Welcome to Kalona 
What To See    Old Order Amish and the Amana Colonies
What to Do   Two Unique Cultures in Southeast Iowa
By Rod A. Janzen ©1988
Where to Go   A Confusion of Identities

Two unique religious groups were attracted to the fertile agricultural soil of southeast Iowa in the mid-1800’s: the Old Order Amish, in 1846, and the Amana Society, in 1855. Both groups sought isolated, sparsely-populated areas with adequate economic opportunities, to preserve and develop the respective separatist communities.

But the Amana people and the Old Order Amish are two distinct groups with very different historical traditions and religious teachings. There is, furthermore, no ethnic relationship between the two groups, nor has there been much interaction over the years.
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Contact Us   Still the fact that these two groups settled within 50 to 60 miles of one another, eight years apart, held separatist viewpoints, spoke German and dressed in uniformly outdated styles, has caused numerous visitors to confuse the two groups. This confusion has been accentuated in recent years as both the Amana Colonies and the Old Order Amish have become major tourist attractions.
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Kalona, IA 52247

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  Amish Farmer   Many people think that the Inspirationists and the Amish are one and the same ethno-religious group, or that they are two denominations of one major religious affiliation -- the Amana Colonies representing a liberal assemblage, the Old Order Amish, the conservative wing. Others have decided that the word “Amish” is simply a form of the word “Amana.” The two names certainly sound familiar. This only adds to the dilemma. The Amana Colonies and the Old Order Amish are, however, not really related at all, not in any historical or contemporary sense. Let us define the differences.
    The Amana Colonies

The Inspirationists emerged in the early 1700’s as part of the Pietist and Spiritualist movement within the Lutheran Church in Germany. Eberard Gruber and Johann Friedrich Rock were early spiritual leaders in this Community of the True Inspirationalists. The Inspirationalists placed a great deal of emphasis on the development and the nurture of Inner Life via direct mystical contact with God. A strong commitment to church discipline and close community relationships also characterized the Inspirationists.
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    Amana Furn   In 1842, 800 German Inspirationists settled near Buffalo, New York, and began to practice full communal life institutionalizing precepts concerning dress and lifestyle. For economic and spiritual reasons, however, the group bought 18.000 acres in Iowa in 1854 and called their new home “Amana” a word taken from the Old Testament Song of Solomon, which means “to remain faithful.”

In 1932, the year of the “Great Change,” community of goods was discontinued. Strict regulations on dress and lifestyle have also been gradually eliminated. Church life itself however, continues with its spiritualistic pattern and simple form of worship. in unadorned meetinghouses.
    Despite the large number of visitors who come to the Amana villages each year, many unique cultural traditions remain and are, in fact, affirmed and passed on from generation to generation.
    The Old Order Amish

The Older Order Amish of Kalona represent a very different cultural-religious movement of the early 16th century. Jacob Ammann, an early leader of the group, established an Anabaptist church with a much more negative view of the “world” than that held by his spiritual cousins, the Mennonites.

The Old Order Amish are biblicists as opposed to spiritualists. They recognize the authority of God’s Word as written down in the Bible and place less emphasis than do the Inspirationalists on God’s giving direct enlightenment to Christians through his Spirit. In addition, the Amish come from Swiss ethnic stock and speak a completely different German dialect than members of the Amana Society.
      Old Order Amish
Horse and Buggy But most importantly, the Old Order Amish maintain their theology and lifestyle intact, almost the way it was believed and put into practice 300 years ago. The Amish have experienced no “Great Change” in the 20th century. The Inspirationalists in the Amana Colonies also continue to worship God in the same manner that they did 100 years ago. Theological changes are minimal. But whereas residents of the Amana Colonies dress in the latest fashions, outside of the Sunday morning services, the Old Order Amish maintain strict dress requirements and insist that no member use electricity or automobiles. There are no telephones in their homes.
    Tradition and Innovation

Thus, the Old Order Amish continue, almost unchanged, the cultural-religious traditions of their ancestors. The Inspirationalists, on the other hand, have allowed some changes in the traditional beliefs and practices, at least outside church life itself.

An example of this openness to change on the part of the Inspirationalists is their acceptance of military service. The Amish remain strict pacifists, conscientious objectors to war.
      Amish Family
    Barn Raising   Another major difference which historically separated the two groups was Amana’s communal way of life. Though the Old Order Amish believe in mutual aid and assist one another in various ways (including the famous barnraisings), they never practiced community of goods.

Also, whereas the Amana Colonies early on established a variety of craft, appliance and furniture industries, which today are famous throughout the world, the Old Order Amish have insisted that members stick to farming for the most part.
    Amana Colonies

Amanas Colonies
  Two People, Two Unique
Cultural Traditions

Thus, Southeast Iowa has - in the Amana villages and in the Kalona countryside - two very different, very unique religious-cultural groups, both with rich traditions, both extremely interesting for visitors to interact with.

Isn’t it interesting that today
the descendents of the early Inspirationalists and the progressive decendents of the Old Order Amish (many Mennonites in the Kalona area are decendents of Old Order Amish families) compete with each other
in athletic events
 (Amana High School versus either
Iowa Mennonite School or
Mid-Prairie High School).

No, do not expect to find any
horse and buggies in the Amana Colonies. And no, the Old Order Amish
do not make wine for public sale.
Each group has developed
its own unique heritage.
Both traditions enrich the lives
of all who come into
contact with them.
  Kalona IA Welcome Sign

Kalona Downtown
    We encourage you to visit both communities and see the differences for yourself.
If coming for the weekend, consider visiting Kalona on Saturday and the Amana Colonies on Sunday,
as Kalona's religious background keeps the shops from being open on the Sabbath.
©2018 Kal Hist Soc, Webmaster: Kris Lyle printwork@kctc.net