GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 200-12
Presentation Time: 4:35 PM


ELLIOTT Jr., William S., Geology and Physics, University of Southern Indiana, 8600 University Blvd, Evansville, IN 47712

New Harmony is located in southwest Indiana and was established in 1814 by the Harmonists, a religious group led by Johann Georg Rapp. By 1824, New Harmony included family homes, community dormitories, a church, vineyard, orchards, the Rapp-Owen Granary, a shoe factory, brick kilns, and numerous outbuildings. Most of the buildings were constructed of brick with stone foundations of locally derived sandstone. Although the Harmonists were successful in establishing a comfortable frontier town, the transport distance for their goods was too great. In 1824, the Harmonists relocated and founded Economy, Pennsylvania, and subsequently sold the town of New Harmony.

Coincidently, Robert Owen, a Scottish social reformer, was searching for a community to establish an experimental Utopian society of artists, educators, and scientists. William Maclure, Father of North American Geology, partnered with Robert Owen and purchased New Harmony in 1825. The first artists, educators, and natural scientists arrived in 1826, and included Balthazar Abernasser (artist), Madame Marie Louise Duclos Fretageot (educator), Charles Alexandre Lesueur (artist and zoologist), Gerard Troost (geologist), and Thomas Say (conchologist and entomologist).

Although the Utopian experiment dissolved in 1827, New Harmony became an important scientific community. The following state geological surveys were completed by New Harmony geologists in the mid-nineteenth century: Tennessee (1836) by Gerard Troost; Indiana (1838-1839; 1859-1860), Kentucky (1853-1857), and Arkansas (1857-1860) by David Dale Owen; and Illinois (1851-1855) by Joseph Norwood. Moreover, David Dale Owen was the first federal geologist, who was appointed by Congress in 1847 to lead a geological survey of northern Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, and Wisconsin (1847-1851). The methods developed by New Harmony geologists in conducting geological surveys proved paramount to identifying economic natural resources vital to westward expansion in the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Elliott, 2018, GSA Presentation, Geological Surveys of New Harmony.pdf (3.1 MB)