|The exhibit will be open from August 10, 2019 – December 31, 2019.
An exhibit about secession from the Harmony Society will open at Old Economy Village with a special reception on August 9th at 7:00 p.m. The exhibit focuses on all of the various people that left the Society, with emphasis on the Great Schism of 1832. Individual Harmonists “come alive” again through their own stories.
Members of the Harmony Society left for many reasons. For some, communal living was not ideal. Others wanted to have children, but the Society practiced celibacy. People that were born into the Society or people that were very young when they joined didn’t always agree with the beliefs and ways of the Society. Many more reasons for leaving are explored in the exhibit.
A tumultuous time in the Society’s history happened after the 1825 establishment of Economy. The Harmonist membership grew anxious that Christ would not return at the time that George Rapp prophesied. Then, in 1829, a savior was proclaimed in the form of a man named Count de Leon. He was the self-proclaimed anointed of God, chosen to carry on Jesus Christ’s work on Earth. Leon was very charismatic, and easily attracted people to his mission. However, George and Frederick Rapp soon disagreed with Leon. In 1832, one-third of the Harmony Society withdrew to follow this new leader.
Part of the exhibit consists of a wall of names of all the people that were Harmonists on March 6, 1832. That date was when everyone decided whether they were going to stay at Economy and remain loyal to George Rapp, or leave the Society with Count de Leon. The wall provides a giant image of the impact that this rift created for the Society. Most of the names are represented by copies of actual signatures from the secession agreement, many of which are in old German script.
The text for the exhibit was written by Eileen Aiken English. She is the author of other publications on seceders from the Harmony Society, including 1833 Residents of Phillipsburg (now Monaca), Pennsylvania and “The Road from Harmony,” published in the January 2007 issue of American Communal Societies Quarterly. English is a retired professor from California University of Pennsylvania.