Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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RAPP, George, founder of the sect of Harmonists, or Harmonites, born in Wurtemberg, Germany, in 1770; died in Economy, Pennsylvania, 7 August, 1847. He early conceived the idea of reforming modern society by the literal realization of the precepts in the New Testament, and collected a band of believers who were anxious to revive the practices of the primitive church; but the civil authorities interfered. Rapp and his followers therefore emigrated in 1803 to Pennsylvania, and on Connequenessing creek, in Butler county, organized a religious society in which all things were held in common, and members of both sexes adopted the practice of celibacy. Their settlement was named Harmony. By the cultivation of the land, and by weaving and other industries, they acquired wealth. In 1815 the community removed to a tract of 27,000 acres, lying along the Wabash river in Indiana. In their new settlement, which they called New Harmony, they attained a much higher state of prosperity. In 1824, however, they sold the land and improvements to Robert Owen for the purpose of establishing a socialistic colony, and settled in Beaver county, Pennsylvania, on the right bank of the Ohio river, seventeen miles northwest of Pitts-burg, where they built the village of Economy, containing a church, a school, a museum, a hundred dwellings, and mills for the manufacture of woollen cloth, flannels, cotton goods, carpets, and flour. Proselytes are received into the society, and admitted to full membership after a probation of six months. Those who sever their connection with the community receive back, without interest, the treasure that they put into the common store. Offences are punished by temporary suspension or expulsion. In 1833, 300 Harmonists were induced to leave the community by Bernhard Muller, an impostor, who had been admitted under the name of Proli, and who persuaded his dupes that he was the Lord's anointed, sent to establish the millennial kingdom. After founding New Jerusalem, near Pittsburg, Muller absconded with the greater part of $105,000, belonging to his followers, that had been paid out of the chest of the Harmonist community. The Harmony society increased in numbers by the accession of other converts. Rapp was the spiritual head and dictator of the community, and when he died his place was taken by the merchant Becker. On their farm, which embraces 3,500 acres, the Harmonists raise live-stock, pursue silk-culture, make wine, and cultivate flax, grain, fruits, and vegetables. In 1851 the village of Harmony was set off from the township of Economy.
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