Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 161-62.
This arresting collection of black-and-white prints, complemented by concise, historically and culturally sensitive narrative text, documents two distinct groups of Mennonites who have found refuge in the Great Plains. As the title and cover photo suggest, a place to live out distinctive non-mainstream lifestyles-apart and in peace-is important to these separatist groups of Mennonites. And the Plains of Texas have provided a fitting refuge. Along with "a series of immigrants fleeing the Old World-Germans, Czechs, Russians, Irish, and more," as former governor and Texas icon Ann Richards writes in the preface, these SwissGerman and German-Russian religious ethnic groups have found a home in the Lone Star State.
The label "The Quiet in the Land" (Die Stille im Lande) has its roots in the persecution of Anabaptists (the historical ancestors of Mennonites and Amish) in sixteenth-century Germany. Those who survived did so by withdrawing from the world, living out their beliefs quietly. It is particularly fitting for these two groups, who "separate themselves physically but mostly spiritually from the larger society"; and as part of the title, it speaks both to separation from mainstream society and connection to the larger society of Mennonites. Camden and Duarte are careful to note that the groups they document are but two of sixteen groups and more than fifty congregations of Mennonites in Texas, many of whom no longer hold to the emphasis on visible separatism espoused by the "plain" communities.