, no one seemed to notice.

O’Mahony’s intent was to play music composed in the last fifteen years rather than the jazz standards of the 1930-60s.  This choice is a legacy of legendary piano trios led by Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau.

Little Brother  ~ This is a mp3 from O’Mahony’s trio performing a song from the Brooklyn band, Grizzly Bear, entitled “Little Brother” in the Big Hall.

Hearing music that our 20-something children listen to,  interpreted by this talented jazz trio in a 19th Century communitarian meeting hall was truly a time shifting experience for us.

What a delight it was to hear good music in this wonderful hall.  The acoustics were amazing.  We understood why the Community developed such a rich musical tradition ~ they had such a fine theater to perform for themselves and for thousands of tourists who came to the Community to sample vegetarian meals and lively musical performances.  The Community performed overtures and choruses from operas, danced waltzes from Strauss and the “Oneida Quickstep” created by Community member, Charles Joslyn.  The climax to the OC’s musical career was the performance of H.M.S Pinafore in the winter of 1879-80, just before they transformed themselves from a Bible Communist Community into a Joint Stock Corporation.

Tony Wonderley introduced each performance with a story about the place of music in the Oneida Community.  Tony recounted the conflicted feelings that members of the Community felt about music.  He recounted a mutual criticism session devoted to exposing the selfish nature of musical competition among the young female singers.  Harriet Worden was one of the singers who confessed to the group:

Harriet Worden with Guitar

My first feeling of jealousy was toward Ann Eliza.  We both sang; but at that time, she was admitted into Mr. Burnham’s quartette club; I was not honored.  I considered this as a personal slight and resented it accordingly.  One day I deliberately hid one of the books from which the club had practiced.  I not only wanted to sing well, but I aspired to become the best singer, and the most ready at reading music.  Much of the time I was in an agony of jealousy lest some other would eclipse me.” 

He also told the audience that John Humphrey Noyes was especially hard with those among his followers who he decided were becoming too fixated on their musical skills.  At one point, Noyes made Frank Wayland-Smith ~ who was considered the best violinist in the Community ~ give up his violin.  He also made the same request of his niece, the talented pianist, Tirzah Miller.  Tirzah recorded her reactions in her diary on March 16, 1873.

Tirzah Miller 1873

“Left music for writing.  Father Noyes said that I might consider that I had made a good career in music, and now call it ended, and put the energy I had expended in music into writing.  It is like the death of a cherished friend.” 

When a visitor to the Community complained that the Community “offered no opportunity for genius or special talent to develop.”  Noyes took the criticism as a compliment.  He said, “We never expected or desired to produce a Byron, a Napoleon or a Michelangelo.  A system that would foster such abnormal or excessive development in the individual, do so at the expense of the mass whose interests must be paramount.”

As I sat listening to jazz interpretations of current pop and rock songs, I could not help but be transported to the days when this same hall was filled floor to balcony listening as we were to visiting musicians playing music of the day to a very appreciative audience.

As we know from Harriet Worden’s daily journal, which is presented in this blog, the evening meetings were a celebration of the genius of the community.  The spirit of inventiveness, humor and play were in evidence nightly, as members of all ages and stations in the Community would perform music and act in skits.   I have written about moments from these nightly performances in previous blogs:  Fighting Irish and Woman’s Bottoms and Evening Entertainment.  But Harriet Worden reported on one of my favorite entertainments from the evening meeting of February 7, 1869:

Entertainment in the Big Hall

“George Miller, Edwin Burnham and John Lord entered dressed like “paddies”.  They began swaggering about the stage remarking to each other that they were tired of working all day in the dirt for a living and they were not going to touch a shovel again, if the old Midland Railroad never got built.  After lounging about for some time, it occurred to one that they had to do something or starve.  “That’s so,” said another.  “I shouldn’t like to starve.  Another says, “I will start a show!”  “You know we have got considerable musical talent”; and each began to brag what he could do.  They pretended to be rehearsing and in a few moments, they began undressing on stage, all the time looking anxiously round as if fearful of being seen.  Their coats all off and their pants!  The audience fairly screamed.  They all stood in their nightgowns, but upon dropping these off, behold the transformation!  From coarse, rough Irishmen, we saw a few moments before we now saw them handsomely arranged in the tight-fitting dress of the gymnast.  George was dressed in blue, John in Orange & red trimming, and Edwin in crimson.  Their gymnastic performances were fine indeed.  John represented a clown, though his bows were exceedingly graceful.  George & Edwin were exceedingly lithe.”

As we try to imagine the life of the people who lived where Vicki and I live now, there is no better place to enter into their world than by thinking about and listening to music in the big hall then and now.

Being A Mother in the Oneida Community

Charlotte Miller Leornard

Charlotte Miller Leonard gave birth to John Humphrey Noyes II on November 18, 1869, the 44th child born in the Community and the 2nd eugenics child.  Charlotte Leonard was 23.  The father was John Humphrey Noyes, who was 58.

Charlotte and Her Son

On October 1, 1870, Charlotte started making entries in a diary.  She recorded her experiences as a new mother of a Community child fairly regularly throughout the remainder of 1870, and continued writing in her diary off and on until the end of 1877.

At first, her diary entries focused almost exclusively about her struggles over living within the principles of raising children communally.  But over the years, as she adjusted to the separation from Humphrey, as she called her son, she wrote about the critical events and issues in life in the Community, and she even wrote about the election of John Humphrey Noyes’ cousin, Rutherford Hayes, as President of the United States.

