NOYES TO HARRIET A. NOYES
New York, January 24, 1848.
Communications from Putney continue to be cheering. I am especially glad to hear that Mother has returned to you in body and spirit. She has learned long ago to say of God, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." I hope she is now learning to say of man, such as our Brattleboro friends, "Though they save me, yet will I not trust in them." Our real friends are in heaven God is our true adviser. He will help us faithfully without requiring us to forsake the truth.
I think you all deserve praise at this time. Mr. Miller's patriotism and faithfulness are all I could wish. The firmness of the Bakers is admirable. All that have planted themselves on the truth seem to be standing more firmly and unitedly than ever. I hope to hear good news at last from Emma and Helen. Their captivity must have an end.
You will see by the enclosed letter from Burt that a new door is opening for us \~hen I think how opportunely you and I went west and started the association movement, and how the spirit and providence of God have followed in the track of the ~an which I proposed for concentrating on Oneida, 1 am ready to imagine that God has been preparing to trans
plant us from Putney, as he transplanted the gospel from New Haven at the heginning~ I have determined to go to Oneida (probably this week), and see what can be done there. The Association commencing will need my help, and whether we join our forces with theirs or not my visit there will be profitable.
I should prefer, if possible, to keep our foothold in Putney, and also to establish a post in this city. But if the reprobates continue to reign in Putney, it will not be wise to push our advance into this city. That would be leaving a hostile fortress in our rear, which is contrary to the rules of strategy. Our better way will be to make a lateral movement and join our friends in Oneida. You who are in the disputed territory will take these things into consideration, and speak your mind. I see much reason to think that a strong Association can be gathered at Oneida in a short time. Sherwood is ready to go, and build for the new gathering as he did for us. I shall probably write more certainly on these matters when I have seen the field opening before us.
J. H. NOYES.
NARRATIVE OF JONATHAN BURT
The third day after my letter was sent to Noyes our hearts were made glad by his arrival. He found us at work wheeling dirt to stop a leak in the dam caused by high water. In the evening we all assembled in the new house to hear his story. He explained to us the principle of Male Continence, rehearsed the circumstances that led to its discovery, and finally frankly opened to us the fact that they had at Putney stepped over the marriage bounds and introduced a new relation between the sexes. He spoke in a spirit and manner that evinced great purity of thought and feeling, and though the subject was new
to me I had data in my spiritual experience which enabled me to accept what he presented as God's truth; and at the close of the meeting I so expressed myself. The women were somewhat disconcerted, but on the whole there was a good deal of candor.
The next day, which was Saturday, Mr. Noyes went to Dr. Gould's at Oneida Depot, where it was supposed he would find a warm welcome. Sunday morning Mr. Nash, young Waters and I went to the village expecting a good meeting. On our first arrival the Doctor invited me to a private interview. He immediately informed me that his former difficulties with Mr. Noyes had been revived, and he entered into a labored argument to persuade me to take sides with him against what he termed Mr. Noyes's "restraint upon personal liberty." I told him plainly that I could not yield to his persuasions, that my confidence in Mr. Noyes was not to be shaken, and that I desired to hear his own reason of the matter. When we returned to the house I expressed my wish, and Mr. Noyes at once said that as Dr. Gould had had a private conference with me it was no more than fair that he should have one too. We accordingly retired into another room. Said Mr. Noyes: "The Doctor came into the Putney family in a licentious spirit, claiming sexual freedom when he was not under our disci pline, and I held him in check. He has revived the contest, accusing me of interference with individual freedom." I at once said, "That explains the whole matter. I need no more to satisfy me where the right is." Mr. Noyes then reported to me his debate with Gould just previous to our arrival, which was about as follows:
Dr. Gould: I have great influence with Perfectionists in New York State, and if you do not yield to me on this point, I will throw the cars off the track.
Mr. Noyes: You meanly attempt to take advantage of me
in the day of adversity, but you will find that adversity and prosperity are both the same to me when truth is at stake. God shall judge in this matter. I appeal to his tribunal.
Dr. Gould: It may take God a good while to decide.
Mr. Noyes: He may decide speedily.
Just as this last sentence was uttered, we rapped at the door and were admitted.
