A Brief Introduction to the Amana Colonies
Original Author: Cait Bodenbender, ENG340 FL10
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The seven Amana colonies are located in Iowa County, Iowa, about twenty miles west of Iowa City (Clark 47). The colonies were founded by the Community of True Inspiration, a separatist religious group comprised of pietists from Germany, Alsace, and Switzerland (Hoehnle 7, Amana Colonies 1). The Inspirationalists sought a simple religious life featuring, “a cappella singing, unadorned worship places, and ecstatic, extemporaneous worship” (Hoehnle 11). They are Anabaptist, believing in baptism by the Holy Spirit and eschewing baptism by water, and believe that God continues to speak to His people through inspired individuals, which they call Werkzeuge (which translates from German into English as “instruments”) (Hoehnle 11, 12). The Inspirationalist community immigrated to the United States to escape persecution in1843. Initially, they purchased land in upstate New York, where members adopted a communal way of life and became known as the Ebenezer Society (Hoehnle 18). In 1854, the community decided to again relocate, in response to difficulties regarding interaction with the “outsiders” of the nearby town of Buffalo and a “testimony” communicated through Metz, which directed the community to find a new home in the West (Hoehnle 22, 23).

After briefly exploring the possibility of relocation to Kansas, a small recognizance group chose the Iowa River Valley for the community’s new home. In 1855 they began to purchase land, eventually owning 26,000 contiguous acres (Clark 47, Hoehnle 24). They chose to name their new settlement “Amana.” Found in the Biblical Song of Solomon, “Amana” means “believe faithfully” (Clark 79). Amana Society members built their main village in 1855, and quickly followed it with West Amana and South Amana in 1856 (Clark 80). In 1860 they built High Amana, Middle Amana and East Amana (Clark 80). They also purchased the previously established village of Homestead, as well as 5000 acres of land surrounding it, in order to have access to its railroad station (Clark 81). The boundaries and land holdings of the Amana Society have not changed significantly since this purchase in 1862 (Clark 82).

The Society maintained its communal way of life until economic pressures and the growing exodus of Amana youth forced the church’s leadership to consider reorganization. In the winter of 1932, ninety-six percent of the members voted to give up living communally (Hoehnle 70).


Works Cited
Clark, R. “A Cultural and Historical Geography of the Amana Colony, Iowa.” Diss. University of Nebraska, 1974. Print.
Foerstner, Abigail. Picturing Utopia. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000. Print.
Hoehnle, Peter. The Amana People: The History of a Religious Community. Iowa City: Penfield, 2003. Print.

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