She began her diary with the following entry:

“October 1, 1870 ~ Myron (Kinsley) got this little book for me at Utica yesterday.  Hope I shall make good use of it.  It is long since I have recorded any of my experience and I have not cared to do so.  God knows what experience I have been through the past year and though it has been the most trying part of my life, I thank God for it all.”

The following entries are typical expressions of her feelings about giving Humphrey up to be raised in the new Children’s Wing of the Mansion House.”

“I thank Him (God) for a good little boy as Humphrey is.  And I pray that he may always be a Community boy.  I wish to give myself to him anew to God and the Community.  I believe the Community is the best mother a child can have, and I confess my confidence in it.”

“October 3 ~ Went to the Children’s House today.  Miss Pomeroy is to continue taking care of Humphrey for the present.  Cannot tell what may happen, perhaps I shall not have him anymore to take care of at all.  But if it be God’s will that I should be so, I know that He will not only make me reconciled but thankful.  I wish to enter into my work at the Children’s House with a new purpose to serve the Community and give my child to the Lord… He will care for him.”

Charlotte Leonard

But within a couple of weeks, the situation had changed, and we can see from the following passages the swings in moods that Charlotte experienced, brought on by her desire to take care of her child and at the same time her belief in God and the principles of the John Humphrey Noyes.

“October 20 ~ Commenced to-day taking care of Humphrey again.  The Lord is good to me — very.  Father Noyes is so kind and good to me too.  After returning last evening from a ride to Mr. Leet’s with the children, Mother (Harriet) Skinner said that she had some good news to tell me, and that was that Father Noyes proposed to have me take the baby again.”

“This was indeed good news, and I could not keep back the tears.  I felt so thankful, and it seemed to me I did not deserve it.  She said Father Noyes had been talking about weaned love, and about Abraham’s having a weaned love for Isaac after he offered him for sacrifice.  He thought that weaned love was healthy and good, and he did not care how much we loved our children if we loved them with weaned love.  He thought that I had a weaned love for Humphrey now, and he thought I was ready to take him back again.”

“I feel like taking care of Humphrey as one of God’s little children, and not as though he was mine.  I do not feel at all like claiming him for he belongs to God and the Community, and I am appointed to take care of him for them.”

A week later, Humphrey is ill, and Charlotte fears for his life, but she is comforted by Noyes.

“October 27 ~ Father Noyes said to me a day or two ago, in speaking of Humphrey, that, ‘We must consider that he lives by faith — remember that.  Just as you do — you thought he was going to die, and now you live by faith.  He lives by our faith.  He is God’s boy.  Let us set a good example to the rest by having faith about our child, and giving him to God.  I pray that God will keep you from idolatry and give you wisdom in taking care of him.  These things I guess will bring you and me together.  Every now and then you have your trials about the baby and about your health and about his.  But you come off victorious every time, don’t you?’  I answered that I did.  ‘Well, you must have that same faith now about him.  You must take a strong function here (putting his hand on his heart) with Christ and with me and you will help him in that way.”

By the time of Humphrey’s first birthday, her son has recovered his health.

“November 18 ~ Little Humphrey just one year old today.  It hardly seems possible that I have a little boy a year old.  Mrs. Sears and I got up a little party for him, first for the fun of it, and as he is so fond of baked apples and milk, we had them for the main dish.  Father Noyes and Aunt Harriet were among the company, with several others.  Father Noyes seemed to enjoy it real well.  Humphrey enjoyed it mightily, sitting in a high chair between his father and me and eating his bread and milk from a tin basin.”

Charlotte Leonard

Such a touching family scene that would seem familiar to us today, except for the simple nature of the party, and the fact that this was no ordinary family.

Charlotte ends her entry for Humphrey’s birthday by thanking God and praying for wisdom and desiring “to be watchful and earnest, and keep in the spirit of ‘weaned love.’”

The Oneida Community had begun its eugenics program the year before, determined to show the world that they could selectively breed superior children, both physically and spiritually.  Charlotte’s next entry describes “a baby shower.”

“November 21 ~ First, all the mothers were seated on the stage with their babies, also all the expectant mothers.  Then the curtain rose, and John Lord proceeded to weigh each baby, beginning with the oldest.  Humphrey’s weight was twenty pounds four ounces — same as Blanche.  Richard’s weight was twenty-one pounds fifteen ounces.  Rutherford’s nineteen pounds two ounces, etc.  This was quite an interesting performance, and the babies appeared to enjoy it as well as the audience.  Humphrey was constantly creeping to the edge of the stage and throwing his rattlebox down to the band, which sat first under the edge of the stage.  After the weighing, Richard and Humphrey were undressed and placed on the stage.  The little fellows hardly knew what to make of it, and Humphrey was so frightened we had to take him off the stage.”

By early January 1871, Charlotte seems to have come to terms with giving Humphrey over to the “Mother and Father” of the Children’s House.

Oneida Community Children

“January 18, 1871 ~ Humphrey has finally entered the Children’s House.  We put him in Monday the sixteenth.  I have moved into another room, smaller but very pleasant, and am to keep on sleeping with him for the present.  He seems to take to the change very well, and will, I expect, get along nicely there.  Of course I miss him some.  But I find my experience in giving him up last summer was very good for me, and is quite a help tom me now.  It is quite a comfort to sleep with him still. “

“I guess Aunt Harriet misses him full as much as I do, as she has been with him more or less ever since he was born.  But by being away from him so last summer makes it comparatively easy for me.  I confess faith about him under all circumstances, and confess my trust in God, and shall expect that he will do well and be a good boy.”

