Orderville Faithful Followed “Principle of Consecration”
By Dixie Brunner
Orderville, Utah became the pride of the Mormon Church in the late 1800s. Under direction of LDS President Brigham Young, a “United Order,” or system of communal living, was established. While the system was practiced by several communities at the time, the unique thing about Orderville was it worked well for over 20 years!
During a time of economic depression, the Prophet felt this life would make the Saints (LDS church members) more equal in temporal things, and individual values would accrue from a self-sacrificing way of living.
The “Order of Zion” was established on March 20, 1874. After a canvass, ward officers identified 94 people over 14 and under 96. Property from members turned into the common fund ranged from a few dollars to $4000, 430 acres of private land, 535 bushels of wheat and corn, and 360 bushels of oats and barley.
The movement became widely-known throughout the state, and over 800 people joined the group within two years.
The physical configuration of the communal site was a 25 by 40 foot lumber building, which was the community dining room. A kitchen with a large brick oven was built to the back. East and north of these buildings were shanty rows built into sections of eight, with high sides facing outward and entrances facing the center buildings. These were the participant family living quarters.
A large two-story structure with a porch and many small rooms was the special residence for the United Board (the LDS Church overseers of the commune), and their families. Board plank sidewalks lined with flowers fronted the dwellings.
Life was difficult for the United Order at first, but they were eventually blessed with good times. Orderville became recognized as the most self-contained town in the territory, and the Order was able to secure valuable ranches, rangelands and watering places on the Kaibab Mountain. They had over 5,000 sheep and increased the number of cattle ten-fold.
But passing time led to its eventual dissolution. Orderville was surveyed in 1884, and the people drew for lots, applying their credit on the Order’s books as payment. The next year the fields were surveyed and sold to the stockholders.
In 1889, the remaining stockholders bought the livestock and ranches. The actual expiration of the charter under which the United Order had operated was 1900.