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La Reunion (Dallas)

La Réunion was a socialist utopian community formed in 1855 by French, Belgian, and Swiss colonists approximately three miles west of the now defunct Reunion Arena and nearby Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas and near the forks of the Trinity River in Texas, USA. The founders of the community were inspired by the utopian thought of the French philosopher Francois Marie Charles Fourier. Followers of Fourier established 29 similar colonies in various parts of the United States during the 1800s. The colony near present-day Dallas was incorporated into the emerging city of Dallas around 1860.

Brief history

La Reunion intended to become a socialist Utopian colony inspired by the writings of the French philosopher Francois Marie Charles Fourier who advocated communal production and distribution for communal profit. Unlike other communist systems, both men and women could vote and individuals could own private property.

Founder of La Reunion

La Reunion was founded in Texas by Victor Considerant, a member of the Fourier movement in Lyon, France who had been forced into exile after staging protests against the Roman expedition by Napoleon. After personally inspecting an area approximately three miles west of the present Reunion Arena and Reunion Tower in the Reunion district of downtown Dallas, and near the three forks of the Trinity River in Texas, he returned to Europe where he formed a group of future settlers.

Land purchase

Advance agent Francois Cantegral was sent ahead to sell 2 acres (8 km²) at $7.00 per acre ($1700/km²) to establish the location of colony. Unfortunately it was a poor choice for the intended purpose because it was not good farm land, although the would-be colonists were not farmers. Approximately 200 colonists arrived in Texas when their ship docked near present-day Houston. They then walked approximately 250 miles northwards with their possessions being hauled by ox carts to the site of their new colony and arrived on April 22, 1855.

Original population

The general area surrounding the three forks of the Trinity River was already populated by approximately 400 people who had settled there. The French colonists expanded this general population by fifty percent. The new arrivals spoke a different language from the existing population, believed in a different system of government, and brought with them skills that the existing farmers did not possess. Unfortunately the watchmaking, weaving, brewing and storekeeping qualifications of the new colonists were ill-suited to the establishment of a colony, because they lacked the ability to provide food for themselves.

Texas weather

Although the colonists did manage to grow wheat and vegetables the amount produced was not sufficient and it was not produced when it was most needed, although their biggest handicap was the uncooperative weather of Texas. In May of 1856 La Reunion was almost wiped out when a blizzard destroyed its crops and turned the Trinity River into a sheet of ice. That summer the unforgiving Texas heat created drought conditions and what was left of the crops became a feast for an invasion of grasshoppers.

Decline of La Reunion

Although over 350 European colonists eventually made La Reunion their home, the experiment was already beginning to fail as its population began to leave. Some returned to Europe while others just moved out of the area. In 1860 the nearby emerging town of Dallas incorporated La Reunion into its own land area and absorbed the skills of the remaining colonists into its general population.

Few reminders remain

Eventually what had been attempted as farmland at La Reunion was discovered to be covering large deposits of limestone and little by little it was carted away for use in building the growing state of Texas. The remains of some colonists were located a short distance away in a now disused cemetery and a small memorial was located on a nearby golf course. Reunion Tower, which is now a Dallas landmark, was named after the colony, although it is located some distance away from where La Reunion once existed.

Legacy

Shortly before the complete demise of La Reunion, botanist and pharmacist Jacob Boll arrived and taught Julien Reverchon who later became celebrated in his own right as a professor of botany at Baylor University College of Medicine and Pharmacy in Dallas. The first brewery and butcher shop in Dallas were established by former colonists from La Reunion and Maxime Guillot opened a carriage factory that remained in business for 50 years.

See also

References

  • Santerre, George H. White Cliffs of Dallas. The Book Craft, Dallas, 1955. Dallas Public Library Reference: R.976.428 S234W. The Story of La Reunion, the Old French Colony.
  • Considerant, Victor. Au Texas. New York, 1855. Dallas Public Library Reference: REF R334.683 C755A 1975. In French.

External links

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