The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 466
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
competitive capitalist society they tried to reform. Most historians, fol-
lowing the classic accounts of John H. Noyes, Charles Nordhoff, and
William A. Hinds, have concentrated on the better known communist
utopias in the Northeast and Midwest. With the exception of Robert V.
Hine's excellent study of California communes, no historian has tried
to integrate western "utopias" within the broader context of com-
munal history and thought. Ernest G. Fischer, a veteran journalist, has
attempted to remedy this lacuna by analyzing some of the major com-
munal projects in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Texas. Un-
fortunately, however, his book contains so many defects in structure,
content, and method that it is remarkably unsuccessful in conveying
the drama and impact of communal experimentation in Texas.
Fischer focuses his narrative on ten Texas communal projects: the
Napoleonic exiles at Champ d'Asile (ca. 1820), Jean Laffite's colony on
Galveston Island (1817-1820), Robert D. Owen's attempt to establish
a utopian experiment in the Texas-Coahuila area (1828-1829), the
German settlements at Bettina, Sisterdale, Tusculum, and Boerne
(1846-1848), the Mormon communities near Austin and Burnet
(1846-1851), La Reunion (1855-1857) and the Icarian commune
(1848) in Denton County, the Sanctificationists at Belton (1878-1902),
the English Quakers at Friendswood (ca. 1926), and the Danish colony
of Kristenstadt near Fort Worth (ca. 1928).
The author's attempt to analyze these experiments fails for a multi-
tude of reasons. The book contains no introduction or conclusion and
the chapters bear little logical relation to each other. Fischer never de-
fines the word "commune"; this lack of rigor is crucial, because a num-
ber of the enterprises he discusses were not actually communes at all.
The confusion in organization and logic is augmented by a choppy, dis-
jointed writing style studded with solecisms, cliches, and sententious
statements, not to mention erroneous information. F. M. Charles
Fourier, for example, was not a communist but a believer in joint-stock
communes with material incentives. And Laffite's colony was not the
first commune on American soil. The Shakers and some German pietist
sects established their "utopias" during the eighteenth century. Fischer
has read widely but indiscriminately; he ignores recent major studies
that might have broadened and deepened his understanding. A detailed
map and more sophisticated illustrations would have improved this
Fischer has squandered a major opportunity to analyze the social and
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/526/: accessed November 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.