Chapter 6: A Recipe for Nationality Stew: The German Russians,
By Douglas Chittick
Dakota Panorama, Dakota Territory Centennial Commission,
published by Pine Hill Press, Freeman, South Dakota, 1961, 468 pages,
The German Russians
engaged primarily in agriculture, they required a center in
which to buy and sell and this prompted the small towns which
dot the Territory. Ipswich, above, filled the need for the
German-Russians in the Edmunds County region.
The group we refer to as German Russians in South Dakota are people
of German stock who were an ethnic group in Russia for about 100
years before they began coming to the United States. Because of
their isolation, government policies, and the superiority of their
culture over that of their Russian neighbors, the German Russians
became a very closely knit group in Russia and, therefore, did not
acquire much of the Russian culture. They have become assimilated
much more rapidly in this country.
A brief, interesting and well documented account of the history
of the German people who migrated to Russia and then to the United
States is given in the book, Pietism and the Russian Germans
in the United States, by George J. Eisenach. We are indebted
also to a student, John G. Gross, who summarized in a term paper
the early history of these people from the above source, as well
as from a number of other books and articles.
The lower classes lived at a bare subsistence level in Germany
before the migration to Russia. The youth of military age had been
drafted, leaving the older men to produce the food on farms. Taxes
were exorbitant and the political situation gave them little hope
for the future. Frequent wars had drained the economy and manpower.
There was little loyalty to the state because insurrections by the
lower classes had failed. The Seven Years' War ended in 1763 leaving
widespread poverty. The German people began to think of emigration
involuntarily. Many of them went to Hungary, Poland, and America.
It was at this time (1763) that Catherine II (the Great) of Russia
(1762 to 1796), a former German, issued her manifesto inviting people
of other nationalities to settle in Russia.
Before Catherine II's reign, attempts had been made to settle the
lower Volga area by Russians from other areas of that country, but
this had failed because of the ravages of nomadic tribes. The failure
of these Russian colonists may also be attributed to the fact that
they knew they could return to their former homes where conditions
were better. At least they knew how to live there. The colonizing
Russians lacked the ingenuity to adapt themselves to the physical
environment as well as to the turbulent raiding bands. It was Catherine's
design to introduce a higher type of culture into this area to "disseminate
industry and agricultural science among her subjects." The
Germans had skill making good quality powder, in glass making, cannon
and bell making. The German settlement, she felt, would serve as
a buffer against these nomads for the more developed parts of Russia.
Sources differ as to the inducements offered by Catherine II, but
concessions included agreements concerning land, religious freedom,
exemption from military service, financial aid, and almost complete
autonomy in local government. As a result thousands of Germans established
themselves on the Steppes on both sides of the Volga River south
of Saratov some distance north of the Caspian Sea. It is said that
in spite of suffering, sacrifices and struggles this population
increased from 23,019 in 1768 to 668,896 by 1914.
Most of the German Russian settlers we have in South Dakota, however,
are descendants of the German people who settled in the northern
Black Sea region of Russia. The invitation for this group of Germans
was encouraged especially by Alexander I (1801-1825). Germans began
migrating to this region as early as 1781 but particularly after
1804. The inducements by the Russians at this time were about the
same as they were under Catherine II. By 1859, there was a total
of 153 German colonies in this region with a total of 106,123 people.
This total increased to 526,795 by 1914, making a total of more
than a million German people in the two Russian areas by 1914.
The German colonists lived in small farm villages in both the Volga
and Black Sea regions with about twenty to eighty families in each
village. Houses, barns and stables were generally under one roof
and were located on both sides of a long wide street. The land was
divided into long narrow strips, so distributed that farmers would
share both the good and bad land equally. The strips were redistributed
periodically according to the Russian Mir system.
Disease and famine were frequent occurrences. Many colonies were
destroyed by nomad raids especially during the rebellions of the
Russian peasants (especially that of Pugochev between 1773 and 1775).
There was no assimilation between the Germans and the Russians because
of the language barrier, separate churches, and the aggressive feelings
Russian neighbors developed against the German colonies because
of the exemptions the government had given these immigrants. A symbiotic
relationship between the colonists and the local Russians developed,
according to respondents interviewed by Gross in 1960. The local
Russian peasants were often treated like slaves by the colonists.
