Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wedding Wednesday - A New Odessa Commune Wedding

It was 1885 and the 30 or so people of the New Odessa commune--near Glendale, Oregon--were preparing for a wedding.

These were Jewish exiles from Southern Russia, who disavowed religion and instead practiced the principles of Karl Marx. They had built a large structure that was kitchen and dining hall on the first floor, and dormitory and library in the upper story. The married couples had simple cabins. Though not vegetarians, their food was primarily beans, peas, and graham flour biscuits--all grown on the 200 acres they cultivated.

But a wedding day called for dried apple pies and custards. A jackrabbit ragout was the main course. Both floors of the hall were decorated with wildflowers and the tables set with linen instead of oilcloth. The bride and groom exchanged vows in Russian before the community. After the feast, they all went upstairs where the couple again exchanged vows, but this time in English. Having no instruments, three of the colony hummed the music so all could dance the night away.

A year later, the communal hall burned to the ground, taking with it the colony’s valued library. Soon after, the New Odessa commune ceased to exist.

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Written By Alice Mullally, October, 18, 2006 for As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

Sources: Beckham, Stephen Dow. Land of the Umpqua: A History of Douglas County, Oregon, 1986, p.248; “A Wedding Among the Communistic Jews in Oregon,” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, December, 1885, Vol. VI, No. 36.

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