Sunday, June 05, 2011

The First Vegetarian Community in Kansas

Well today was one of those the days that was good for pulling weeds in the garden as it was overcast. I did however look at one of those Today-In-Food-History websites and I came across this tidbit “Today in 1856 The first Vegetarian Community was established in Kansas.”

Well I thought that was interesting so browsing around I found The First Vegetarian Community in Kansas seems to have been Octagon City, never heard of it right? So a little about it. Octagon City was a failed intentional community that was founded in 1856 about six miles south of Humboldt, Kansas near the Neosho River. It was created by the Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company, headed by prominent vegetarian Henry Clubb and entrepreneurs Charles DeWolfe and John McLaurin. The original intent was to build a Vegetarian Colony on the south side of the Neosho River for vegetarians only, but investor interest in a non-vegetarian moral community was much higher and so the decision was made to build Octagon City on the north side of the Neosho River to make the entire project sustainable. Members of Octagon City were under oath to educate their children and uphold a moral lifestyle.

In their dreams Octagon City would feature an octagonal town square from which would radiate eight roads. Between the roads, in a four-square-mile area, sixty-four families would build octagonal farmhouses with octagonal barns.

In May of 1856, about 100 participating settlers arrived at the development site, expecting a blossoming town with grist mill and sawmill, but Like developers promises today (think Wood Creek) they found finding only one log cabin, one plow, and dozens of tents sheltering families.

To add to it, mosquitoes, rattlesnakes, thieving Indians, a flu-like epidemic ascribed to malnutrition, exhaustion, or malaria, the threat of Border Ruffians (think bloody Kansas), and strong thunderstorms discouraged people and by 1857 only four of the original residents were left and today there is nothing except the the tributary Vegetarian Creek.

I suppose you could say that God frowns on Vegetarians and not be incorrect.

A very interesting on-line book from Kansas Collection Books called WENT TO KANSAS; BEING A THRILLING ACCOUNT


An amazing story, it takes about an hour to read on-line but I recommend it. It is very much like the life the settlers lead who came to the Eastern Shore 200 years prior to Mrs. Colt journey. A short round up of the story is; Miriam Colt and her husband William, son Willie (3 year old) and her daughter Mema go to Kansas. Her husband was a vegetarian so he sold his farm and on April 16th 1856 they all load up to go west to Octagon City Kansas. Where they arrive on May 12th, only to find it is made up of tents and no saw mill nor grist mill. Many new adventures befall these Easterners in Kansas such as In trying to cook meals over an open fire she says

“ The bottoms of our dresses are burnt full of holes now, and they will soon be burnt off. If we stay here we must needs don the Bloomer costume”

It also would seem the place is full of snakes

“Have not allowed the children to stir from the cabin alone, for fear of the snakes; but for a few minutes ago gave them permission to go a few rods to pick some roses. Mema soon came running in, saying: "O! papa, I see a little snake out here." Her papa went out, and just where they were picking roses lay a great gray rattlesnake. He killed the snake and threw it away in the grass”

And by MAY 30TH. –“ Am wearing the Bloomer dresses now; find they are well suited to a wild life like mine. Can bound over the prairies like an antelope, and am not in so much danger of setting my clothes on fire, while cooking when these prairie winds blow”

The Indians stole from them. Their Oxen ran off. They all got sick with chills and fever. By August they had left Octagon City but with her husband, daughter, and son sick with the chills and fevers.

By Sept they were in Boonville MO, there her son Willie died, they were so broke she had to trade his clothing for a tombstone, while still in Boonville her husband died she had to sell his clothing for money to bury him. Eventually she gets back to New York has a drawn out discussion with her husband's life ins. co. finally receives the money and invests in mortgages at 10% interest and her mortgages turn into bad investments. It is like a soap opera but an interesting reflection on life in that time period.

Other stories about this colony; Kansas -- a Vegetarian Utopia


Anonymous said...

Hello, I live in Humboldt, kansas I love this story.. i just read the story earliertoday in a book called Women of the West by Cathy luchetti, i think it is a fascinating story!! thanks for posting it!!!! Dixie Newkirk

Anonymous said...

Great true story!! I live in Humboldt, Kansas!!!....Dixie