Charlotte with Stephen and Humphrey

Charlotte Leonard had one more child, Stephen Rose Leonard, on November 18, 1872.  She worked as a silk-spooler and later as a bookkeeper.  She had a good voice and performed a prominent role in the Community’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore at the Mansion House in July 1880.  She is described as having a quick mind and unusual memory, and was self-taught in mathematics and French.  She worked in the business office of Oneida Community Limited after the break-up.  She died in Kenwood September 29, 1928.

Charlotte’s son, Humphrey, would grow up to become John Humphrey Noyes II.  He would join his cousin, Pierrepont Noyes, in transforming the joint stock company ~ Oneida Community Limited, which was created in 1880 at the dissolution of the Community, into the world’s largest manufacturer of silverware. Humphrey would become the secretary of Oneida Ltd.  He would marry Dr. Hilda Herrick, the daughter of Tirzah Miller and James Herrick, and build a house in Kenwood, near the Mansion House among other former Community members in what was once the Community apple orchard.  Humphrey died in Kenwood on May 3. 1940.

Tirzah’s 1869 Diary

Tirzah Miller In Her Room

Tirzah’s back.

She started writing again in her 1869 diary on March 6, after an absence of two months (Tirzah’s Posts ~ 1869)

Tirzah returned to the Oneida Community in the spring of 1868 to work on The Circular (the Community’s periodical) in the rooms that we now occupy in the Tontine.  She edited it for a short time.  Her latest diary entry begins like many from this period in her life ~ “Last night I slept with J.H.N., and he talked with me for more than an hour.”  J.H.N. is her uncle, John Humphrey Noyes.  She would often record in her diary about their sexual encounters, not with lurid details, but recounting what Noyes had to say to her, to teach her as she navigated the complexities of life in the Oneida Community.

John Humphry Noyes 1860s

In her entry for March 6, 1869, Noyes was agitated about German and Boston writers who were infecting literature with “German atheism,” unlike the English authors who had an “honest intention to entertain people.”  Noyes cited Shakespeare as an example.  Noyes was determined that Tirzah and his sister, Harriet Skinner, “read magazines, and find out all (they) could about the leading novel literature, with analysis and criticism in view.”  He wanted Tirzah and Harriet to become literary critics and attack “these Boston and German writers (who) try to influence their readers with their atheism and hatred of revivals”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

He predicted that Tirzah would become a better critic than Margaret Fuller, the American journalist, critic, and women’s rights advocate who was friends with one of the “Boston writers” Ralph Waldo Emerson, and edited his journal, The Dial.  Emerson was a severe critic of utopian experiments like the Oneida Community.  He once wrote ~ “What a fertility of projects for the salvation of the world!  Not a reading man but has a draft of a new community in his waistcoat pocket.  One apostle thought all men should go to farming and another that no man should buy or sell; another that the mischief was in his diet, that we eat and drink damnation.  Others attacked the system of agriculture, the use of animal manure in farming, and the tyranny of man over brute nature.  Others attacked the institution of marriage as the fountain of social evils.”  It was to combat the influence of such writers as Emerson that Noyes instructed Tirzah to become a literary critic.

But for Tirzah to become Noyes’ agent in the literary wars he imagined instigating, she would have to put off becoming a mother in the eugenics program.  Tirzah’s response was typical of her loyalty to her belief in Noyes ~ “I told him I was in no hurry to have a child, and had had a kind of impression that I should not for two years.  He said he thought that was probable.”

Charlotte Noyes Miller

Despite what she predicted, Tirzah would have a child the following year, December 13, 1870.  She would give birth to George Wallingford Noyes.  The father was another uncle, George Washington Noyes, John’s younger brother.  The pregnancy caused some problems for Tirzah within the Community, since it was not sanctioned.  Her mother, Charlotte Noyes Miller, would write to her brother ~ “Dear John, I am tempted to criticize and blame George about the affair with Tirzah.  When I first heard of it, I asked, ‘Does John like it?’  I saw that he had not consulted with you or really with anyone.  I have felt bad that in such a serious move he did not consult my wishes and feelings.”

George would refer to her pregnancy as “free stirpiculture” and write to Tirzah ~ “I will say that I hold myself amenable to any censure from Mr. Noyes or others at O.C.  I desire nothing but the fullest light.  I told mother Noyes about it some weeks ago.  Please show this, if you think best, to Mr. Noyes.  I would write to him the whole story if he wishes it.”

George Washington Noyes had had a major influence on Tirzah while she lived in the Wallingford Connecticut community between 1864-68.  It was under his guidance that Tirzah began to work on the Community’s periodical, and as she wrote upon returning to Oneida in 1868 ~ “I owe to my acquaintance with Uncle George during the past three years a thousand blessings.  From him I learned that it is truly the glory of a woman to love and be receptive to good men; he taught me that pride is despicable; he led me to the knowledge and love of God.”

George Washington Noyes

George Washington Noyes would not live to see the birth of his son, George.  He died from malaria on July 23, 1870 at the age of 47, five months before the birth.

Tirzah’s diary is an intimate portrait of life in the Oneida Community from the perspective of a woman who was sexually active and was at the center of the major events in the history of the Community.  It is a window into the price that individuals, especially women paid to live up to the principles of her uncle, John Humphrey Noyes.

