1900 – Lizzie
Up on Colony Mountain, about a mile from our farm, there is a commune of socialist people who are trying their best to live together peaceably. It is called the Equality Colony. When we were in Nebraska we often shared in the going on of Equality through their weekly newspaper, Industrial Freedom. Papa, having come from Germany when it was the 1870’s, is very interested in the ideas the colony and the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth. Their utopian and idyllic ways are fascinating and the people are very warm and friendly.
When we arrived in February of this year we were taken to Edison to stay at the “Freedom Hotel”. We had decided to check out the colony first and the hospitality of the families there was heartwarming. The women took to Willie and didn’t ask questions as to where his father might be. Papa and Mr. Willig, who makes barrels of sauerkraut from the thousands of cabbage, have become fast friends. Papa is one of those people, charming I say, who others are drawn to. He has a lack of guile that endears him and a sense of adventure that keeps him open faced. There is a lot of activity, especially in the woods, mills, and shingle mills. There are so many children in the colony and all seem so happy and well-behaved. Apparently a lot has changed in the two or three years the colony has been operating. There are now only 150 adults, as over half of the colonists have moved on to other colonies or moved back to what the colony calls “anarchy”… the common word they use for capitalism!
The people in the colony have decent shelter-far better than our old sod house in Nebraska! There is a community dining hall where we were treated to delicious dinner of home cooked stew filled with all manner of vegetables and Mr. Davis’ mouthwatering bread. The butter was rich and creamy, like none I’ve ever tasted. We had fresh milk, boiled eggs, and for dessert the most amazing apple pie made from everything grown right here! There is a cooperative store operated by Mr. Blairs where one can buy well-made shoes, tailored clothing, medicinal items, and crafts such as mounted leaves and ferns, as well as practical items carved and constructed from the plethora of cedar, fir, and maple trees. There is furniture, kitchen utensils, and tools that have been crafted by the colonists in such a way that the care and craftsmanship are exquisitely noted.
While it was tempting to spend the little money we had and join the colony – it cost $160 for the whole family—Papa had visions of owning our own farm in a land of plenty. There were Saturday night dances up at the Colony as well as at the IOOF hall in Edison. Papa had his violin, which he dearly loved to play, and we attended religiously to the social opportunities our new community provided.