The Hutterian Brethren are better known as Hutterites. They are found today in the states of Montana, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Washington state in the USA and the prairie provinces of Canada.
The Hutterites are part of the Anabaptist movement that came out of the protestant reformation of the sixteenth century.
The Anabaptist movement traces its roots to before the protestant reformation. Their name, Anabaptist means rebaptizer . The Anabaptists believed that baptism should only be administered to Believers , those who were old enough to make a personal decision to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings. Repent and be baptized, every one of you for the remission of sins. Acts. 2:38
The Anabaptist family includes the following groups: Amish Mennonites Hutterites Brethren
The Anabaptists met severe persecution in Europe. Many of the Anabaptists died a martyr’s death for their faith. The Anabaptists have a large book telling the accounts of the hundreds of martyrs for their faith. This book is called: The Martyr’s Mirror . The Hutterites also have a large book containing the stories of just Hutterite martyrs called The Big History Book or The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren. This book is found in nearly every Hutterite home. This book gives the account of hundreds of martyrs for the faith. Jacob Hutter was an early convert to the Hutterian faith and he became an able minister in the Hutterian church. He was burned at the stake at Innsbruck, Austria in 1536. Thus he sealed his faith with his own life’s blood.
What makes the Hutterites different from other Anabaptist groups is their commitment to communal living. The Hutterites taught that property should be held in commonby all the members of their community. In 1528 a group of Anabaptists were in desperate shape. One of the leaders of the group laid his cloak on the ground and asked that all present bring their possessions and lay them on his cloak. This was the beginning of what today is the Hutterian Church which bases their belief in common ownership on New Testament verses found in the book of Acts. And all that believed held all things in common. Acts. 2:44
Many people today confuse Hutterites with Mennonites. The Hutterian Brethren or Hutterites take their name from Jacob Hutter, an early leader among the Anabaptists who had adopted the practice of communal living. Mennonites believe in private ownership and live in their own homes and farms. They take their name from Menno Simons. Menno was an influential Anabaptist leader in northern Germany and in Holland in the early 1500’s. Menno Simons Early Anabaptist leader in Holland from Whom the Mennonites take their name. Jacob Hutter Leader of communal Anabaptists, burned At the stake in 1536. From whom The Hutterites take their name.
Under severe persecution, the Anabaptist movement grew throughout Europe. These people were chased all over Europe and many of them eventually elected to come to America in hopes of finding a place to freely practice their religion. The Hutterites moved all over eastern Europe, establishing new communities only to be persecuted and driven from their homes. They were driven from Moravia to Slovakia, to Rumania, and finally accepted the invitation of the Russian Czar to come and settle along with other German immigrants in southern Russia and the Ukraine. Photo: Courtesy Church of the Brethren
The Hutterites developed thriving self-sufficient communities wherever they went. Early day Hutterites were noted for: • Their Schools • Their weaving skills • Farming and production of livestock • Their medical skills • The production of fine pottery
Fine Hutterian pottery from the 1600’s. This style of eastern European pottery is called Habaner pottery.
In spite of intense persecution, the Hutterian Church continued to grow. Their colonies prospered. Their numbers eventually reached the thousands. The Hutterites sent out evangelists all over Europe. They directed their converts to their communities in Moravia and Slovakia. The majority of these evangelists were killed for their evangelical activity and refusal to return to the state church.
Wherever they settled the Hutterites were welcomed for their farming and industrial abilities but despised for their “peculiar religion”.
For about the first hundred years the Hutterites increased in strength and numbers. By the late 1600’s the movement had grown cold. The Hutterites had abandoned communal living. Persecution had forced many of them to abandon communal life and to seek living on their own. Many, too, had returned to the state church rather than face more persecution for their self and families. Many more were killed for their faith. A very small group of sixteen people had preserved the Hutterite sermon, history, and song books even though they had abandoned communal living in order to survive.
