MG 0285 Raritan Bay Union and Eagleswood Military Academy Collection, 1809-1973
RARITAN BAY UNION AND EAGLESWOOD MILITARY ACADEMY Collection, 1809-1973. 1 ft.
A collection of letters, documents, and printed matter concerning the Raritan Bay Union and
its successor, the Eagleswood Military Academy. The Raritan Bay Union was a utopian community founded near
Perth Amboy in 1853 by Marcus and Rebecca B. Spring two years before the dissolution of
the North American Phalanx. Includes materials for Maud Honeyman Greene’s article
“Raritan Bay Union, Eagleswood, New Jersey,” NJHS Proceedings Vol 68, No 1 (January 1950).
Also includes materials collected by Beatrice Borchardt, a granddaughter of Marcus and Rebecca B.
Spring. Of special interest are the papers, 1837-50, of George Kephart, an Alexandria, Va.
slave trader, which belonged to Marcus Spring. Included is the correspondence of:
Boggs, J. Lawrence
Wright Mann, Mary
Campbell, Charles Garrison
Lloyd Partridge, William
Child, Lydia Maria
Gray, Harry P.
Compton, James S.
Spring, Rebecca B.
Kearny, James Lawrence
Ward, Marcus L.
Manuscript Group # 285
Raritan Bay Union and Eagleswood Military
Processed by Michele Barbetta, May 1983
Edited by Stephen M. Sullivan
This collection comprises mainly the
records of the Raritan Bay Union, a Utopian settlement founded in 1853, its successor, the
Eagleswood Military Academy, both located in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and the papers of
its founders, Marcus and Rebecca Spring.
The Springs corresponded
with such famous literary persons as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Margaret
Fuller and Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer –all of whom had been attracted to the
Utopian ideals upon which the Springs based their community. The correspondence of these individuals is
Of special interest are the financial
documents and, correspondence (l832-l864) of George Kephart, a slave trader in Alexandria,
VA, which had belonged to Marcus Spring.
Of further interest are some letters and
published articles of Mrs. Spring describing her visits with Absolom G. Haslett and Aaron
Dwight Stevens, two men executed for their participation in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s
Ferry in l859. Mrs. Spring was with these men
in the hours before their execution.
After the failure of the Raritan Bay Union
in 1860, Marcus Spring established the Eagleswood Military Academy (l86l-1888). The correspondence (l8?0-l) of Harry Gray,
(1885-1909) of J. Lawrence Kearny and (1923) of Ellen Wright Garrison, all former
Eagleswood students, is included.
Also included are the correspondence and
literary productions (l840-l973) of Beatrice Borchardt, granddaughter of the Springs,
the correspondence and research notes (1809-1929) of J. Lawrence Boggs, and the correspondence
and literary productions (1946-1955) of Maud Honeyman Greene, librarian and author of “Raritan Bay Union, Eagleswood, New Jersey.”
In addition, the Eagleswood
Military Academy Catalog reveals the composition and administration of the school.
Gift of J. Lawrence Boggs, 1950; Maud
Honeyman Greene, 1957; and Janice Dougherty, 1976.
Biographical Sketch/Administrative History:
In the thirty years before the Civil War,
American society was in the process of rapid and critical social transformation. The
public looked more closely, and disapprovingly, at government, education, and the moral
ramifications of slavery. People in every section of the country felt the stir
of change. Society was becoming industrial and the government was closer to the people. In New England, a group of intellectuals, the
Transcendentalists, felt this discontent. They
asked themselves how man could best improve the quality of American life. They questioned if improvement must come through
only political means or if it could be achieved through other means.
In this period of social agitation a
number of Utopian, communities were erected across the country. Some were religious, others socialistic,
but all had one thing in common: the belief in human perfectibility through the process of
social reform. New Jersey had two such communities. The
first, the North American Phalanx, founded in l842, lasted twelve years, and the second,
the Raritan Bay Union, founded by dissidents of the Phalanx in 1853.
