In 1897, Mennonite and Amish families from northern and western states began to relocate to former plantation land in Southeastern Virginia along the banks of the Warwick River. Their move to these 1,000 acres was part of a larger, though little known, movement in the Mennonite Church in the late nineteenth century to settle church colonies in the post-Civil War South. By developing the depleted soils of former plantations into successful farms and creating new Mennonite congregations, Mennonite leaders hoped to keep their church vital and growing in a time of shrinking membership. They also hoped to find a strategy for mission work in keeping with their faith. Holy Experiment: The Warwick River Mennonite Colony, 1897-1970 explores a critical period of church history through the story of the only Mennonite colony planted in the American South to survive this experiment and eventually thrive.
About the Author
Jo Anne Kraus is an independent scholar, teacher, and naturalist born in Newport News, Virginia, and based in the New York City area for 50 years. She holds an MA in medieval studies and a PhD in comparative literature from CUNY. Krauss helped develop an earth ministry at Christ Church Riverdale in the Bronx, founded and directed a literacy program for women and children in transitional housing in New York City, and has taught remedial reading skills to children since 2006. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland.