Hutterite exhibit disproves misconceptions at museum

HUTTERITE EXHIBIT — Curator Kristy Calvery and the Conrad Transportation and Historical Museum recently created an exhibit showcasing the true story of Hutterites in Pondera County.  She showcases the Hutterite lifestyle and history along with some common misconceptions about these communal people.  I-O Photo by Adam Jerome





By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

The Conrad Transportation and Historical Museum has a new exhibit on the Hutterite colonies in Pondera County and brief history of Hutterites around the world.

Museum Curator Kristi Calvery decided to put the exhibit together in order to dispel some misconceptions about the Hutterite way of life.

The idea came to her when she read an article about the King Colony Ranch near Lewistown.You may remember that this colony was the subject of a National Geographic “documentary”, titled American Colony: Meet the Hutterites.

In the article the colony members express outrage as to how they were portrayed.They claim the show was staged and was not a documentary but instead a reality show that brought embarrassment to the colony and the Hutterite lifestyle.

Calvery decided that she wanted to set the record straight.She spent weeks researching Hutterites and touring the colonies around Pondera County.

What she found was much different than the portrayal on television.

The term Hutterite for example comes from the name of the founder of the group, Jakob Hutter.

In Montana alone there are 50 colonies, five of which are located in Pondera County.

When the Hutterites came to North America in the 1870s they formed three colonies, the Dariusleut, the Lehrerleut and the Schmiedeleut.

Montana has 35 Lehrerleut colonies and 15 Dariusleut colonies.The five colonies in Pondera County are all of the Dariusleut sect.

According to the Office of Public Instruction in Montana there are five essential understandings regarding hutterites that might help dispel some of the common misconceptions.

1.Hutterite colonies exist throughout Montana and they pay taxes and contribute to Montana’s economy.Some of the taxes they pay include property taxes, equipment and livestock taxes.

They benefit the economy as livestock and grain producers.

2.The colonies in Montana represent two branches, the Dariusleut and the Lehrerleut.Lehrer means teacher, their minister was a teacher therefore Lehrerleut.Darius Walther was the minister of the other group, so they are aptly named Dariusleut.

3.Religion guides the Hutterite way of life.They are Anabaptists.They wait until adulthood to be baptized and live in a communal setting.

4.Hutterites value education for their children. Kindergarten was actually started by the Hutterites.They begin school at three years old and learn high German, prayer songs, and how to share.

When the students turn six they begin formal German school and at seven they start their formal education.

5.Hutterites have a distinct history impacted by government and wars.Throughout their history they have migrated all over the world to avoid war.

They originated in Austria before moving to Russia to escape persecution.In 1870, the Russian government introduced compulsory military service.At this time they migrated to North America.

They continued to abhor violence on a large scale and war and even moved to Canada during World War I to avoid the military draft until laws were passed protecting their religious rights as conscientious objectors.

If you would like to learn more and visit the wonderful exhibit by Calvery, the Conrad Transportation and Historical Museum is open until Labor Day weekend, Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The museum is located on 402. S. Virginia and Calvary can be reached at (406) 278-0178.