Noyes, John Humphrey

Noyes, John Humphrey, 1811–86, American reformer, founder of the Oneida community, b. Brattleboro, Vt. He studied theology at Yale but lost his license to preach because of his “perfectionist” doctrine. This took its name from Mat. 5.48 and was based on the belief that man's innate sinlessness could be regained through communion with Christ. At Putney, Vt., he formed (1839) a society of Bible communists, later called Perfectionists. In 1846 they began the practice of complex marriage, a form of polygamy, but this so aroused their neighbors that Noyes was forced to flee. In 1848 he established another community at Oneida, N.Y. (and later a branch at Wallingford, Conn.), where he developed his religious and social experiments in communal living. By 1879 internal dissension had arisen and outside hostility became so strong that Noyes went to Canada, where he spent the rest of his life. His writings include The Berean (1847, repr. 1969) and many pamphlets.

See G. W. Noyes, comp., Religious Experience of John Humphrey Noyes (1923, repr. 1971) and John Humphrey Noyes: The Putney Community (1931); R. A. Parker, A Yankee Saint (1935); P. B. Noyes, My Father's House (1937); C. N. Robertson, ed., Oneida Community (1970).

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