Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Dan Flores

Committee Co-chair

Kyle G. Volk

Commitee Members

David L. Moore


Communal History, Mormonism


University of Montana


This thesis examines the founding and development of Pinesdale, Montana. Established by the Mormon fundamentalist leader Rulon Allred and his group in 1961, the town served as a haven for those practicing polygamy as well as an opportunity for group members to live a Mormon form of communalism known as the United Order. Compelled by the social upheaval and shifting cultural standards in the United States and instability in international affairs during the Cold War era, the fundamentalists considered the two practices to be essential to Christian perfection and preparation for a biblical Apocalypse and Millennium. But as a sect comprised of individuals who broke away from the Latter-day Saint Church, dissension continued to characterize the group, compromising communal efforts. The conflict between communalism and individualism in the community recalled an archetypical American struggle that can be traced to Puritan communities and seen repeated in the history of the American West. Like other groups in the West, Pinesdale wanted to preserve its autonomy, but when it sought self-government by incorporating as a city, it became dependent upon the American government. This pushed the community further into the mainstream, a tendency accelerated by the loss of an apocalyptic paradigm at the end of the Cold War. The story of Pinesdale here contributes to a growing scholarship of communalism in America and ethnic groups in the West that is more inclusive and less exceptional, and demonstrates how “American” the community had been in the context of the postwar period.

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© Copyright 2009 Lesley June Weidow