For Tirzah, it came down to a struggle between desire and duty, as she said later in her diary ~ “I sometimes wish I could be less under the scrutiny of Mr. Noyes’s almost omniscient eye, but when, after trying to hide myself, he reaches out for me, and hunts me up, my heart goes toward him with that passionate devotion, inspired not only by his being the one man on earth whom I absolutely trust, but also by the fact that he is the only father I have known since childhood.”

She would write in her diary almost continually up to the Break-up of the Community in 1880.

Eugenics and Special Love

Oneida Community Children

In Harriet Worden’s February 27, 1869 entry in her journal (Harriet’s Posts ~ 1869), she reported news about “stirpiculture” ~ what John Humphrey Noyes called the eugenics program.

Harriet Worden wrote, “The most notable event of today is no event but simply the astonishing proposal of Mr. Noyes that John Homer Barron & Ann Eliza Van Velzer should have a child.  It was proposed for the purpose of helping Ann Eliza & John Cragin to clear themselves of special love ~ Mr. N. thinks it will be an effectual cure.”

Special love was defined as an exclusive, possessive emotional or sexual relationship that was considered by Noyes to be a source of sin.  Individuals who were unable to avoid special attachments, including with their children, were subjected to formal criticisms sometimes before the entire Community.  If the special love continued, the members were separated.  They would be banned from contact with each other at Oneida, or if that did not “cure” the problem, one of the special lovers or “sticky” parents would be sent to the colony at Wallingford Connecticut, sometimes for years.  Tirzah Miller was exiled to Wallingford in 1864 to end a special love, possibly with Frank Wayland-Smith.  She returned to Oneida in 1868, when it was decided to move production of the Community paper, The Circular, from Wallingford to Oneida.

The three members mentioned by Harriet Worden in her journal ~ Homer Barron, Ann Eliza Van Velzer and John Cragin ~ were members of the “Second Generation.”  They were in their twenties and mid-thirties.  It was this generation that was the focus of much hope as well as concern by Noyes and the elder leaders.  They would be the ones to carry the Community forward.

Ellen Nash & George Miller in the Quadrangle

The Second Generation grew up in the Community, but had not been inspired by the fervor of the religious revivals of the 1830s that influenced so many of their parents and prepared them to accept Noyes’ ideas of creating a “Heaven on Earth” in Oneida, New York.

Many of the young men of this generation were educated outside the Community and were thus exposed to new ideas.  But it was the tendency of the young to desire sexual relationships among their own age group that threatened to undermine to principles of the Community.  The Oneida Community demanded of its members that everyone be included in the sexual life of the Community. Ascending relationships were encouraged, whereby the young would benefit from having sexual relationships with older, more spiritually advanced members.

Noyes’ initiation of the eugenics program was an opportunity for the Community to grow its membership from within.  It was also a way of overcoming emotional attachments between special lovers by substituting another partner to conceive a child for the Community’s purpose not for personal love .  As Noyes told Tirzah Miller:  “What is salvation from sin?  Why, it is being saved from our passions, and amativeness is the king passion.”  And it was amativeness that John Cragin and Ann Eliza could not discipline, so Noyes decided to intervene.

This is the second entry in Harriet Worden’s journal in February referring to a proposal by Noyes to initiate the pairing of couples to produce superior children by the “scientific” selection of parents.  On February 10, 1869, a vote was taken at the evening meeting about who would be the mother of a child with John Lord.  Georgina Sears was voted to be the “perfect” candidate.

The conduct of the eugenics program in the first years seemed rather ad hoc.  Later a formal committee was formed to select the best matches ~ physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But even when the committee was carrying out its responsibilities, John Humphrey Noyes could still “suggest” an inspired pairing for other than scientific purposes.  In 1873, he paired his niece, Tirzah Miller, with Edward Inslee to keep him from leaving the Community.  It was a decision that would backfire on Noyes after Tirzah and Edward fell in love, creating years of emotional drama for the entire Community.

Harriet Worden tells us that Noyes’ proposal caused “Homer Barron some severe trial at first; also Mrs. Barron (Homer’s mother).  Homer is going to have a good spirit about it now.”

Ann Eliza Van Velzer

Ruth Barron was born to Homer Barron and Ann Eliza Van Velzer on June 15, 1870, over a year after Noyes’ proposal.  She was the 48th child born in the Community and the 6th child born during the eugenics program.

Ruth Barron was Ann Eliza Van Velzer’s second Community child.  Ann also gave birth to Wilfred Sears in 1861, fathered by John Sears.  She never married and died at the age of 63 in 1899.

John Holton Cragin

John Cragin may have had one Community child, Katie Howard, but her parentage is unclear.  He had two children with Lily Hobart ~ John Hobart Cragin and Carlotta Cragin (Kinsley).  He married Lily Hobart just before the break-up of the Community.  He died in 1899 at the age of 54.

John Homer Barron

Homer Barron fathered another eugenics child in 1878, Benjamin Barron, with a daughter of John Humphrey Noyes, Constance Bradley.  He struggled with his own special love for Tirzah Miller in the 1870s.  For a year Tirzah and Homer unsuccessfully attempted to conceive a eugenics child.  Homer was highly critical of Tirzah’s love for Edward Inslee.  At the break-up, Homer married Helen Miller, Tirzah’s sister.  He adopted her daughter, Miriam Trowbridge Noyes, another daughter of John Humphrey Noyes.  He and Helen had another daughter, Norma, in 1882.  Homer died in 1924 at the age of 89.

