Compiled by Mabel Schweers
Reflections of Icaria
Vo. 7, No 1, Spring 2004
pages 6-10

  1. Etienne Cabet's Dream

    Let's begin with the conditions in France at the time when Etienne Cabet's dream became a reality on February 3, 1848.

    Cabet the son of a cooper in Dijon, France became a lawyer at 24. In Paris he became involved in politics with sympathies for the working class. He printed a newspaper, Le Populaire where he was outspoken about the evils of the Monarchy.

    Cabet was a friend of Marquis de Lafayette, who helped the American colonist win the Revolutionary War. Without the help of the French Navy, the American Colonists would never have won the Revolutionary War. Cabet and Lafayette wanted France to be a Republic like the first original colonies in America where all the people could help elect the leaders of their government. Victor Hugo another friend of Cabet promoted better conditions for the working class.

    Because of solicitous remarks by Cabet in his newspaper he was given the choice of two years imprisonment or five years of exile. He chose exile in London, England in 1834.

    As Cabet searched the libraries and museums in London, he was influenced by Sir Thomas More's book Utopia written in 1516 and Robert Owen, a friend and social reformer who shared similar views on reorganizing society to provide greater happiness and working conditions for all people.

    As a result of Cabet's research came the publication of voyage en Icarie, a romantic novel portraying an egalitarian community. The democratic socialist government provided jobs, housing and equal distribution of wealth. All occupations had equal respect. There was no exchange of money, no private property, no courts of law, no secret police, no crime and no jails. Food and clothing were provided according to their need. Education was for both boys and girls. Time for recreation was essential. Marriage and family were held sacred. There was no formal religion but True Christianity, Fraternity and the Golden Rule were to be observed.

    Cabet returned to France in 1840 after his exile. He had the Voyage en Icarie published. There were five editions in several languages. His book was written in clear, popular style reaching 400,000 copies sold by the mid 1840s. His followers were increasing.

    Cabet's book was so popular throughout Europe that the cry, "Let's Go to America" was sounded and on February 3, 1848, 69 Icarian men left the harbor of Le Harve, France on the sailing ship, "Rome" for New Orleans and on to Texas.

  2. The Texas Experiment

    Through Etienne Cabet's friend, Robert Owens, he discovered that there was a million acres of free land being offered by the Peters Emigration and Land Company of Texas. On December 2, 1847 Cabet dispatched. Charles Sully to check out the land before signing a contract with Peters.

    Cabet accepted the company's offer and decided that the land between the Denton and Oliver Creeks in present day Denton County, Texas would be the first Icarian Settlement in the new world. The town of Justin, TX is on that site today.

    The handpicked group of 69 Icarian men, dressed in black corduroy tunics and gray felt hats, paid their own passage and contributed the equivalent of $100 to the communal treasury. They boarded the ship "Rome" at Le Harve, France on February 3, 1848 for America. They landed in New Orleans, LA on March 27, 1848. It took 7 weeks and 3 days to make the ocean voyage. Two Icarians died on the trip. Adolphe Gouhenant was the leader of the First Advance Guard. Cabet did not come with the First Departure.

    When the Icarians landed, they were greeted with news that King Louis Phillipe was overthrown on February 24, 1848 and the Second Republic came into power in France. Cabet was a candidate for the presidency of the Second Republic in May of 1848. Napoleon III defeated him. Several of the First Departure defected immediately upon landing in New Orleans.

    On April 1, 1848 the remaining Icarians boarded the riverboat, "Monterey" for a three-day trip up the Red River to Shreveport where they purchased supplies and built a warehouse to store baggage and equipment. The trip was arduous, with a wagon and two teams of oxen and men carrying backpacks encountering suffocating heat, broken axles, shortage of food and malaria. By the end of April most of the group arrived at Sulphur Springs, TX.

    Gouhenant the leader was carrying the contract with the Peters Company that was written in English. Had it been written in French, they may have realized that the homesteading period ended on July 1, 1848 and after that the land would cost $1.00 per acre. The land was not in contiguous plots and they had to build a house on each 320 acres of land before July 1, 1848 to claim the land. When July 18` arrived they had completed 32 huts with rightful claim to 10,240 acres of land in Prescott and Mercer Townships in Denton County, TX. They planted some wheat and built some fences but hard reality took over.

    When the Second Advance Guard of 21 Icarian men arrived at the Icarian Settlement, they found it in such disarray with malaria, no medicine and barely surviving, that it was decided to abandon the settlement and return to New Orleans. Most of the Icarians (except the nine that died) arrived in New Orleans by the end of September. A few claimed land in Texas as did the heirs of those who died in the "Texas Wilderness".

