Chase, Warren 1813-1891 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Chase, Warren 1813-1891

Spiritualist, Social Reformer and Politician

Chase, Warren 1813-1891 | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.
EnlargeStudio portrait of Warren Chase with white beard and hair. He was the fourierite leader at Ceresco, home of the Wisconsin Phalanx.

Warren Chase

Studio portrait of Warren Chase with white beard and hair. He was the Fourierite leader at Ceresco, home of the Wisconsin Phalanx. View the original source document: WHI 28285

b. Pittsfield, New Hampshire, 1813
d. Cobden, Illinois, February, 1891

Warren Chase was a spiritualist, social reformer and politician. His parents died when he was a child and he became a ward of the village and received a cursory education.


He moved west to Monroe, Michigan, in 1834. In 1838, he moved to Wisconsin and settled in Southport — now Kenosha — where he became interested in the study of spiritualism. Throughout his life he opposed organized Christianity. In Southport, he became interested in the theories of Fourier. In 1843 and 1844, he was a leader of the Southport discussion group that formed the Wisconsin Phalanx. In 1844, he moved with the Phalanx to the chosen site of its new community known as Ceresco — now part of Ripon. He was one of the leaders of the successful Fourierist experiment until its dissolution in 1850. He carried his reformist theories into politics, serving as a member of the constitutional conventions of 1846 and 1848, a Democratic member of the state senate from 1848 to 1849 and the unsuccessful Free Soil candidate for governor in 1849. He opposed political inequalities based on discrimination due to race, sex or religion, and argued against capital punishment and the transfer of public lands to private ownership.

Later Life

For the rest of his life he was active in the abolitionist, feminist and temperance movements. Chase earned most of his living by lecturing on spiritualism. He lived in Ceresco after the Phalanx dissolved. He helped establish the lyceum of Ripon in 1850 and Brockway College in 1851, which became the basis of Ripon College. In 1853, he left Wisconsin and lived successively in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and California. He was presidential elector for Horace Greeley in 1872 and served in the California senate from 1879 to 1882. He was the author of two autobiographies, as well as a book on slavery and several pamphlets.

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Wis. Mag. Hist., 19; Proc. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 1902 (1903); WPA MS; [W. Chase], Life-Line (Boston, 1886).