History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past,
trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes,
and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.
Every place has its interesting nooks and crannies but some places have more than others. New Harmony, Indiana is one of those places. Robert Pence writes the following about that lovely little town:
A communitarian German religious sect, the Rappites, under the leadership of George Rapp, established a settlement first called Harmonie along the Wabash River in Posey County about 1815. They were industrious, producing silk, lumber, woolens, bricks and wine, which were traded as far away as New Orleans via the rivers. Their brick homes and buildings were among the most imposing and their standard of living among the highest in Indiana at the time.
Frontier isolation and distance from eastern markets for their manufactured products led the Rappites to return to Pennsylvania after only ten years. They sold the settlement to Scottish industrialist Robert Owen, who envisioned a utopian communal society based on learning. He brought in a “boatload of knowledge”, via the river, brilliant scientists, educators and scholars, but the community failed to prosper because it lacked people with knowledge of or inclination toward the basic skills of growing food and creating the artifacts necessary for the physical functioning of the community.
This village of less than 1,000 people is the site of many firsts, such as the first continuously operating library in Indiana. It is more than charming. It is a haven of culture and history so well hidden in a nook of Hoosier farmland that a traveler might miss it while speeding along the interstate.
It is also the place where we gather to knit, visit and share at the Barn Abby each October on a weekend retreat. I’m already gathering stuff together to take on our trip. I can hardly wait.