The Protestant Reformation began to sweep Europe. Many people left the Roman Catholic church and adopted the teachings of Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin. Some areas of Europe remained under Roman Catholic rule and Protestants were banished to remote parts of Europe. The survival of the Hutterite church was a result of a group of Carinthian Lutherans who met persecution and sought refuge in Transylvania, (in Rumania).
This group of Carinthian Lutherans met up with the remnant of the old Hutterites who were living in Transylvania. These people read the Hutterite writings and became convinced that these writings contained the truth, and communal living was again revived in 1755 with about fifty new converts and sixteen old Hutterites.
Gross Hofer Kleinsasser Stahl Waldner Wipf Wurtz From these Carinthian converts to the Hutterian Brethren we know the following last names came into the fellowship: Hutterite Wedding dress from the early 1800’s
Again the Hutterites experienced persecution for their beliefs and so they accepted the Russian Czar’s invitation to come to South Russia where they would be free to establish their colonies and practice their religion.
With the addition of these new converts, the Hutterites were also able to make some converts from the Mennonites. These Mennonites had similar basic beliefs to the Hutterites and had also accepted the Czar’s invitation to come to South Russia where they could run their own German villages and schools, and where they would be free to practice their faith. The Hutterites prospered in Russia, increasing in number of colonies and people. In time, prosperity caused them to stray from their original teachings and communal living was again abandoned and the Hutterites adopted a system of private enterprise like their Mennonite neighbors.
By the 1870’s, conditions had changed in Russia. The German people living in the Ukraine were no longer granted the privileges that had been granted to them when they had settled in Russia a hundred years before. Many of these Germans living in South Russia began to move to America. About this time a Hutterite by the name of Michael Waldner had a vision of heaven where the angels were singing and praising God, and hell, where there was anguish and pain. Waldner asked the angel where his place would be and Waldner reported the angel told him: “Can you tell me whether any person was saved from the great Flood besides those in the ark? Now you know your place. The ark is the ‘Gemeinshaft’ of the Holy Spirit to which you no longer belong.”
The Hutterites who had returned to community of goods soon organized themselves into three basic groups. • Schmiedeleut Named for their leader, Michael Waldner, a “Schmied” or blacksmith. They settled at Bon Homme Colony near Tabor, Bon Homme County, in what is now South Dakota in 1874. • Dariusleut Named for their leader Darius Walter. They first settled at Wolf Creek Colony, west of Freeman, Hutchinson County, South Dakota. They arrived here in 1875. • Lehrerleut Named for their leader, Jakob Wipf, who was a “Lehrer” or teacher. They established Elm Springs Colony in northwestern Hutchinson County, in what is now South Dakota in 1877. Leut pronounced “light” is the German word for people. Hence: The blacksmith’s people, Darius’s people, and the teacher’s people.
Since coming to the United States, the Hutterites have basically remained in the same three groups that they came to America with. Here on the Dakota prairies they built their colonies to last for generations. Pioneer life on the prairie was harsh, but the Hutterites and their belief in and practice of communal living gave them an advantage in settling and developing the country. Soon the original three Hutterite colonies thrived and planted daughter colonies. The colonies focused on agricultural related industries. The Hutterites tended to settle in the James River Valley of South Dakota. They built their colonies on the river where they could build dams and mills to grind grain. Things seemed to go well for the Hutterian Brethren in South Dakota. Old Elm Springs Colony
Peace and prosperity on the Dakota prairies eventually came to an end when the United States entered the First World War. • Many people resented the Hutterites for several reasons: • They spoke their own German dialect amongst themselves instead of English. • The Hutterites were pacifists and refused to fight in the war. • The Hutterian Brethren were considered “poor citizens” because they also refused to buy war bonds.
Several young Hutterite men were thrown in federal prison because they refused to serve in the U.S. Army. There they were harassed and treated so badly that two of the young men died from the rough treatment. Their bodies were shipped back to Rockport Colony in South Dakota. When the coffins were opened, the Hutterites found these young men’s bodies were dressed in U. S. Army uniforms which they had refused to wear when they were alive. Hutterite martyrs Joseph and Michael Hofer’s graves at Rockport Colony in South Dakota.