In spite of this, population pressure became a serious problem by
1830; so daughter colonies were formed rather than assimilate as
individuals with the local Russians.
Russia made little progress between 1815 and 1855. The Crimean
War in 1853 left Russia helplessly defeated. As a "come-back"
measure, the Russians began their policy of assimilation in 1866
by gradually assuming control of education. Compulsory military
training was put into effect in 1871, German control of their local
government was abolished in 1876 and Russian was declared the official
language in 1897. A number of poor crops occurred between 1884 to
All of these adverse circumstances served as "push" factors
for migration with the added "pull" factors of letters
and newspaper articles from former residents who had left and settled
in America earlier. The Germans began to leave Russia in large numbers.
The major migration was to the United States from 1872 to the First
World War in 1914.
The migration of the German Russians from the two regions was quite
distinct. The Volga group settled from the eastern border of Montana
to the Pacific Coast and in Colorado. A few settled in Perkins and
Butte Counties in western South Dakota. The South or Black Sea Russians
(German Russians) settled mainly in South Dakota and North Dakota.
Others moved to Canada from the Dakotas.
John P. Johansen gives a brief and interesting account of the settlement
of the German Russians in South Dakota in Experiment Station
Bulletin No.313, "Immigrant Settlements and Social Organization
in South Dakota." He relates the settlement pattern more or
less to various religious groups of which there were many among
the German Russians. As a background, Eisenach points out that conditions
in Russia among the German colonists, just before their migration
to America, were especially favorable to the spread of Pietism.
Economic burdens and social ills made the message of the revivalist
"all the more convincing." The settlers in Russia had
experienced famine and disease. They were cut off from the world
at the eastern border of civilization, isolated during the long
winter nights. In some places there was a shortage of wood. There
were crop failures, attacks by wolf packs, and privations of many
kinds. In addition, during the first fifty years colonists were
subject to the attacks of semi-savage tribes of Tartars, Bashikirs,
The second condition which contributed to Pietism and a religious
lay movement was the scarcity of professional religious leaders.
The Lutheran Church was the predominant religious denomination
among the Protestant colonies in Russia. The Russian government
had promised to provide and support clergymen for the German colonists
according to Eisenach, but the Russian governor refused to support
any by 1769. By 1820, the need for Protestant ministers was so urgent
that the Roman Catholic priests were secured to minister to the
spiritual needs of Protestants, Eisenach continues. Groups of laymen
who tired of the increasing formalism of religion as exemplified
in all the churches such as the Lutheran, Reformed and others at
the time, sought a religion that would assure them of salvation.
Johansen points out that the Evangelical Protestant German Russians
left the Black Sea region in considerable numbers in 1872. They
settled northwest of Yankton the following year when they could
not find suitable land in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin or Nebraska.
Their experience had been that of living in farm villages in the
old country but the land had all been taken in the eastern states
so that colonies could not be established. The first settlement
in Yankton County, where sufficient land could be obtained for a
compact settlement, was called Odessa, where the township still
bears the name. Additional families came later by way of Lincoln,
Nebraska. A number of settlements were established between 1874
and 1880 in Yankton, Hutchinson, Bon Homme, and Douglas Counties
"in the vicinity of Menno, Freeman, Tripp, Avon and Delmont."
Johansen continues, "In the 1870's immigrants from Kassel,
near Cherson in Russia, settled in the present Kassel township in
Hutchinson County. Kulm Township, southwest of Parkston, became
the home of immigrants from Kulm in Bessarabia. The province of
Bessarabia is now part of Rumania. It is adjacent to the Black Sea
region whence so many of these immigrants came. The 1930 census
credited South Dakota with 410 Rumanians. It showed also that 98
of them are found in Hutchinson County, 34 in Douglas County, 35
in Edmunds County, and smaller numbers elsewhere. The mother tongue
of at least three-fourths of these 'Rumanians' is German."