  3. New Orleans after Texas

    After the two Advance Guards of Icarian men to Texas. there were eight more departures of Icarians to New Orleans from France during the year of 1848. 485 Icarians came to America by ship that year. Eleven Americans joined the Icarians in New Orleans. This made a total of 496 Icarians in New Orleans.

    The Icarians were crowded in two apartment houses with unhealthy conditions and poor diets.

    Scouts were sent to the Gulf of Mexico to search the coast of Texas for a new site for settlement. Zachary Taylor, President of the United States, urged Cabet to forget Texas and go north to settle.

    After hearing the sad reports of the Texas Experience, Cabet sailed for America arriving in New Orleans on January 19, 1849. A scout was sent to Nauvoo to make arrangements for land and homes in the city once occupied by the Mormons.

    Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormons, was a candidate for the President of the United States in 1844, running against John Tyler. The newspaper, Nauvoo Expositor was opposed to the candidacy of Joseph Smith. The newspaper office was destroyed, supposedly by Smith's order. Smith and his brother Hyrum were jailed on charges of rioting. Mob violence took over, which climaxed with the storming the Carthage jail and the assassination of the two Smith brothers.

    Brigham Young gathered his people together and the famous trek to Utah over the Mormon Trail was planned. The Mormons left Nauvoo by 1847. The Mormons left behind in Nauvoo ready built houses and shops. This was ideal for a new settlement.

    Cabet called the assembly together and found 281 loyal Icarians willing to follow him to Nauvoo. The rest of the Icarians either returned to France or settled privately in New Orleans.

    On March 1, 1849 the Icarians left New Orleans on a Mississippi riverboat for their future home in Nauvoo.

  4. The Nauvoo Icarian Colony

    On March 1, 1849 281 Icarians who remained loyal to Cabet left New Orleans on the riverboat "Marshal Ney" for St Louis. On March 9, 1849 they left St Louis on the riverboat "American Eagle" for Nauvoo, Illinois. The boat encountered an ice jam at Warsaw and some of the Icarians walked 20 miles through snow to Nauvoo. Five members died on the trip to Nauvoo of cholera and 18 more died in the next month.

    The Icarians settled in the houses vacated by the Mormons two years before. They set up workshops; bought equipment and livestock; and planted crops and gardens.

    The Mormon Temple which the Mormons built in 1846, burned on October 9, 1849. A tornado struck the burned remains of the Temple on June 27, 1850. The Icarians used the stone from the ruins to build a school for the children.

    By May of 1851 the Nauvoo Community was well established. Cabet decided to return to France to clear his name of fraud concerning the Texas land agreement. He returned to Nauvoo on July 20, 1852. The Colony wasn't following the rules to his satisfaction. The men were using tobacco and misusing alcohol. The women were wearing fancy dresses and jewelry.

    Nauvoo was never intended to be the permanent Icarian Colony. In 1852 Cabet decided to start establishing a colony in the wilderness away from the influences of the outside world. Adams County, Iowa on the banks of the Nodaway River located between the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers was the chosen location.

    By 1854, 3,115 acres of land was purchased for the settlement. The Colony of Iowa was a satellite of the Nauvoo Colony until 1860.

    The Nauvoo Colony grew to 500 members by 1855. St. Louis was a good market for products raised and crafted. The colony prospered until the fatal rupture in 1856 when Cabet wanted to change the constitution so he could be elected president for a four-year term. The group divided into two camps, the "majority" (opposed Cabet) and the "minority" (supported Cabet).

    Cabet accepted defeat and left for St. Louis with 180 loyalists in late October of 1856. Cabet died of a stroke on November 8, 1856,

    The Icarians left in Nauvoo reorganized and made preparations to move to Iowa. The Nauvoo Colony was disbanded in 1860.

    Gerard and Pudent remained in Nauvoo to settle the estate. After all of the assets were sold in Nauvoo there remained a debt of $11, 800. The panic of 1857 caused land prices to fall. To payoff the remaining debt the trustees took out a loan for this amount at 10% interest with William Shepherd, a railroad investor and banker. The 3,115 acres of land bought in Iowa for $1.25 per acre was used as collateral to secure the loan.

    In 1863 the trustees declared the Nauvoo Colony legally ended and were reunited with their families in the Iowa Colony.

  5. St. Louis -- Cheltenham Colony

    On October 22, 1856 Cabet wrote and distributed his "Farewell of Mr. Cabet and True Icarians to the Inhabitants of Nauvoo". Cabet and his followers rented housing outside the Colony in Nauvoo until housing was acquired in St. Louis. The dissidents left in three different groups on October 15, 22, and 30. Cabet left Nauvoo on October 30, 1856. Cabet and his 180 loyal followers settled in "New Bremen" in the German section of St. Louis.

