By Michael Bennett
Orderville … A chall’nging place to ﬁnd;
It lay somewhere along the byway
Leading off the eight nine highway;
Near to Bryce, towards Zion’s skyway,
Somewhere there’s a town that left behind
The wayward world, the 70s; No mind …
We’d say, “’twas never my way.”
Orderville … the very sound tells all;
It speaks of tidiness and care,
Of peace and quiet everywhere,
Of satisfaction in the air,
But then we hear the silence-shatt’ring call
To gather quickly in the banquet hall
To share communal prayer.
Yes, Orderville … a nineteenth-century thought …
A nearly perfect village, this,
Combining fair Utopian bliss
With Godly ways, and Godly kiss;
Eliminating fear from those with naught,
By taking some from those who might have brought
What little they’ll not miss.
This Orderville … though busy, seems content;
United Order was the th’ inspired name
Of this strange life for those who came;
All things in common—all the same;
As stewards for their needs, with no dissent,
While working ﬁelds (they earned such pittance spent),
Gave surplus, without claim.
In Orderville … the trumpet plays at ﬁve;
Its waking call, a Mormon hymn,
Persuading all of life and limb
To come, though morning light’s yet dim;
And so with yawn and laughter they arrive
To start communal days … to thrive and strive
To ﬁll Joy’s cup, up to the brim.
In Orderville … by seven, most chores done,
The trumpet sounds the breakfast call
For young and old and short and tall
To gather in the dining hall.
And there three rows of tables neatly run,
Much like a boarding house.
The meal’s begun, But ﬁrst, one prays for all.
Prompt Orderville … at twelve, the call for lunch;
From orchards, ﬁelds and chicken coops,
From everywhere, alone or groups,
They come again to scarf the soups
And everything prepared for them to munch;
And knowing well there’ll be no fancy brunch,
They wait like hungry troops.
It’s Orderville … another hymn at six …
The hall once more; when all are there,
The evening starts again with prayer.
When supper’s done, the hall is bare
Until the morn when trumpet’s clockwork ticks,
Announcing once again with hymns he picks,
That love is everywhere.
For Orderville … a hundred miles from rail,
Was isolated from the world;
Removed from wickedness that swirled
About them; sin that Satan hurled
At weaker folk, but certainly would fail
To change this less-known populated dale,
Long hid like fetal curled.
Yes, Orderville … its punctual, communal meals
Had brought the town’s life to a place
Of testing: if their co-op pace
Survived the overt frantic race
Of nearby towns whose economic deals
Had many undeniable appeals
Which beckoned an embrace.
In Orderville … the many tests began:
Was he quite willing then to do
The things the elders told him to?
And was his language ever blue,
And did he steal, or drink? And so it ran
From Godly acts to those of mortal man,
Exploring things taboo.
’Twas Orderville, indeed … and he who passed
Was welcome; property was shared;
A job, though ill or well prepared,
Was given, and I’m sure few cared;
For paramount was just to be steadfast;
A poor, lost soul, he—an iconoclast,
In Orderville … by credit they were paid;
And though this ne’er provoked a brawl,
The wages seemed a triﬂe small—
A dollar and a half is all
For working all day long, and I’m afraid
That even wives, paid half, though welcomed aid,
Still, heeded they, the call.
Hence, Orderville … It may seem slightly strange
That money was not paid or spent—
’Twas credit borrowed, credit lent;
And nothing harbored discontent,
Because, you see, ’twas easy to arrange
Your simple life, since never was there change,
And no embezzlement.
In Orderville … each year, if at the end,
One’s pay exceeded then his spending,
Back it goes in perfect blending.
Odd, though, is comprehending
How the wives would never e’er contend
That such arrangements could not ever rend
Their dreams that might need mending.
Orderville … The structure as was seen
Was stricter than surrounding places—
Alien to surrounding faces;
Add to that, it well embraces
All that’s proper, peaceable, serene,
Domesticated, well controlled, and clean,
With lots of breathing spaces.
Orderville … Had nothing they need buy,
Aside from arms, machinery,
And ammunition; all agree
That every known necessity
Was grown or manufactured close nearby,
Including cotton, coal, and ﬁsh to fry;
God bless the honeybee.
But Orderville … was too successful then;
For peace with neighb’ring towns was hard,
And outside pressure sadly marred
Serenity they’d sought to guard;
Their self-sufﬁciency worked only when
They managed to keep out the worldly men
From whom their youth were barred.
In Orderville … At Christmas, Brother Carling,
Sensing coming gladsome noise,
Devoted time to making toys
For all the little girls and boys:
Stuffed animals that looked prepared for snarling,
Dolls and such that looked just oh so darling …
Gifts that each enjoys.
That’s Orderville … but elsewhere, no one cheered;
We’d picked the ﬁnest grazing land,
And labor pooled, all happ’ly manned …
’Twas difﬁcult to understand:
For other Mormons, struggling, somehow feared
That Orderville produced things cheaper, it appeared,
And claimed the Master’s hand.
Plain Orderville … Why others seemed to titter:
Stern and simple regimen,
And clothes and boots like Amish men
Who worked and played together then
With clannishness … Yet ridicule was bitter;
There was (never mind which group was ﬁtter)
Poor Orderville … One wonders why it died.
Was outside pressure named the sin,
Or was it weakness from within?
Could it have lived with discipline
More focused on apartness, and applied
More earnestly, or was the fateful slide
Already in its spin?
Sick Orderville … The reason’s hard to say,
But, maybe, one small weakness might
Have been a major oversight …
The founders somehow failed to write
Provisions for the young men in a way
That growing up they’d have more needed pay
To help with future’s bite.
Young Orderville … with less than fathers chose,
They envied youth from out of town,
Who swagg’ring by, as though renown,
(And wearing nothing ‘hand-me-down’)
Quite bent on loudly ﬂaunting store-bought clothes.
The elders, standing ﬁrmly to oppose,
Could little do, but frown.
In Orderville … The road to dissolution:
First from neighbors—other ones,
Whose silver mines brought easy funds;
More wage mistakes with local sons;
Polygamy and growing prosecution …
Three, with fundament’ly no solution;
So, downhill it runs.
Sad Orderville … by 1885,
’Twas clear, the perfect way was gone;
The folks, still mostly up at dawn,
Tried not to sink to Babylon,
And while there was a last-ditch try to strive
To keep that share-it-all appeal alive,
They couldn’t carry on.
And Orderville … could not abide … and died.
Poem based on material found in Mormon Country by Wallace Stegner, “The Arcadian Village,” 108–127.
Michael J. Bennett
Michael J. Bennett, author of the poem “Orderville,” is a member of the mills chapter of the National Society of the Sons of Utah pioneers. Michael was raised in Salt Lake City, attended East High School and the University of Utah, and has a master’s degree in retailing from New York University in New York City. He worked in the department store business in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and at ZCMI in Salt Lake City.
After 18 years in the retail business he quit his job and became what he always wanted to be: a professional actor. He has appeared in over 100 ﬁlms including A More Perfect Union, which airs nationally on PBS each July 4th. He has also acted in eight episodes of the popular television series Touched by an Angel. He has worked in dinner theater, the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, the Old Lyric Theatre in Logan, and the Grand Teton Mainstage theater in Jackson, Wyoming. Though he has over 600 radio and TV commercials under his belt and dozens of writing and directing theatrical works to his credit, he is perhaps best known for writing and appearing in one-man-shows, some of which he has performed for the sons of utah pioneers.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in