Friday, April 28, 2006

Amana Colonies

This eastern Iowa community has been on a list of places we wanted to visit. Our trip to Minneapolis was a good time to drive the short distance east on I 80. We were glad we did.

The following is a quote from their web site. It best describes the people and area:

Seeking religious freedom, the early settlers of the Amanas left Germany in 1842, settling near Buffalo, New York. In 1855, the "Community of True Inspiration" moved west, forming their first village along the Iowa River. Eventually, 26,000 acres were purchased and six more villages settled. Their communal system was essentially unchanged for 89 years, one of the longest-lasting communal societies in the world. All land and buildings were owned by the community; families were assigned living quarters, and each person over school age worked at assigned tasks in the kitchens, fields, factories or shops. In 1932, the people voted to end the communal way of life. They created the Amana Church Society to direct matters of their faith, and the Amana Society, Inc. to oversee their businesses and farming operations. Today, many of the businesses in the Amana Colonies are independently owned and operated.

We arrived Monday afternoon at 4:30 pm and quickly discovered most of the shops close at 5:00 so we decided to use our 30 minutes to visit a winery. Thus, a bottle of locally grown Catawba grape wine for the evening. We then headed to the campground within the Colony to reserve a spot. It was an excellent, clean facility and, as it turned out, quiet.

The Colony Restaurant was our next stop. The delicious food was served family style and came with homemade pie for dessert. The Millrace, a channel dug in the 1860s to provide power for mills ran through the village. The walking trail along the dike provided a way to work off our dinner and a chance to visit with a friendly local resident about the area. She clarified the difference between the Amana and the Amish communities--information for another post.

After a sample of wine we slept well. The next morning we were anxious to arrive early at the bakery for fresh rolls but quickly discovered after enjoying the hot sticky buns we needed a detour to the Cedar Rapid’s Walmart for a new battery. We were soon back in the city of Amana and found the furniture shop where there were very beautiful examples of craftsmanship available for purchase. From a catwalk, we could see the shop and artisans at work. We left with only a small purchase and headed to the woolen mill. There we saw large looms weaving material for blankets and scarves.

We were told their award-winning museum was closed. It was noon by then and I had Reuben Sandwich on my mind so we headed for the sandwich shop after which it had to be down the road on what turned out to be only a five-hour drive home. (We made it to the Iowa visitor’s center before it closed to purchase another bag of Mrs.Yoder’s cashew brittle.)

A very interesting, historical area and a return visit is in our future. It would be a fun to go with friends. Meanwhile, Gem├╝tlichkeit.

Inspirationalists vs Old Order

Our walk after the too late and too good meal at the Colony Restaurant took us through a residential area. We had an opportunity to visit with a friendly local resident. What a joy as she had the identical accent as my Dad. As it turns out, her family migrated from Switzerland as had my Dad’s and they both spoke Swiss or Low German in their homes as children.

As we visited, we soon found out that she had lived in Amana for many years, but was not native to the Colonies. She and her husband moved to Amana to be closer to their jobs in the refrigeration plant. Most of the people around her who were native Amana residents migrated from Germany and spoke High German. This conversation led us to talk about the difference between the Amana Colonists and Amish.

The Amana website has an excellent article and I will list a few of their interesting facts:

Although the two sects settled within 60 miles of each other, there is no relation in any historical or contemporary sense.

The Inspirationalist emerged in the early 1700's as part of the Pietist and Spiritualist movement within the Lutheran Church in Germany; whereas, the Old Order Amish of Kalona represent a very different cultural-religious community with roots in the Anabaptist movement of the early 16th century and were of Swiss ethnic stock.

Finally, to quote:
But most importantly, the Old Order Amish maintain their theology and lifestyle intact, almost the way it was believed and put into practice 300 years ago. The Amish have experienced no "Great Change" in the 20th century. The Inspirationists in the Amana Colonies also continue to worship God in the same manner that they did 100 years ago. Theological changes are minimal. But whereas residents of the Amana Colonies dress in the latest fashions, outside of the Sunday morning services, the Old Order Amish maintain strict dress requirements and insist that no member use electricity or automobiles. There are no telephones in their homes.

We never asked the question as to why two entirely different groups of people settled so close together in Iowa. I believe that possibly both sects were very good farmers, hard workers, and saw the potential in the rich black soil of the region.

Check here for more information.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Very interesting. I don't know much about the Amanas, but I have always been fascinated by religious utopias. I guess we all are. I am looking forward to your post comparing them with the Amish.