Yoder Kansas Sign

Amish people aren’t afraid to move, and do so for different reasons. One of the main reasons is in response to material progress–or “drift”, a word used by those who frown on too much change happening too quickly.

The three Amish congregations at Yoder, Kansas, are rather progressive, permitting technology use other Amish do not, such as driving tractors as part-time road vehicles.

An article in the Hutchinson News looks at a change which occurred in recent years–allowing tractors with air in tires rather than the steel-wheeled variety.

A local Beachy Amishman offers interesting insight on how those that disagreed handled the change:

“That was the last distinction the anti-air folks could hold on to,” said Nissley. When their bishop said they could have air, suddenly places like Bloomfield, Iowa, where there is a more traditional Ordnung, or set of unwritten rules that guide everyday Amish life, began to look more attractive.

“Amish, for the sake of the community and family, will agree, so it’s not disruptive,” said Nissley, a Beechy Amish. They won’t make a fuss, but will suddenly say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in Bloomfield?”

“They choose the peaceful route,” Nissley said. They’ll choose to leave without burning bridges or placing communities at odds with each other.”

The families reportedly moved to a more conservative settlement “where tractors are not permitted; a place where all transportation, as well as field work, is done by horse and buggy” [probably without the buggy in the field, but you get the point].

Jonas Bontrager Yoder Amish

Jonas Bontrager of Yoder Hardware. Images by Lindsey Bauman/Hutchinson News

Young Center senior fellow Donald Kraybill adds:

“The people are the church, and the bishop interprets things, but most decisions are voted on by the members. Possibly some leaving didn’t agree. This migration happens all the time in various states, it’s one way of settling differences without conflict.”

“It makes it easier on everyone, the more conservative and progressive. Birds of the feather flock together, if they don’t move there can be tension and dissension.”

The remainder of the article checks in at the schoolhouse, whose teacher, Lester Bontrager, sometimes arrives by tractor “in a pinch”, and whose students use a solar-powered copy machine.

There’s also a brief look at two area businesses, Yoder Hardware Store and Anna Bontrager’s Country Variety Store, which Tom Geist gave us a glimpse of following his visit to Yoder. There are some very nice images from the settlement as well.

Freedom to move

If you think about it, it’s not surprising that peace-loving Amish have created so many settlements in North America (around 500) and continue to do so at a rapid pace.

Rather than endure conflict and strife, why not just set up a new community with like-minded families? Or join one already in progress, so to speak?

Of course it’s not as simple and easy as that sounds. But with the freedom to move and start a new life somewhere else with kindred souls, it’s no wonder there is so much variety across Amish society today.