The first Evangelical-Protestant settlement in the northern part
of the state began in the vicinity of Roscoe, Hosmer, Eureka in
Edmunds and McPherson Counties. These were the "Schwarzmeerdeutschen"
or Black Sea Germans. From these points the German Russian settlements
spread to Walworth and Campbell Counties, and northwest across the
state boundary line into North Dakota. They moved west of the Missouri
River into Corson and Dewey Counties in South Dakota when the Standing
Rock and Cheyenne Indian Reservations were opened up to settlement
in 1909 and 1910. The names of some of the townships in McPherson
County indicate the early German Russian influence; such township
names as Kassel, Moscow, Bauer, Steckel, Odessa, Glucksthol, Detmold
In an unpublished paper, Daniel Opp, tells about leaving Russia
with his parents when he was twelve years old. They came by way
of Menno in southern Dakota in 1884, taking the train to Frederick
and then making their way across the hills in northern McPherson
County by oxen to the vicinity of Eureka. He gives a good picture
of the hardships and problems the early settlers endured.
The German-Russian Protestants are divided into several denominations
according to Johansen: the Baptist, Congregational, Evangelical,
Lutheran, and Reformed. It is difficult to identify them specifically,
says Johansen, because some of the parishes and memberships are
partly of German Empire origins; however German Russian memberships
The Baptists grew in number rapidly in Eureka during the 1880's
and 1890's. Large numbers of these Baptists had taken part in a
religious movement in Russia called the "Stundists," according
to Johansen. Their name, as well as their doctrine, is German.
Eureka was for some years located at the end of the railroad, at
a time when it is said there were twenty-one elevators doing business
there, making it the largest wheat terminal in the world.
German Congregationalism had its origin in the Swiss and German
settlements in Iowa. German Congregationalists later founded settlements
in Nebraska from where the first ministers came to Dakota "to
work among the newly arrived German Evangelical immigrants from
Russia." The first congregations were established near Scotland,
Parkston, and Tyndall in 1884, according to Johansen. These were
largely rural churches. The German Congregational churches maintained
a liberal arts college and academy at Redfield, for about twenty-seven
years. A theological seminary had been maintained at the same place
since 1916. The college and seminary were merged with the Congregational
college in Yankton in 1932-1933.
A book published by Eureka's Golden Jubilee organization in 1937,
has a wealth of information concerning the early history of the
settlement by German Russians in the northern part of the state.
The German Catholic immigration from the Black Sea region came
to Yankton in 1875. Some of the initial settlements were located
at Scotland. This group migrated to the vicinity of Ipswich in Edmunds
County in large numbers about 1885. Ipswich seems to be the center
or mother colony from which the area northeast of Ipswich was settled.
The town has a candle factory that supplies many churches in the
United States. The urban settlement of Catholic German Russians
began in Aberdeen in 1887. They are also to be found in the vicinities
of Bowdle, Hosmer, Hillsview, Loyalton, Roscoe, and Onaka. The last
mentioned settlement, according to Johansen, was originally called
New-Russland from 1910 until 1915. There are also Catholic settlements
at Trail City, Glencross, and Isabel, west of the Missouri River.
There are ethnic groups in South Dakota such as Germans and Norwegians
which are numerically larger than the German Russians, but they
live in fewer compact settlements. In contrast, the German Russians
have fewer, compact settlements but these few are much larger which
has tended to slow down processes of assimilation for them.
The German Russians place a high value on land ownership. They
work hard, are thrifty, and compete effectively. For example, the
early settlement in McPherson was in the western half of the county.
Now they own or operate most of the land in the whole county.
Many interesting stories can be told about the early political
activity and contributions made by the German Russians in this state,
but space does not permit. Here is an interesting account that the
author heard when he was a boy which he cannot document, but which
serves as an example of culture change:
It is said that when the early German Russian farmers in the northern
tier of counties in South Dakota went to town they left their homes
in a caravan of wagons. (This was the way they traveled to bazaars
in the old country – to protect themselves from roving bands
of nomadic thieves.) The farmer who lived the greatest distance
from town would start early on the appointed day. Hay was put in
the wagon for the children to sit on and to be used as feed for
the horses during the time they shopped in town. The farmer down
the road and his family were ready to join the first wagon when
it arrived. Down the road further one wagon after another fell in
line until twenty or thirty wagons, single file, advanced slowly
in the early morning to the "city."
like people, are born; likewise, towns die. Evarts was prominent
for many years in the early 1900’s as a shipping point
to the West River Country. It was located on the Missouri
below the present Mobridge. Extension of the railroad to the
north of Evarts prompted the demise of the community.
