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The Amana Colonies

Updated on October 27, 2010

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 is 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.

The government urgently needed to refill the empty state coffers, after the Napoleonic wars...


New York : Ebenezer

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 community, completely 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. It was a true "communism"...

*** (Reference : compare with the Hutterites) ***

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Iowa : The Amana Colony

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 cheaper 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" or "Remain True", and so from the Bible they chose the name Amana, from Solomon 4:8.

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Life in the Colony

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 ! 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 stock company was established, the Amana Society.

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The Amana Colonies Today

On the I-80's exit 125 you'll find the village of Amana, and the Amana Colonies. The village is entirely focused on tourism, and has developed correspondingly.

In the Amana Heritage Center and Museum you can view a 20-minute movie about the community.

The ancient lifestyle of the Amana in the US was actually not very different from the way life used to be in Europe, in the 19th century.

A walk through the streets is like going back through time. In the local chocolate shop you'll find excellent truffles and dark chocolate.

Both are most enjoyable !...


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    • LennyP profile image

      LennyP 6 years ago from Iowa

      I tried to go the Amana Colonies during the winter but nearly everything was closed. They did have the only good tasting sugar free chocolates I have ever had.

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