5 Mystery Photos Explained

Last week I shared 5 unexplained photos from my latest Amish trip, each with a story behind it. Today we have the answer key.

You had some good guesses. Going through all the comments, you gave the correct answer, or were close, on nearly everything. Nice job!

Here are the photos and questions again, and the explanations:

1. There’s something unusual about the bicycle this Amish woman is riding – any guess what it is?

Answer: As Al in KY and two Jasons correctly guessed, this is an electrically-assisted bike. Here’s a closer view – you can see the battery unit mounted on the frame behind the rider’s leg, and the motor on the back wheel:

These bikes (popularly known as “e-bikes”) have become quite popular among the Amish in this community. They can enable a rider to reach throttle-assisted speeds of 20 mph or more.

If you are driving through Holmes County, you’ll notice this by the odd punchy speed they have when the rider is not pedaling, or seemingly not pedaling hard enough, to go as fast as they are going. It is noticeable particularly when going up hills.

I visited an Amish shop selling them and learned more about them. I’ll share more on that in an upcoming post. As you might guess, they have come with some controversy both from a standpoint of regulation (see this recent article for a discussion of the difference between e-bikes and mopeds) and general acceptance by the Amish.

You can buy a dedicated e-bike from a maker specializing in them, which has everything built-in. Or you can purchase a conversion kit and attach it to a regular bike, which is what you see above.

2. Which Amish girls wear this style of head covering?

Answer: I would’ve been surprised if someone knew this one, as it comes from a fairly obscure though noteworthy community. This is from Milverton, Ontario, one of the oldest Amish settlements, which has its own specific customs different from other Amish. Terry Berger came the closest.

I took this photo at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, OH, which Laura F correctly noted. They have quite a few example prayer coverings on display there. To the untrained eye, it can be hard to tell the differences between Amish women’s coverings, but there are differences. I’ll share some more examples from the exhibit in a later post.

3. Where did I take this photo?

Answer: Some people thought this was from the Pennsylvania settlements of Big Valley or New Wilmington (kudos to Don for catching one less obvious detail), both of which have buggies bearing a resemblance to this one.

However this is actually from Enon Valley, PA, located not far from the New Wilmington community (nice job, Jason). It is a 94-year-old settlement which is just one church district in size.

One of our readers brought this community to my attention on a post on Amish buggy colors, describing their buggy as “cream” or “pale yellow”. I would even call it a muddy yellow.

You can see the color difference between the above, and the brighter yellow of the Big Valley buggy below:

byler amish buggy

I know my first photo is a bit on the dark side, but hopefully the difference is clear. I believe Enon Valley is the only place you’ll see the pale/muddy yellow-colored top. Stay tuned for more.

4. What kind of pies are these? I drove my friend’s mother to her daughter’s place, where they baked 39 of them. Any guess why so many? I got one as thank-you for my taxi services.

Answer: So the story here is that my friend’s mother’s daughter was having church at her place on the coming Sunday, and mom went down a couple days beforehand to help bake snitz pies, which is the traditional pie served at the church meal in Lancaster County. Snitz is a simple pie made from dried apples, and is delicious.

Those of you with a sharp eye noticed that the pie in the center differs from the others. That is a regular apple pie. They put the slit in the center to distinguish them. Or as I put it on learning this, “if the pies have slits, they’re not snitz”. I believe my Amish friends’ laughter at the time was genuine, but not sure I deserved it 🙂

5. Why is this rainbow-colored bus parked outside an Amish home? (I’ve blotted out the one give-away detail)

Answer: As several of you (Kim, AlJerry, Jason) correctly pointed out, this is a bookmobile. As Charles Hurst and David McConnell tell us in An Amish Paradox, “The Holmes County Public Library’s bookmobile with an annual circulation of nearly two hundred thousand volumes (predominantly to Amish families), is one of the most active in the nation” (p. 166). This is the bookmobile from neighboring Wayne County, also heavily populated by Amish.

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    17 Comments

    1. Terry Berger

      Out of curiosity

      Do the men of the Enon Valley church wear only one suspender?

      1. I’m not sure Terry, did not see enough to say this time. The Byler Amish of Big Valley are the one suspender group I know of, and I believe there are ties there. Perhaps someone else can say more definitively.

        1. Terry, just following up on your question, based on what Mark says in this comment sounds like Enon Valley men do not wear suspenders, like Nebraska Amish and New Wilmington as well:

          https://amishamerica.com/5-outdated-technologies-amish-still-use/#comment-106426

    2. Alice Mary

      I was glad to see that bookmobiles are still around. I worked on a couple at my first library job in Chicago. The various neighborhoods we visited were very interesting, as far as culture and economics were concerned. I’d like to see the collection of books they carry to suit Amish needs, especially for children.

      1. The Amish and bookmobiles

        I’ve never set foot in a bookmobile but makes total sense that these would serve the Amish well, given how popular books are in many Amish communities, where they’re still (mostly) not competing with smartphone screens for readers’ attention 🙂

        Alice Mary maybe you can shed light on how it works, does the bookmobile typically set up shop at a location for several hours before moving somewhere else, or is it in the same place for days at a time?

        1. Walter Boomsma

          Bookmobiles

          While I can’t speak specifically about this one, we were served by a bookmobile when I was a kid. It followed a regular schedule and route, so you could count on it being at a specific location at a specific day and time—sometimes the four corners of a rural intersection. It was an amazing service… you could browse and borrow, then return and request specific titles. It would even stop at local libraries to augment their collection and services.

        2. Yoder in Ohio

          The Homes Co. Bookmobiles follow a schedule and generally “set up” at a local school, business, or home on a set day for a set number of hours. They publish a schedule, but often put reminders in the local advertising papers, too.

    3. Very interesting, Erik. Thanks for sharing.

      I’m curious about the Enon Valley buggy. Are there any distinguishing differences between it and the buggies in New Wilmington? There isn’t much detail in the picture (the buggy is at such a distance), so it’s hard to really scrutinize, but the color seems to match NW, looks to be made of the same type of rag-top (canvas?) material, small window in the rollup door, hard edges / box-y appearance (vs. the rounded edges of the Big Valley yellow buggies), etc. I’m not seeing any differences.

      Question #2 — I’m found that often similar buggies bespeak of similar lineages. Are the EV and NW groups historically connected (e.g., mother-daughter)?

      1. Enon Valley buggies

        Hey Don, on Q1, it has a similar appearance to my eye as far as its construction, I will post some more photos in an upcoming post that might show it a little better. I have heard from someone in the know that EV was requiring a brown box and wheel but that that has been relaxed and now black is alright.

        Q2 – I believe so but I don’t know the details. I need to check my NW church directory which I think has sth on Enon Valley as well, but I’m currently thousands of miles away from it right now 🙂

      2. Yoder in Ohio

        The New Wilmington buggies are darker. That’s the main difference.

    4. Al in Ky

      Thanks for the answers and thanks for this quiz. Amish America posts help us learn more all the time about differences, as well as similarities, of Amish groups/affiliations.

      1. My pleasure Al! Maybe we’ll have another quiz, I have a ton of photos from this last journey.

    5. Lydia Stoltzfus Good

      Just a funny comment

      Love your posts! This is kinda off topic.
      I was born and raised Amish in Lancaster County. My brother married a lady from Big Valley. On one occasion when I took my parents out to see them, after they got married, my dad wanted to travel some of the back roads to see if he could see some of these (yellow topped buggy) Amish. My dad was the world’s biggest extrovert and could make a conversation with anyone. As we were driving along on the back roads hunting for this strange species of Amish, my dad cried out, “There’s one, STOP!” He flew out of the car and went running up the driveway to confront the man. My mom, sister and I thought it was positively hilarious. Here was this Lancaster County Amishman acting exactly like the tourists that come to Lancaster County. 🙂 OK, back to your regularly scheduled program.

      1. Lydia, that’s hilarious. I’ve found that Amish are often interested in other Amish communities and seeing the differences in how they do things. Perhaps not to the level of enthusiasm of your father…but on the other hand, a yellow buggy is a rare sight, so I can’t blame him! You dad sounds fun. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    6. Annie Forsyth

      Absolutely love all the stories and comments. Thank you.

    7. Flip Bicycle

      Saw this convertable cargo bicycle and it brought to mind the photo of an Amish lady riding an ebike: https://www.startupselfie.net/2019/01/14/convertible-electric-city-and-cargo-bike/