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Caroline Dale Snedeker
(1871 - 1956)

Hoosier Connection: Caroline Dale Snedeker grew up in New Harmony, Indiana. She is a children’s author, and has won an honor award under the Newbery Medal for her novel Downright Denecy. Though most of her novels take place in ancient Greece, Snedeker uses New Harmony in the colonial time period as the setting in a few of her children’s novels. These three novels are based on stories told to her by her grandmother.

Works Discussed: The Beckoning Road, The Town of the Fearless

Caroline Dale Snedeker was the author of children’s novels, three of which were set in New Harmony, Indiana. She grew up in this town, and has written novels about its settlement from stories told to her by her grandmother. The original community was set up as a communist society under George Rapp. After ten years in Indiana, this community moved to Pennsylvania. In 1825 the land was sold to Robert Owen, Snedeker’s great-uncle. His hopes were to set up a utopian community on this new land.

new harmony by the wabash river

New Harmony by the Wabash River

Educated men and woman floated down the Ohio River on their way to New Harmony in a boat that came to be known as the Boatload of Knowledge. The community started to become “inhabited by university men, writers, theorists, humanitarians, and naturalists. They had come from London, Edinboro, Paris, and had brought with them their scholarly world” (Indiana Historical Society Publications 151).

Snedeker’s stories are based on the lives of the inhabitants of the newly settled New Harmony. She is very proud of her strong connection to her hometown. She wrote stories based on real people and the real town in Posey County. In her novels Snedeker gives us quick glimpses of the landscapes of New Harmony. The Beckoning Road, captured the experience of people in the Northeast traveling to New Harmony after they caught word that Robert Owen had purchased the land and was developing settlements. As the families went down the Ohio River, they took in the beauty and amazement of the surroundings. In The Beckoning Road Snedeker writes of what one of the children on the boat saw when looking overboard:

As far as Dencey could see was no human habitation. Just the hills with the gray winter woods mounting them, mounting to the tops and flowing over into unending forest. Now she was passing down between the hills, so full of growth and tangle that no man might penetrate them. Only snakes and foxes knew that way. The Ohio of that day was not broader than now, but it seemed broader. Solitary, dominating the whole landscape. The forests were its possession, the hills its recent making as it swept on its huge, inevitable curves toward the sea. Dencey was awed, almost frightened. (155)

location of new harmony in southern indiana

Location of New Harmony in southern Indiana

Snedeker captures the excitement and hopefulness of the travelers as they are entering newly explored land. They have only heard stories of the land that they are about to make their home, and they are excited to see the new terrain.

When writing about the journey down the river in The Beckoning Road Snedeker shows appreciation for the quiet and tranquil features of the river. She writes about a family docking their boat in the evening at Anderson’s Ferry on the river shore of southern Indiana. The description states: “Golden clouds hung in the west and lofty sprays of golden light. The trees on the farther shore were scarcely visible, hidden in lavender mist. But, strangely, every tree shone downward, distinct in the water. A sweet underworld of silence” (168).

Though the people coming to New Harmony were probably somewhat anxious about moving their homes, they were comforted by the fact that New Harmony had already once been settled. George Rapp and his people had left their buildings, roads, and farms. In an excerpt from The Town of the Fearless Snedeker describes what was left behind by Rapp as “a town with an established trade down two great rivers, a town with growing orchards, prosperous farms, flocks of sheep and cows” (202).

drawing of new harmony

Drawing of New Harmony


Robert Owen and his people were moving in to a built town, but they were making it their own utopian society. The surrounding forest and Wabash River were perfect vistas for the theorists, writers, and naturalists that were moving to the town. In The Beckoning Road, Dencey, a little girl traveling to New Harmony, describes her first glimpse of the town when she calls it “the little town nestling in its sunny valley by the Wabash” (180).

The tranquil and beautiful surroundings of New Harmony seem like they would have been an ideal location for a utopian society. It seemed like a place where one could go into the forest or down by the Wabash and collect his/her thoughts. The quick glances of the surrounding landscape of New Harmony that Snedeker describes in her novels appear to be places where the utopia-seeking citizens of the community could go for contemplation and relaxation. The site of New Harmony was probably partly chosen for this reason, to create a serene and natural place for learning and living.



Firestone, Clarke B. Sycamore Shores. Robert M. McBride & Company. New York: 1936.

Indiana Historical Society Publications. Volume 14. The Bobbs-Merrill Company. Indianapolis: 1944.

Snedeker, Caroline Dale. The Beckoning Road. The Junior Literary Guild, Inc. New York:1929.

Snedeker, Caroline Dale. The Town of the Fearless. Doubleday, Doran & Company Inc. Garden City: 1931.

Scientists, Educators, Writers & Artists. 4 December 2003. <http://faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/bstud/nh.html>.


Snedeker - Feminist author