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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

LA REUNION

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
La Reunion was a democratic socialist experiment in the most unlikely place in the world.

Of course Dallas was not nearly so large in 1855 when the commune was founded, but one might still imagine H.L. Hunt or Melvin Munn, later residents of the area well known for anti-socialist leanings, having nightmares just to know these socialists occupied the same region. Modern citizens of Dallas or frequent visitors to the city are familiar with the lighted bulb known as Reunion Tower, which dominates one quarter of the Dallas skyline, or perhaps with the arena of the same name. Probably few are aware that the original La Reunion was a French colony populated by the followers-partners of its founder, Victor Prosper Considerant. Considerant, in turn, was a disciple of Francois Marie Charles Fourier, an economist and philosopher who theorized that humans could achieve more by living and working communally and sharing according to their investment of capital and labor.

Considerant visited the area destined to be Dallas in 1852 and decided that its climate and location would be ideal for the first La Reunion commune. Eventually he hoped to found many more of them in America, all connected in a network. Considerant organized the Societie de colonisation europeo-americaine au Texas, a joint-stock company, as sponsor of the colony, and discovered over 2,000 people who expressed interest in becoming colonists. Unfortunately, only 200 made the first trip, although others came late.

They sailed from France in 1855 and reached the port of Galveston, then traveled overland to the site Considerant had selected on the south bank of the Trinity River. There, Considerant's luck ran out.

Though the area later supplied tons of limestone for construction projects, it was not well suited for farming, the only available occupation at the time. Severe winters and summers, rising prices, and many other discouragements resulted in people leaving almost at the same rate of arrival of new and eager Frenchmen, who also soon became discouraged. La Reunion's population never exceeded 350 persons, and by 1857 it had ceased to exist as a commune. Some of the colonists remained, but on land they acquired as personal property from the company. Others moved on to other frontiers or returned to France.

If they had asked H.L. Hunt, he would have told them it would have worked out that way.
All Things Historical
August 23 , 2004 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Dr. Archie McDonald is the Associaton's executive director and the author of more than 20 books on Texas history.)

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