|Amish folks add to local community
One of the many positive things our area has going for it are two Amish communities, one that lies in the Towns of Springfield-Warren area and the other area to the west in the towns of Richfield, Columbia, and Winfield. The sight of a horse and buggy, wide-eyed Amish children ever close to their mothers in a store, and Amish gentlemen with their straw hats, beards, and work boots somehow bring thoughts of a slower time, closer families, and work ethics second to none. Homemade foods, laundry hanging on clotheslines, horse drawn plows, and children ever suspecting of the rest of us called “English” is delightful to happen upon regardless of where you live.
Seven years ago, Harry Yoder and his family moved with other Amish families from Delaware to the Springfield community. Many in the Springfield Amish community moved to Central New York State because of the good soil and many wanted to farm, but not Harry. He learned woodworking from his uncle when he was 14. Yoder and his family now live in the house on the hill, overlooking the shop where Yoder’s Quality Sheds are made on US highway 20, just east of the village of Richfield Springs.
Amish horse drawn wagons are a common sight to see on Main Street, in Richfield Springs. (Photo by Bruce Watson)
The Amish hold church every two weeks and it is held at various homes throughout their communities. They have built a special wagon that can hold the church benches and it’s the responsibility of the family hosting church to get the wagon with the benches to their farm or household before the service. The benches are narrow, with no backs on them. Men and women sit on separate sides during the church service, which is conducted by the community’s bishop. The bishop could be a farmer, woodworker, or a craftsman. It is the bishop who sanctions what the men and women of the community are allowed to do. Many say listening to the Amish sing hymns is a real blessing.
Amish folk have a language that some describe as Pennsylvania Dutch, German, or a combination of the two. When they are together they usually speak in their German language and the children are raised to be bilingual. Work and chores are a part of the Amish way of life. Children are expected to help with chores each day. Amish attend school until they finish with eighth grade and by that point they know just as much as our twelfth graders upon graduation. When they no longer have to go to school the “young people” begin to shadow adults to learn how to do canning, become business men and woman, bake, do woodworking, farm, and form crews to help with siding, roofing, and building for the “English,” which is their term for the ‘rest of us.’
Contrary to what some people think, the Amish pay taxes – town and county and school – although they have their own schools in the Richfield and Springfield communities where they send their children. Buses from local school districts transport the children to their schools, and more than once, bus drivers have said they wish all the kids on the bus would behave like the Amish children. The Amish are not voters in public elections mainly because the men are conscientious objectors with Selective Service. Therefore, they don’t believe they should vote with that being the case.
With each community having a school, the needs of the children attending the school and the salary of the teachers must be paid. Oftentimes when you see a bake sale or chicken dinner advertised, the community is raising money for the school. Amish do not have health insurance plans, so when hospital expenses are incurred a family is expected to pay for their hospital bills. Many times the community helps out if needed. Occasionally the community will raise funds with a large fundraiser. The Springfield community had a member receive a cochlear implant last year and held an auction of quilts, cabinets, and all sorts of new furniture and donated goods to help pay off the hospital bills.
Horse and buggies are their main mode of transportation. On occasion, they do hire English people to drive them to the banks, stores and to run errands. When it’s time to visit family members back home in Delaware or Ohio they hire drivers to take them there.
Amish conventional farmers are taking the same hit on milk prices as the English farmers. Their barns have milking systems powered by generators that run on diesel fuel. They do have telephones but not in their homes. When you question why they have phones at all, they will tell you in times of emergencies or when family members are sick as far away as Delaware, they need telephones. When Amish have home businesses such as Windy Ridge Bulk and Variety, they need to stay in touch with suppliers.
Amish are just like the English, and have the same fears for their children and differing views on what’s wrong in Albany and Washington. Prejudicial people will always find something wrong with any group that’s different, albeit the Russians in Jordanville or the Amish in Richfield and Springfield. The more you visit with them and the more you win their trust, you’ll find they have a great sense of humor and are just as inquisitive about “English.” They are very religious and take the Bible as God’s infallible word and live by its literal translation.
If you’re looking to reclaim your garage with a storage shed and wish to meet some fine Amish folk, you might consider introducing yourself to Harry, Eli and John Henry at Yoder’s Quality Sheds. The sheds are awesome and the builders are people of excellence and principle. Don’t expect to barter and ask him ‘to do better’ on his prices.
Quality workmanship by Amish isn’t negotiable and the price you’ll be given will be fair and honest. Harry, Eli and John Henry are pretty good examples of why Amish are a big plus to the area. They are just like us in many ways. Consider the similarities and the teachable lesson for all of us is that a straw hat, beard, covered head, and long dresses cover kind hearts and a willingness to help their neighbors.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer for The Mercury and currently substitutes for ODY. He is a recent retiree of RSCS.