mfcarney3 on Family Tree Circles
Journals and Posts
I have recently completed writing a report about the younger sister, Portia, of my great great grandfather, who joined the Oneida Community in 1865 at age 23. She had been born in Missouri, travelled with her father and mother from there to PA and then back to NYS, before her mother died when she was age 8 in 1850. Her father remarried after seven months, and Portia soon went to live with her older brother for perhaps 15 years. While in Bath, Steuben County, NY she became close friends with an older woman whose interest in spiritualism, led to a group of 4 young girls in Bath meeting regularly, and all eventually joined the Oneida Community. It practiced "Bible Communism" and the founder taught "Complex Marriage" which discouraged monogamy as a form of "Idolatrous Attachment" between people. So, there was a community which lived as a commune, and allowed a kind of "Free Love" for the 300 members during the 30 years of its early existence. Eventually there were reforms that changed how the community lived. During its heyday (roughly 1848-1895) it was the largest tourist attraction in New York State, drawing as many as 2,000 people a weekend on the train who travelled to the Oneida Community for outdoor concerts, lectures, a meal with the community, and then returned to their homes. And this was a century before Haight Ashbury and Woodstock !!!
I have found the family in the 1855 Massachusetts census in Lawrence, Essex County with three sons and three daughters. Sons, Patrick, Matthew, and Michael. Daughters Ann, Ellen, and Mary. All born in Ireland. I have found Naturalization for the father Patrick and two sons, Matthew & Michael. I have marriage data for the 3 sons and a daughter with their descendants. I've found census data. The firm, M. Carney & Brother became the largest wholesale liquor & wine distributorship before Prohibition after venturing into a Brewery for a while in Manchester, NH, which they sold. I am seeking relatives and information about the family in Lawrence, MA.
In my first year of research, I focused on "filling in the blanks" in a Family Chart my mother had from the Steuben County Historian in the early 1980s. Then early this year I found that Portia Maria Underhill, youngest sister of my great great grandfather, had joined the Oneida Community, when I located a NYS Census record in 1870. Through just a few inquiries I was connected with a man who is the Genealogist for the Oneida Community, who sent me two large PDF files of his research focusing on Portia M. Underhill and the man who became her husband, Henry Grosvenor Allen, after the Oneida Community's reforms allowed monogamous marriage. He had found data I struggled to understand in the context of "communal life" according to the teachings of John Humphrey Noyes, who founded the community. I read a book entitled "Without Sin" about the community published in 1993, then several additional publications. I was asked to write a report for publication, which I found quite challenging for it had to be less than 5,000 words and ready by roughly 1 July 2012. I submitted my writings, and then was offered editorial help structuring the paper, which made the result more lucid, readable, and structurally consistent. Two men, one from the Oneida Community's cadre of tour guides and one from the Underhill Society of America helped me pull this report together. I feel a stronger connection to all my ancestors through this effort, and am grateful for having been given an opportunity to grow in my understanding of a complex community in which people strove for a "social contract" which every member shared. It was a hundred years before Haight Ashbury and Woodstock !! The community's descendants continue to support the legacy of the roughly 300 members, and the Mansion House in which the community lived is a National Historic Landmark, open to visitors for tours. I visited in late August 2012 and was very impressed by the professional tour given, and the history which is exhibited in displays there. It encourages us all to learn more about the individuals and groups which made up our multifaceted culture a century ago.
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