They had lived in villages in Russia, but here they lived on isolated
homesteads. Transportation was such that they did not see each other,
except for neighbors, often. They went to town only occasionally.
The older folks craved "company" and visiting. Even though
the wagon train moved slowly the time did not drag. A trip like
this started out more or less as a formal occasion especially for
the children for they did not see other children often. The husbands
and wives would exchange wagons so that the husbands could visit
as they drove along the dusty road. The girls stayed with their
mothers while the sons moved to the wagons selected by the men.
It was not long until the formalities were broken down by the children
and gossip shortened the time for the oldsters as they moved along
the winding prairie road over the hills. No doubt marriage possibilities
for their children took some of the conversational time. Through
the indirect interview they elicited the size of the dowry, cooking
abilities of the young ladies, and the farming interests of the
late teen age males. Economic factors counted large in arranging
a marriage – love would follow.
When they got to town in the middle of the forenoon they unhitched
the horses and "watered” them at the town’s watering
trough. The horses were then tied to the wagons so they could eat
the hay and oats brought for them. Time was limited so the men and
women went individually about their shopping. The country kids soon
learned to wander around town in groups to protect themselves from
the town kids. This was a town-country form of conflict, for both
groups were largely of the same nationality.
There were no restaurants in the early 1900's so at noon various
families got together to eat in a grocery store. There were saloons
and the hotels which served family style at meal time, but these
people were conservative and preferred their own food. At this time
many of the stores in this area had a large room in the rear equipped
only with tables and chairs. The women brought large fresh loaves
of bread and homemade wurst highly seasoned with garlic with them
in empty flour sacks. This served as a basis of their meal and was
sometimes supplemented with some commercial foods purchased during
the morning. The visiting continued.
The shopping was completed about the middle of the afternoon at
which time the groceries and supplies were loaded into the wagons.
The horses were watered again and shortly afterward these farmers
started their long journey homeward. The mothers made a quick check
on the younger children before they left. The wagons began to file
out of town one by one. The children ate candy and often fought
over it and upon such occasions they were sent to their own wagons.
As each family approached the crossroad that would take them home
they got into their wagon. Husbands and wives could hardly wait
to exchange the bits of gossip they had heard. This exchange, and
the surmising implications of it, would continue until the next
trip to town. As each wagon turned to the right or left to leave
the caravan there was a hearty wave from all within distance and
an exchange of good will until the last wagon disappeared in the
There were, of course, no bandits or thieves on the Dakota prairies,
but the old custom provided a very good social and economic adjustment
in a strange new land.
Mennonites and Hutterites
There seems to be much misunderstanding about the Mennonites and
the Hutterites. It is not uncommon for their names to be used interchangeably.
This misunderstanding also relates to the customs and religious
beliefs of the two groups. Both groups are quite similar in that
they originated in the Reformation period of the sixteenth century
in Europe; they are both Anabaptists. The Mennonites are the followers
of Menno Simons and the Hutterites are followers of Jacob Hutter.
In addition to some differences in Scriptural interpretations, the
basic difference between them from the viewpoint of outsiders is
that the Mennonites live on separate, individual farmsteads which
is characteristic of land settlement in our country, while the Hutterites
own their own property in common and live together in Christian
The Mennonites are religious groups that developed out of the Protestant
Reformation in the sixteenth century in Friesland – the low
land in and near Holland. Their leader was Menno Simons who was
influenced by the Anabaptist movement originating near Zurich, Switzerland.
Historically, they have stood for Scriptural authority, nonresistance,
plainness of dress, rejection of oaths, adult baptism, aloofness
from the state, and restriction of marriage to members of the group.
There has, however, been some deviation from some of these beliefs
since their early beginnings as exemplified by the groups now located
in South Dakota.
The Mennonites and their beliefs developed during the time feudal
estates were being consolidated into small kingdoms through local
wars in Europe. The earliest persecutions resulted from their stand
on adult baptism, i.e., church membership, rather than
opposition to war. It was initiated by church leaders rather than
political leaders. Persecution due to their stand on participation
in war came to the forefront after the practice of conscription
following Napoleonic Wars. Because of these beliefs and especially
their opposition to war, they were persecuted and driven from place
to place in various parts of Europe. Differences developed among
them so a number of sects were established. Many fled to Prussia
where, in their isolation, they became very proficient in agriculture.
