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Hutterian Brethren, Cottonwood County

Cottonwood County Historical Society
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Sign at entrance to Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony

Sign at entrance to Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony. Photograph by Lisa Decker Wollmann, July 19, 2017.

South Dakota Hutterite families with roots in the Anabaptist Reformation of the sixteenth-century moved to Minnesota's Cottonwood County in 1994. There, they established the Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony and the Elmendorf Hutterian Brethren Colony south of Mountain Lake, Minnesota.

Hutterites follow the teachings of Jacob Hutter, a sixteenth-century Austrian who urged reform during the Radical Reformation. Tenets of Hutterite faith include separation of church and state, observance of the Lord’s Supper, and adult baptism upon confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Anabaptist convictions include the principle of nonviolence, which precludes participation in military service of any kind.

Hutterian colony life is based on the principle of mutual care as expressed in Acts 2:42–45 and 4:32–35. This is practiced through communal meals, shared property, and daily spiritual fellowship. Hutterites speak a Carinthian-Austrian dialect called Hutterish in addition to English. They accept modern technology and have their own craftsmen and quilters who construct creative works with superior quality.

The first group of Hutterites immigrated to the United States in 1874 and settled near Tabor, South Dakota, where they formed Bon Homme Colony. In 2018, over a century later, colonies are scattered throughout the northern prairies of the United States and the prairie provinces of Canada.

When Hutterite colonies grow to about 130 people, they search for a site to purchase where they can establish a daughter colony. Then, after building homes, meeting places, and a school and creating a local economy, several families from the mother colony move to the new location. The daughter colony is nurtured in the spiritual and business realm to become self-sufficient. All colonies are patriarchally organized, with women wielding no formal power in voting process.

In 1988, Upland Colony formed in Letcher, South Dakota, as the daughter colony of Spring Valley Colony, South Dakota. Upland Colony residents, looking for ways to diversify their livestock operation and provide for their growing families, purchased the Glen Harder turkey farm southeast of Mountain Lake, Minnesota, in 1994 and continued the turkey-farming operation on the property. The resulting colony became Elmendorf Hutterian Brethren Colony. It became independent from Upland Colony in 1998.

Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony formed with families from several South Dakota Hutterian Brethren colonies. Families purchased a turkey farm from Ben Adrian south of Mountain Lake, Minnesota, in 1994 and continued the ongoing enterprise. Amos Decker Sr. and his wife, Dora, became the first residents. Others soon joined them.

Each Hutterite colony, though founded on shared Christian principles and cultural practices, has its own distinct characteristics. Elmendorf, also known as Elmendorf Christian Community, is uniquely known among the colonies for taking in non-ethnic Hutterite families and incorporating them into their daily lives.

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Elmendorf Christian Community. About.

History of Hutterite Mennonites. Freeman, SD: Pine Hill Press, 1974.

Horsch, John. Hutterian Brethren 1528–1931: A Story of Martyrdom and Loyalty. Cayley, Alberta: Macmillan Colony, 1974.

Hostetler, John A. Hutterite Society. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1974.

Hutterian Brethren Education Committee, trans. and ed. The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, Vol. I [Das Grosse Geschichtbuch der Hutterischen Bruder]. Elie, Manitoba: N.p., 2003.

——— . The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, Vol. II [Das Grosse Geschichtbuch der Hutterischen Bruder]. Ste. Agathe, Manitoba: N.p., 1998.

Janzen, Rod. Prairie People: Forgotten Anabaptists. Hanover and London: University Press, 1999,

Janzen, Rod, and Max Stanton. The Hutterites in North America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Related Images

Sign at entrance to Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony
Sign at entrance to Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony
Dora Decker and Amos Decker Sr.
Dora Decker and Amos Decker Sr.

Turning Point

The sale of two rural livestock farm enterprises in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, in 1994, leads to the establishment of two Hutterite colonies in Cottonwood County.



Hutterites send leaders to scout territory in the United States with intent to establish new communities.


The first group of Hutterites leaves Russia and forms Bon Homme Colony near Tabor, South Dakota.


Neuhof Hutterian Brethren Colony is established south of Mountain Lake, Minnesota.


Elmendorf Hutterian Colony is established south of Mountain Lake.


Elmendorf Colony becomes independent of Upland Colony, South Dakota.


Elmendorf is excommunicated from the Schmiedeluet affiliation and becomes an independent colony.