Hutterites and other German speaking people soon found themselves as being looked upon with suspicion. They were told to not speak German. They were also forbidden to conduct their church services in German. A Mennonite minister in Montana was lynched for conducting church services in German. Many German-Russian Americans found they were no longer welcome in town and were slandered, had rocks thrown at them, and were forced to enter stores from doors located in the back off the alley. The Hutterites in particular were singled out for persecution from “patriotic” individuals. Besides some of their young men dying a martyr’s death in Leavenworth prison; angry bands of vigilantes raided Hutterite colonies. These people drove off the Hutterites’ livestock, sold the livestock, and bought war bonds with the proceeds. They put these bonds in the colony’s name.
Starting in 1918, all the Hutterite colonies in the United States began a migration from South Dakota to Canada where they felt they would be free from the persecution they had received during the World War. The only colony that remained behind was Bon Homme Colony near Tabor, South Dakota. ALL the Hutterite colonies in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota today are descended from this colony. So are the colonies that moved to the province of Manitoba in Canada. These are the Schmiedeleut colonies and they are considered the most progressive and liberal of the Hutterites.
The Lehrerleut and Dariusleut have never returned to their original colonies in South Dakota. Neither did they settle near the Schmiedeleut in Canada, but they built their colonies in Alberta, and Saskatchewan. In time, they spilled back across the border into the United States. Both the Lehrer and Darius people have colonies in Montana and the Dariusleut have colonies in the state of Washington. During the depression of the 1930’s so many farms in South Dakota had been abandoned that the legislature of South Dakota sent an invitation to Canada asking the Hutterian Brethren to return to their abandoned colonies.
The Schmiedeleut were the only Hutterites to accept the South Dakota legislature’s invitation. They bought the abandoned colonies left by the Lehrerleut and Dariusleut and have since multiplied to nearly sixty colonies in South Dakota.
During World War II, the Hutterites again refused to enter into military service. They were classified as conscientious objectors. The Hutterite young men of military age were assigned to work in alternative service programs along with other young men from the Historic Peace Churches. • The Historic Peace Churches are: • Amish • Mennonites • Brethren • Hutterites • Quakers
In the last sixty years the Hutterites have enjoyed a period of • peace in both Canada and the United States. • It has been a time of growth and expansion. Colonies have • grown and new colonies have been organized and settled. • The Hutterites have grown to a population of nearly 40,000 • people in North America. • Their colonies number as follows: • Schmiedeleut, over 150 colonies. • Dariusleut, over 230 colonies. • Lehrerleut, over 100 colonies.
Unlike their spiritual cousins , the Amish, the Hutterian Brethren have readily accepted technology. Hutterite land holdings have grown larger in recent years just like the farms of their Englisch neighbors. Hutterites refer to people who live outside the Hutterite Colony system as Englisch. Non-Hutterite farms have grown larger and have become more specialized. The same thing has happened with the Hutterites. Whereas colonies were once pretty much a self-contained self- sufficient community, the Hutterites have specialized their agricultural enterprises. Hutterites use large modern equipment for the production of their grain and livestock. The Hutterites have become major producers of hogs and turkeys. Many have developed successful dairy herds.
Some colonies have maintained large laying houses with tens of thousands of birds. The Hutterites are among the nations largest producers of turkeys, and produce the majority of the geese consumed in the United States.
Hutterite colonies maintain a level of self-sufficiency. Their colonies produce vegetables from large gardens for their own use and for sale to their Englisch neighbors. Some colonies have orchards and vinyards for their own use. Some colonies raise and dress large numbers of chickens and ducks for personal use and to sell directly to consumers. Many colonies still keep bees as a sideline. A few colonies still maintain the business of making and selling brooms
Hutterians do most of their own building. Their blacksmiths do most of their own repair work as well as doing repair jobs for other farmers outside the colony. Most colonies have their own milling facilities to grind the feed needed by their livestock enterprises. Most Hutterite clothing is homemade. Hutterite women are accomplished seamstresses and fastidious housekeepers.
