Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Amana - Hutterite Connection

Amana women at work
 (photo courtesy of the Amana Heritage Society.)
The Amana Colonies in America were founded in 1843-44, when a group of about 1,200 Inspirationists, led by Christian Metz fled Germany because of persecution and an economic depression. They first settled in Buffalo, New York. However, when more farmland was needed in 1855,  they moved to Iowa, farming and living in community of goods along the Iowa River. At that point they were known as Ebenezer Society. Later, they renamed their village 'Bleib Treu', a name derived from Song of Solomon 4:8 - Amana, which means 'remain true'. On 26,000 acres of land, six villages were established in close proximity to each other; only a mile or two apart: Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana and Homestead. They gave up community of goods during the Great Depression in 1932.

Today, according to their website: 'the seven villages of the Amana Colonies represent an American dream come true; a thriving community founded by religious faith and community spirit. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Amana Colonies attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, all of whom come to see and enjoy a place where the past is cherished and where hospitality is a way of life.
Evocative of another age, the streets of the Amana Colonies with their historic brick, stone and clapboard homes, their flower and vegetable gardens, their lanterns and walkways recall Amana yesterday. But a vibrant community, celebrating both its past and its future, is here today for you to experience.'

I'm not even sure when I first became interested in this group, but recently was inspired to take a closer look at the Amana - Hutterite connection, after reading an historical fiction book, A Hidden Truth by Judith Miller. My interest also stems from the fact that there are quite a few similarities between Amana and the Hutterites, including a German background, having to flee to America because of persecution and the fact that they too lived 'all things common' for many years. While Hutterites still live in Christian community and are largely farmers, Amana now contributes more to the tourism industry in Iowa.


Hutterite women at work
(Photo: The Golden Years of the Hutterites - Leonard Gross)
Besides all that, having been well established in America, by the time the Hutterites arrived from Russia between 1874-79, the Inspirationists of Amana, kindly helped the Hutterites, who had settled in the Bonne Homme County, South Dakota. Along with supporting them financially, Amana gave them supplies from their stores. On one occasion they provided the Hutterites with bolts of black and white polka dot fabric, which was used for Tiechlen (headcoverings) for the women, like that of the one woman in the picture. Thus, a Hutterite tradition was born, which in some colonies is still alive today. Prior to that, plain black was used, which interestingly enough, many Hutterites have gone back to.

It's quite possible that the use of sunbonnets while working in the garden in earlier years was something the Hutterites learned from Amana Colonies as well, since this type of headcovering is what Amana women traditionally wore.

I've never visited the Amana Colonies, but it's on my bucket list. Have you been to this Historic Site? Or maybe you have ancestors who grew up there. Have you written about them? No matter what your connection is, I'd love to hear about it!

(There's a further Amana - Hutterite connection, which I will post at a later date. This one I find even more fascinating.)







11 comments:

Primitive Christianity said...

Interesting to see the beginnings of the polka dot coverings! Like the Amish broadfall pants (they are actually of English origin I read once).
Looking forward to what you can find about the Amana Colonies. Mike

Kathy said...

Interesting read. Harry was there a few summers ago, so I got a mini history lesson then. Waiting for your further post on the group.

The imPerfect Housewife said...

My boss from the library goes up to I think Minnesota (can't remember) to visit family at least once a year and she and her husband always pass through the Amana Colonies in Iowa. She knew that would be something I'd be interested in so she got me a booklet with a map and all kinds of information about them. It's about 5 hours north of me (I'm in St. Louis, Missouri). When my husband gets some time off work, I'd love to go visit, even if it's just for the weekend.

Susan said...

Linda, as you know, I grew up in the Amana's. I thought I knew almost all of the history, but telling me about the exchange of the bolts of polka dot fabric simply delighted me. I am preparing some information for you. Also, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. Susan

Linda said...

Thanks, Susan! I'm really looking forward to receiving the information.

SHOM said...

Does this faith community still exist, the people worshipping together in their form?
Because of your earlier post I took a look at the community’s website, but couldn’t determine to my satisfaction if they where still active or not.

Linda said...

I'm not entirely sure, Shom, but intend to find out. From the website it seems more like a tourist attraction.

Anonymous said...

I live about an hour from the Amanas, and have visited. I don't think the faith community is still intact. Is a very popular tourist attraction. I was thinking of visiting again this fall. I have also read and enjoyed Judith Miller's book. Interested in the other link!

Susan said...

Absolutely, the faith and church in Amana is as strong as ever. A German and an English service each Sunday, Wednesday evening prayer meetings and visitors are always welcome at the church services. Susan

Linda said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Susan! I also found it interesting what you told me in the email: That the men and women sit on separate sides, with oldest in the back and youngest at the front. That is exactly how the Hutterites sit during church services.

Paula said...

This is so interesting! I love how you incorporated this history with your book review. Nope, I have not ever had the pleasure of visiting this site but would love to include it in my travels some day.
Adding A Hidden Truth to my wish list right now!