The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Metz, Christian
(December 30, 1793 or 1794–July 24, 1867)

–religious leader and founder of the Amana Society—was born in Neuwied, Prussia, the son of Wilhelm and Catherine (Gesell) Metz. The Metz family belonged to the Community of True Inspiration, a Pietist sect founded in 1714 with core beliefs in pacificism, simplicity of worship, and inspired revelations through special inspired leaders known as Werkzeuge (instruments). In about 1800 the Metz family relocated to the Ronneburg Castle, a long-standing place of refuge for Inspirationists. There Metz received a rudimentary education and was apprenticed to a master cabinetmaker.

    As a young man, Metz pursued the carpentry trade. A growing spiritual awareness led him, along with close friend Wilhelm Moershel, to become a leader in a youth movement at Ronneburg that sought to revitalize the Inspirationist faith, which had been in decline since the death of the last Werkzeug (instrument), Johann Friedrich Rock, in 1749. In 1817 Michael Kraussert, a journeyman tailor, arrived at Ronneburg and was recognized as an inspired Werkzeug by the faithful. Soon, a second Werkzeug, Barbara Heinemann (Landmann), a servant from Alsace, also appeared. Metz worked closely with these new leaders and in 1819 delivered his first inspired message. In the ensuing period, both Kraussert and Heinemann left their leadership positions (although Heinemann, who married, returned as a Werkzeug in 1849), leaving Metz as the sole leader of the Inspirationist community.

    As with the previous Werkzeuge, Metz's revelations were often accompanied by strong bodily manifestations. Initially, all of his testimonies were in the form of Einsprache, which meant that he wrote them down and then presented them to the congregation. Later Metz delivered testimonies in Ausprache, spoken form accompanied by a scribe who set them down in a form of shorthand.

    Metz traveled through Switzerland and the German states, reconnecting with the surviving Inspirationist communities and ultimately arranging for these scattered congregations to locate on several leased estates in the liberal province of Hesse as a refuge from growing religious persecution.

    In 1842 Metz directed the group to seek a new haven in the United States. With three associates, he located a tract of land near Buffalo, New York. Approximately 800 of the faithful journeyed to the new home and constructed the six villages that formed the Ebenezer Society. As an economic necessity, members pooled their reSources: And established a temporary communal living arrangement that was made permanent in 1846.

    In 1854 Metz again directed the group to look for a new home in the West. After an abortive trip to Kansas, a second committee located a suitable site in east-central Iowa. Over the next decade Metz supervised the liquidation of the Ebenezer property and the settlement of the new site, named Amana.

    Metz remained the spiritual leader of the community until his death in 1867 at Amana. During his nearly 50 years as leader of the sect, Metz delivered 3,654 testimonies, which, together with the testimonies of other Werkzeuge, are still read in Amana church services today. Metz was also a prolific poet and hymn writer.

    As a young man, Metz fathered a daughter, Anne Marie. She and her children remained part of the Metz household for the rest of his life.

    The communal system that Metz established at Amana reorganized into a joint stock cooperative in 1932, after nearly 90 years of existence, making it one of the longest-lived, largest, and most successful of the more than 250 communal societies founded in the United States prior to the 1960s.
Sources Metz's voluminous testimonies, poetry, and diaries were published by the Amana Society in the 19th century. Many of his testimonies are included in The Morning Star, a collection of testimonies from early community leaders translated by Janet Zuber and issued by the Amana Church Society in 2005. A full biography is F. Alan DuVal's 1948 State University of Iowa dissertation, "Christian Metz: German American Religious Leader and Pioneer," which was edited by Peter Hoehnle and published in 2005.
Contributor: Peter Hoehnle