History of Forest River Community

Book review by Marion Mertz

Waldner, Tony. History of Forest River Community. Hawley, Minnesota: Spring Prairie Printing, 1990.

"Learn to Appreciate Your Heritage.”

In 1880 the land, now owned by Forest River Community, was settled in North Dakota by 25 homesteaders who paid the United States Government $1.25 an acre for the land.

Originally, some 400 years ago, their ancestors fled Austria where they were persecuted because they were Hutterites. They settled in Germany, were again persecuted, fled to Russia, and then to Germany where they met the same fate. Their final move was to the United States where they were accepted and became citizens. Eventually, in 1949, the Hutterites purchased the land in northeastern North Dakota near Forest River from 0. C. Bjornby, who had acquired title from Concordia College.

Hutterites are unique in that their religious beliefs require that all worldly possessions be shared in common. The community appoints occupational positions such as minister, carpenter, business, manager, hog man, head cook, and the like. For example, Mary Maendel was appointed to the position of "Special-Diet" Cook, “Zeug-schneiderin," and charged with the preparation of special meals for the elderly and for mothers after childbirth.

The book covers the genealogy of the families living in the community from 1949 to 1989, and gives detailed accounts of marriages, births, adoptions and deaths.

The extensive photographs offer a vivid picture of the lifestyles of this Hutterite community. Shown are excellent photos of family life, marriages, daily tasks, and social gatherings. For instance, all the students of the Forest River School, 1954-55 are pictured.
Also included are stories of incidents and letters of exchange, including correspondence from Senator Quentin Burdick and Governor Arthur A. Link. Advertisements of some of the products manufactured by tile colony are also given.

The photographs are clear and detailed. The print is well spaced and easy to read. The author, Tony Waldner, is picture with his bride, Kathleen Kleinsasser, on their wedding day, October 25, 1981.

Surprisingly, the book does not give the location of the Forest River Colony. One assumes it is located in North Dakota, but where? The plats in the book do not place the colony in North Dakota. An official state map located the colony in northeastern North Dakota.

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