However, certain restrictions were placed on them gradually which
aggravated increasing discontent. Catherine the Great of Russia
recognized their knowledge of agriculture and invited them to Russia
with the hope that it would stimulate progress in her country. Their
culture was far in advance of the Russians'. Religious freedom,
exemption from military service, and other concessions such as minimal
taxes, induced many to migrate to Russia from 1789 to 1840.
The Mennonites were able to live peacefully in Russia for about
eighty years during which time they established prosperous farms.
However, new Russian leadership under Czar Alexander II and pressing
international affairs brought increasing demands upon the Mennonites.
They were required to serve in the Russian Army and learn the Russian
language. There were also tax demands. They were ready to migrate
Some Mennonite groups were already established in the United States.
The first settlement was established in Germantown, Pennsylvania,
in 1683. By 1869 there were settlements in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia,
Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, as well as Ontario, Canada.
Both the Mennonites and the Hutterites sent delegations to the
United States in 1872 and 1873 to investigate the possibilities
of settling in the new world. They visited Minnesota and North and
South Dakota and even held an interview with President U. S. Grant
concerning concessions such as exemptions from military service.
Although not all their requests could be granted, they migrated
to America and settled in Kansas, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Whole villages migrated. Some remained in Russia through a compromise
by which the Mennonites offered their services in the forestry department
in lieu of military service.
The first group of Mennonites from the Crimea in Russia arrived
in South Dakota in 1873 under the direction of Daniel Unruh. They
came by way of Yankton on the railroad from Sioux City. A number
of groups settled in South Dakota. Those coming originally from
the low countries settled primarily around Marion in Turner County.
Those who migrated from the Province of Volgania in Russian Poland
settled east of Freeman. Their background is Swiss and they belong
to the General Conference Mennonites. Eleven families arrived in
Yankton in 1874 from the villages of Wolkham and Hvrodisch. The
Hutterite Mennonites settled west and north of Freeman. Their background
is the same as the Hutterite Brethren but they broke away from communal
living long before they came to America. Some of these were formerly
associated with the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren and are now members
of the Mennonite Brethren Church. The majority, however, have affiliated
with the General Conference Mennonite Church.
Since the initial settlements in South Dakota they have established
themselves in other areas of the state, primarily in Yankton, Hutchinson,
Hanson, Sanborn, Beadle and Spink Counties.
The Mennonites are characterized by well improved farms. Their
families are closely knit religious groups. They participate in
government and community affairs.
The fact that they are well represented in the teaching profession
and that they established the Freeman Junior College (originally
the South Dakota Mennonite College) indicates their interest in
education. This school has had an average enrollment of about 100
in the academy and fifty in college. It is not managed directly
by the Mennonite Church now but operates under a board of trustees
elected to form a corporation largely of members of the various
Mennonite Churches in South Dakota and surrounding states.
Professor Marvin P. Riley, Rural Sociology Department, South Dakota
State College, is currently doing research on the Hutterites in
South Dakota. His article, "Communal Farmers: The Hutterite
Brethren" in November, 1956, issue of South Dakota Farm
and Home Research, is perhaps the most up-to-date and accurate
information available on these people. The following excerpts from
this article are used with his permission:
South Dakota is the home of part of a small religious group known
as Hutterites...Present-day members of this group live on communal
farms located in eastern South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and
A survey of the South Dakota colonies showed that in 1957 there
were 1,870 Hutterites living in 17 colonies. These persons comprised
270 families with an average size of seven persons. Farmland operated
by the South Dakota colonies in 1957 totaled approximately 79,000
acres. Nearly 68,000 acres were owned, and about 11,000 acres were
rented or leased from non-Hutterite land owners.
Data from the 1957 survey show that the "average" colony
had about 16 families with a total of 110 persons. This average
colony operated 4,640 acres, 660 of which were rented. Similar to
most other farms in South Dakota, all of the land which the colonies
operated was not cropland. Only about 57% of the total land they
operated in 1957 was in crops. One-third of the land was pasture
and 10% was hay-land.
...As a religious group the Hutterites are not a new sect but a
very old one. They originated in Moravia in 1528. An offshoot of
the Swiss Brethren, they are one of the many Anabaptist groups that
arose directly out of the Protestant Reformation struggles of Sixteenth
The founders of the Hutterian Brotherhood subscribed to the Anabaptist
belief of adult baptism and the separation of church and state.