The Children of John Humphrey Noyes

John Humphrey Noyes (In White Coat) 1868

George Bernard Shaw wrote about the goals of the Oneida Community’s eugenics experiment in the Revolutionist’s Handbook, a supplement to his play, Man and Superman ~ “the question of what sort of men they should strive to breed being settled once and for all by the obvious desirability of breeding another Noyes.” Noyes fathered nine of the fifty-eight children born during the experiment.

Who were the children of John Humphrey Noyes?  Who were their mothers?  What role did they play in the history of the Oneida Community, and the development of the joint stock corporation that became the legacy of the utopian ideas of the John Humphrey Noyes and the Community?  Were they as Tirzah Miller, Noyes’ niece, described “the aristocracy” of the Oneida Community?

While living here in the Mansion House, it certainly is apparent to us that being a direct descendant of John Humphrey Noyes is a source of pride and distinction for many descendants.

This post will provide a list of the 13 children of John Humphrey Noyes – four from before the eugenics program and nine during.  I am indebted to Walt Lang for his work on the genealogy of the Oneida Community “Family” that is essential for identifying the progeny of Noyes, and to Anthony Wonderley, the curator of the Oneida Community Mansion House, who provided Walt Lang’s lists of children born in the Oneida Community.  Future posts will present more in-depth portraits of the Noyes’ children.

Theodore Richards Noyes

Born ~ July 26, 1841 in the Putney Community, Vermont

Mother ~ Harriet Holton Noyes, age 33

John Humphrey Noyes was 30.

Theodore was Noyes’ first child with his only legally married wife.  Theodore was educated at Yale as a doctor.  He briefly held the leadership of the Community (May 1877-January 1878).  He influenced the development of Oneida Community Limited.  He had three children during the eugenics experiment: Richard Worden Noyes (later Wayland Smith), Rhoda Hero Noyes (Dunn) and Cora Chadwick Noyes.  He also had a child after the Break-up: G. Raymond Noyes.

He died June 6, 1903 at age 61.

Victor Cragin Noyes

Born ~ September 6, 1847 in the Putney Community

Mother ~ Mary Cragin, age 37 – who died from drowning less than three years later

John Humphrey Noyes was 36.

Victor Cragin Noyes was Noyes’ second son.  His twin sister, Victoria, died three days after her birth.  Victor suffered from mental illness in his youth and was put in an asylum by his father.  He recovered and worked in the Community as a horticulturalist and a salesman.  He had one child during the eugenics experiment, Corinna Ackley (Noyes), who later married another son of John Humphrey Noyes, Pierrepont.

He died April 8, 1905 at age 78.

Constance Bradley Noyes

Born ~ February 15, 1857, the 7th child born in the Oneida Community

Mother ~ Sarah Ann Summers, age 30.  She was adopted by George and Mary Cragin before they joined John Humphrey Noyes in Putney, Vermont.

John Humphrey Noyes was 46.

Constance, sometimes called Consuelo, was Noyes’ first daughter, but towards the end of the Community she refused to admit that Noyes was her father.  She worked as a bookkeeper.  She had two children during the eugenics program: Karl Hatch and Benjamin W. Barron, one child after the Break-up, Hugh Stanley Reeve.

She died June 4, 1917 at age 67.

Jessie Catherine Baker (Kinsley)

Born ~ March 26, 1858, the 18th child born in the Community

Mother ~ Catherine E. Baker, age 43

John Humphrey Noyes was 47.

Jessie was Noyes’ second daughter.  She grew up in the Children’s House in Oneida, and taught children at the Wallingford Community, the satellite colony in Connecticut.  She had no Community children.  At the Break-up, she married Myron Kinsley and they had three children: Edith Maria Kindley, Albert Kinsley and Jessie Janet Kinsley (Rich).  She became an artist at the age of 50, and created a new art form ~ tapestries made from silk braidings.  She wrote a memoir of her childhood in the Community, A Lasting Spring.

She died February 10, 1938 at age 79.

John Humphrey Noyes II

Born ~ November 18, 1869, the 44th child born in the Community and the 2nd eugenics child

Mother ~ Charlotte Miller Leonard, age 23

John Humphrey Noyes was 58.

John (called Humphrey as a child) was Noyes’ third son.  He was educated in the Children’s House and began working for the Oneida Community Limited at age 19 in the Fruit Department, later the Silk Department.  He became a silk representative in New York for the Company in 1903, and then became an assistant to his brother, Pierrepont, when Pierrepont became general manager.  John became the Secretary of Oneida Limited.  He married the daughter of Tirzah Miller and James Herrick, Hilda Herrick, and they had six children: Adele Charlotte Noyes (Mines, Davies), David Herrick Noyes, Tirzah Miller Noyes (Rothschild, Orton) , Julia Hayes Noyes (Burnham), John H. Noyes III, and Silvia Winifred Noyes (Paquette).

He died May 3, 1940 at 70.

Pierrepont Burt Noyes

Born ~ August 18, 1870, the 49th child born in the Community and the 7th eugenics child

Mother ~ Harriet Worden, age 30

John Humphrey Noyes was 59.

