Imagine a utopian, socialist, commune society where everyone is considered and treated as equal. Imagine Burley. Burley was first settled by a small group of people who wanted to start a Utopian society. Located in the southeastern corner of Kitsap County, Burley lies at the northern end of Henderson Bay and on the banks of the Burley Lagoon.
In 1898, Burley, once named Circle City, with its with buildings plotted out on the periphery of a circle was established as a cooperative socialist colony, a commune of sorts, by a group called the Co-operative Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was an offshoot of the Brotherhood of the Co-operative Commonwealth that had established the Equality colony in Skagit County Washington in the previous year. Both communities were part of an attempt to plant socialist colonies in order to convert Washington, and then the entire nation, to socialism.
The community was lead by a group of twelve leaders that that were elected by its members. To become a member of Burley a person needed to sign a contract with the Brotherhood. Their core values were based on the premise of following the golden rule and having a shared community where everyone was guaranteed a job and some land to build their home which was based on shared wealth and loss, cooperative production, and the distribution of goods.
The community had a diverse membership and represented both resident and nonresident members. Doctors, educators, craftsmen, writers, clergymen all made up the community of Burley. They even went so far as to print their own money called a “minum”. Workers were paid a minum for each day of work.
One of their First Industries was cigar making, and it was in Burley where the famous Burley Cigars were first made. Burley also had a high quality print shop, and from 1898-1906 produced a newspaper called the The Co-operator. Other work that dominated the community included the lumber and farming industry, as well as some other businesses had some short term success but never flourished.
To maintain a Utopian society, everyone was treated equally, and there was no competition. Members of the community were also strictly non-denominational and did not allow or believe in interference in family matters. In its earliest years the community achieved a maximum population of approximately 150 people; but like some other planned towns of the era, Burley could not economically sustain itself and eventually the Brotherhood was dissolved in1908 following the death of one of it founding members.
When the colony failed in 1908, the present name was adopted for the meandering creek that runs past town, which is the namesake of an early settler who was not a member of the colony. The nearby Glenwood area is so called after the tiny school district that once occupied the area.
Today, Burley is a wonderful residential area with approximately 2,100 residents and it has retained its small town feel. Although the Brotherhood no longer exists, many of its residents still embrace their historical heritage, sense and support of their community through activities and social welfare organizations. The community of Burley Glenwood features homes on acreage, with scattered with old daily farms and borders the Kitsap county line with Pierce County.
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