A Season In Utopia


Time had taken its toll of Sophia, the more religious of the Ripleys. When she moved to New York, she was too worn out to teach school. Long inclined toward the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, she was baptized into it in 1849, and her faith brought her peace and comfort during her last days. She died of cancer in 1861.

Though Ripley revered her memory, four years later he married a young German widow, Mrs. Augusta Schlossberger. Then began for George Ripley an Indian summer. Honors piled upon honors; and when he was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery his funeral was attended by dignitaries and literary lights from all over the nation.

Brook Farmers never stayed put—at the Farm, or in their return to “civilization.” Two of them who later distinguished themselves recorded for posterity what life in the community represented to them.

George William Curtis wrote from Europe: “The effect of a residence at the Farm, I imagine, was not greater willingness to serve in the kitchen, and so particularly assert that labor was divine; but discontent that there was such a place as a kitchen. And however aimless life there seemed to be, it was an aimlessness of the general, not the individual life. As an association, it needed a stricter system to insure success; and since it had not the means to justify its mild life, it necessarily grew to this …” Curtis was referring to the disbandment.

Isaac Hecker’s reminiscence is more poetic:

How many dreamers! How many dreams realized! How many expired in its expiration. It was not lost—not all. It was the greatest, noblest, bravest dream of New England. Nothing greater has been produced. No greater sacrifice has been made for humanity than the movement Brook Farm embodied. It collected the dreamers of New England. Brook Farm was the realization of the best dreams these men had of Christianity; it embodied them.