    Cabet had a stroke and died on November 8, 1856 at the age of 68 years. "The Founder of Icaria" was gone. He was buried in the "Old Picker Cemetery". Some of Cabet's followers thought his funeral lacked the proper ceremony. On January 23, 1857 Cabet's body was exhumed and reentered in the same cemetery with full Masonic Rites. (On November 12, 1906 Cabet's body was again reentered in the New St Marcus Cemetery at 7901 Gravois Road in St. Louis.)

    After the funeral, Mercadier, the new president, reiterated to the group that they must preserve the "communitarianism" of their founder. They were living in three different apartments about a mile apart. This wasn't conducive to community living.

    In order to survive the men took jobs outside of the community and the women worked as domestics and dressmakers. The children were sent to public schools. The Icarians were healthy and well fed, but they still longed to live in a close community.

    Thomas Allen, a St. Louis financier, had for sale a 39acre tract of land called "Cheltenham". It had a large stone house and four small cabins on the property. Mercadier, the president, bought this land for $25,000 at 6% interest and $500 down.

    Allen attached to the mortgage a "Deed of Trust" stating that in the event of a default of one annual payment, he could sell the property without any court action.

    Discontent again arose over wanting the constitution to be more democratic, to recognize the wishes of the members. Louis Vogel and forty-four of his followers left the colony. This caused a financial impact on the community.

    Later, during the Civil War all of the able bodied Icarian men joined the Northern Army. This put an added drain on the Colony as to lack of manpower and income. The soldiers were promised $414 annual pension and 160 acres of tillable land for homesteading in the West. The Civil War killed Cheltenham.

    Members started leaving the Colony and by January of 1864 with Arsene Sauva as president, there were 8 men, 7 women and some children left in Cheltenham. At the last General Assembly with heads bowed and tears in their eyes they decided to turn the keys over to Thomas Allen. Cheltenham ended in 1864.

    The Louis Gillet and Arsene Sauva families later joined the Icarian Community in Adams County, Iowa.

  6. The Colony of Iowa

    In September of 1852 Cabet sent 10 men to Adams County, Iowa to build a permanent home for the Icarians.

    The spot they chose was four miles north of present day Corning. (Corning was platted in 1857.) The site was called the "Icarian Grove" located at the junction of Kemp Creek (later called Walters Creek) and Hope Creek, which is now a part of Lake Icaria. Ten men spent the winter, 1852-53, at this site. These men were: Victor Blanche, Jean Pierre Aubrey, John Busque, Antoine Vidal, Francis Sauge, Jean Marie Conefray, Jean Louis Fournier, Jules Renaud, Joseph Marshall and Antoine Etienne.

    On April 14, 1853 four more men left Nauvoo for Iowa, namely: Louis J. Breinne, Pierre Prudent Marie Champeau, William Krissinger and Michael Brumme.

    On July 3, 1853 six men and two women left Nauvoo for Iowa, namely: Charles and Mary Marshall, George and Miriah Gobel, Antoine Marie Etienne Gobel, Baptiste Marie Etienne Gobel, Dominick Leigerot, and Benoit G. Deschamps.

    On September 26, 1853 two more men Gustave Loengren and Louis Joseph Martinet departed from Nauvoo for Iowa.

    The winter of 1853-54 was spent in Section 19 of Prescott Township. In the spring of 1854 the settlement flooded and they moved to higher ground on the south side of the Nodaway River to build their Icarian Community.

    On April 12, 1854 three men and two women left Nauvoo for Iowa. They were: Titus and Madeline Utenvieller, Alexander Fagris, Baptiste Mirault and Marguerite Martinet (Martin).

    Departing from Nauvoo on July 6, 1854 were six men and five women. They were: Constant and Therese Josephine Pageot, Jean Claude and Annis Louvier, Issac Nagel, Nicholas Martinet, Francois Gillet, Victor Edward Pageot, Mariah Sablier Champeaux and Loyann Conefray and her stepdaughter.

    Departing on September 23, 1854 were five men and one woman: August Jean Louis Rillot, Constant and Agatha S. Levy Therme, Charles Alfonse Pannetier, Thomas Bacon and Jean Louis Fournier. Cabet visited the Iowa Colony in September of 1854 to plat the "Icarian Village"

    On April 23, 1855 12 men, 8 women and 5 children left Nauvoo, namely: Joseph Branch, August Crampon, Guillaume and Pauline G. Bira, Frederick and Amelia L. Hoffman, Peter and Jane L. Favre, Joseph and Sophia Laben, Lewis and Margaret Mahe, Nicholas Sr. and Mary Villemain, Nicholas Villemain Jr, Adele Jeffrey and son Gregory Jeffrey, Paul Gamier, Charles Bossel, Josephine Pannetier and Emma Platen.

