WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The French Icarians in Western Illinois

May 29, 2013

While Nauvoo is well known today for its ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, another group also has a long history with the Hancock County town.  

The Icarians came to Nauvoo in the 1850s, which is the decade after the Latter Day Saints had fled west.

Dr Theodore Georgopoulos
Credit Chris Lovingood

“It's a fascinating history,” said Dr Theodore Georgopoulos, professor of European Law at the University of Reims Law School in Champagne, France.

“A fascinating story about people that came here in Illinois in the United States, and finally created this society in this nation.”

It's a fascinating history

Georgopoulos recently did research at Western Illinois University’s Baxter-Snyder Center for Icarian Studies. He called WIU “…by far the most important center for research on Icaria throughout the world.”

Georgopoulos said Icarians also tried to settle in other places as well, such as Iowa, Missouri, and California.  But the movement fell apart in each of those places for the same reason: a conflict of beliefs brought on by too many laws.

Georgopoulos said eventually the Icarian community in America integrated into the rest of society.

Jeffrey Hancks of the Malpass Library at WIU said only a handful of Icarian descendants still remain in Nauvoo, most notably the Baxter family. In fact, the winery established by Emile Baxter and his wife in the 1800s is still in operation in Nauvoo today.