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Religion in the 19th century


German Pietist
German Pietist

New settlers were from many different religious backgrounds. Early French traders and missionaries had introduced Catholicism, but it was not until the arrival of German and Irish immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s that the Roman Catholic church saw much growth. American-born arrivals from the Ohio Valley and Upper South were from a number of evangelical Protestant denominations, but missionaries in Iowa itself contributed most to the success of the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Germans and Scandinavians across the northern part of the state built many Lutheran churches. In 1846 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, fleeing from persecution in Nauvoo, Illinois, crossed Iowa on the way to what is now Utah. After 1856 European Mormons took the train as far as Iowa City, where they continued west pulling handcarts with their possessions.

Some Mormons, disillusioned with the leadership of Brigham Young and opposed to polygyny, the practice of having more than one wife, remained in the Midwest and founded the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which had its headquarters in Lamoni, Iowa, for 39 years.

Several German Pietist groups found their way to Iowa. The Community of True Inspiration bought thousands of acres in eastern Iowa and established seven villages known as the Amana colonies. The society owned the land communally, and members ate from large communal kitchens in each village. The elders ran both economic and religious affairs for the society. The community continued to speak German until after World War I (1914-1918).

In 1933 under severe economic pressure, the society ended communal ownership of land and property and reorganized as a company in which each member of the society owned stock. The Amish, followers of a conservative Mennonite faith, also established farms in Iowa and practiced their traditional lifestyle.

Protestant groups especially placed a premium on reading the Bible and encouraged basic literacy for all children. Early settlers supported public schools. One-room schools opened shortly after the arrival of new families on the frontier, and most Iowa children were no more than 3 km (2 mi) from the nearest schoolhouse. "Iowa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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