Francis Edward Severit
Baron of Lockhurst
Francis Severit
Reign: 10 June 1845-18 May 1878
Coronation: None
Predecessor: Barony Created
Successor: Lord David Severit
Consort: Rebecca Marie Miller
Issue: David Francis, Anne Marie, Edward John, Sarah Elizabeth, Margaret Ann
House: House of Severit
Father: Jonathan David Severit
Mother: Emma Elizabeth Everett
Birth: 3 September 1802
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Death: 18 May 1878
Deathplace: Clancy, Lockhurst

Lord Francis Edward Severit, Baron of Lockhurst (3 September 1802-18 May 1878) was the head of state and government of the Barony of Lockhurst from 1845 until his death in 1878. He created the Barony from the original utopian intentional community of Lockhurst in Vermont. Predicting its demise along with most other Transcendentalist communes, he proclaimed himself the Baron of Lockhurst in 1845. He is credited as the "Father of the Modern Commune" for his work with intentional communities during the nineteenth century.

Early Life

Born on 3 September 1802 in Boston, Massachusetts to Jonathan David Severit (1773-1841) and the former Emma Elizabeth Everett (1780-1857). He attended public schools in Boston to the age of sixteen, at which time he was sent to Harvard to study law. While at Harvard, Francis was influenced by the Unitarian theology of the professorship and began attending lectures at the School of Theology. Although he earned a degree in law in 1821, he continued his education, earning a second degree in theology in 1823. He was ordained a Unitarian minister the following year and became a student of the Transcendental philosophy. He opened a law practice in Boston in 1824 and became an influential member of Boston society. He met Rebecca Miller, the daughter of Unitarian minister Dr. Stephen Miller, in 1825 and began a two year courtship that ended with their marriage in 1827.

Rebecca gave birth to the couple's first child, daughter Anne Marie, in October 1829 at the townhouse Francis had purchased earlier in the year. Another child, David Francis, joined the family in 1831. In 1832, Francis joined a group of Transcendentalists who met regularly at Thomas Mayfield's bookstore. They met every week and became prominent within the Transcendental community. In 1834, Rebecca gave birth to another son, Edward John, followed by two more daughters, Sarah Elizabeth in 1836 and Margaret Ann in 1838.

Lockhurst Farm

During the winter of 1836-37, Francis began influencing the Transcendental group to found an intentional community as many other groups were at the time. They eventually agreed to invest in a plot of land in New England for an experimental commune. They began seeking investors for their venture, raising funds slowly until March 1838, when they purchased five hundred acres of farmland in Vermont. On 29 March 1838, the entire group moved to the farm, settling in hastily built cottages. Francis was chosen as one of the first five original trustees to make important decisions for the group as a whole. The first year at Lockhurst was long and hard for its residents, with the immediate spring planting in April, tending the livestock and fields during the summer while constructing barns and silos, and the fall harvest. By winter, although the population had grown slightly, the residents were exhausted and looking forward to an easier winter. However, firewood needed chopping, the livestock still needed tending, and self-sufficient industries needed to be created.

The new farmers survived the long Vermont winter, and started the spring with a fresh planting. The women and children assisted with the crops and livestock during the summer of 1839 while the men constructed better homes for their families and a meeting hall. Already, Francis was negotiating with neighboring landowners to purchase tracts to support the growing population. The harvest of 1839 was abundant, ensuring a successful winter. That winter, the men braved the cold to build a new textile mill for the women to operate year round. By 1840, the community was running well. Although some residents left over time, more always arrived to take their place. Families were relatively large, and some of the older children were able to help with chores.

In 1842, Francis moved his family into a new cabin as his children grew up and needed additional room. With the departure of the Reverend Josiah Knowles in August 1841, Francis became the Unitarian minister for the community until another arrived in March 1842. However, the hard work, little leisure time, and lack of full amenities began to take their toll on the community in 1842. Many residents were becoming disillusioned with the experiment and had to be convinced to remain. Francis worried that their community would fail unless it could become self-sufficient without requiring all its residents' time. The trustee form of management was failing, as the trustees could not agree on any issue. The population dropped significantly in 1843 as Trustee Henry Mueller departed with his entire family. Although newcomers continued to settle at the farm, a constant rotation meant that there was little stability within the community.

By spring of 1845, the situation had become grim, the population was declining, the residents were disgruntled, and the farm was suffering from lack of attention. On 10 June 1845, Francis called the residents together in the meeting hall and announced that henceforth, Lockhurst Farm would be known as the Barony of Lockhurst, and that he would be known as the Baron of said Barony. He disbanded the board of trustees temporarily and set about creating a schedule that the residents could agree with.

Pre-War Barony

From the start, the new citizens of the Barony were excited by this change in the experiment. With renewed vigor, they set about their tasks, reveling in the new free time they experienced. The population quickly surged, resulting in the need for more construction in what was now known as Clancy, Lockhurst. Lord Francis reinstated the Board of Trustees in 1846, but limited their power within the community. He continued to govern Lockhurst under the original charter, making only slight changes to the document over the ensuing years. As a Barony, the community flourished. In 1847, a Unitarian Church was built in Clancy, followed by a modern school building in 1850. In 1849, Lord Francis commissioned the minting of coinage for the Barony, which continued to be minted until 1866. By 1852, the population demanded a medical facility built to accommodate their illnesses. Francis persuaded Dr. Henry Caufield to open a practice in Clancy the following year and ordered the construction of a ten-bed medical ward. When the medical ward opened in 1854, Dr. Caufield was appointed Senior Physician.

Slavery was outlawed by the Lockhurst Charter, and illegal in Vermont, therefore relieving the citizens of Lockhurst from the slavery crisis raging across the United States in the 1850s. However, a small group of abolitionists had organized a society in 1848 in Clancy, and were campaigning for the end of slavery in all corners of North America. In 1855, Lord Francis caved to their demands that he send a representative to President Franklin Pierce in Washington City. He appointed Nathaniel Barton as the Lockhurstan Consul to the United States in November 1855, tasking him with influencing the President and Congressmen to benefit the Barony. He made no reference to slavery, as Francis was weary of the effect that it was having on North American politics at that point. The Clancy Abolition Society sent their own representative to Washington City in March 1856.

Despite ruling the Barony, Francis continued to work alongside his citizens in the fields everyday and occasionally would give a sermon at the Clancy Unitarian Church. In May 1859, he and his wife, Rebecca, traveled to Washington City to meet President James Buchanan and confer with him on the status of Lockhurst. After a day of meetings with the President and the State Department, they agreed that Lockhurst would exist as "an independent autonomous region within these United States" until such time as another arrangement was made. They returned to Lockhurst in October 1859 after a leisurely trip back up the eastern seaboard.

As many of their old Transcendental friends passed away throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Lord Francis and Lady Rebecca became some of the few remaining adherents to Transcendentalism. In 1860, Francis called together a town meeting of the residents of Lockhurst to discuss the revitalization of the Transcendental movement within the Barony. After meeting for five days, they passed the Clancy Accords, an addendum to the Lockhurst Charter that renewed the communities commitment to the tenets of Transcendentalism.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, the Clancy Abolition Society drafted a company of Lockhurstans to serve in the Union Army. Lord Francis spoke out against participation in the conflict, as he was maintaining neutrality, but the company left for training in Massachusetts in May 1861.

Civil War Period

Attempting to maintain neutrality, Lord Francis cut off trade between the Barony and the United States in summer 1861, choosing to trade solely with Canada, which was only miles north of Lockhurst. Nathaniel Barton returned to Lockhurst in early 1862 at the request of Francis, although the abolitionist representative remained in Washington. However, as the war raged on, the sentiment of Lockhurstans changed, sympathizing with the Union. Recognizing the public sentiment, he declared Lockhurst's support for the Union cause and sent Benjamin Reddy to Washington City as the Consul in March 1864. The following month, Reddy negotiated the reopening of trade between the two nations. By the war's end in 1865, seven Lockhurstan soldiers had perished in the war, and another four had been severely wounded. The survivors were welcomed back to Lockhurst with a celebration in Clancy in June 1865, ending Lockhurst's war participation.

During the war, Lord Francis had honored the trustees in 1863 by creating them as Baronets, while renaming the board of trustees the High Council. From 1863 onward, the members of the High Council were always bestowed Baronetcies upon election.

Post-War Barony

After the Civil War, relations between the United States and Lockhurst stabilized and trade continued as before. In 1868, with an increasing population and much larger land area, Lord Francis established the Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce to aid in the day to day operations of those sectors of the economy. On 2 January 1869, Lady Rebecca passed away after suffering from pneumonia through the end of 1868. She laid out at the Clancy Unitarian Church before her burial in the Lockhurst Cemetery on 4 January 1869. After her death, Lord Francis lost his joy for life and rarely left his house in Clancy afterward. He committed his remaining years to philosophical study, writing several texts that continue to be used in the study of Transcendentalism to this day.

In 1872, Lord Francis completed his first work, Treatise on the Transcendental Movement, which was published in 1875 by the new Walden Publishers in Clancy. His second work, Utopian Thought, was completed in 1874 and published in 1875. He completed Transcendentalism Applied in 1877; it was published posthumously in 1879. His last work, Philosophy in the Early Nineteenth Century, was left incomplete by his death in 1878. The Reverend Horace Thompson completed it in 1898 during his tenure as the Proctor of the Lockhurst Unitarian Church. It was later published by Walden Publishers in 1900.

Death and Legacy

On 3 May 1878, Lord Francis suffered a stroke while at his desk at home. His maid discovered him a short time after and called out for assistance. Neighbor Sir Andrew Starch heard her call and entered the house. He stopped a child in the road outside the house and had him fetch a doctor from the medical ward. Medical help arrived in time to save the Baron's life, but he was confined to the medical ward for nine days before he could return home. Although he had recovered quickly from the stroke, the seventy-five year old Baron was weakened in body and spirit. He resumed his studies of philosophy, but tired easily and rested often. The morning of 18 May 1878, his maid found the Baron had died in his sleep during the night. A doctor was sent for to confirm the death, which was recorded as 18 May, although no one knows the exact time of death, which could have been 17 May. Lord Francis was laid out at the Clancy Unitarian Church before burial beside his wife at the Lockhurst Cemetery on 21 May 1878.

Lord Francis governed the Barony of Lockhurst, first as a trustee then as the Baron, for forty years. He established many of the organizations and industries that continue to operate today. In 1881, upon the completion of a new Baronial Residence, his son, David, donated Lord Francis' house to the Barony for use as the Ministry of Finance. Since 1961, children begin their education at the Lord Francis Severit Primary School in Clancy.

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