Monday 29 October 2012

Amana - The Woman at the Well

(continued from Michael Hofer - Amana Bound)
Maria Stuck (right) with a cousin
Michael Hofer lived in Main Amana and some years after joining the Inspirationists, while drawing water at a well, he met Maria Stuck, a girl from his own village. When I first read this, a song we usually sing at weddings, came to mind: Es wollt ein Mägdlein Wasser gut, schöpfen bei einen Brunnen, based on the Bible story about Isaac and Rebecca. Of course Isaac himself didn’t meet his future wife at the well, but a servant of the family. Still, the stories have some similarities.

Just like in the Bible story, this encounter at the well ultimately led to marriage. When Michael and Maria made their intentions of marriage known, they had to live in separate villages because of the customary yearlong separation, required to test their commitment to marriage. Thus, Maria went to Middle Amana and worked in the communal kitchen, while Michael remained in Main Amana, working in the machine shop and woolen mill.  I’m not sure if visits between engaged couples were allowed, however, Michael did visit Maria, sometimes trudgeing across the frozen pond during winter to do so. They were married October 4, 1888 and were assigned a home in Main Amana. They were blessed with two daughters, Susanna and Katharina.
A ‘Michael Hofer, Amana’ Google search led me to an article by Tim Smith, a Brandon, Manitoba photographer, where a Susan Sevig mentioned Michael Hofer in a comment. Imagine my excitement when I learned that she’s the great granddaughter of Michael and Maria Hofer. Susanna Hofer Kippenhan is her Grandmother. I contacted Susan, who shared my excitement when I told her that I was a Hutterite, because she always had an interest in her great grandfather’s people. Therefore, she kindly answered all my questions and provided me with pictures and other documents. Susan grew up in Amana, but now lives in Florida. She maintains an interesting blog, Schnitzel and the Trout, where she occasionally writes about her Amana-Hutterite heritage.
Michael lived in Amana for the rest of his life, but stayed in contact with his Hutterite family. At age 65 Michael became very ill and was taken to a Cedar Rapids hospital where he had an appendectomy, complicated by pneumonia. He seemed to be doing fine, but then suddenly got worse and died that same evening on February 24, 1924. He was laid to rest in his home village, Main Amana. Part of his obituary reads: Mr. Hofer held the responsible position of head millwright and rendered exceptionally good service during the last several months in rebuilding and installing the machinery in the new woolen mill plant at this place. Though his bodily strength had declined for some time, he still stood up and did his utmost, being invaluable with his advice gathered out of a rich store of many years experience.
After her husband’s death, Maria moved to Homestead, another Amana village where her daughters, Susanna Hofer Kippenhan and Katharina Hofer Moershel lived with their families. She passed away in 1948. The daughters kept up contact with their Hutterite relatives till 1987 when Katharina died. At that point it was one hundred and ten years since Michael took a train to Amana, which led to his new communal life among the Inspirationists.
Katharina Hofer Moershal (middle) with daughter Henrietta
 Ruff (right) and daughter-in-law Marietta Moershal(left)

As mentioned previously, Michael has relatives here at my colony. His niece, Maria Hofer corresponded via mail with Katharina Moershal for some time. Included in one of these letters was this picture. I have no idea when and where it was taken. Fortunately, one of Maria's granddaughters,  kept the picture for many years, since the death of Maria Hofer. (Thank you, Kathryn!)Would be interesting to read the letters, but I haven't been able to find them yet.

My sincere thanks to Lanny Haldy, at the Amana Heritage Society for putting me in contact with Peter Hoehnle, a historian who’s studied the Amana Society extensively. Mr. Hoehnle kindly sent me an interesting article he wrote on Michael Hofer, which had been published in the journal, Communal Societies in 2002. This article helped shed a lot of light on the life of Michael Hofer.



  1. I love reading the Amana "stories" I am trying to get some information together on my great great grandmother who was a "Prairie leut" and as soon as I have some viable information I will blog about it myself. wish me luck, but I so far I haven't really found all that much, getting into the birth records means having a credit card...
    Anyways, your info is sooo interesting, thanks for sharing

  2. Loving the stories and history!


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