|Henry John Jones (Jr) Journal, December 1860.|
Friday, June 3, 2011
Lambton’s Communal Experiment: The Maxwell Settlement
One of the most interesting stories of European settlement in Lambton County comes from an ardent believer in socialist theory, a man named Henry Jones. He brought settlers from Scotland to Lambton County to establish a communal settlement in the late 1820s.
Jones was inspired by Robert Owen, a Welsh entrepreneur and social reformer. Owen was disheartened by the wretched working conditions that plagued Britain during the industrial revolution, and introduced socialist reforms in the mill he managed in New Lanark. He provided educational facilities for his workers; started a company store with lower prices and credit; and wrote essays about communes and social living.
Owen delivered lectures on socialist living, and one of these lectures was heard by our Henry Jones. Jones was inspired to establish an Owenite colony populated with displaced British workers in the New World.
Unfortunately, Maxwell proved to be unsustainable. The women became disgruntled with the communal kitchen and dining room. There were whispers from some of the men about Jones, who saw himself as the group’s leader. Following the tenants of social theory, Jones believed human beings were inherently selfless, hard-working, and good intentioned. It turned out this was not the case.
Lambton’s experiment in communal living may have failed, but Jones left a legacy. He is credited with bringing an optimistic spirit of community and freedom to Lambton while the area was still wild and untamed. Additionally, the center street of a lot he owned was subdivided and named Maxwell Street after that fledgling communal settlement.