Hazelbrush to Cornfields: the First One Hundred Years of the
Amish-Mennonites in Johnson, Washington and Iowa Counties of
by Katie Yoder Lind. Kalona, Iowa: Mennonite Historical Society
of Iowa, 1994. 755 pp. $40.
Reviewed by Lorraine Roth
It is obvious that Katie Yoder Lind
listened to and observed life around her at a very early age.
Because of this sensitivity she was able to bridge the gap between
her own experience and that of the beginnings of things in the
Amish-Mennonite community in the Iowa counties about which she
Several of the author's many interests are covered in this volume.
The people are specific people and families. Thus genealogists
will find this a gold mine of information on persons who lived
or passed through these counties. History -- both Mennonite and
secular -- receive her attention. She frequently pauses to list
world and local events which took place during the period which
she is describing. Her treatment of Mennonite and congregational
histories is sparse, not because of lack of interest, but because
of lack of space, and because she expects her readers to be familiar
with the books already available. The social history of this
Iowa community is the author's great delight, and she excels
in her descriptions of life on the farm and in the family.
Yoder Lind has divided her study into three major parts. Book
I deals with the early settlers, and this part is also divided
into chronological eras. She names the pioneers who arrived in
each era, gives their stories as completely as she was able to
retrieve them, and their genealogies, including certain lines
to present generations. Persons for whom the families of these
counties are not familiar may find this section somewhat tedious.
Book II continues with those who arrived between 1870 and 1920
in the same form as in Book I, but the new arrivals are fewer
and the stories are closer to the author's and her immediate
predecessors' experience; so the social history begins to get
more thorough treatment. This is the section in which the author's
keen observations and literary skills really blossom. Her descriptions
of life on the farm are delightful. One wonders whether her memory
is playing tricks on her or whether she really did enjoy the
farm tasks as her descriptions would indicate she did. Anyone
living during the era she describes will certainly be pleased
to find their experiences so aptly portrayed. And those who did
not experience life on an Iowa farm will, nevertheless, be captivated
by her enthusiasm and her excellent word pictures.
Book III again deals with a few newcomers, and very briefly brings
the social history into the modern era.
The book contains a number of sketches but few photographs. The
genealogical listings contain much space, making them easy to
read -- or skip over if the reader is not interested. The wide
margins are pleasing, but also add to the bulk of the book with
its 755 or more pages.
A two-page map showing specific farm locations about 1872 is
a welcome addition. The index, limited to the names of people,
is a very complete listing of all the settlers' names and the
various pages on which each is found. The bibliography includes
many relevant Mennonite church histories and genealogies.
Katie Yoder Lind has done the Iowa Mennonite community a great
service in bringing together this anthology of people and their
stories. Those of us interested in the genealogies of any of
these persons, and those of us who simply enjoy a good story
about life in earlier times also thank her.
Lorraine Roth is a retired missionary who has done much genealogical
work in recent, focusing on the Amish who immigrated to Ontario
from Europe in the 1820s. She has written or edited over a dozen
family histories and lives in Waterloo, Ontario.
Mennonite Historical Bulletin, October,