RELIGIOUS COLONISTS IN IOWA
THE AMANA COLONY
One of the largest, and perhaps the most
interesting, of Iowa's colonies is that of Amana. The people
of this colony came from Germany and had been driven from
their home country because of their religious belief. They
first settled on land which they bought from the Indians near
Buffalo, New York. When more settlers came from Germany and
more land was needed, the leaders of the colony decided that
they must move westward because land in New York was too
expensive. A committee of men from the colony came to Iowa in
1854 and bought about 3,300 acres. The next year some of the
colonists moved to Iowa and built the first village, which
they called Amana. It was ten years before all of the
colonists had left New York.
The Amana colony grew until there are now
seven villages. Each has its own church and elementary
school. There is one high school for the entire colony. At
present the colony owns about twenty-six thousand acres of
land and consists of about eighteen hundred members.
Until June 1932 no one in the Amana Colony
owned anything for himself. The colony as a group owned
everything. Everyone in the colony worked for the group. In
1832, however, three-fourths of the members voted to
reorganize the colony. Now the colony owns the land but each
member works for himself.
Another Iowa colony that believed in community
ownership was a group of French people known as Icarians.
The founder of this colony was Etienne Cabet who wrote a book
called "Voyage en Icarie." This told of a trip to an
imaginary ideal community. After reading the book, many
French people wanted to establish a community such as had been
described. They decided to do so in America. In February,
1848, sixty-nine Icarians, as Cabet's followers were called,
left France for Texas. They did not like conditions as they
found them in that state and soon looked for a new location.
Since the Mormons had just left Nauvoo, Illinois, the
Icarians went there and Cabet himself with about five hundred
of his followers joined the colony at that place.
Some people said that the Icarians were not
religious because the colony was not based upon religion. In
answer to this, Cabet said, "If anyone should say that the
society is contrary to the laws of God, he would be mistaken.
We are Christians. The Gospel is our law. Our community is
founded not only on fraternity, equality, and liberality - but
also upon morality and temperance - on marriage and family
relations - on education and industry - on peace and respect
to the laws, and we shall always pray for the prosperity of
the great and powerful American Republic."
The Icarians at Nauvoo quarreled and
separated. The smaller group under Cabet's leadership went to
St. Louis. In 1860 the larger group of nearly two hundred
fifty moved to Adams County, Iowa. They bought three thousand
acres of land but since they could not pay for all of it they
kept only about half. The town which they built was named
Icaria. Mills and shops were built. Many lines of business
were carried on by the colony but farming was the chief
The Icarians were hard workers and carefully
caved their money. As a result, they became quite wealthy.
But, as in the case of the Amana colony in recent years, the
younger members of the colony wanted to won property
themselves. Since the members could not agree on many
matters, the colony was divided in 1877. The younger party
kept the village while the older party moved to a new location
on the eastern end of the community lands.
In 1883 the younger party moved to California
where the organization was soon broken up. The older party
received a new charter under the name of New Icaria. It
continued until 1895. Then, with only twenty-one members
left, it was necessary to dissolve the organization. Each
member received enough property to be considered fairly
Another religious colony in which no one owns
any land for himself is the Trappist monastery in Dubuque
County. The Cistercian or Trappist Monks founded this colony
in 1849 and it is still active, although only a few monks live
there at present. They own and operate an extensive farm and
have a number of fine buildings.
A MORMON COLONY
Charles B. Thompson, a Mormon from Nauvoo,
started a colony near Onawa in Monona County in 1853. The
colony owned several thousand acres of land. Thompson called
himself "Father Ephraim" and the "Chief Steward of the Lord."
All the property was to belong to him. Some of the men
became dissatisfied. They threatened to hang Thompson and
chased out of Iowa.
A STRANGE COLONY
One of the strangest colonies in Iowa was that
founded by Abner Kneeland. It was located south of
Farmington, in Van Buren County. Mr. Kneeland did not believe
in God or any kind of religion. In 1838 he founded a town
called Salubria, in which people who believed as he did lived.
A few years later Kneeland died and the colony soon