The Icarians

September 6, 2010 | 6 comments
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While browsing the Wikipedia entry on Nauvoo, I saw this:

Nauvoo attracts large numbers of visitors for its historic importance and its religious significance to members of…groups such as the Icarians.

I’d never heard of the Icarians before. So, continuing down the Wikipedia path, I found this:

The Icarians were a French utopian movement, founded by Étienne Cabet, who led his followers to America where they established a group of egalitarian communes during the period from 1848 through 1898.

followed by:

After the failure of the Texas colony, the Icarians decided to head north to Nauvoo, Illinois, a city on the Mississippi River that had recently been vacated by the Mormons after having surpassed Chicago in population to become Illinois’ largest city in 1844.  Nauvoo became the first permanent Icarian Community in the early 1850s. In the census of 1850, 505 family names are listed in Icarian Nauvoo; by 1854, there were 405 members of the colony. Most of these were from France, though some had come from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Sweden, Holland, England, and the United States. Two periodical papers were published, the Real Icarienne in French and Der Communist in German.

A charter created by the Society in 1853 specified that residents of the Nauvoo colony were required to donate all their worldly goods to the community, which had to include a minimum of $60. Those who passed a probationary period of four months would be allowed to move to the permanent colony in Iowa.

In 1852, a lawsuit was filed in Paris against Cabet regarding claims by some of the Icarian colonists. Cabet returned to France for 18 months. When he returned, he implemented rules about talking in workshops, banning smoking, and other regulations which were unpopular with some members of the community. The Icarian community in Nauvoo split by a vote of 219 to 180. Cabet and his followers left Nauvoo in October, 1856 and went to St. Louis. The Nauvoo colony had financial difficulties and was forced to disband in 1860.

I don’t know anything about the Icarians beyond these excerpts, but this bit of post-Exodus Nauvoo trivia was interesting to me so I thought I’d share it here.

6 Responses to The Icarians

  1. Matt on September 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Robert Owen of utopian fame also thought about attempting a communal group in post-Mormon Nauvoo following the failure of his New Harmony, Indiana, experiment. Orson Pratt met with him and hoped to sell many of the Mormon buildings to Owen, but it fell through.

  2. Kent Larsen on September 7, 2010 at 9:59 am

    The Icarians are indeed one of the fascinating peripheral stories to Mormon history.

    IIRC, the movement also had another connection to Mormonism. One of those following Cabet’s movement in France in the 1840s was Louis Bertrand (1808-1875) who, in 1850, was one of the first LDS converts in France. Bertrand helped translate the Book of Mormon into French and later served as the LDS Mission President there. Bertrand was also a Socialist journalist who wrote for the newspaper Le Populaire in Paris.

  3. Bob on September 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

    There are a lot of plaques next to parks and fields just east of historic Nauvoo that talk about the history of the Icarians in that area. Interesting stuff.

  4. Julie M. Smith on September 7, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Very interesting–never heard of this before.

  5. Alison Moore Smith on September 10, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Had never heard about it either. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Bill of Wasilla on September 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you, Dane. Sometime in the next couple of years, I hope to take a tour of the historical places visited and lived in by my own, early Mormon, ancestors, including Nauvoo. You have added a new piece of information for me to be aware of when I take that trek.

WELCOME

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