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Amana Community

The Community of True Inspiration

Die Gesellschaft von der wahren Erfüllung durch den Geist

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.

The Amana Colony in Iowa was established by German-speaking European settlers who belonged to a religious group known as the Community of True Inspiration, which traces its origins to Himbach, Germany in 1714.

Germany 1714-1750
Community founders J.F. Rock (1678-1749) and E.L. Gruber (1665-1728) were among many Europeans seeking a more meaningful religious experience than they felt the established churches provided. Like many others, Rock and Gruber maintained that the Lutheran Church had become bogged-down in intellectual debate and formalized worship and thus neglected the spiritual needs of the congregation. An increasing desire to return to the basics of Christianity gained popularity in the doctrines articulated by this movement, known as Pietism. For Pietists, religion was a personal experience with an emphasis on sincere humility and earnest study of the Bible. The Community of True Inspiration was one of several groups which emerged from Pietism.

Rock, a saddlemaker, and Gruber, a former Lutheran minister, believed that God still spoke through prophets as described in the Old Testament. The Community of True Inspiration was founded on this belief. The new prophets were called Werkzeuge, or instruments. The divine pronouncements through the Werkzeuge were recorded by scribes and printed in collected volumes.

The Inspirationist beliefs attracted many followers and congregations were established throughout Germany and surrounding regions. Because Inspirationists declined to perform military duty, take state-required oaths, or send their children to church-run schools, the congregations were often in conflict with church and governmental authorities. Many members of the Community of True Inspiration were punished with fines, imprisonment and public beatings. Nevertheless, the Inspirationist movement flourished through the mid-18th century. However, by 1750, there were no longer any Werkzeuge and both Rock and Gruber were dead. The movement declined and faded in the midst of European wars and economic depression.

Germany 1817-1840
War and famine, compounded by sweeping social and economic changes, devastated Germany in the early 1800s. Farmers and craftspeople in particular were affected by high rents, taxes and a new wave of industrialization. Many people, including a tailor named Michael Krausert, took comfort in religion. Krausert studied the words of J.F. Rock and received inspiration in 1817. This event revitalized the Inspirationist communities and attracted a new following. The Werkzeug Krausert was soon joined by two others, Barbara Heinemann and Christian Metz. Metz emerged as the guiding force of the community during its crucial years of growth and relocation to America.

During the 1820s and 1830s, Metz consolidated the community in the relatively liberal province of Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany. Congregations from Germany, Switzerland and Alsace moved to join the new communities in Hesse. The community leased large estates and castles within a few miles of each other. Both rich and poor lived together and shared in the social and economic life of the group. Although not communal, this arrangement helped to predispose the Inspirationists to the formal communal system which would be established in America and Amana.

The move to America 1840
By 1840 there were nearly 1000 members of the Community of True Inspiration, many living on the estates in Hesse. This growth took place in spite of persecution from German officials. The government, closely tied to the Lutheran church, viewed the Community's theology as a political threat. Even in Hesse, Inspirationists were fined for their refusal to send children to state schools. Rising costs and rents and several years of drought aggravated the conditions on the estates. Metz and other leaders realized that they must seek a new home for the Community in America.

In September of 1842 a committee led by Christian Metz traveled to America in search of land on which to relocate the Community of True Inspiration. They purchased a 5,000-acre site in western New York, near Buffalo, and by the end of 1843 nearly 350 Inspirationists had immigrated to the new settlement, which they named "Ebenezer," meaning "hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

Ebenezer 1843
From the start, in order to facilitate all members of the community to come to America and live together, all property in Ebenezer was held in common. The initial plan was that after some time the land would be divided among the people according to their contribution of money and labor. However, leaders saw that the disparity in wealth, skills and age would make it difficult for all to purchase a portion of land--the community would fall apart as a result. Therefore in 1846 a constitution was adopted which established a permanent communal system. Any debate on this was resolved when Metz spoke a divine pronouncement endorsing the communal system.

Ebenezer flourished. By 1854 the population reached 1,200 people. Six villages were established, each with mills, shops, homes, communal kitchens, schools and churches. To accommodate this growth, additional land had been purchased, but more was needed. However, the booming growth of nearby Buffalo put land prices at a premium. Furthermore, the community leaders perceived a threat from the economic development around them. It was felt that capitalist and worldly influences were bringing about a growing interest in materialism and threatened the spiritual focus of the Inspirationist community. The leadership decided it was time to move the community again--this time to the unsettled west.

Amana 1855
After investigating sites in Kansas and Iowa, the True Inspirationists selected a location along the Iowa River valley about 20 miles west of Iowa City, Iowa for the relocation of their community. This site offered extensive timberland, quarries for limestone and sandstone and long stretches of prairie filled with rich, black soil. Construction of the first village began in the summer of 1855 and the new settlement was named "Amana," meaning "believe faithfully." Community members moved to Amana over the next ten years as they gradually sold parcels of the Ebenezer property. A new constitution was adopted as the Community of True Inspiration took on the legal identity of the Amana Society. This new constitution essentially retained the communal system which had been developed in Ebenezer.

All members of the community shared in its economic success. The community provided each family with a home and all necessities of life. No one received a cash income. Rather, everyone was given an annual purchase allowance at the general store where goods were priced at cost. Medical care was provided free by the community. In return, each person was expected to work and was assigned a job by the community Elders based on the needs of the community as well as the talents of the individual. Nearly all women, starting at about age 14, worked in the communal kitchens and gardens. Women also tended to laundry, sewing and knitting and a few worked at the woolen mills. Men's jobs were far more varied. Young men might learn to work in one of the many craft shops, in the mills, or on the farms. Some men were sent outside the community to be educated as doctors or pharmacists.