Pierrepont (called Pip as a child) was Noyes’ fourth son.  He was educated in the Children’s House, but spent a year at Colgate University.  He went into business with his brother Holton Noyes, before working for the Oneida Community Limited in Niagara Falls.  At the age of 25, he effectively took over the Company and directed it for twenty years, leading Oneida Ltd to international success.  He married his cousin, Corinna Ackley, Victor Noyes’ daughter, and they had three children: Constance P. Noyes (Robertson), Barbara Worden Noyes (Smith) and Pierrepont Trowbridge Noyes (“Pete”).  He wrote a moving account of growing up in the Community, My Father’s House.

He died April 15, 1959, at 88

Holton Van Velzer Noyes

Born ~ March 7, 1871, the 55th child born in the Community and the 13th eugenics child

Mother ~ Mary Elizabeth Van Velzer, age 23

John Humphrey Noyes was 60.

Holton (“HV”) was Noyes’ fifth son.  Holton moved with his siblings to Niagara Falls to live with his father, John Humphrey Noyes, after Noyes fled Oneida in 1879.  He joined Pierrepont in running Oneida Community Limited, becoming a Director.  He wrote a history of the Company with his cousin, another eugenics child, Stephen Rose Leonard, son of Charlotte Leonard.  He married another eugenics child of the Community, Josephine Kinsley, and they had three children: Howard Holton Noyes, Helen Dorothy Noyes (Wood) and Albert Kinsley Noyes.

He died March 17, 1953, at 82.

Gertrude Hayes Noyes

Born ~ December 29, 1871, the 58th child born in the Community and the 16th eugenics child

Mother ~ Harriet Olds, age 22

John Humphrey Noyes was 60.

Gertrude was Noyes’ third daughter was raised in the Children’s House.  She married the son to one of John Humphrey Noyes’ brothers, who did not join the Community.   They had four children: John Rutherford Noyes, Richard Woodman Noyes, Margaret Stacey Noyes (Goldsmith) and Charles Hayes Noyes.

She died April 25, 1951, at 79

Irene Campbell Newhouse Noyes

Born ~ June 5, 1873, the 65th child born in the Community and the 23rd eugenics child

Mother ~ Arabelle Campbell Woolworth, age 23

John Humphrey Noyes was 62.

Irene was Noyes’ fourth daughter.  She was adopted by Milford Newhouse, when her mother married him at the Break-up.  She began her education in the Mansion House, but later went to Cornell University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.  She taught school for four years.  She married Tirzah Miller’s son, George Wallingford Noyes, her cousin, and they had three children: Imogen Campbell Noyes (Stone), Charlotte MacCallum Noyes (Sewall) and Janet Woolworth Noyes.

She died May 9, 1956, at 83.

Godfrey Noyes

Godfrey Barron Noyes

Born ~ August 22, 1876, the 68th child born in the Community and the 26th eugenics child

Mother ~ Maria Fanny Barron, age 31

John Humphrey Noyes was 65.

Godfrey was Noyes’ sixth son.  His mother never married at the Break-up.  Little is known about Godfrey.

He died February 2, 1893, at 19

Dorothy Hendee Noyes

Born ~ August 22, 1876, the 86th child born in the Community and the 44th eugenics child

Mother ~ Beulah Foster Hendee, age 29

John Humphrey Noyes was 65.

Dorothy was Noyes’ fifth daughter.  She was named Jenny after a Dickens character, “Jenny Wren”, but was soon renamed Dorothy.  Her mother married Alfred Barron at the Break-up.  She married Stephen Rose Leonard, Charlotte Leonard’ son.  They had three children:  Mary Irene Leonard (Beagle), Catherine “Kate” Leonard (O’Halloran) and Stephen Jr.  She became a poet.  A collection of her poems, Buttressed by Moonlight was acclaimed in The New Yorker.  Many of her poems are about the Community and the surrounding area.  She was a founding member of the Oneida Community Historical Committee.

She died June 3, 1965, at 87

Miriam Trowbridge Noyes

Born ~ August 19, 1877, the 91st child born in the Community and the 49th eugenics child

Mother ~ Helen Campbell Miller (Barron), age 30, the sister of Tirzah Miller and John Humphrey Noyes’ niece

John Humphrey Noyes was 66.

Miriam was Noyes’ sixth daughter.  She was adopted by Homer Barron when her mother married him at the Break-up.  She married Wilber Earl who was not a descendant. They had three children: Virginia Earl (Brown), Joan Earl (Held) and Wilber Jr.  She chronicled the take over of the Oneida Community Limited by Pierrepont and his generation and Theodore Noyes’ influence on their efforts.

She died May 6, 1965, at age 87

Guy Hatch Noyes

Born ~ April 23, 1879, the 100th child born in the Community and the 58th eugenics child

Mother ~ Lenora Hatch, age 21

John Humphrey Noyes was 68.

Guy was also known as George Langstaff Noyes and was Noyes’ last son, the seventh.  He was adopted by his cousin, Horatio T. Noyes, when his mother married him at the Break-up.  He was a poet, who became addicted to laudanum, exhibiting erratic behavior including jumping off the North Tower of the Mansion House into a snowdrift.  He wrote character sketches of Community members.  He never married.

He died April 13, 1910,  age 39

Stirpicults 1887

This Week in the Oneida Community ~ February 7-13, 1869

Mansion House Big Hall 1875

Harriet Worden’s journal for 1869 is a remarkable window into a critical time in the history of the Oneida Community.  We have been posting daily entries from her journal in 1869 corresponding to the same date in 2011.  You can read these accounts of daily life in the Community by searching the pages section of the blog for Harriet Worden’s Journal ~ Harriet’s Posts 1869.

