Hutterite History Book is in the Works: Waldner Uncovers Treasury of History

Franz, Peggy. "Hutterite History Book is in the Works: Waldner Uncovers Treasury of History." Walsh County Record, 22 July 1986.

Tony Waldner, member of Forest River Colony, has uncovered a treasury of history after digging in records for almost seven years.

And he will use that treasure to write a book about North Dakota's first Hutterite Colony, established in 1949.

"I started collecting in 1979, and at that time I didn't see a project coming out of it," Waldner explained, noting that it was only this year that he envisioned writing a history on the Forest River Colony. "I'm just a historically-minded person. History was my favorite subject in school, and I've always been interested in the historical aspect of things."

Waldner, 29, hopes to have the book completed within three years to commemorate the Forest River Colony's 40th year of establishment and the state's 100th year of existence.

Forest River Colony, located five miles northwest of Inkster, was the only Hutterite Colony located in North Dakota between 1949 and 1971. Since then, four other colonies have been established in the state.

For Waldner, the main purpose in tackling such a project is for the colony's future generations. "The children who don't know the history well will benefit the most from the book. If a book comes out it will be dedicated to the future generations. That's why I'm doing it, and also because it's a hobby of mine," Waldner explained.

When completed, the book will be available to the public. Waldner cited that the history would be more benefit to the general public than to members of the Forest River Colony, mainly because colony members are already aware of their history. "Most people have heard about the colony, but they know very little about the colony and its people," cited Waldner.

Waldner got the idea to correlate his project with the state centennial after a group of people came to inquire about doing a similar state centennial project of the Forest River Colony themselves.

After waldner did not hear anything further from the group, he decided to take the project on himself. "I feel we can give the best perspective," he noted. "On any given book that anybody writes, the best perspective is always from the person or persons nearest the situation," he noted. "Just anyone who writes a book can never understand the inside life of the colonies, not completely at least."

For the past seven years, Waldner has uncovered books and books of newspaper articles, photos of people and buildings, family history records and land records.

Waldner, who works on the project in his spare time, has put hundreds of hours into collecting, searching and organizing records, articles and photos. "After working for six years I've got enough information together, but I haven't got enough information yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Said Waldner, "I still don't have enough for a book. I feel records, pictures and history are just a skeleton of a book. The part of the book that makes it interesting is the stories, the anecdotes.

"I haven't interviewed enough people to get that part of the book. The stories people have to tell are the spice to a history." He added, "If I wanted just pictures and records, I could put it out today, but I don't want a book like that."

Waldner's next step is to interview people, members and non-members of the colony, who have had contact with the Forest River Colony. When that is completed, he will begin writing, organizing and compiling the history.

After the book is written, Waldner, a book-binder, will bind what he says will be a slender paperback history book of the colony.

Waldner says history has always been an important part of the colony in order to maintain its culture. "Culture goes right along with history," he cited. "If you don't know where you've been you don't know where you're going."

Waldner says in every culture, someone has to take responsibility for history. "Of every culture someone has to do the historical part," he noted. "Why we have history books is because someone took an interest in it."

Reprinted with permission of the Walsh County Record.

Tony Waldner shows son Jason the many newspaper articles written about the Forest River Colony. For the past seven years Waldner has collected many books of information regarding the Hutterite Colony. He hopes to condense the information in a book to be ready for the colony's 40th anniversary and the state's 100th anniversary in 1989.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller