Geography and Physical Description
Ceresco was located in what is present-day Ripon, Wisconsin in western
Fond du Lac County, roughly eighty miles northwest of Milwaukee. It was
originally described as a beautiful valley filled with rolling hills and
streams. The soil was rich and fertile, while local mineral deposits aided
construction. The village sat on over 1100 acres of land when its borders
received legislative approval in January 1845. It grew to over 1600 acres
by 1846. The setting was ideal for the commune lifestyle Fourier envisioned.
Despite the geographical benefits of this setting, it was still hard for
the phalanx to become established.
Arriving in May of 1844, the settlers planted just enough crops to last
them through a harsh winter, one so bad that it almost delayed the phalanx
formation. They first constructed three twenty-by-thirty foot buildings
that were one and half stories tall. The original buildings were not completed
before winter, however, the situation improved come spring and summer.
The three original housing structures were refurbished and combined to
create one larger building, large enough to hold most of the 180 members.
Eventually a new building known officially as the Long House was built
to house about twenty families, while Chase claimed it could hold thirty.
It was over two-hundred feet in length and thirty-two feet wide.
Although Fourier felt children should have assisted in the industrial
and agricultural sectors of the phalanx, the members felt children needed
an adequate education so a school was built in June, 1845. That building
was to be between eight and nine feet tall, twenty feet wide, thirty feet
in length and built of stone. Education proved to be important because
many children would not have been able to work in the chosen industrial
activities at Ceresco.
The industrial and mechanical division of the phalanx did not prosper
to the level many hoped. However, Ceresco still featured buildings devoted
to industry and labor. The blacksmith shop was located near the northern
most point and a saw mill lie almost directly to the east. Industry originally
suffered because not enough craftsmen were available for labor, but eventually
a lack of excess capital to pay them curbed production. This was especially
true in the case of the grist mill.
A grist mill was used for producing wheat and flour. The one at the phalanx
was thirty feet by forty feet and nearly three stories high. Architects
started constructing it almost immediately after Ceresco was founded,
but it was not in operation until 1847. Chase proclaimed it would be one
of the best mills in the area, but it had a terrible location and inadequate
water supply. Nonetheless, it turned a profit because the community had
invested so much capital and land for agriculture, especially wheat.
Seven-hundred acres were set aside for cultivation, which was thirty-nine
percent of the phalanx’s land. Here they planted wheat, hay, corn,
potatoes and other common garden vegetables. In 1847, a nursery and orchard
were promoted because there was too much dependency on growing wheat.
Cerescans also increasingly traded with local communities. In addition
to grain and vegetables the community raised 350 head of sheep and 400
hogs alongside their beef and dairy cattle.
Other structures included, but were not limited to a small workshop, hen
house, ash house and wash house. A cooperative store that was built in
1849 but lasted only one year.
Today, at least one of the building of Cersesco still stand. A historical
marker stands in the general vicinity to remind visitors and the city
of Ripon of the historical experiment that took place there.
The image will link you to various maps of Ceresco. The first map is
a Town Platt of 1849, which indicates where buildings were located and
how some land was divided for cultivation. Other maps show some of the
natural resources available in Ceresco and the value of certain property
Oshkosh Mss CY
UW Oshkosh Archives and
Area Research Center
click image to see .pdf version
A very descriptive letter from the phalanx written in 1845. It is dated April 15, but was printed later. It covers many aspects and gives the reader a vision of what Ceresco might have looked like.
May 20, 1845
click image to see .pdf version