Tennessee has long been regarded by historians as a crossroads of different ideas and people, its unique geographic position separating it from being overly dominated by established traditions for much of its history. It is this unique situation that makes Tennessee a favored home for idealists wishing to realize their vision for a perfect society. These utopian communities have had a great impact on the state as a whole; their creation serving as a barometer of the social forces that shaped the times their founders lived in, while their collapse gives us insight into the sad, flawed nature of human beings. The history of these utopian visions begins even before a State of Tennessee even existed. In 1736, the German, Christian Priber, arrived in the town of Great Tellico, deep in the heart of Overhill Cherokee territory.
[...] Hughes was impractical as a leader and sympathetic to a fault, placing too much faith in his fellow man. (Egerton 1997, 55) Human nature, as well as conflicting visions of what Rugby should be, became the community's downfall. (Egerton 1997, 58) Even stranger was the story of Ruskin, a socialist commune founded in 1893 by Julius Wayland. Wayland blended Marxist theory and Christian tradition with American democracy, riding the wave of Populism to found his cooperative commonwealth. (Bakker and Butler 2002, Wayland set up shop near Nashville with his popular newspaper, The Coming Nation, shortly after an agent of his had purchased a plot of land in the area. [...]
[...] In 1880, a British author and reformer named Thomas Hughes founded a community in northern Morgan County called (Egerton 1997, 39) What makes Hughes's utopia so curious is the fact that, by and large, it has more to do with English society than the culture of Tennessee. Hughes was concerned about the situation of what were called “second sons” in England the second-born of gentry who would lose out on the bulk of the family inheritance to the first-born. These second sons would be forbidden to seek out a job that would reflect badly on their families, and had to depend on a meager inheritance just to survive. [...]
[...] (Egerton 1997, 40) Public and private enterprise flourished for a time, and it was thought that, unlike Rugby's historical predecessors, it would survive as a staple of Tennessee society. This was not to be, unfortunately. All Rugby business ventures failed miserably, the colony's private school was unable to live up to expectations, and the colony was on the verge of bankruptcy. Finally, in October 1884, the Tabard Inn burned down, destroying nearly everything inside of it, (although, strangely, not a banister belonging to the original, historic Tabard Inn,) removing Rugby's greatest source of income. [...]
[...] Each one was a visible barometer of the social forces that brought these communes into being, as well as those that, in many cases, destroyed them. Regardless of their differing purposes and despite many of their dramatic failures, the utopian communities of Tennessee are all inspiring in their dedication to creating a better, more fair and equitable world. Works Cited Bergeron, Paul H., Stephen V. Ash, and Jeanette Keith Tennesseans and Their History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. Egerton, John Visions of Utopia: Nashoba, Rugby, Ruskin, [...]
[...] Priber himself died in 1745, but his state in Great Tellico would have a great impact on relations between the British colonists and Cherokee inhabitants of East Tennessee. Most importantly, Priber's influence in Great Tellico left its mark on Cherokee leader Oconostota, whom Priber converted to Christianity sometime prior to 1740. The nationalistic spirit that Priber instilled in the citizens of Great Tellico would help feed Oconostota's resistance to British rule, as well as his willingness to call for an alliance with the French. [...]
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