Like the Swiss Brethren, they were strongly opposed to war. In addition,
the Hutterites interpreted the New Testament literally, insisting
on the complete sharing of worldly possessions. Many of these beliefs
ran counter to those held by the established churches of that day;
and, as Europe was in an almost constant state of war the rulers
were not tolerant of pacifists. Consequently, the Hutterites as
well as other Anabaptist groups were often the object of severe
Jacob Hutter. In 1533, Jacob Hutter, the Anabaptist preacher
from whom the sect derives its name, joined the group and became
their pastor. Through the efforts of Hutter and his assistants a
well defined communal pattern was established which has continued
to the present. Hutter was burned at the stake in 1536 for his convictions.
Hutterites in Europe. The history of the Hutterites in
Europe includes three periods: almost a century was spent in Moravia,
approximately a century and a half in Hungary, Transylvania, and
Wallachie, and a little more than a century in Russia.
In Moravia the nobles considered the Hutterites good tenants and
protected them from attacks by the Catholic Church and the Emperor
as long as possible. However, the power of the nobles was broken
in 1620, and the Hutterites were forced to flee Moravia. For more
than 150 years they wandered through Hungary and neighboring countries.
Although often close to extinction a small group always managed
to carry on the faith.
Finally upon invitation of Catherine the Great, the surviving Hutterites
moved to Russia in 1770 to settle the Ukraine frontier. There they
were given refuge and allowed to practice pacifism. An edict nullifying
their grant of exemption from military service was issued in 1871.
After an appeal to the crown failed, their non-resistance policy
demanded they emigrate.
Where They Live
Settlement in Dakota Territory. Approximately one hundred Hutterite
families arrived in Yankton from Russia between 1874 and 1879. These
families divided about equally, one group choosing to establish
colonies, while the other families chose to settle on private farms.
Many of the latter group have become affiliated with the Mennonite
The Hutterites established their first colony in Dakota Territory
about 18 miles west of Yankton. The colony was named Bon Homme.
Because the leader of this colony, Michael Waldner, was a blacksmith
(Schmied) by trade, these people and their descendants are
called Schmieden Leut (the smith's people).
Later in 1874 another group of Hutterites arrived and settled about
12 miles west of Freeman. Under the leadership of Darius Walter,
they established Wolf Creek colony. Their descendants are called
Darius Leut (Darius' people). New Elm Springs colony was
founded by the third group coming in 1877. Led by two teachers,
this group settled northeast of Parkston. Descendants of this group
are referred to as Lehrer Leut (teacher's people).
Early Daughter Colonies. The period from 1878 to 1913
was a time of increase in the number of colonies in South Dakota.
By the process of branch colonization, the three mother colonies
established daughter colonies along the James River. Branch colonization
takes place when the population of a colony reaches 100 to 150 persons,
the membership is divided approximately in half – one-half
remains at the colony site, the other half (the daughter colony)
is assisted in setting up a colony at a new location.
By 1913, Bon Homme had placed three daughter colonies – Milltown,
old Maxwell, and Old Huron (see Table 5). Milltown colony had two
daughters of her own – old Rosedale and James Valley. Wolf
Creek (mother colony of the Darius Leut) had produced five
daughters by this time – old Jamesville, old Tschetter, old
Spink, old Lake Byron and Yale. Old Jamesville, had a daughter of
her own – Richards colony. Branch colonies of old Elm Springs
(Lehrer Leut) included old Rockport, New Elm Springs, and
Milford. Thus, in 1913, there were 17 Hutterite colonies in South
Dakota – 6 were Schmieden Leut; 7, Darius Leut; and 4,
Migration to Canada. Strong sentiment against the Hutterites'
German culture and conscientious objection to war along with proceedings
to annul their corporation charters created a difficult situation
for the Hutterites in South Dakota during World War I. As a result,
12 colonies left the state for Canada in 1918. Four more colonies
had followed by 1934. Only Bon Homme colony remained.
Present Colonies. In 1934 Bon Homme started Rockport colony
near Alexandria on the site of a vacated colony (see map). The 1935
Legislature passed a law allowing communal societies to incorporate,
and in 1936 a colony returned to South Dakota from Canada.
