The Amish of Ava, Illinois

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.

Shawnee Country Store

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's Country Crafts

“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….

Amish Craft Store Illinois

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…

Production Room

…with jars ready to be filled…

Empty Mason Jars

The Miller’s products are staples in many of the Amish stores for miles.

Elderberry Conserves

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…

Fax 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.

Amish Home Ava Illinois

Amish Home in Southern Illinois

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).

Amish Church Building Illinois

As is typical, the children’s pony carts line the school yard during school hours…

Carriages Ava IL

And even with a permanent building for church meetings, they still have what appears to be a church wagon…

Amish Wagon South Illinois

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…

Buggy Ava Illinois

The full album of this trip can be seen here.

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    25 Comments

    1. Al in Ky

      Thanks for sharing the pictures and narrative. Helps us learn more about the variations in Amish life in different settlements. The church building and school remind me of those in the Salem, Indiana (Rosebud area) New Order Amish settlement.

    2. Katie Troyer

      They are not that different than from where they came from, be it from Guthrie Kentucky, Yanceyville or Union Grove North Carolina.

      1. Mary

        Katie, i think they hail from Spencer, Wisconsin if I remember correctly.

        1. Terry from Wisconsin

          New order Amish

          East of us, about 40 minutes, in Reedsville, WI is an Amish community that has “lectric”. The first time I was in the bulk food store I was taken aback by the coolers, ac, the deli with all the usual items you’d see in an English deli. The owner of the store who is originally from PA was raised with electricity. I visited with a family and the Mrs.of the house was orginally from Guthrie, KY who also had lectric as the Amish call it. They are associated with the church in
          Spencer, WI. Their bishop is in Spencer, so the preachers take their turn on Sundays. For bigger church events, such as Communion, he travels for that.

          When the Reedsville settlement started, I read in the Budget about their activities etc. Once a month they go to the local nursing home and sing for the residents. A driver for them, who we knew, ended up in that nursing home, as did his wife. Every month they sang at the home, and the Amish asked the family if they could come and sing at both of the funerals. Well of course you can! And so they did! That blew me away!

          When the Amish moved into my hometown area in W Wisc in 1961, we learned that they were of the conservative persuasion. When an English friend died they’d come to the funeral home for visitation the night before to show their respect, but you never saw them in church for a funeral, much less sing at the service! That changed somewhat overtime.

          And the stories are endless…

          Safe in Christ, Always

          Terry

          1. Jan Sanders

            Budget

            How can you read the Budget? I would so love to.
            I went to Ava IL 2weeks ago & visited both stores. Love to go there & buy things!!

      2. Marcus Yoder

        Nevins Father was born in Geauga county. His mother was born in Virginia.They moved to Union Grove. Not sure if parents moved to Illinois. Wilmas parents were from Arthur Illinois.

    3. Juanita Cook

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing…

    4. George Moore

      Buying!

      How can someone not from the area of Ava buy some of the Millers products?

      1. Miller product availability...

        First, thanks Erik for highlighting my little adventure and the pictures that went with it on your website. It’s always an honor.

        Second, George, if you are asking if anyone (even not from the area) can simply walk in a buy from the Millers, the answer is yes. (That is what I did.) They do not have much produce on display (less than 6’x6′ of shelving, as I recall), but they do have stuff for sale there.

        If you’re talking about buying the Miller products from other place, I don’t know how far their distribution is, but I have seen their products in bulk food / variety stores elsewhere. Their phone number is 618.426.3108, and I’m sure you could call and ask.

        1. Miller's Honey, Jam and Jelly is for sale at Rural King.

          First: Thank you Don Burke for the pictures and story on Millers Country Crafts, I had been curious about who makes such a wide selection products locally.

          Today, 14 APR 18, I saw Miller’s Honey, Jam and Jelly for sale at Rural King, at least the one in Marion IL.

          Several years ago I purchased their Elderberry Jelly at The Chocolate Factory in Dixon Springs IL. Liked the flavor so much I started growing Elderberries at home.

          Robert Coulson

          1. David Sullivan

            millers jelly

            I purchased Miller’s jelly at the save a lot grocery in Vincennes Indiana

    5. Alice Mary

      My granddaughter, Ava (now 3 1/2) may someday be pleased to know there’s a town in her home state with the same name as hers. I hope to visit it someday.

      I am pretty sure I’ve seen Miller products somewhere—perhaps in a catalog that serves the Amish? Or even in a local store that carries many items from many places (they do carry Amish noodles & cheese). I’ll have to look into it further.