Its founders were Marcus Spring and his
wife, Rebecca Buffum Spring. Spring was born
in Northbridge, Massachusetts, October 21, 1810. In
1836 he married Rebecca Buffum, born June 8, 1811, daughter of Arnold Buffum, a
Quaker, and the first president of the New England Anti-Slavery Society. After a successful business venture in New York,
Spring learned of the Phalanx. He and his
wife purchased several hundred shares of stock, but did not move there. Objecting to the Phalanxs religious
pluralism, Spring worked to establish a fixed liturgy.
But this only caused dissension among the other members. In 1852 he bought 268 acres of land on Raritan Bay
in New Jersey about one mile outside Perth Amboy and, with thirty other families (all
former members of the Phalanx) established the Raritan Bay
The Raritan Bay Union was meant to be a
social experiment that applied the idea of Association to communal life. Spring, who had been a director at the Phalanx,
intended his community to be “less communistic than the Phalanx, which had been
based on the principles of Charles Fourier, an eighteenth century French Utopian
socialist. The Raritan Bay Union
would resemble more closely the Religious Union of Association, founded in Boston in 1847
by Rev. William Henry Channing, a close friend of the Springs. The idea of Association, as expressed by
Charming, was to bring the Christian Church into the forefront of social reform. Thus, with other unitary settlements the Raritan
Bay Union shared the belief that society would change once it had witnessed the advances
of Utopian dwellings. What set the Raritan
Bay Union apart from the others was its economic design; no member was forced to surrender
his private property. In addition, little
emphasis was placed on the sharing of labor. Such
religious intent was reflected in the community’s constitution: “To establish branches of agriculture and
mechanics whereby industry, education, and social life may in principle and practice be
arranged in conformity to the Christian religion and where all ties conjugal, parental,
filial, fraternal and communal which are sanctioned by the will of God, the laws of nature
and the highest experience of mankind, may be purified and perfected; where the advantage
of cooperation may be secured and the evils of competition avoided by such methods of
joint-stock association as shall commend themselves to enlightened conscience and common
On February 14, 1853, the founders filed a certificate of incorporation for the
Raritan Bay Union. It was capitalized for
$500,000 and began business with $6,000 divided into 240 shares at $25.00 each. The stockholders were: George B. Arnold,
Clement O. Read, Albert O. Read, Theodore Weld and Sarah M. Grimke. The Board of Trustees was made up of: George B. Arnold, President; Clement O. Read,
Marcus Spring, George B. Arnold, Joseph L. Pennock and Sarah Tyndale, directors, Clement, Read, treasurer, and Angelina G. Weld, secretary. Corporate
existence began March 1, 1853.
George B. Arnold was the
brother-in-law of Marcus Spring and father of the poet George Arnold. Clement O. Read was Rebecca Spring’s
brother-in-law. Theodore Weld was a
nationally abolitionist and journalist recognized and his wife, Angelina
Grime, was one of the famous Grimke sisters.
From the start, the
Springs placed unusually large emphasis on education as a powerful means to effect social
change. A progressive school was established
for members. It was progressive in that it
was both co-educational and interracial while it aspired to combine abstract and
practical learning. The school was directed
by Weld, his wife and her sister, Sarah Grimke. James Steele Mackaye, an artist and former
pupil of George Inness, taught art. Mackaye, later an actor and playwright, act and
married the Springs daughter, Jeannie.
school achieved national recognition and attracted students from all over the country. So
vital was it to the success of the Raritan Bay Union that when it terminated in 1860
(the Welds left when their son became ill) the community fell apart. In 1861, Marcus Spring set up in its place the
Eagleswood Military Academy which attracted, among others, the son of Marcus Ward,
Governor of New Jersey.
New England artist George Inness came to
live at Eagleswood in 1864 at the request of Marcus Spring who intended to surround the
community with literary and artistic intellectuals. Though
he never paid rent, Inness did present Spring with his famous painting “Peace and
Plenty” as compensation.