My conference with Mr. Noyes lasted over an hour, and there was great flow of heart between us. He gained my thorough confidence, and I gave in my adherence to him as an inspired leader. At the close of our talk Mr. Noyes took from his pocket a small bag which contained five hundred dollars in ten dollar gold pieces, and gave it a whirl upon the bed, saying, "There, Mr. Burt, if that will help you in any way, it is at your service. 1 offer it as my first contribution to a New York Community." This was indeed aid from a source I had not expected. I accepted it thankfully as from the Lord. I then told him that as other places seemed closed I would undertake to make him a home at my house. On my return to the rest of the company I told Dr. Gould that I had made my election, that I must break fellowship with him entirely, and that I should cleave to Mr. Noyes. We then returned home, Mr. Noyes going with us and staying that night at the new house. I deposited the gold in my drawer, and in the morning invited Mrs. Burt to look at it. She asked me where I got it. I told her. "But," said she, "what have you given for security?" I said, "Not anything. Mr. Noyes has given it to me as a first contribution to the Community interest." 1 then said that I wanted him to come into our family and make it his home for a time. She said at once that she had no objections. The next day a good parlor stove was purchased and set up, and Mr. Noyes took his abode in our best room, while Mrs. Burt did everything she could to make it pleasant and comfortable. Here
We had at this time a young woman as helper in our family, a sister to our neighbor Huhhard. She had an intelligent mind. During the early part of Mr. Noyes's stay at my house she and Mrs. Burt read together his Religious Experience, which they found in a file of The Perfectionist. It interested them deeply, and when they had finished the reading they sought an interview with Mr. Noyes. The result was that they both came out with an open confession of Christ as a savior from sin and had a bright spiritual experience.
At about the same time my brother Horace, whose insanity had continued without abatement, was miraculously cured under Mr. Noycs's influence. This was an occasion of much rejoicing.
We continued for some weeks to pass through thrilling scenes. . . . The Community assumed my debts, which indeed proved to be more than I expected. Come to look the matter squarely in the face it was clear that I had moved in an enterprise which I could not have carried through. The Community needed a leader with qualifications which I did not possess; and the coming of Mr. Noyes was highly seasonable not only for my personal deliverance hut also for the success of the general movement toward an association in Central New York.
Noyes arrived at Burt's on January 26, 1848. On the 28th he quieted Horace Burt. The same evening Noyes went down to Gould's at Oneida Depot. Gould showed his colors, and Noycs separated from him. The next day, Sunday the 29th, Burt, Nash and Waters went down to Gould's to fetch Noyes hack Noyes afterward said that, if they had not come, he would have taken the cars to New York City.
NOYES TO GEORGE CRAGIN
Oneida, February 4, 1848.
Dear Brother Cragin:
My operations in Gould's case work well every way. His character was universally bad and sinking among believers. The blow that was struck last Sunday is echoed heartily from all quarters. The Beaver Meadow regiment rejoices unanimously, Hamilton and family are righted, and Burt's visit has brought Cook into the ranks again. He is coming with the rest from Syracuse on a visit here next Sunday. Burt has written to Foot, and he also is expected. Everything conspires to bring about concentration here. I have the enthusiastic confidence of all now on the ground. They see for themselves and by sure tokens, that I am as hostile as ever to licentious spirits, and that my "tyranny" instead of being an annoyance is highly useful in protecting them from the wolves. .
Now for the temporalities which I promised to write about. I have found a place for you, unless your shrewd eyes detect objections. Do you recollect a small timber house across the road from Brother Burt's? There is one comfortable room with buttery, a back kitchen for summer, a bed-room upstairs, a good barn, a small shoemaker's shop, and twenty-three acres of land included mostly in the long bend of the creek, good-looking meadow with a small wood lot. Crane, the present occupant, offers to sell his interest in it for five hundred dollars, and to give possession within one week from the time of the bargain. This land, like most of the lands in this region, is held by articles from the State pledging to give deeds when the purchase money is paid. About four hundred dollars remain to be paid, hut the State does not call for this so long as the interest is kept up; also there is a probability that the present Legislature will throw off one-quarter of its claim. I think you
can live at least as comfortably there with your children as the Beaver Meadow folks live in their shanty (and I assure you they are happy), until we can build a Chateau. There is some romance in beginning our Community in the log huts of the Indians. But your house, though built of hewed logs and by the Indians, is well plastered and papered, warm and pleasant, not to be despised by those who are cramped up in accommodations as small as Sherwood's. And the money which we should have to pay for one year's rent of a decent house in New York City will make you the owner to all intents of quite a little farm. Brother Burt's plans for water-power will be furthered by this purchase, and he will make common interest with you in managing your land. As to occupation, he wants just such a man as you are to take charge of his accounts and superintend scattered business so that he can devote himself to his mills; and the Community will need Mrs. Cragin's help as teacher of children, for which purpose the little shoe-shop seems to have been constructed. We can send to Putney for furniture, and Brother Burt will provision you. All here will receive you with acclamations. Shall 1 close the bargain?
