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The History of Amana

The Amana religion has its roots in the movement of Pietism and Mysticism which flourished in Germany in the early 1700s. All over northern Europe, people dissatisfied with the rituals and intellectualism of the Lutheran Church began to rebel and separate from the Church. These sects placed great emphasis on the personal religious experience of the believer. One such sect, the Community of True Inspiration, held the belief that God still worked and spoke through His followers as He did with the prophets of the Old Testament.

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Beginning in the 1830s Europe experienced a dramatic period of unrest. Wars and difficult economic times directly affected the Inspirationists. Rents increased, fuel for heat became expensive and a drought in 1841 caused massive crop failures on their estates. In addition, the government was increasingly intolerant of the Inspirationist congregations. In 1842, four men sailed for the United States to search for a new home for the oppressed community. A tract of land, formerly a Seneca Indian Reservation, was purchased near Buffalo, New York. Almost 800 Inspirationists began the immigration to America via sailboat. A community was established in New York state and named "Ebenezer." All property was held in common.

Farms and factories were established. As the community of Ebenezer prospered it outgrew its land holdings. Another committee was sent to inspect the land in the state of Iowa in late 1854. There, along the Iowa River, they found acres of rich soil, good timber, water, limestone, sandstone and clay necessary for establishing a new community. The first village, Amana, was laid out in 1855. By 1863 six more villages had been established. Each had its own school, farm and craft industries to make it virtually self-sufficient. The communal way of life was continued in Amana much like it had been in Ebenezer. All property was held in common. Families were assigned housing in buildings owned by the Society. Each individual worked at a designated job. Religious life was the strong unifying factor.

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By the 1920s, influence of improved communications and transportation and, finally, the Great Depression made the isolated communal life socially and economically impossible. In 1932 the members of the Amana Society voted to abandon the communal system and incorporate their holdings into a profit-sharing corporation. This separated the economic aspect of the community from the church. The Amana Church Society continued to be the religious foundation of the community.

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Amana — Vergangenheit und Gegenwart

Die Amana Glaubensgemeinschaft hat ihren Urspung im Pietismus und Mystizismus, welche in Deutschland anfangs 1700 in voller Blüte standen. Über ganz Nord-Europa waren Völker unzufrieden mit der Liturgie und intellektuellen Theologie der lutherischen Kirche und rebellierten. Kleine Sekten stiegen auf, die persönliche religiöse Erlebnisse und die Inspiration der Gläubigen betonten. Eine von diesen Sekten wurde dann die Gemeinde der wahren Inspiration genannt, später Amana Society (Gemeinschaft).

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Die Gemeinde erlitt Verfolgung. 1842 reiste Christian Metz, ein inspirierter Leiter, nach Amerika, um eine neue Heimat für die bedrängte Gemeinde zu finden. Das Seneca Indianer-Schutzgebiet, nahe bei Buffalo, New York, wurde gekauft, und ungefähr 800 der Inspirierten unternahmen die Übersiedlung nach Amerika. Die Gemeinde, die die Sekte dort gründete, wurde Ebenezer Society genannt. Aller Eigentum war in gemeinschaftlichem Besitz und in gleicher Weise wurden Bauernhäfe (Farmen) and Fabriken aufgebaut. Durch das Gedeihen der Gemeinde wurde es notwendig mehr Land zu kaufen. Im November 1854 wurden zwei Gemeindeglieder nach Iowa gesandt, um Land zu besichtigen. Dort, am Iowa Fluss entlang fanden sie Äcker mit reichen Quellen von Wasserkraft, Sandstein, Kalkstein, Lehm für Backsteine, fruchtbarem Boden, und reichen Wäldern. Alles Notwendige war vorhanden, um die neue Gemeinde zu gründen. 1855 wurden die Anfänge des ersten Dorfes, Amana, festgelegt. Allmählich kamen noch sechs Dörfer dazu. Jedes Dorf war selbständig, mit Farm-Gebäuden, Kirche, Schule, und anderen notwendigen Gewerben, um die Gemeindemitglieder zu versorgen. Ausser dem Ackerbau wurden die Industrien von Ebenezer wieder aufgebaut--Tischlerei, Frachtwagenwerkstatt, Wollfabriken, Getreidemühlen, und Tuchdruckerei. Wieder wurde alles gemeinschaftlich betrieben. Jeder Familie wurde eine Wohnung in einem der Gemeindehäuser zugeteilt. Jeder Person, die über das Schulalter hinaus war, wurde eine Stellung zugewiesen. Das religiöse Leben gab einen starken zusammenhalt. Elf Mal in der Woche wurde Gottesdienst gehalten.

Ende der 1920er machten die ökonomische Depression under Einfluss einer engeren Verbindung mit der Aussenwelt ws unmöglich, wirtschaftlich und gesellschaftlich in Absonderung gemeinschaftlich weiterzuleben. Im Juni 1932 beschlossen die Gemeindemitglieder eine Körperschaft zu bilden, in der dann Aktien ausgegeben und unter den Mitgliedern verteilt wurden. Die Amana Society wurde zu einer Gewinnbeteiligungs-Society und freie Wirtschaft wurde dann auch genehmigt. Die Amana Church (Kirche) Society ist heute noch die religiöse Grundlage von Amana.