Though apparently an educational success,
the Eagleswood Military Academy did not last. The
outbreak of the Civil War lured many of the Academy’s teachers and the school closed in
the late 1860s. Several years later it
became the Eagleswood Park Hotel until 1888 when the Eagleswood estate was sold by the
Mutual Benefit Insurance Company to Calvin Pardee who then established a tile business on
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact
successes and failures of both the Raritan Bay Union and its successor, the Eagleswood
Military Academy. Even more difficult is to
determine on what level it failed– social, political, religious or economic. Its
educational achievements are perhaps the most obvious triumphs. The Weld school, as
mentioned above, was a superb institution and Elizabeth Peabody, later founder of the
American kindergarten in Boston in l806 acquired much of her educational experience there. Less
successful, however, were the attempts to convince society that communal life offered
better living conditions.
More than anything else, its chief
handicap was the continued diversity of its members.
Religious pluralism caused Marcus Spring to leave the North American Phalanx. Unfortunately this same diversity was repealed at
the Raritan Bay Union. There was no unifying
ideology to which all members were committed. Such an ideology has been responsible for
the success of other unitary settlements and organizations like the Shakers and the
Inspirationists who have lasted over 100 years. Equally damaging was its failure to provide
individual comfort for its members. Communitarian experiments, rejecting revolution as a
program for change, instead put faith in gradualism.
In so doing, its members must renounce individual aspirations in favor of the
collective interests of the society. This
requirement was obviously asking too much. The
Grimke sisters, though intensely committed to gradual social reform, had no patience or
endurance for association life.
The community did attract the attention
and interests of many famous literary people of the day, particularly the New England
Transcendentalists, who thought they saw in the experiment a possible answer to society’s
ills. But even this was not a complete
success. New England philosopher Amos Bronson
Alcott lectured at the Raritan Bay Union several times, as did Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both Alcott and Emerson seemed impressed, but
Henry David Thoreau, visiting in 1856, made less than encouraging remarks.
Thoreau did not appreciate the Saturday evening dances or the residents who
“take it for granted that you want society.”
Though sincere in their endeavors to make
their community a success, the Springs themselves were totally consumed in it. Their
political involvements sometimes focused their attention away from the community. In 1859 after hearing the news of John Brown’s
raid on Harper’s Ferry, Mrs. Spring traveled from Perth Amboy to Charles, West Virginia to
see Absolom G. Haslett and Aaron Dwight Stevens, two of John Brown’s raiders sentenced to
death. Mrs. Spring comforted them in their
few remaining hours and promised to bury their bodies in “free” Northern soil. The two bodies were buried in a small cemetery at
Eagleswood and stayed there until 1899 when they were shipped to North Elba. N.Y. to rest
with the bodies of John Brown and the other raiders who took part in the Harper’s Ferry
Marcus Spring died August
21, 1874. Mrs. Spring then moved with her
daughter, Jeannie, and son, Herbert, to Los Angeles. Mrs. Spring died in 1911 several
months short of her 100th birthday.
Though their Utopian ideals had failed,
the Springs contributed to an interesting phase in the American past. The Raritan Bay Union and the Eagleswood Military
Academy remain fascinating episodes in New Jersey history.
Honeyman Greene, “Raritan Bay Union, Eagleswood, New Jersey,” Proceedings of
the New Jersey Historical Society Vol. 68, No. 1 (January 1950)
Scope and Content Note:
This collection contains essentially the
correspondence of Marcus and Rebecca Spring and the literary productions and
correspondence resulting from the research efforts of Beatrice Borchardt and Maud Honeyman
Greene. Though correspondence of William
Lloyd Garrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ellen Wright Garrison and Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne
and her sister, Mrs. Horace Mann are included, this material is minimal.
In their correspondence the Springs
discuss chiefly family affairs. The letters
are not revealing of their aims in establishing a unitary settlement or how they defined
idealism. A major topic with which Mrs.
