Don Burke takes us on a visit to the New Order Amish community at Ava, Illinois today. This small settlement, located in Jackson and Randolph counties in southern Illinois, is the state’s second-oldest (1991).
As you’ll learn below, Don discovered a few things he didn’t expect. All yours, Don.
Heading out with nothing more than an Amish-settlement-highlighted IL state highway map and the name of a bulk food store (which might suggest Amish connections) found on discoverbulk.com, I hit the road looking for the Amish in the area of Campbell Hill and Ava, IL.
Just outside of Campbell Hill I noticed a small sign with the store’s name on it, and just down the side street I saw the bigger sign.
The sign struck me as a bit flashy for an Amish place…but that wouldn’t be the last of my surprises.
I pulled into the parking lot and saw what seemed to be a pretty typical Amish-looking store. Inside I noticed a couple of Amish ladies working in the back, and bought a couple of things while I visited with the Amish lady at the register.
All the while I noticed a lot of electricity-run items – too much to be powered by solar-panels. So I left assuming that this was an English store with Amish employees. (I would soon find out that I was wrong.)
As I meandered further down the side road I soon saw this sign…
“Miller” – sounds like it could be Amish; “Country Crafts” – another plus; “Homestyle Jellies” – yep, I may be on to something here. But while the sign said “yes, we’re Amish,” other things about the place caused me to wonder….
The higher-wattage floodlights and the not-so-subtle AC unit – both strongly suggested that the Amish had left the building (and once again, I was wrong).
I ventured in and soon found myself talking with Nevin Miller who, along with his wife Wilma, own the business. The family produces honey and BBQ sauce along with the jams and jellies. Here is the production room…
…with jars ready to be filled…
The Miller’s products are staples in many of the Amish stores for miles.
After we talked a while, I just had to ask Nevin about the lights, the AC, the office with a phone, fax and computerized word processor…
He explained that this two-church-district community is New Order Amish. They hold to the same basic Bible beliefs as other Amish, but draw the lines in different places when it comes to the more cultural limitations.
As such, they are on the “grid,” but would not use things like televisions and internet that could directly invite temptation. “And while we won’t pose for pictures,” he told me, they do not object to pictures that are taken as they go about their activities (my only disappointment was that I was not able to catch a picture of his sons while they were working in preparation for the day’s production).
Here are pictures of the two homes on the Miller place.
As you can see, they are not so different than English homes. This made it virtually impossible to identify other Amish homes in this community.
At least one of the church districts in this settlement has a permanent church building. Here it is (I presume the building on the left) along with the Amish schoolhouse (I assume to be on the far right).
As is typical, the children’s pony carts line the school yard during school hours…
And even with a permanent building for church meetings, they still have what appears to be a church wagon…
This is a very poor picture (quality-wise), but it was the only shot I was able to get of an Amish buggy in the community…
The full album of this trip can be seen here.