Sarobia: Mystery and Mayhem

Picture of Robert and Sara Logan, relaxing in their garden.

Photo Courtesy of Bensalem Historical Society

The Logans’ experiment at Sarobia mirrored Brook Farm’s commune in West Roxbury, Ma., from the mid-19th century (1841-47), with respect to socialistic values and transcendentalism: a philosophy which says that thought and spiritual things are more real than ordinary human experience and material things (Merriam-Webster).

The Massachusetts’ example of practicing socialism as a way of life—albeit a concept abhorred by modern-day, conservative, American politicians, and a continual source of US paranoia—predated Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto by seven years. Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of Brooks Farm’s founding members, who wrote about his experiences fictionally in the writer’s work: The Blithedale Romance (1852).

The utopian community in West Roxbury followed the idealism of an early-19th-century socialist, François Marie Charles Fourier, a French philosopher whose radically conceived views during his lifetime, influenced today’s society in general, most notably by his coining of the term “Feminism.”

Brook Farm’s residents worked altogether, male and female, to maintain the community’s well-being as a whole: building the housing, caring for livestock, milking the cows, tilling and harvesting the land, growing their food from 170 acres owned by the proprietors: Unitarian minister George Ripley and his wife, Sophia. In return for the farmers’ and workers’ efforts, the people were fed, sheltered, clothed, and guaranteed a percentage of the profits made by the commune’s various enterprises.

Talented craftspeople, makers of fine garments, painters of artistic articles and knickknacks to be sold at shops in Boston (eight miles/thirteen kilometers away), contributed to the finances of the compound, as did the selling of hay, fruits, milk and vegetables. Brook Farm was also an elite prep-school, attracting students from influential families far and wide, from which the majority of the commune’s funds were derived along with charging their guests a fee to visit and stay there.

Unfortunately for the Ripleys, Brook Farm’s experiment with socialism failed due to financial ruin after their uninsured Phalanstery, a massive building under-construction to be used ultimately as self-contained housing and facilities for the entire community, burnt to the ground. The Boston Fire department got there too late. The majority of the commune’s treasury was invested into the project, and those funds were never recovered as a result of the tragic fire, attributed to a faulty chimney.

All the best-laid plans seem to fall awry; or as Robert Burns put it, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft a-gley,” it seems.

Robert and Sara Logan began their enlightened journey into Theosophy and transcendental thought in the late-1910s, establishing their own utopian society in the 1920s, an era of flappers, Jazz, Art Deco, and Prohibition: a wild, decadent decade for many, at least until the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

The Logans not only invited their Theosophic compatriots to partake in the experimental commune on Sarobia, but artist, poets, writers, actors and artisans joined their small community as well, assuming the duties of the servants previously let go in adherence to Annie Bessant’s suggestions, as mentioned in this prior entry.

A 1983 article in Philadelphia’s now-defunct newspaper, The Evening Bulletin, stated the following:

    Logan spent his time collecting “stray people,” such as an artist who lived at the estate and once built himself caves along the Delaware so he could spend the summer by the river.

A woman at the Bensalem Historical Society, who later maintained the remains of Sarobia after Logan’s death, said those caves were covered over as a safety precaution for park-goers, a quest for this writer to try and find them now.

More at next installment…

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About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at Lulu.com.
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