    Several returned to Nauvoo but those remaining in the Colony of Iowa in 1855 numbered 57 members. Descendants of these Icarians may be living in Adams County and aren't aware of their ancestry. By 1855 the Icarians had purchased 3,115 acres of land at $1.25 per acre in Prescott and Mercer Townships of Adams County.

  7. The Icarian Community, Incorporated

    The people living in the Icarian Community in Iowa from 1852 to 1856 seemed very happy. There seemed to be a lot of cooperation among the members. Most of the Icarians chose to leave Nauvoo and move to Adams County. They were so busy building houses for the newcomers, planting crops and gardens, and doing the necessary daily chores, there was no time for dissent.

    The split in the Nauvoo Colony and the death of Cabet did not stop the migration of members to Iowa.

    From 1856 to 1860, 47 more arrivals came to Iowa from Nauvoo. This made a total of 104 Icarian members in Iowa when the Colony was incorporated in July 1860 with the Iowa Secretary of State as "The Icarian Community, Inc." for agricultural and horticultural purposes.

    During the Civil War the Icarians sold flour, meat, grain, hay and wool to the Union Army. The Colony prospered during these years.

    By 1863 the Icarians did not have enough money to make the mortgage payment. William Shepherd called the loan and the Icarians sold around 2,000 acres of land to pay off the mortgage. Later they bought some of the land back.

    By 1870 The Icarians dammed the Nodaway River and built a mill to saw lumber and grind flour. The sawed lumber made it possible to build frame houses to replace the log houses.

    Everything was peaceful in Icaria until 1876 when six new members called "Internationalist" were admitted to the Colony. They proposed numerous reforms. These men were: Emile Peron, Simon Dereure, Alexis Tanguy, Jerome Laforgue, Charles Levy and Arsene Sauva. They caused a lot of discontent among the colonist, especially the young members.

    The discontent between the younger, "Progressives" and the older, "Conservatives" grew until the Progressives petitioned the Adams County Circuit Court to declare the Icarian Community, Inc. illegal since it sold production other than agricultural and horticultural produce. Icaria was dissolved on August 17, 1878. The Progressives reorganized as the "Young Icarian Community" and remained on the original site. The Conservatives moved one-half mile southeast of the original site and established the "New Icarian Community”.

  8. The Young. Icarian Colony

    When the Icarians first came to Adams County in 1852 there was not a single house between Icaria and Mt. Pisgah. Twenty-five years later there were neighbors on all sides of the Icarian Settlement.

    In 1878 Icaria owned 2,142 acres of land. The Progressives ended up with 938 acres and the Conservatives had 1,204 acres. The Progressives stayed at the original Icarian site. The Progressives paid the Conservatives $1,500 if they would move.

    On April 16, 1879 the Young Icarians filed for a new Articles of Incorporation with the Iowa Secretary of State. It was recorded on May 13, 1879.

    A few days later the Progressives reaffirmed the communal obligation on April 22, 1879 when they signed the "Act of Donation" pledging to the community" all the rights, titles and assets they possessed individually, when the estate was dissolved. They pooled their assets, which amounted to $14, 910.33.

    At this time only adult males could vote. The Conservatives had the majority votes, 19-13. The Progressives had the numerical majority, 47-33. After the split the women had the right to vote in Young Colony.

    The two groups shared facilities until the New Icarians were able to move. All assets of buildings, livestock, machines, supplies, etc. were divided between the two groups.

    The Gauvains and the Montaldos became disillusioned and left the Colony. Newcomers were the Claude and Michael Bronner. James Thierry and Louis Gillet families. The Claude Bronner family left the Colony in 1881 after a two-year stay.

    The Leroux and Dehay families decided to move to California and soon after bought 885 acres of land between Cloverdale and Asti, California in Sonoma County. Most of Young Icarians moved to California except the Emile Peron, Emile Fugier and Michael Bronner families.

    Peron and Fugier were named trustees to sell off the assets. In the meantime Peron went to France and bought Normandy racehorses and Percheron draft horses. The Californians heard about the purchase of horses and ordered immediate sale of assets. The horses were sold for a profit. The balance of funds was to be sent to the California Colony.

    Fugier moved to Creston and established a horse farm. Peron moved to New York City and established an artificial flower and fashion industry. The Michael Bronner family lived at the Icarian site until Julie married William Reynolds on January 17, 1889 when the two families moved to a farm near Carbon.