If you decide to come, I shall probably send for my wife and the children. Harriet will go into the yoke with Mrs. Burt, who needs her help and is quite sure to prove a fine woman under right influences.
By these movements the original four-square nucleus of the Putney Community will be re-united, and will give tone to the Oneida Community.
James Baker has written me inquiring whether he had not better move here. There is a farm of fifty-six acres with a log house a short distance north of the mill, adjoining lands already engaged for the Community, which can be had (subject as usual to the claim of the State) for about six hundred
dollars. I think he will come, and in process of time Brother Burt will put him in a grist-mill.
If Baker comes, he can bring my wife and our children and attend to the transportation of the goods for us all.
Hatch says, "The king-bee has lit, and the swarm is coming." And truly it seems to be so. Prospects open rich, though for the present we must make up our minds for soldiers' fare. We have good luck in everything so far. I feel that the divine energy is pushing us forward, and therefore 1 feel safe in an adventurous course.
Hoping for a re-union of our families here soon, I remain as ever,
JOHN H. NOYES.
Pencil note by J. H. Noyes on the back of the photograph of the Shoe-shop:
The building here photographed was originally a shoe-shop, where Mr. Crane from whom we bought the Cragin meadow and the Log Hut, made shoes. It stood near the apple tree on the south of the bridge. We used it at first for a meeting-house on Sundays and a school-house on other days. Mrs. Cragin kept school there. Afterward it was moved up on the higher ground, and became an attachment to the Log Hut. J. H. N. occupied it some time. When the trap business had grown big and wanted a store room for traps, this building was moved over east of the Mill, where it now stands. Finally the traps required larger quarters, and this building was converted into a paint-shop. There J. H. N. with Arabelle's class of girls put and puttied the glass into the sash for the big brick Mansion house in the summer of i861. Whoever knows anything more about this historical edifice will please write below.
J. H. N.
April II, 1869.
It was used as an Architect's office by E. H. H. in making the drawings for this present house.
D. P. Nash occupied it as a tin-shop for a year or more.I
NOYES TO HARRIET A. NOYES
Burt's, February 4, 1848.
Dear Harriet: . . .
My entering in here has been prosperous in every way. The enterprise of association which we set on foot in September, though moving on with sufficient signs of God's purpose, was dragging heavily. Brother Burt was bearing up nobly but under mountain-embarrassments, and the Beaver Meadow regiment, the first and only troops on the ground, were in a low, discouraged state. After Burt declared himself fully with me and against Gould on the subject of subordination I put in his hands five hundred dollars, half the proceeds of the U. S. stock which we sold in New York, believing that it would prove more safe and profitable than U. S. funds, because it was secured by the pledge of the everlasting Government. Thus I was enabled to infuse life into the movement.
[After giving some account of the Beaver Meadow company Noyes continues:]
I opened my whole heart to them. Some of my disclosures of course caused temporary suffering, but God found means to convince all that I am not walking after the flesh. I lectured and talked abundantly, and the result is a joyful quickening of all, full confidence in one another, increasing hope. Mrs. Burt, hitherto not a believer, is yielding. She gives me liberty to invite you and Theodore as soon as I please. I have found a place for Cragin, and have written to him for his judgment about coming. On the whole I think you had better come. You
will be needed with me in laying the foundations of the new Association.
NOYES TO GEORGE CRAGIN
Oneida, February 15, 1848.
Dear Brother Cragin:
I have received an answer from Harriet, and have her approbation of our plan. . . . I think both parties will do best to move at the same time. . .
