Historical Marker for the town of Utopia.


Field review by the editors.

Utopia, Ohio

Utopia was one of a number of "phalanxes" established in America in the mid-19th century, social communes fashionable for their time. All of them failed, but none as spectacularly as this one.

The community was founded in 1844. The original inhabitants were followers of French philosopher Charles Fourier, who believed that all work and profits should be shared equally. Its residents built a 30-room communal brick house and many private dwellings. But two years later the people were all gone -- moved away because the commune wasn't making enough money. And, frankly, they didn't get along with each other.

All of the land and phalanx buildings were sold to John Otis Wattles, leader of a group of spiritualists. Against the warnings of locals, Wattles had the main building moved, brick by brick, to the water's edge, by his followers. They were all gathered inside for a party on the evening of December 13, 1847, but the dancing was interrupted when a flash flood collapsed the walls, drowning 150 of the 156 people inside. Wattles somehow survived.

Ohio erected a historical marker, designating this "Utopia," in 2003. There's an underground church across the street where the Wattles people would practice their rituals. John Wattles' stone house is visible, supposedly haunted on rainy nights -- as is the riverbank -- by the dripping ghosts of his doomed, angry followers.

Utopia has a tiny general store, but the old couple inside, chain-smoking, didn't have any postcards or souvenirs. "Is it utopian here?" we asked. They hacked and laughed.


US Hwy 52, Utopia, OH
I-275 exit 71. Follow the Ohio River on US 52 east roughly 25 miles. On US 52, less than a mile west of the Clermont-Brown County line.
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September 30, 2020

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