Friday, February 19, 2016

The Shalem (Shalam) Colony

As I drove north from Las Cruces the other day I spent time on "Shalem Colony Trail," and wondered what that meant. There was a historical roadside marker as the Trail intersected NM 185, which I  couldn't read.

It's actually pretty interesting.  Here's the lead paragraphs from an article on the New Mexico Historical Society web site:

Shalam was founded by a New York dentist and doctor named John B. Newbrough and a group of his religious followers called Faithists. Newbrough claimed to have written a new Bible, called Oahspe, while under spirit control. Contained in this Bible was "The Book of Shalam," which set forth a plan for gathering the outcast and orphaned children of the world and raising them, according to strict religious principles, to be the spiritual leaders of a new age.

Newbrough and some twenty Faithists decided to create such a place as described in "The Book of Shalam."

In 1884, Shalam Colony was finally established on the banks of the Rio Grande, one mile from the village of Doña Ana. It is generally believed that without the help of the villagers of Doña Ana, the colonists would have suffered even more than they did the first year. The villagers showed them how to cook beans and make adobe bricks, and other skills necessary to survive in this new land. Financed by a wealthy wool merchant from Boston, Andrew Howland, the colony was developed into one of the finest agricultural areas of the Southwest. Nearly a million dollars was spent to build and furnish fine buildings and maintain a herd of prize dairy cattle, build a chicken farm with heated runs, and develop a reservoir and irrigation system which was far ahead of its time.

Disaster befell the colony in 1891 when John Newbrough died of influenza.

The full article is here.  Another 19th century utopian vision!  The Amana colonies in Ohio were contemporaneous, as were the Shakers in the northeast. 

Today, The Shalem colony seems to be a community of high-priced homes. 

No comments:

Post a Comment