CANADA’S FIRST COMMUNE
Plaque, about 10 miles northeast of Sarnia in the schoolyard behind Bright’s Grove Public School on Hamilton Road, across from Wildwood Drive, one block north of Lakeshore Road (County Road 7)
The plaque commemorates the Commune Toon O’Maxwell or Maxwell, named after a prominent British politician. In 1829 Henry Jones of Devon, England, a retired purser in the Royal Navy and devoted follower of Robert Owen, brought a group of more than 50 emigrants from the United Kingdom to settle on a 1,000-acre tract on the shores of Lake Huron. He organized the community on the basis of common ownership and collective living, and they built a common log house, with separate accommodation for families. The settlement failed after a few years for lack of experience, poor harvests and devastating fires. Diaries of the settlers are to be found at the Sarnia Public Library.
Jones was a follower of the ideas of Robert Owen (1771-1858. Owen believed in common ownership and equal rights and visualized a future society of self-governing communities of 300 to 2000 people which would gradually replace the evils of capitalism. Owen’s conceptions were born of many years of work through which he began to understand the injustice of the industrial revolution and capitalist society. By 1820 he began to refer to his views as “socialism”. He was unique as the first great utopian socialist to identify with and support the working class and support its efforts for unionism and social reform. An atheist, Owen condemned private property and its associated religion. He is remembered as the founder of the modern co-operative movement.