If you have generalship enough to bring the whole party safely to the Oneida depot at 3 o'clock P. M. on the first day of March, I will be there with a team to thank you and bring you to our new home. You will all probably stop in Albany one night, as the children will not be able to go directly through. In that case my experience of the crowd and confusion on the boat at the crossing of the railroad-cargo would suggest the expediency of staying at the Greenbush depot, or at least leaving the women and children there till after the crowd has crossed. The only places of difficulty will be Springfield and Albany. If you carry all safe through those whirlpools, and keep the children in the cars at momentary stations, you will get along well.
Haile, Keeler and Foot are here this morning. Corwin is expected today. Busy times
JOHN H. NOYES.
NOYES TO HARRIET A. NOYES
Oneida, February 15, 1848.
Good news comes with every letter from Putney God is working gloriously both there and here. Well, my heart is big enough for two great blessings at once.
I cannot stop to tell you all that is going forward here. I need you to keep the records for me, and report to Putney I thank God that there is a prospect of your being with me again soon. .
I shall trust you to select and bring on such things as you and I shall need. We have no occasion for house furniture of any kind. I will only suggest that it will be well to bring most of our stock of old letters from New York Perfectionists, and as many of the bound volumes of our past publications as you have room for. Also bring as many of my tinkering tools as Woolworth can spare conveniently.
I shall write to Mr. Miller again soon in answer to his last. At present I am very busy with "customers." Haile and Keeler from Genoa have just started for home with a load of our spiritual goods. .
JOHN H. NOYES.
Abandonment of Putney was finally resolved upon. Purchases of land and buildings adjoining Burt's were immediately begun, and soon a domain of one hundred and sixty acres with two houses and two log cabins was secured. The disbursement of twenty-eight hundred dollars in gold within a few weeks in that frontier settlement gave rise to fantastic tales. One had it that none other than Santa Ana himself had come into the neighborhood to settle.
A rough board shanty was quickly built for a young men's dormitory. During the summer and fall the "Mansion House," a structure sixty by thirty-five feet with three stories and garret, was erected. Erastus H. Hamilton, who had studied architecture at Syracuse, made the plans and superintended the work. The sawmill and timber on the domain provided the materials. All the work except the plastering was done by the Community. Most of the lathing was done by the women. When free from other duties all worked merrily on the house, and many valuable lessons in making industry attractive were learned. The building was ready for use before winter.
The members of the Putney Community migrated to Oneida as rapidly as accommodations could be provided: March 1, 1848, Harriet A. Noyes and her son Theodore, George Cragin, Mary E. Cragin and their children George F., Charles, John and Victor; March 22, Lemuel H. Bradley, Sarah A. Bradley; April 1, James L. Baker, Catherine Baker and their daughter Mary; May 6, Henry W. Buruham, Lois Knowles; May 13, John Leonard; June I, Abby Buruham and her son Edwin; June 16, John L. Skinner, Harriet H. Skinner and their son Joseph; July 19, Stephen R. Leonard, Fanny M. Leonard and their daughter Charlotte, Ellen Baker; October 3, Sarah Burnham; April 1849, Louisa Tuttle; May 24, Polly Noyes, Harriet A. Hall, Philena Baker; June '4, John R. Miller, Charlotte A. Miller and their children Tirzah, George and Helen, Sally Cobb, William A. Hinds; June 26, George W. Noyes, Helen C. Noyes and their son Arthur; August, Daniel Knowles; October I, William H. Woolworth, Emma A. Woolworth and their daughter Helen, Achsah R. Campbell. Later a small family was established at Putney as a branch of the Oneida Community, to which its history belongs. It was finally withdrawn and the real estate sold on December 15, 1859.
These thirty-one adults and fourteen children constituted the entire roster of the Putney Community at the time of the migration. They became the nucleus around which Perfectionists from Central New York, Northern Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other places gathered as they heard the call of Bible Communism
"Thus the Putney Community died and rose again," wrote Noyes in The First Annnal Report of the Oneida Community.
1. The Oneida Community lasted from 1848 until 1880 inclusive. On January 1 1881, it was reorganized as a joint-stock company, and the experiment in Bible Communism came to an end.-G. W. N.