Icaria

Commune established by French immigrants southeast of present day Denton. Despite a promising beginning, weather, disease and an ill-conceived organization forced abandonment within a season. A future prominent citizen of early Fort Worth, Adolphe Gouhenant, who came across the Atlantic in 1848 with his comrades, wrote in his journal:
    16 February. Winds are favorable, and more gentle. Having determined the need to better know the diverse talents and skills among us, I devise a way to accomplish this. I assemble the council to communicate my plan regarding the organization of labor…

    4 March. I make a long speech to the old and new section chiefs. The Leclerc Commission will receive tomorrow the last official reports of the section chiefs. I copy the journal. At five o'clock, the council meets; first official verbal statement of the council: dissatisfaction of the council. I begin to detect a systematic opposition, which disturbs me somewhat…

Thanks to a beautiful Texas spring, colonist Rousset, wrote to his wife on May 26, 1848:

    If I were to give advice to my brother, I would tell him to come with you. We will be very happy here, because in this rich country, everything grows marvelously. We have wild grape vines, 100 feet high, filled with grapes; we will have to harvest the grapes among the trees; the fruit are already the size of peas. I think that we will begin harvesting in one month. Everything grows much more quickly than in France; we saw a field of wheat harvested in the first days of May…

    We had to do as the old soldiers of Napoleon did, we slept on the ground without becoming discouraged; on the contrary, when it rained, we made, with our songs, more noise than the thunder. You see that the climate of Icaria is healthier than that of France, because not one of us has been sick.

    The weather is like the month of July in France, but the breezes are refreshing. We haven't yet seen any dangerous animals; there are lots of deer and game in general, as well as poultry, turkeys, geese, wild ducks, partridges, and larks. It is one of the most beautiful lands in the world.

One colonist describes his new neighbors:

    We have been welcomed warmly by the Americans, who are, I believe, the most hospitable people in the world. They frequently accompanied us a long way, to show us our route. Their customs are very simple, their demonstrations of friendliness are manifested in a handshake. They offer food and drink freely, and it is accepted freely. They are very curious about the objects which they see, and I sincerely believe that we will be able to carry on a brisk trade with them, exchanging the products of our factories for their raw materials, and livestock. They are very sober. They speak little, and very softly. They are generally big and strong; I don't think that they are very lively. The women are very tall and thin. They almost all smoke. Their houses are as simple as possible, all of logs, placed one on top of the other, the space between the logs hardly filled. They have no furniture, their beds are very bad. They have, however, wool, corn leaves, etc., but they don't bother to use them to make mattresses, or they don't know how…

    One sees no stone houses, but there are quarries, and some day we will have beautiful monuments… five of the brothers who became lost en route arrived today. We saw them arrive with four horsemen; these horsemen are Texan soldiers Texas rangers, who received them in their camp. The captain had his soldiers guide them here…

The first hint of real trouble appears in a letter of August 20th :

    The Americans have told us that, in July and August one should, in this climate, abstain from all labor; that this is the most important condition which emigrants should observe, to lessen the illnesses of acclimatization… What we regret most is that our pharmacy is most incomplete. We lack many very useful medicines, especially the Raspail pharmacy which, in our view, would be of great assistance.

An August 29th letter from a new arrival describes the tragic conditions:

    How can I depict to you the situation in which I found our brothers? Almost all who remain are sick. Four are dead. The first was Guillot; the second, Collet, struck by lightning; the third, Guerin; and the fourth, Sauge!

    The least sick prepare the food, and the effort causes them to fall ill again.

    The sun is so hot, that if one is exposed to its rays, one is almost certain to develop fever. I didn't hesitate an instant in getting here, because so many were waiting only for our arrival, in order to obtain assistance in leaving.

Information collected from the book, The Fort in Fort Worth, by Clay Perkins.


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