Spring deals in her correspondence and published material is the hanging of Haslett and
Stevens which contribute to some understanding of her character. Though some of her religious sentiment can be
inferred from these letters, very little of her political thought is touched upon except,
of course, her obvious anti-slavery feeling. Even
less is revealed about Mr. Spring, although in one letter to Governor Marcus Ward he does
admit some of the obstacles he encountered in the establishment of his community. Still, Springs letters exclude any
information which would explain why he turned away from society, what he hoped to find and
if he ever found his ideal society. Similarly, none of the letters mentions
why and how the Raritan Bay Onion failed, Springs reasons for establishing a
military school, and the reasons for the military academy’s termination. The greatest
deficiency, however, is the exclusion of any kind of description of life at the Raritan
The letters of Margaret Fuller to the Springs are somewhat revealing of her personality but do not explain her ideology. The letters of Frederika Bremer disclose much
less. Excluded also is any information on Theodore Weld and the Grimke sisters who taught school at the Raritan Bay Union.
The chief strengths of the collection lay in the correspondence and literary productions of Beatrice Borchardt and Maud Honeyman
Greene. In the research efforts of both information pertaining to daily life at the Raritan Bay Union and the ideology of the Springs is available.
The collection spans the years between 1809 to 1973, but the bulk of the material spans from 1849 to l887.
1. J. Lawrence Boggs, correspondence and literary productions, 1809-1929 (64 items) Chronological
Letters and research notes resulting from Boggs inquiries into Eagleswood and Marcus Spring.
2. George Kephirt, correspondence and financial documents, 1832-1864 (4? items) Chronological
All letters concern Kephart’s business as a slave trader in Alexandria, VA. Of special interest is a bill of sale from Maryland acknowledging the sale of a negro woman to Isaac
J. Purvis. Included also are five receipts acknowledging the purchase of slaves, 1838-l840.
3. Beatrice Borchardt, correspondence and literary productions, 1840-1864 (28 items) Chronological
These letters concern the Eagleswood Military Academy. Included is a letter from Malcolm Lovell, a student at Eagleswood,
describing Marcus Spring’s attempts to establish a military school after the failure of the Raritan Bay Union. Lovell discusses the
opinions of other Eagleswood graduates regarding the school and his own opinion that his time there had been wasted. He criticizes the aims of Spring in establishing a progressive school. Of especial interest are copies of letters of Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Moore, a student at Eagleswood, discussing the school and the Springs. Also included are duplicates of three letters from
the Springs to William Lloyd Garrison, journalist, inviting him to Eagleswood.
4. Beatrice Borchardt, correspondence and literary productions, 1841-1973 (l6 items) Chronological
These letters deal with the members of Eagleswood and some information about George B. Arnold, a stockholder in the 1
Raritan Bay Union. Of special interest is the copy of the letter from Marcus Spring to Arnold. The letter reveals something of Spring’s personality and gives hints into Arnold’s. Arnold appears to have been concerned with improving man and with politics. Another letter, written by John Saitain, discusses a trip to Staten Island with Spring who was
then interested in buying a tarn on which to erect a Utopian settlement.
5. Margaret Fuller and Marcus and Rebecca Spring, correspondence, 1847-1850 (9 items) Chronological
Largely duplicates of writer and critic Margaret Fullers letters to the Springs, all were written during her stay in Italy.
Fuller discusses her husband and family and mentions Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer’s visit to the North American Phalanx. The letters reveal something of Fuller’s personality and her severe judgments of people.
6. Marcus and Rebecca Spring, correspondence, 1849-1869 (41 items) Chronological
Letters from Frederika Bremer, then in Stockholm. Included is an excerpt from a letter of Rebecca Spring to Mr. Hunter, the prosecuting attorney in the Harper’s Perry
incident. The letter includes details from Mrs. Spring’s visit with John Brown. Of especial interest is a letter from William Lloyd Garrison to Mrs. Spring regarding the conviction of two of Brown’s raiders, Absolom G. Haslett and Aaron Dwight Stevens. One letter is from Marcus to Rebecca on the day Margaret Fuller was killed in a shipwreck off
Fire Island near New York City. Spring, though not a witness, relates the news of the accident.
7. Marcus and Rebecca Spring, correspondence, 1850-1864 (10 items) Chronological
Included here are four letters to Ralph Waldo Emerson, inviting him to Eagleswood to lecture on “Natural Aristocracy.Also mentioned is Margaret Fuller’s stay in Italy and philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott’s talks at the Raritan Bay Union. The Springs admit the failure of their Utopian Ideals but insist that the school will stay open.