The past week, February 7-13, 1869, as reported in Harriet’s journal was full of events that give us a sense of the vitality of the Community and reveal decisions that were made in this period that would have a major impact on the viability of the Oneida Community.  Here are few snapshots of this particular week in the winter of 1869, but we urge you to read the entries themselves.

Frank Wayland Smith

On February 7, Harriet reported on what she called a “pleasant entertainment.”  At 7PM every night the members of the Oneida Community would gather in the Big Hall in the Mansion Hall.  They rarely missed this opportunity to gather together as a family.  This evening featured a violin performance by Frank Wayland-Smith of Paganini’s “Carnival of Venice.”  Frank Wayland-Smith is one of our cast of characters in the OC Media project.  The audience loved it so much that he played it again.  Here is what Frank Wayland-Smith played, and you can hear why it was such a favorite.  The Carnival of Venice.

The music was followed by the recitation of an amusing elocution exercise called “The Frenchman and the Rats” performed by James B. Herrick, the former minister and future husband Tirzah Miller after the Break-up of the Community.  Harriet wrote that he entered into it “like a true Frenchman, and amused us all exceedingly.”  Another member, Henry W. Burnham,  sang “Man the Life Boat.”   But it was the next performance, introduced by George Cragin,  that was the hit of the evening.  We won’t spoil it for you except to say that the performance sounded to us like a 19th Century mix of Samuel Beckett, vaudeville, strip tease and Cirque du Soleil.

John Humphrey Noyes

February 8, Harriet Worden recorded a talk by the Community’s leader, John Humphrey Noyes, about the responsibility of America’s manufacturers to encourage the propagation of moral children to counter the threat of being overrun by the Irish.  The skit the night before featuring two Irish workers that were working on the railroad line passing through Community property must have been fresh in the Community’s minds.  And, as a major manufacturer of animal traps in the U.S., Noyes must have thought of the eugenics program that he was just launching as an example to other manufacturers.

February 10, the subject of the nightly meeting was the selective breeding of superior children.  But it was not just the subject of the a lecture, but the selection of the parents was put to a vote of all assembled!

February 11, Harriet reported that happy news that Elizabeth Mallory, one of the Community women that was participating in the eugenics program, was thought to be pregnant.  We know from a letter written by Tirzah Miller later in the month to her uncle, George Washington Noyes, that the father was thought to be Erastus Hamilton, a senior leader of the Community.

Tirzah Miller 1873

Tirzah wrote to her uncle of her great relief.  She said that Erastus Hamilton signified his desire to John Humphrey Noyes several years ago to have a child by me, so there has been a sort of engagement of that kind between us of somewhat long standing.  I had felt so delighted with the idea of holding ourselves completely at the disposal of God and the Community about such matters,  that I took my release from that engagement as a great and unexpected gift from God.

Now I am free for anything Mr. Noyes wants.  He has asked me several times of late “who I am going to have for the father of my child — who I want,”&c.  But I tell him, I don’t expect to choose for myself.” The answer to Noyes’ question would be a constant dilemma not only for Tirzah and Noyes, but for the entire Community in the years ahead.

February 12’s journal entry was full of news of reports by Noyes’ son, Theodore, on doubts he had about Elizabeth Mallory’s pregnancy (he proved correct) and his recent trip to buy new equipment  “for furthering the silk trade” for the Community, as well as a report on a lecture by James Herrick on Darwinism.

Theodore Noyes

Harriet also reported on Noyes’ chronic throat pain, which would be one of the reasons he would withdraw from direct leadership of the Community years later in favor of his son Theodore.  It was a decision that would create a deep divide in the Community and serve as a major cause of the Break-up.

February 13 Harriet reported this eventful week ending on a sunny day that “spoiled the sledding.”

The evening meeting saw some of the children engaged in mutual criticism, including Harriet Worden’s six-year old son, Ormond.

These were just some of the events and personalities recorded by Harriet in her remarkable journal for a week in February 1869.

OC Children 1866

Original Joiners ~ Harriet Mathews

Oneida Community Work Bee

On February 4, 1848, John Humphrey Noyes decided to move his small group of followers from Putney, Vermont to Oneida, New York.  The move was not exactly voluntary.  The previous November an arrest warrant had been issued for Noyes charging him with adultery with two women ~ Fanny Leonard and Achsah Campbell.  They were members of the Putney Association, Noyes’ first attempt to create a Bible Communist community.

Fearing mob violence from the citizens of Putney outraged to discover a group of people practicing” free love” within their village, Noyes fled to New York seeking refuge and a new start among his supporters in Oneida.  By the following year, 1849, there would be 87 members of the newly established Community along the Oneida Creek in what is now Madison County.  It would be called the Oneida Community.

These members and individuals and families that joined the Oneida Community in the first years of its existence are considered the “Original Joiners.”  They were persuaded to give up their former lives and live in the “wilderness,” at the edge of what was considered civilization in the 1840s and 50s, in what is now Central New York.  Noyes attracted many of his followers through the publications of his writings and accounts of the progress of the religious communities he was creating.  Harriet Matthews was one of the original joiners.  She was born on February 21, 1820 in North Brookfield, Massachusetts.  At 15, she joined the Congregational Church, but it was thirteen years later that she would make a spiritual decision that would determine the course of her life.

Here are excerpts from a diary account of Harriet Matthew’s spiritual journey into the wilderness.

