"AMANA, TRUE INSPIRATION … JUST OFF I-80" Top 5 Page for this destination Amana by mtncorg

Amana Travel Guide: 41 reviews and 100 photos

You drive along I-80and at the exit to the Amanas, the first thing you notice is the huge restaurants and shops all trying to catch the unwary traveler into stopping and spending. Huge billboards announce the Colonies just to the north. Why not visit and buy a chair, a meal or a beer? The Amanas consist of seven little villages laid out so that the 19th century colonists could gain easy access to their communal fields. The villages make an irregular circle set in a pretty valley nearby the Iowa River.

The Amanites were German immigrants, mostly, though there was a mixture of others, including Swiss and French. Within what was then Germany, the movement began as a Pietistic revolt against the grandeur of the Lutheran Church – which had revolted earlier against the grandeur of the Catholic Church. Inspiration was thought to need no intermediaries between parishioners and God, such as pastors. All one needed was a good grounding in moral values and an inspired study of the Bible. In addition, those who came to Amana believed that from within their group would arise leaders whom would be inspired directly by God to teach and show the way. Thus, the name, the church of True Inspiration – Wahre Inspirations Gemeinden. Such inspired leaders were known as werkzeuge or instruments. The Church officially began in 1719 from the inspired teachings of Johann Frederick Rock in the area of southwestern Germany and northern Switzerland. Congregations remain scattered about and the werkzeuge would travel from one group to another to tend to the spiritual needs. Gatherings of faithful did occur within Germany. The owner of the Ronneburg castle offered shelter for awhile but problems with local authorities which centered around the refusal to take oaths or send children to public schools (run by Lutheran clergy) led to persecution. Eventually, Christian Metz revealed that the congregations were to gather in America. Metz went ahead with a small party in September 1842 and found 10000 acres of land which became the basis for the three villages of Eben-Ezer, southeast of Buffalo, on the east side of West Seneca. The next year, 350 colonists came over and another 217 in 1844. Eventually there were over 1000 people in the villages.

Communalism was instituted – not so in Germany before – in order that all could survive easier in the New World. Agriculture and other businesses provided a good life, but lack of available land and the growth of Buffalo brought further inspiration. After discarding the idea of moving to Kansas, the group selected Iowa I n1854-55. The move to Amana took 10 years and unlike other communal groups, like the Harmonists and non-communal groups, like the Mormons, the Inspirationists were able to wisely sell their lands without financial loss. Slowly, people migrated west forming the seven villages of Amana

Simple churches – no steeples, family housing and communal dining halls along with rudimentary education were provided. Alcohol and tobacco were allowed. Sex was problematic. Marriage was possible, but not only permission was needed, several requirements needed to be met first and even afterwards, a diminution of social rank was experienced. Celibacy equaled piety. Allowances were given to members according to position and labor in which to buy material for clothing or a few other non-food items. Vanity was frowned upon. Buildings were unpainted as colonists thought paint did not add to the protection of a house. The Colony tried to maintain insularity from the outside World. Members were not thought to work especially hard – hard enough, but with frequent religious obligations impinging upon their time – 11 meetings per week – it was hard to finish what one started sometimes. Business ventures of the Colony succeeded into the 20th century when the World did begin to catch up with the Amanas. A large woolen mill burnt destroying the livelihood of many. Added to that, general building dissatisfaction of younger members and the Great Depression and the communal living system was disbanded in 1932. Members were given stock in the communal property and joined the Capitalist World.

Amana today still consists of the seven villages sprawled out a couple of miles from each other. Each village consists of quiet middle class homes. Restaurants, shops and museums are scattered about the communities, with the highest concentration being found in the main Amana village. Middle Amana is home to the giant Amana Refrigeration factory now owned by Maytag – Maytag, itself arising from Mennonite roots. B/B’s can be found in different villages, but the only motel to be found is in Amana. To understand what the world of Amana was, the Amana Heritage Museums can give you a great staring point to discover the communal life that was.

  • Intro Written Oct 4, 2004
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Reviews (8)

Comments (6)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jan 9, 2007 at 11:49 AM

    More helpful information for my upcoming trip.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2006 at 8:13 PM

    A good entrant for the "Get your education through VT" program!

  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2005 at 2:05 PM

    Nice Amana page. it is a pleasant place to visit with a family.

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Oct 20, 2004 at 5:49 AM

    Fascinating history in your introduction. Excellent tips. I enjoyed a picnic lunch at the Lily Lake in Amana many years ago. Thanks for reviving the memories.

  • Jonathan_C's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2004 at 5:25 AM

    Work, prayer, celibacy, isolation and a rigid social hierarchy. I just can't understand why these religious communities failed. ;-]

  • madamx's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2004 at 11:37 AM

    We have Amana microwaves at work :o) Looks like a very historic place ~ Helen

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