Noyes, John Humphrey

Noyes, John Humphrey,

1811–86, American reformer, founder of the OneidaOneida
, city (1990 pop. 10,850), Madison co., central N.Y.; inc. 1901. Tableware was long the best-known product, and some is still manufactured in neighboring Sherrill, N.Y. Machine parts and food and dairy processing are among Oneida's industries.
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 community, b. Brattleboro, Vt. He studied theology at Yale but lost his license to preach because of his "perfectionist" doctrine. This took its name from Mat. 5.48 and was based on the belief that man's innate sinlessness could be regained through communion with Christ. At Putney, Vt., he formed (1839) a society of Bible communists, later called Perfectionists. In 1846 they began the practice of complex marriage, a form of polygamy, but this so aroused their neighbors that Noyes was forced to flee. In 1848 he established another community at Oneida, N.Y. (and later a branch at Wallingford, Conn.), where he developed his religious and social experiments in communal living. By 1879 internal dissension had arisen and outside hostility became so strong that Noyes went to Canada, where he spent the rest of his life. His writings include The Berean (1847, repr. 1969) and many pamphlets.


See G. W. Noyes, comp., Religious Experience of John Humphrey Noyes (1923, repr. 1971) and John Humphrey Noyes: The Putney Community (1931); R. A. Parker, A Yankee Saint (1935); P. B. Noyes, My Father's House (1937); C. N. Robertson, ed., Oneida Community (1970).

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Noyes, John Humphrey

(1811–86) minister, social reformer; born in Brattleboro, Vt. A first cousin of President Rutherford B. Hayes, he was inspired by revivalist preacher Charles Grandison Finney and he abandoned law to study divinity, eventually at Yale. Founding a revivalist "free" church there, he maintained that Christ's Second Coming had already occurred and that some beings could now live in "perfect" holiness. Forced to leave Yale, and deprived of a license to preach, he formed a community of Bible communists (1836) in Putney, Vt., to realize his message, which also included advocacy of spousal sharing. To escape prosecution for adultery, he fled to central New York and formed the Utopian Oneida Community (1848). He wrote extensively on social and economic experiments and advocated limiting the permission to procreate to an advanced elite; in 1879 he fled to Canada to avoid a charge of statutory rape. Oneida, the most successful of the American Utopian communities, was later reorganized as a business community.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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