By the 1860s the Amana Colony, as it came to be known, consisted of over 20,000 acres of land on which seven villages had been established. The villages were spaced just a few miles apart, roughly in the shape of a rectangle, and were named according to their location: West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, East Amana and Middle Amana, in addition to the original village of Amana. The town of Homestead, little more than a few buildings, was purchased by the Inspirationists so that they could have a depot on the new railroad line.

Amana villages each consisted of 40 to 100 buildings. The barns and agricultural buildings were always clustered at the village edge. Orchards, vineyards and gardens encircled the villages. Typical houses were rectangular two-story buildings of wood post-and-beam construction, brick, or sandstone. Each village had its own church, school, bakery, dairy, wine cellar, craft shops and general store. There were also a number of communal kitchens in each village where groups of about 30-40 people ate their meals.

Although all Amana villages are similar, each has its distinctive aspects. The original village of Amana, for example, is reminiscent of a German town with its meandering main street and side streets. On the other hand, the last village built--Middle Amana--displays a very American square block layout. South Amana is known for its predominance of brick construction--boasting even a brick granary and chicken house; in West Amana and High Amana sandstone buildings prevail. Tiny East Amana was not much more than an agricultural outpost, while Amana hummed with industry. The railroads' influence on the villages is evident in Homestead's single street and the bipartite nature of (upper and lower) South Amana.

The Amana settlement pattern of seven villages allowed the Inspirationists to easily access all their farm land (albeit at the cost of inefficiencies due to the need for a multiplicity of machinery and craft shops). Just as importantly it avoided a large urban setting which they felt encouraged immorality. Still, the network of small villages maintained an overall unity and kept everyone close to the spiritual leadership.

The Inspirationists established mills and shops according to their old-world skills. Amana's woolen and calico factories were among the first in Iowa and quickly gained a national reputation for superior quality goods. The Inspirationists did not avoid the use of new technologies and in fact are known to have contributed innovations of their own to the textile industry. By 1908, the two woolen mills (in Amana and Middle Amana) were producing about a half-million yards of fabric a year and the calico factory printed 4,500 yards of its famous cloth each day. Two flour mills (in West Amana and Amana) processed the community's own small grains as well as those of neighboring farmers. Crops of potatoes and onions were shipped to Midwest markets. Profits from the mills and farms was used to purchase goods from outside the community.

Of course, for the Inspirationists all this economic activity was subordinate to their religious purpose, to live a godly and pious life. To assist them in this, church services were held 11 times a week: every evening, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Sunday afternoon. The Community also observed Easter, Christmas and other Christian holidays. In addition, the Inspirationists in Amana held several special services during the year. Of these, the annual renewal of the covenant between each member and the community, and Liebesmahl (Holy Communion) were the most important. Liebesmahl was actually held at times determined through inspiration until the death of Metz in 1867 and thereafter usually every other year. An Unterredung or yearly spiritual examination was held over several months with the Elders visiting each village in turn. Each member of the community came before the Elders and was questioned regarding his/her spiritual condition and admonished to lead a more pious life.

Each family has its own dwelling-place and a small garden; each member of a family has an annual allowance of credit at the common store and a room in the dwelling-house; and each group of families has a large garden, a common kitchen and a common dining-hall where men and women eat at separate tables. Between the ages of five and fourteen education is compulsory for the entire year. In the schools nature study and manual training are prominent; German is used throughout and English is taught in upper classes only. No man is permitted to marry until twenty-four years of age, and no woman until twenty. The society's views and practices are nearly related to the teachings of Schwenkfeld and Boehme. Baptism is not practised; the Lord's Supper is celebrated only once in two years; foot-washing is held as a sacrament. At an annual spiritual examination of the members, there are mutual criticisms and public confessions of sin. The Inspirationists are opposed to war and to taking of oaths.

The church Elders, always men, comprised the leadership in the community. During the time of the Werkzeuge, Elders were chosen through inspiration. The Elders conducted the church services in each village. Some Elders were chosen as Trustees who managed the economic aspects and daily life of the villages. Up to this level each village functioned independently. Collectively, the villages were governed by a Board of Trustees, 13 Elders elected by the adult members of the community. This board directed the overall affairs of the community.

Metz died in 1864 and was succeeded by Barbara Heinemann Landmann, the last Werkzeug, whose death in 1884 the community has lacked an inspired leader. However, the elders and trustees functioned for nearly 50 years without the support of divine authority. They showed a remarkable degree of flexibility to allow communal Amana to become one of America's longest-lived communal societies. Amana was the strongest in numbers of the few sectarian communities in America which outlived the 19th century. A few new members have joined the community from Switzerland and Germany in recent years. In 1905 the community won a suit brought against it for its dissolution on the ground that, having been incorporated solely as a benevolent and religious body, it was illegally carrying on a general business.

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).

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.

Glossary of names & terms

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

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.

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

Barbara Heinemann Landmann or Heynemann(1795 -1883)
French-born spiritual leader of the Community of True Inspiration who supported Christian Metz in his moves from Europe to Iowa and organizing the network of the seven communities known as the Amana Society. As spiritual leader she held the society together after Metz's death.

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.

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.

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.



See W. R. Perkins and B. L. Wick, History of the Amana Society or Community of True Inspiration, Historical Monograph, No. I, in State University of Iowa publications (Iowa City, 1891;; R. T. Ely, " Amana: A Study of Religious Communism," in Harper's Magazine for October 1902; and Bertha M. H. Shambaugh, Amana, the Community of .True Inspiration (Iowa City, 1908).

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