Important Dates: Timeline

1714 - Community of True Inspiration founded.
1718 - First Community of True Inspiration hymnal published.
1728 - Eberhard Ludwig Gruber, church founder & leader, dies.
1749 - Johann Friedrich Rock, church founder & leader, dies.
1793 - Christian Metz is born in Neuwied.
1795 - Barbara Heinemann is born in Leitersweiler.
1819 - Christian Metz delivers his first inspired testimony.
1842 - The Community of True Inspiration comes to Ebenezer, New York
1843 - Provisional constitution of Ebenezer including communalism is adopted.
1855 - Village of Amana in Iowa is founded.
1856 - West & South Amana are established.
1857 - Amana Woolen Mill starts production.
1857 - High Amana established.
1859 - East Amana established.
1860 - Homestead purchased.
1860 - Mississippi and Missouri Railroad comes to the village of Homestead.
1862 - Middle Amana, the last of the seven villages, is established.
1864 - Last party arrives from Ebenezer; the move to Amana is complete.
1865 - Work on the Millrace canal is started (and completed in 1869).
1867 - Christian Metz dies and is buried in Amana.
1881 - The community reaches its peak population of 1,813.
1883 - Death of Barbara Heinemann Landmann, last inspired leader.
1923 - Disastrous cereal and woolen mill fire in Amana.
1932 - Communal system ends.
1934 - George C. Foerstner starts Amana Refrigeration.
1935 - Amana High School opens
1961 - First English language church service is held
1965 - Seven villages of Amana are designated a National Historic Landmark
1968 - Amana Heritage Society is founded.
1984 - Amana Colonies Land Use District is created.
1995 - The Amana School District consolidates with Clear Creek Schools.
1998 - Amana Kolonieweg Trail opens.

Glossary of names & terms

Amana
Name from the Bible, Song of Solomon 4:8, which means "believe faithfully".

Ebenezer
Name from the Bible, I Samuel 7:12, which means "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us".

Gruber, Eberhard Ludwig (1665-1728) An early leader and founder of the church. He was never inspired but did give the community the Twenty-One Rules for the Examination of Our Daily Lives, & had the ability to discern between true & false inspiration.

Gruber, Johann Adam (1693-1763)
The son of E.L. Gruber and an inspired leader. Through inspiration gave the community the Twenty-Four Rules of True Godliness.

Inspirationism
Religious belief that God still works and speaks through people just as He did through the prophets of the Old Testament.

Landmann, Barbara Heinemann (1795 -1883)
The last inspired leader of the community to date.

Metz, Christian (1794 -1867)
Perhaps the most influential and revered inspired leader of the community in Europe and America. He led the Inspirationists to New York and Iowa. Died in 1867.

Rock, Johann Friedrich (1678- 1749)
An early leader and founder of the church. Most important inspired leader in first part of 18th century.

Werkzeug
A German word meaning "instrument" or "tool." Used by the Community of True Inspiration to mean a person who is inspired by God to give testimony. In the 18th century there were18 and during the 19th century there were 3 Werkzeuge.

A Short Bibliography
Albers, Marjorie K. The Amana People and Their Furniture. Iowa State University Press, 1990.
Andelson, Jonathan G. Communalism and Change in the Amana Society 1855-1932. Ph.D dissertation, University of Michigan, 1974.
Barthel, Diane. Amana: From Pietist Sect to American Community. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1984.
Clark, Robert. A Cultural and Historical Geography of the Amana Colony, Iowa. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1974.
DuVal, Francis Alan. Christian Metz: German-American Religious Leader and Pioneer. Ph.D dissertation, Iowa State University, 1948.
Foerstner, Abigail. Bertha Shambaugh and the Amana Photographers, University of Iowa Press, 2000.
Hayden, Delores. Seven American Utopias. Boston, 1976.
Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America 1680-1880. Dover reprint, 1966.
Hoppe, Emilie. Seasons of Plenty: Amana Communal Cooking. Iowa State University Press, 1994.
Liffring-Zug, Joan. The Amanas Yesterday: A Religious Communal Society. Penfield Press, 1975.
Liffring-Zug Bourret, Joan, compiler. Life in Amana 1867-1935: Reporters' Views of the Communal Way. Iowa City: Penfield Press, 1998.
Liffring-Zug Bourret, Joan. The Amanas: a Photographic Journey, 1959-1999. Penfield Press, 2000.
Moore, Frank M. The Amana Society 1867-1932: Accommodation of Old World Beliefs in a New World Frontier Setting. Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1988.
Neubauer, Allyn, editor. The Amana Colonies: Featuring Seven Historic Villages. Amana Society, 1999.
Nordhoff, Charles. The Communistic Societies of the United States. Dover reprint 1966.
Perkins, William Rufus and Wick, Barthinius L. History of the Amana Society. Iowa City, 1891.
Pitzer, Donald E., editor. America's Communal Utopias. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
Rettig, Lawrence L. Amana Today: A History of the Amana Colonies from 1932 to the Present. Amana Society, 1975.
Shambaugh, Bertha M.H. Amana That Was and Amana That Is. Iowa City, 1932.
___________________. Amana: The Community of True Inspiration. Iowa City: Penfield Press, 1988 (reprint of original 1908 edition).
Trumpold, Marie with Andelson, Jonathan. How It Was in the Community Kitchens. 1976.
Webber, Philip E. Kolonie-Deutsch: Life and Language in Amana. Iowa State University Press, 1993.
Yambura, Barbara S. and Bodine, Eunice. A Change and a Parting: My Story of Amana. Iowa State University Press, 1960.
Zuber, Janet W., translator. Inspirations-Historie by Gottlieb Scheuner, vol.I, 1714-1728.
____________________. Inspirations-Historie by Gottlieb Scheuner, vol.II, 1729-1817.
____________________. Inspirations-Historie by Gottlieb Scheuner, vol.III, 1817-1850.
____________________. Barbara Heinemann Landmann Biography by Gottlieb Scheuner and E. L. Gruber's Teachings on Divine Inspiration and Other Essays by E. L. Gruber.

 

The Amana Heritage Society programs and exhibits are supported in part by the Cultural Leadership Partners Grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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