Rising Star

Rising Star Association. Ultrachrome print, text panel. 2016. Image courtesy the artist.

Location: Darke County, near Greenville, Ohio

Duration: 1853-1857

Affiliation: Spiritualism / Free Love Movement

Size: 13 members on 400 acres

“The world is rotten ripe for change.” – The Social Revolutionist

The Rising Star Association was a communal society founded by John Patterson and based upon the ideas of individual freedom, free education, care for the elderly and sick, and equal rights and treatment of the sexes. Rising Star published a periodical called The Social Revolutionist that was distributed to some 450 subscribers in major cities across the eastern United States. Of the many progressive topics covered in the journal, one frequent subject was Free Love.
C.M. Overton, editor of the The Social Revolutionist, stated well the Free Love philosophy when he wrote in April 1857:
“Free Love is a doctrine of Spiritualism. I say of Spiritualism, not of Spiritualists. Many recognize the facts of Spiritualism who know little of its philosophy. But will any intelligent Spiritualist deny that the concurrent testimony of the spheres proves that their inhabitants are controlled in their love relations not by arbitrary outside authority but by the law of attraction, affinity or Free Love? Is it not a conceded fact that the angels do not have to be hauled up before a magistrate to legalize their marriages? How supremely ridiculous the idea that the men and women of Paradise live together on the cat and dog principle because it wouldn’t be respectable to separate! They are not so generous there as to sacrifice their individual happiness for the good of the community. They are not so senseless there as to stay together and scratch and pull hair from a sense of duty to their children or other members of the community, when these other members are doing the same thing from the same laudable motive! The fact that they break up false relations there and form new ones is as well established and is just as much a part of the Spiritual or Harmonic Philosophy as the doctrine of Endless Progression.”

Reason for Demise: There were plans to expand the community, as a convention drew seventy-five people, and hundreds of additional letters testified to widespread interest in forming a larger association. These efforts were later curtailed because local public sentiment turned hostile. Rising Star Association members initially thought public sentiment was “not only perfectly tolerant, but decidedly more and more in our favor.” Ultimately however, several people were arrested on charges of “adultery, fornication, keeping a house of prostitution.” Although acquitted, they were restrained by these legal actions and threats of violence from vigilantes. Moreover, the demise of the journal was hastened when local citizens overpowered a Rising Star Associate and burned several hundred copies of the November 1857 issue of The Social Revolutionist.