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How did the Mennonites and Hutterites end up in South Dakota?


In the 1770s, Czarina Catherine the Great, a German princess, invited Germans to colonize the Ukraine in southern Russia. Mennonites were among the Germans who accepted this invitation.


In the 1870s, the privileges these Germans living in Russia had enjoyed were being revoked. Many German communities in Russia, including the groups that settled in Freeman, then began to emigrate to America.

What do Mennonites and Hutterites believe?


Mennonites and Hutterites are Protestant Christians who:


  • Practice adult baptism upon confession of faith (Anabaptist)
  • Seek to follow Jesus's example through discipleship
  • Have a strong commitment to community
  • Seek peace through non-violence and non-resistance


The Hutterites differ from Mennonites in that they live communally. Today, there are over 450 Hutterite Colonies in the United States and Canada.

The Martyr's Mirror documents the persecution of the Anabaptists.

Anabaptists retreated to rural areas and developed a strong communal and agrarian heritage.  Because of this, they were often invited by European nobility to work their lands, despite their odd and radical beliefs.


So began the migrations of these Anabaptist communities throughout Europe and eventually here to North America.


Mennonites and Hutterites in Freeman


There are three distinct ethnic communities of Mennonites around Freeman:


  • West of Freeman are Mennonites of Hutterite background,  who chose not to join the Hutterite colonies being established along the James River. They are known as the Prarieleut, or “Prairie People,” but locally they are referred to as the "Hutters".
  • North and east of Freeman are Mennonites of Low German ethnic background, whose roots go back to the Low Countries of North Germany and Holland. 
  • East and South of Freeman are Mennonites of Swiss German Amish background, whose roots go back to Switzerland. They are often referred to as the "Schweitzers."

The Beginning


The Mennonite Church and the Hutterian Brethren were both products of the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Switzerland and the Netherlands. 


This reform movement was part of the Protestant Reformation that also birthed the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican traditions. Because of their beliefs, the Anabaptists came under severe persecution that lasted until the middle of the 17th century. 

Who are the Mennonites and Hutterites?


Much of the Museum and Archives tells the history of the Mennonite and Hutterite denominations. So who are the Mennonites and Hutterites and what do they believe?

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