Contrary to a common conception, only six of the present South
Dakota colonies have come from Canada. The first one to come was
New Elm Springs, a granddaughter of Bon Homme, which settled near
Ethan. Another granddaughter, Jamesville, returned from Canada in
1937 to its present site near Utica. Tschetter, founded in 1941,
is a great granddaughter of Bon Homme which reoccupied an old colony
site near Olivet when it came from Canada. Spink, from Bon Homme,
and Huron, from Jamesville, were started in 1944 on old colony sites
near Frankfort and Huron, respectively.
In 1945, Rosedale was established near the Rockport colony from
which it came. During 1948, Glendale, a third Bon Homme granddaughter,
came from Canada to locate near Frankfort, Pearl Creek came from
Jamesville and settled near Iroquois, and Maxwell, from New Elm
Springs, located near Scotland.
Four colonies began in 1949 – Bon Homme started the Platte
colony near Academy; Rockport began Riverside north of Huron; Tschetter
started Gracevale near Winfred; and Millerdale, a granddaughter
of Bon Homme, came from Canada to a site southwest of Miller. Blumengart,
a great-granddaughter of Bon Homme from Canada, settled north of
Wecota the following year. The most recent colony was started in
1955 when Jamesville bought land near Raymond to begin the Clark
colony. All of the present 17 South Dakota colonies belong to the
Schmieden Leut group.
trains were responsible for the transportation of both people
and goods in Dakota until the railroad completed its network.
This is the western end of the Fort Pierre-Rapid City road
in 1887. The building at left is a blacksmith shop.
What They Believe
The Hutterites are readily distinguished from their rural neighbors
by their garb and mode of life. The men have full beards and black
denim clothes; the women wear dark full skirts and headscarves;
the colony has a machine shop, communal dining hall, and plain church.
All these attest to a people living an unusual life. Why do these
people live as they do? To understand the Hutterian way of life
it is necessary to know what they believe.
Central Beliefs. Dr. Lee Deets, in his study of Hutterite
Communities in the 1930's, found that all sanctioned activity within
the community is ordered around central beliefs. Any consideration
of their central beliefs would undoubtedly include the following:
The Hutterian way of life is God-sanctioned and God-commanded. Relation
to the Deity is governed by the belief that God is the creator,
the supreme all-powerful being to whom above all else one should
give obedience. For them, the Hutterian way of life is sanctioned
by an infinitely wise Deity who must be obeyed even to martyrdom.
Their beliefs are regarded as expressions of the Scriptures.
The principle of communal living. The Hutterites believe in and
practice communal living, holding their goods and property in common.
Basic to their principle of communal living is the concept of Christian
love. They believe that the highest expression of the Christian
ideal of brotherly love is possible only though the self-denial
and sacrifice that is involved in communal living.
The principle of nonresistance. Their interpretation of Christianity
is that Christians are not to serve in war nor are they to take
revenge. The principle of nonresistance is not unique to the Hutterites
as it is practiced by other religious sects such as the Quakers
and the Amish. Biblical admonitions cited to support the belief
in nonresistance include: Luke 2:8-20; Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-4;
and Romans 12:14-21.
Avoidance and nonconformity. Hutterites desire, as is also true
of such groups as the Amish, to remain as far as possible from the
influences of the outside world. Worldly pleasures are to be avoided,
the plain, simple life preferred. Christians, according to their
belief, should not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). Nonconformity
is expected in those things in which standards of the world conflict
with Bible standards. Their occupation of farming and the location
of their communities in relatively isolated rural areas help to
maintain their principles of avoidance and nonconformity.
Other Related Beliefs. The preceding enumerated beliefs
of the Hutterians are not to be considered all-inclusive. Growing
out of and in many ways supporting the central beliefs are many
other doctrines which help cement their religious and social structure.
Among these are admonitions against pride, patterns of discipline,
and restrictions on apparel and ornamentation. These more specific
teachings also have Scriptural basis and are just as binding as
the central beliefs. They help to translate the central beliefs
into rules for practical living.
Table on Page 133:
Table 5. Hutterite Colonies, Their Origins, Location, and
Year of Establishment
in South Dakota as of 1961
New Elm Springs