As times have changed and land for expansion becomes more expensive and harder to obtain, Hutterite colonies, like the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren have found that they need to enter into business and manufacturing to survive in a modern economy. No doubt expansion will continue in this direction as they move into the future. Some colonies today do manufacturing work. One colony in South Dakota has a feed mill where they sell commercial feed under their own label. Another nearby colony operates a lumber and building supply business where their clients are other Hutterite colonies and non-Hutterians in the area. Other colonies have developed enterprises such as print shops and furniture and cabinet making businesses.
Many non-Hutterites upon their first visit to a Hutterite colony report that it is like a visit to a foreign country. This no doubt in part is true because the Hutterites have been able to hang onto their generations old Tyrolean dress styles, and also have maintained old world customs and traditions. Hutterites have learned to be prominent members of local economies while trying to maintain a centuries old faith, lifestyle, and language. The Hutterite writings are preserved in a very old style of High German with sermons being read daily from sermon books that have been passed on by their forefathers from generation to generation. Many of these books have been hand copied dozens of times. While this old style high German is the language of their church, it is not the language of the home. A Hutterite child’s first language and the one that Hutterites speak among themselves is Hutterisch.
Hutterisch is a very unique language. The basis of this language is a Tyrolean German dialect. However, in their being persecuted and chased all over Eastern Europe, the Hutterites “picked up a little” in every country of their sojourn. The Hutterisch language is therefore a conglomeration of Tyrolean German, Romanian, Russian, and English. Hutterisch is an unwritten language and is very unusual in that it freely mixes three very different language groups: Germanic, Romantic, and Slavic. The Hutterites and a few remaining Hutterisch Mennonites are the world’s only speakers of this language.
A few Hutterite colonies operate their own private parochial schools. Most colonies in the U.S. and Canada, however, have a unique arrangement with their local public school districts. Under this arrangement, textbooks and a public school teacher are supplied by the district. The building and its up- keep is supplied by the colony. This enables the students to receive a public school education while not having to attend a consolidated public school attendance center. Most Hutterite schools are an old fashioned one-room-country-school setting with multiple grades in one room. The majority of Hutterite children’s formal education will end upon completing the eighth grade.
Hutterite children attend German school which is conducted by a man selected from within the colony to over see the children. They usually attend these German classes for an hour in the morning before English school and another hour in the afternoon when English school is complete. German school is often held on Saturday morning as well. Children typically attend German school between the ages of five and fifteen and English school until completion of the eighth grade. A few colonies today encourage correspondence for high school or have developed a high school program for their students. After a young person has his or her fifteenth birthday, they no longer will attend German school and will quit eating in the children’s dining room and take their place in the adult dining hall. Hutterites do not have private kitchens in their apartments but eat their meals at the common kitchen or dining hall.
After a young person’s fifteenth birthday, a young woman will begin to take her place helping with cooking, sewing, baking and working in the garden. A young man will be assigned to a job with the other men of the colony. In the years to follow, he will be moved to numerous different positions around the colony so he will “get a feel” for all the jobs on the place. Hutterites working together are a living example of the old German proverb that says: “Many hands make light work.” They can rest assured that no one person has to work too hard and that all their physical needs will be taken care of and provided for from the cradle to the grave. They all work together for the good of everyone in the community. The Hutterite system has stood to the present as the most successful utopian communal experiment in history.
The Hutterian communal philosophy is one of hands to work & • hearts to God. • The average Hutterite will never have to worry about: • Looking for or applying for a job. • Paying their own bills. • Needing medical or dental care. • Being put in a nursing home. • Paying for funeral expenses. The Hutterian system of community of goods is one where every individual works for the benefit of the entire colony and the entire colony works to care for the individual.
The Hutterian Brethren have a remarkable history. Time will show what the future holds.
This PowerPoint presentation done by: Daniel Flyger Oaklane Colony School 146 Dwelling Rd. Alexandria, SD 57311
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