THE AMANA COLONIES

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cover_northwest2

This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book
View America: North West - Part 2

In the travel series View America, North West - Part 2 covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 150 full-sized photos.

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The Community of True Inspiration

In 1714 Germany went through a period of religious intensity. Two very devout men, Eberhard Gruber and Johann Rock, met by chance and they proclaimed that God still can talk to his followers through an enlightened individual, just as he did in the Bible through the prophets. This person was called a Werkzeug, which literally translates as a tool or instrument, through which God makes his will known. This principle is still the basis of the Amana Church.

Gruber and Rock spread their gospel and formed small congregations of believers in Germany and Switzerland, which became known as the Community of True Inspiration. Almost immediately they came under fire from the Lutherans, who showed just as little tolerance for the Amana as the Catholic Church had shown for the Lutherans.

To escape persecution the Amana fled to Hesse, one of the most liberal German states. But even there it was touch and go, and furthermore they had to deal with soaring house rents and sky high taxes, since the government urgently needed to refill the empty state coffers after the Napoleonic wars.

In 1842 the "tool" Christian Metz traveled to the State of New York, where he bought 5,000 acres of land (2,000 hectares), which he called Ebenezer. He proposed his congregation to establish a new community, that would completely exist under collective ownership. The community would own everything, but it would meet the needs of every individual. This rather unusual system would remain in place for ninety years until 1932, and was actually comparable to true communism.

In 1855 the now 1200-member community needed more land for newcomers and the land prices in Buffalo, NY had increased so much, that the leaders looked to the west for more inexpensive land. They found it in Iowa, where in six years time they bought some 26,000 acres (10,400 ha) from the Indians, at $ 1.25 per acre. After an "enlightened message" Metz told his followers that they should call the village Bleib Treu (Remain True), and so from the Bible they chose the name Amana, from Solomon 4:8.

All in all six colonies were built, and each of them had its own church, school, bakery, butcher, doctor and shops. Every day more than fifty collective kitchens prepared three meals plus two coffee breaks for all 1,500 residents! However, spiritual food was just as essential, and every resident took part in the prayers, at least 11 times a week. Children had school for six days a week during the entire year. They had Lehrschule (learning class), Spielstunde (time to play), and Arbeitschule (work school).

However, in 1932 the general dissatisfaction with this rigid system had grown strong. When the wool-mill burnt, along with ten other collective buildings, the community fell apart. After a lot of bickering, a new stock company was established, which was called the Amana Society.

Iowa : the Amana Colony 1

Iowa : the Amana Colony 2
   
Iowa : the Amana Colony 3 Iowa : the Amana Colony 4

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