8. Literary productions, 1853 (2 items) Hymn written by Colonel Butler.
9. Correspondence, 1854-1867 (ll items) Chronological
All letters deal with the planned reunion of Eagleswood members
10. Mary Mann to Sophia Hawthorne, 1860 (2 items)
Here is a copy of an undated letter from Mrs. Horace Mann to her sister, Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, then in England. The letter mentions the hanging of Slovene and Haslett.
11. Printed material, 1863 (1 item) An autograph booklet of the Eagleswood Military Academy.
12. Marcus Spring, correspondence, 1863-1871 (3 items) Chronological
Included is a letter to Marcus Ward, then Governor of New Jersey, whose son was a pupil at Eagleswood. Spring discusses some of the “unfortunate
circumstances connected with the commencement of our undertaking.”
13. Printed material, 1866 (1 item)
The Eagleswood Military Academy Catalog.
14. Harry Gray, correspondence, 1870-1871 (23 items) Chronological
These letters concern Gray’s plans for a reunion of Eagleswood members.
l5. Genevieve St. Johns, correspondence, 1882 (1 item)
16. Rebecca Spring to J. Lawrence Kearny, 1885-1909 (43 items) Chronological
Mrs. Spring writes about her daily life in Los Angeles
17. J. Lawrence Kearny, correspondence, 1887 (l item)
18. Edward Spring to J. Lawrence Kearny, 1906 (l item)
19. W. W. Parker to J. Lawrence Kearny, April 8, 1918 (1 item)
This letter describes a visit to Eagleswood to see Edward Spring, son of Marcus and Rebecca.
20. Ellen Wright Garrison to J. Lawrence Boggs, Jan. 21, 1923 (1 item)
In this letter Mrs. Garrison, wife of William Lloyd Garrison, discusses a proposed history of Eagleswood. Mrs. Garrison was a pupil there in 1856-1857.
21. Beatrice Borchardt, correspondence, 1938-1973 (114 items) Chronological
Most of these are requests to various historical societies and libraries for information concerning the Eagleswood Military Academy.
22. Maud Honeyman Greene, correspondence. 19?6-1955 (2 items) Chronological
These letters concern Mrs. Greene’s inquiries into the Raritan Bay Union.
23. Beatrice Borchardt, correspondence and literary productions, 1952-1955 (9 items) Chronological
Most of these are requests to various historical societies and libraries for information on Utopian communities in general. Included is a report on the origins and brief histories of many utopian settlements in the United States. Also included are duplicates of Charles Sears’ “The North American Phalanx.”
24. Rebecca Spring, printed material (22 items)
Newspaper clippings include a published story of Rebecca Spring’s journey from Perth Amboy to Charleston, W. VA. to see the condemned raiders of Harper’s Ferry.
25. Jeannie P. Spring to J. Lawrence Kearny, no date (1 item)
26. Beatrice Borchardt. literary productions (7 items)
27. Maud Honeyman Greene, literary productions (14 items)
The galleyproofs and related materials for Mrs. Greene’s article.
28. Maud Honeyman Greene, literary productions (19 items)
These notes deal with the Raritan Bay Union. Included are excerpts from letters of Dr. Nathaniel Peabody to his daughter, Elizabeth Peabody, a teacher at Eagleswood and later
founder of the American kindergarten in Boston in 1806 Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing to George Bradford, discusses Amos Bronson Alcott a letter from Mrs. Horace Mann
to her husband; letters from Rebecca Spring to Miss Peabody, speaking about Stevens. Mrs. Spring relates her conversation with Stevens before his execution.
29. Albert E. Bestor, Jr., printed material and literary productions (12 items)
These are mostly articles written by Bestor, professor of history at Yale University, and editor of the Chautaugua Daily. Included are copies of Bestor’s articles on the evolution of socialist vocabulary, Albert Brisbane, and Bestor’s review of Thoreau by Henry Seidel Canby.
30. Poster of a Fourth of July excursion to Sespe Grove.
31. Photographic material (1 item) Matthew Brady photograph.