      How interesting about being on the grid, yet not using the internet or TV…sure seems as if it would be very tempting (how do their youngie fare during Rumspringa?).

      Thank you, Don, for your photos & comments. I’ll be interested in learning how this community fares in coming years.

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary you may be thinking of Mrs. Miller’s out of Fredericksburg, Ohio. They’re actually not an Amish-owned company but do sell noodles and other food products and have a pretty wide distribution from what I’ve seen.

        1. Alice Mary

          Yes, Erik, I’ve seen Mrs. Miller’s Noodles in my local “specialty” store, as well as Das Essenhaus noodles (the hotel & restaurant & shops in Shipshewana, IN), though I don’t know if their noodles are Amish-made. I know some Amish work in the restaurant (my waitress was Amish) but I’m clueless as to who makes the noodles.

          I was referring to the Miller “conserves” (preserves, I assume). The jar design looks familiar, but I can’t place where I may have seen them. I was surprised at how “commercial” the label looked. Now I can’t get it out of my mind!

          Now I have a craving for a warm slice of fresh bread with a slathering of Amish preserves…sigh!

          Alice Mary

    6. Kevin L.

      Thanks for the pictures and narrative, Don. It is interesting to see a New Order Amish community!

    7. Ed from NY

      Very interesting. The electric word processor was a definite indicator that they are holding the line on technology. A regular business would just get a laptop computer.

      In some ways I could see it being a lot harder to adhere to the rules of a New Order community than a more conservative one. It must be hard and frustrating to use a word processor, for instance, but not have ready internet access. Especially when a full powered laptop could so readily take its place. And with less apparent cultural separation from the mainstream society, it must be easy to get caught up in the ways of the outside community.

      So my hat goes off to the New Order Amish who apparently are able to incorporate more technology and still keep their separate traditions and identity.

      1. Ed that’s really an interesting observation. It might have something to do with the generally lower New Order youth retention.

    8. Tammie

      Miller's Country Store Jelly

      I found their products in Rural King in Waterloo, Illinois. I bought their Jalapeno Jelly and Hot Pepper Jelly for my folks in California. They especially love the Jalapeno Jelly and want more!!

    9. David Sullivan

      miller's conserves

      the name is Miller’s conserves I purchased at save a lot grocery in Vincennes Indiana ..first time i’ve had elderberry …love it!!

    10. Billie Jean Chambers

      Miller's Jellies at Homestyle Foods near Quincy, IL

      For many years, I have purchased Miller’s jellies (and other foods) at the Mennonite owned store near Kellerville, Illinois. I grew up around 20 miles away and the Mennonite community and store were not there at the time as I have been gone many years, but my mother introduced me to people in the community and Miller’s jellies that are delicious like the ones my mother and grandmother used to make. I now live almost 1000 miles away but was back visiting relatives recently and made several trips to the store and returned with a supply of jellies for the next 2 years & gifts of jellies. The Mennonite girl at the cash register helped me wrap them in paper, pack them in boxes and carry them to the car after I told her how far I was driving. They are always so helpful. I also bought the best popcorn that I’ve had in a long time–kernels in a bag that you pop the old fashioned way and it was so much fresher than any that I’ve purchased in supermarkets in years. I highly recommend Miller’s jellied products and the Homestyle Food store.

    11. Garry Morrison

      Tractors of the Ava Illinois Amish

      You could do a separate story on the use of and restrictions on the use of tractors by the Ava Amish. There are restrictions on horsepower and cabs. I have seen Amish tractors with varies trailers at the local Rural Kings. Another interesting thing connected with there tractors is how fast they can travel.

    12. Chuck Weisling

      Miller conseerves at IGA, Evansville, IN

      First tasted Millers Red Raspberry conserve, purchased at local Buehlers, IGA on First Ave., Evansville, IN. They carry a large assortment of Millers jams.

    13. Jim Heberer

      Amish Glider

      we stopped in 2 weeks ago – would like some information if you have any Panther Fork Gliders still in stock?

      Thank you

    14. Racheal A Mullins

      Where can I purchase your Conserve (Elderberry)

      I am in extreme western Kentucky, West of Paducah and I would like to know where I can purchase your Elderberry and Strawberry Ruhbarb flavored conserves. I lived in Carbondale and Murphysboro for years but my cousin sent me this for Christmas from Colorado Springs, CO. Where can I find this close or reasonably close to me.

    15. Dee

      Honey, please

      where can we purchase more honey? I picked some up from a grocery store, but they haven’t had any more in stock.