Harriet Matthews

“I went to New York City in March 1848.  Mr. Cragin met with me at the residence of Mr. Horace Greeley, the Editor of “The Tribune,” and after becoming acquainted somewhat with Mr. Noyes and learning something of the nature of the Association, I concluded to join.”

She decided to join the Oneida Association on March 23, 1849, and moved to Oneida five days later.

Harriet Matthews, like many women in the Oneida Community, kept a diary to record her thoughts and experiences as she struggled with her faith.  Her account captures feelings of being tested and at the same time liberated while attempting to live according to the principles of Bible Communism.

“August 12, 1855.  I feel as if I were indeed born again.  It seems as if during the past summer I had been going through an emptying process, till I was entirely emptied of everything and had a deep consciousness of my own weakness, nothingness and entire inability to do anything of myself.  And this I realized was favorable to Christ’s taking possession of me.   As Paul says, ‘when I am weak then am I strong.’”

Harriet Matthews joined as an individual, leaving her family behind.  However, the relative security of living among an extended family of hundreds was attractive to many Community members and their families facing the uncertainty of life in the world outside the Oneida Community.

“October 2, 1855.  I received a letter from my father.  He has at last and much against his will taken refuge in the poorhouse.  He also stated that sister Hannah’s husband is in the hospital hopelessly insane leaving her with three little children to support; and that Sarah’s husband, who was rich, has failed and she has buried her two youngest children this summer.  My youngest brother James is in very feeble health, not able to take care of himself.  The whole family is in great tribulation.  There is a great pressure on every side from those in distress wishing to join us, to get out of trouble at the present time.”

It was not an easy task for Harriet Matthews and the other members to live under constant scrutiny by the Community, expressed by individuals in regular criticism sessions, where one was expected to sit quietly as your faults were told to you.  One member described it as having your skin peeled before your eyes.  Harriet recorded the criticisms of her character by the Community in her diary.

“December 31, 1855.  Today, I received a sincere criticism, and in a way I felt that it came from God, in regard to my relations to my brothers.  I was criticized for lack of meekness and respect, for assuming superiority and making them feel small. I believe it has been a quality of my spirit that I have been nearly unconscious of it.  I think I inherited it from my mother.  I think it is a hateful spirit & contrary to the will of God.”

Early on in the history of the Community, women broke with social constraints and customs – cutting their hair short and wearing pantaloons or bloomer dresses, as they came to be called.  It was part of their struggle against vanity and part of their effort to liberate themselves from the cumbersome dresses and corsets that kept women from participating fully in work usually reserved for men.

“April 29, 1856.  I commenced working in the garden as a regular hand.  Yesterday I had my hair cut short.  Both of these things are answers to prayers offered long ago.  I have worked all day in the garden with the men and was considerably tempted to be tired, stiff and lame, yet by opening my heart to faith I am not so, but feel bright and good tonight.”

Picnic at the Cascades

What made her struggle worthwhile was her trust in Noyes,  a strong belief in Christ and in the family of the Oneida Community.

“May 22, 1856.  I have had a good day, worked out nearly all day.  We ate supper under the tree and then marched round and round the yard and flower garden.  I thank God for trials and temptations, for experience, which humbles me, turns me inward, makes me poor in spirit and makes me feel my need of Christ, in Him alone is salvation.  How vain is any arm of flesh to lean upon.  O that I may love Him and trust Him as I ought.”

Harriet worked as a dressmaker and a housekeeper in the Community.  She had one Community child with Charles Olds, whom she married at the breakup of the Community in 1880.  Her daughter, Shirley, was born on March 23, 1859, and died the same day.

Harriet Matthews died at the age of 85 on December 9, 1905, and was remembered as a woman of untiring faith, hearty spirit, and as a “charming writer of diaries.”  She has no descendants in the Community.

Tirzah Miller Avatar

Tirzah Miller Writing In Her Diary

The image above was created by the artist Emmanuel Bazin from Artifex Animation Studios in Montreal for our NEH proposal.  It is concept art, an early step in creating Computer Generated characters or Avatars to be used in the Oneida Community Digital Media Project.  The sources for this image are an archival photo of Tirzah from the 1860s, and digital images that we took in the preserved bedroom in the Oneida Community Mansion House.

We will use this and other images to create a virtual Mansion House in the 3D immersive world, Second Life.  The Mansion House will be recreated in Second Life based on blueprints, archival photos, written descriptions, and digital photography of the 93,000 sq ft Mansion House that exists today in Oneida, NY.

Characters like Tirzah Miller will be recreated in Second Life based on concept art like the image above.  We will create a website where a visitor will be able to watch the PBS documentary, called Heaven on Earth ~ Love and Conflict in the Oneida Community, with interactive features available, or by watching a trailer that introduces the visitor to the Oneida Community and provokes the viewer to explore the virtual Mansion House on their own, discovering expanded vignettes from the documentary, as well as new scenes and historical information not included in the PBS program.

Tirzah Miller wrote a very intimate diary, which Dr. Robert Fogarty edited and published as Desire and Duty at Oneida.  We will use this diary and numerous letters preserved at the University of Syracuse Library to recreate key scenes in Tirzah’s life in the Community.

We will use the same process to present ten other members of the Oneida Community, offering the visitor to the website an opportunity to learn about the history of the Oneida Community from multiple perspectives.

Images like the one of above will be a starting point to communicate to our team of artists in and out of Second Life what we wish to create in order to bring the characters and their stories of the Oneida Community to life.

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