Happy birthday, Jacob L. Beilhart (March 4, 1867 – Nov. 24, 1908)! Founder of the Spirit Fruit Society, a utopian community that had its origins in Lisbon, Ohio. Beilhart was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, to a Lutheran father and a ‪#‎Mennonite‬ mother. As the result of his life experiences, he came to believe that jealousy, materialism, and the fear of losing love were at the root of society’s ills. He felt that rejecting personal possessions was a means of attaining the “Fruit of the Universal Spirit.” More controversially, he advocated a form of free love, in which consenting adults were permitted to change partners. He also had a tolerant attitude towards homosexuality. The Society was launched in 1899, initially attracting about a dozen people. Members could come and go as they pleased. They did not proselytize. Bad publicity compelled them to move to Chicago in 1904, where they hoped to find a more liberal environment. In 1906 Beilhart purchased a 90-acre farm on the shores of Wooster Lake, near Ingleside, in Lake County, Illinois. In 1908, Beilhart died suddenly, and was buried by his fellow communitarians in an unmarked grave. The group decided to stay together, remaining on the Wooster Lake property until 1914, when they moved to an abandoned olive grove near Los Gatos, California. Dwindling membership caused the group to disband in 1930.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.
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