    Young Icaria ended on March 15, 1884 but the assets weren't distributed until the receiver, Ed H. Hunter was dismissed on September 6, 1888,

  9. Icaria-Speranza in California

    The Leroux and Dehay families played an important part in the exodus of the Icarians from Iowa to California. Armand Dehay had a brother, Theodore, who lived in the San Francisco area, who encouraged him to move to California.

    The first communal members were Armand Dehay, Paul Leroux, Emile Bee and Gustave Provost families.

    During 1881 Dehay and Leroux purchased 885 acres of land three miles south of Cloverdale, CA on the Russian River for $15,000. The new commune was christened Speranza meaning "Hope"

    By fall they built a sawmill and started clearing trees from the land in preparation of planting a vineyard. In 1882 they planted 42 acres of Zinfandel grape vines, five acres of peach trees and 100 acres of wheat.

    In the winter of 1883-84 Theresa James, Alexis Marchand and the Eugene Mourot family left for Icaria-Speranza.

    On October 15. 1884 the members signed a "Certificate of Co-Partnership", which was filed at the Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa, California.

    They lived in separate houses but ate in a common dining area and shared the work. The California Colony deviated from Cabet's philosophy by paying members a token every month.

    For lack of a wine press they were not able to use the grapes for wine. The money from the sale of land in Iowa was to help their financial state. Farm prices fell during this time in Iowa.

    Icaria-Speranza was dissolved in 1886. The Dehay Family lived in the big house after the estate was settled.

    A historical marker was erected in 1989 on the road between Cloverdale and Asti to mark the spot of the Icaria-Speranza Colony. It was dedicated during the Annual Meeting of the National Icarian Heritage Society on July 22, 1989.

    The last remaining barn and winery have been demolished since 1989. The Icarian Creek still runs through the Icarian land into the Russian River as a reminder of the Icarians who once lived there. Icaria-Speranza lasted from 1881 to 1886.

  10. The New Icarian Colony

    On May 2, 1879 the older conservatives filed their contract for "The New Icarian Community" with the Adams County Recorder to establish a new Colony to the southeast.

    The signers were: Armei Alexis and Marie V. Marchand, Joseph Mignot, Leon J. Bettannier, Valmor E. Caille, Isadore V. Lemoine, Leoncio Cubells, Hipolite and Louise Claudy, Eugene and Leonie Bettannier, Joseph Meindre, Armel Marchand, Jr., Pierre Caille. Arsene and Leonie Sauva, Charles Levy, Louise Claudy, Louis Richard, and Jules Sr. and Eugenie Gentry.

    It took a couple of years to move the eight frame houses to the new site. A new 30x50 foot refectory (dining hall) was built. They sold 112 acres of land for $1,800 and borrowed $2,500 to pay for the dining hall and move the houses.

    The buildings were arranged in a rectangle with a recreation area in the center. The American flag was flown daily. They were proud to be Americans.

    The kitchen was on the ground floor. It had a large cupboard and a big Charter Oak range that could hold 28 pies. The dining room had five round drop-leafed tables and chairs. Hipolite Claudy donated a grandfather clock that he brought from France.

    One of the greatest blessings of the new place was a good and plentiful supply of water from two wells. A windbreak of maple trees was planted on the north and west sides of area. New orchards, vineyards, strawberry, rhubarb and asparagus beds were planted in a communal garden. Flowers were again planted.

    The rules for admission were so high that few new members were admitted. The Fremont and Sauva families left in 1884. Several of the remaining families were related to each other.

    These older Icarians were determined to make communal living succeed. This was probably the most contented Icarian group that existed. They had many contacts outside the Colony. Other French Icariias homesteaded on land nearby. As the men grew older it was harder to do the heavy farm work, so they hired young men from the outside to work as hired hands. Some of the Icarian girls married these men, namely, Marie Marchand married William Ross and Louise Claudy married Tom Ramsey.

    A. A. Marchand, the pillar of the Icarian movement in America, came with the first departure from Le Harve, France went to Texas, back to New Orleans, on to Nauvoo, to Adams County in 1860 and spent his last days in New Icaria. Armel and his wife Marie left Icaria to live with their daughter, Marie Marchand Ross and family in Georgia after the members voted to disband in 1895.

    The Gentry Family moved two Icarian houses across the road and placed them together for their new home.

    New Icaria ended with a lot of tears and resistance on February 16, 1895 with a unanimous vote.

    Eugene Bettannier was named executor of the estate. After every thing was divided or sold the last Icaria was legally ended on October 22, 1898, fifty years after it began in France on February 3, 1848.


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