National Geographic : 1970 Jul
The Hutterites, Plain People of the West of fine white lace upon the meadows and foot hills, High above us on the mountain peaks was snow that would survive the hottest of summer days ahead. And above it all that unbelievably limitless western sky-its deep blue vastness warmed now by the first sun of morning. I'd wandered through this country before, and with each return it seemed more apparent that perhaps this was the way man was sup posed to live. In a place where he could breathe deeply and drink from clear streams and rivers. In a place wide enough for eagles. IT WAS A SEARCH for such a place and for freedom to live in their traditional ways that brought the ancestors of my Hutterite friends from Europe to the western prairies of America in the 1870's. Today, all Hutterites live in the United States and Canada. None remain in the lands of their 16th-century origin-Moravia, Slo vakia, and Transylvania-or in the Russian Ukraine where they spent their last years on European soil. The largest true communal group in the Western World, the approximate ly 20,000 Hutterites on this continent have survived their four centuries of history by adapting to changing environments, both technological and political. Theirs is a history of struggle and persecution. When I first drove into Spring Creek Colo ny hoping to meet Paul Walter, the robust, white-bearded preacher (page 98), I wondered how similar the Hutterites would be to the Old Order Amish I'd photographed several Grimace of sympathy contorts the face of a Hut terite lad helping with the branding at Surprise Creek Colony near Stanford, Montana. Patterning life after the early Christian church, each member does what work he can and receives what he needs. years earlier in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County.* Although not communal, the Amish do wear "plain" clothes and the married men are bearded. I knocked at Paul Walter's door, and as I waited I could see women wearing long dark dresses and head scarfs and men dressed all in black walking toward a long building that I learned later was the main dining room. Hutterites have no cooking facilities in their homes. All eat in the same room, the men on one side, the women on the other. "Come in and sit awhile," the preacher said after I introduced myself. "Would you like a glass of our wine?" I enjoyed the first taste of one of the many varieties of Hutterite wine I would sample during my visits. The first was a cherry blend -sw eet but warming on the chilly night. Later there would be dandelion, rhubarb, and others. "We are allowed to drink in moderation," Paul said. "We make our own wine and each family receives about half a gallon a month for use at home. And on Sunday a glass of wine is served to each adult at the dinner table. We drink beer, too, but mostly wine." The manner of distribution, like so many *The author's photographs illustrated "Amish Folk: Plainest of Pennsylvania's Plain People," by Richard Gehman, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, August 1965. Just like the big boys! Four-year-old Danny Wal ter twirls a lasso at Sur prise Creek. Some 20,000 Hutterites now living in the United States and Can ada share fewer than 20 surnames; many-includ ing Walter-date from the founding of the sect.