The Amish of Harmony, Minnesota

The Harmony, Minnesota Amish community is the largest in the state. In the video below, a television station visits the community and interviews an Amishman named Dennis as well as a local tour guide. It’s a brief but enjoyable look at this conservative Swartzentruber settlement.

I don’t recall a lot of cases in which Swartzentruber Amish appeared on camera. Dennis gives a nice interview here; talking about uniformity, he observes that “Maybe that keeps us from wanting to be like the Joneses and we can’t afford it. We don’t try to catch up with the other person. Maybe that helps.” (video removed)

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      Enjoyed the video Erik and when the newscaster says at the end of the video “the Amish have between 8-10 children” reminds me how very large their families are compared to our own. There are not very many Amish owned and run bed and breakfasts around as I’ve looked myself after having some folks ask me where there was one in the state they were about to visit. I know some of us have a fascination with going back to the moon again and maybe setting-up a colony on some distant planet out in space, but i think one mystery right here on earth is now being explored with great fascination and admiration, and that mystery is the Amish. Richard

      1. Wilmer Otto

        Harmony, Minnesota, Swartzentruber Amish

        I was quite surprised that Dennis allowed himself to be videoed at all, and presume he knew the camera was running?

        I was also quite amused at the newscaster who at the end stated, “the amish take great pride in passing along their ways to their children”.

        I do not believe pride is the motive.


        1. Amish pride

          Wilmer it is funny, you do see that phrase in Amish reporting…”Taking pride” in something is a standard figure of speech that typically fits well with local homespun-type stories in general…but as you point out, not this one.

          I’d be surprised if he wasn’t aware of the camera running due to the extensiveness and variety of shots he appears in. Also the angles of the shots are not just the typical “Amish rear-view” as we see when he is doing most of his speaking but there is also a shot taken from above while he is working which would be pretty hard for someone to sneak.

      2. Tom in KY

        For some reason your mention of the moon took my mind back about 20 years to this classic cinema scene.

    2. Jane Reeves

      Enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing.

    3. Marilyn from NY

      The Amish of Harmony, Minnesota

      Really enjoyed the video. It was very informative.

    4. That was a neat video and a couple things I’d never realized, I guess, or noticed before – the drying racks above the stoves, and the aluminum foil on the wall behind the lantern I guess for even more light. Thanks, Erik ~

    5. Lance

      My kind of Amish, almost. Get rid of the bed courtship(I suggest no touch courtship), the tobacco, rumspringa, and the alcohol and I am right with these people. Very much so, home.

      This community split in the 1990s over SMV symbols. The state was pushing the symbols and some Amish were willing to adopt them, some were not, so the Amish argued for a while and split. Those that adopted the symbols were the minority. Typical Swartzentruber behavior.

      There are several types of drying racks used by the Amish, both stationary and portable.

      We had a wall mounted reflector made of a curved mirror that concentrated the light and made it much brighter for reading or working on something, very handy. Also, we commonly suspended, using common yarn, aluminum pie pans above the lanterns to reflect light down. I understand that all production of glass globes for oil lamps has stopped, worldwide. I am not sure what will happen, but I would assume Lehman’s in Kidron, OH will do something about it due to the demand of the Amish in that area.

      Wilmer, I agree, they don’t pass on the ways to be proud of it! With that name, I have to ask, how many generations are you removed from the Amish? I know an Amish the first name Wilmer and his mother was an Otto. I know several other Otto’s too.

      1. Wilmer Otto

        Harmony, Minnesota, Swartzentruber Amish

        what makes you think i am “generations removed from the amish”? I say once Amish always Amish. My parents left the Amish when I was 10.

        I was the first amish Wilmer Otto that i know of born in 1947 near arcola Illinois.
        So if your mother was an amish otto we are probably related. My father was Milton E. Otto (1922-1976), my grandfather was Eli M. Otto (1888-1976), my g-grandfather was Milton C. Otto born in Springs Pa.

        1. Lance

          I am sorry, Wilmer. It seems I mislead you. I an not an Otto, some of the Amish in the community I lived with from 2.5 years were. They came out of the northern Indiana community and moved away in the very early 1960’s to get away from the drift. I was not raised Amish, I just felt I had to try it. And now I cannot get it out of me nor can I get back into the world. Once Amish, always Amish sometimes works for converts too.

        2. Marcus Yoder

          Arthur settlement

          Wilmer my gg grandfather Moses Yoder and your ggg grandfather Daniel Otto were among the first Amish to settle in Arthur, Illinois.
          Marcus Yoder

      2. Lance thanks for the as-always interesting comments. Just wondering on one thing you mentioned: are you saying that a minority of the Swartzentruber Amish in this community adopted the SMV triangle in the 90s? Any idea how many, and what they are called now?

    6. Mary Ann Chase

      Amish fuel and society

      It was interesting to see that the video spoke of only wood burning stoves when I know from my reading that many use propane or other heating oils, even for refrigeration and the running of machines in their work.They are good at getting around the rules sometimes… we all are. They will split on various issues like that. It’s an extremely interesting way of life in the middle of all the technology that practically takes over our lives and blasts our senses. I don’t know how, in this day and age, they pass on their properties to their children and have places for them to work if not farming, running stores or furniture making. I’d love to go their areas and just observe. I love their modest dress…no difficult decisions as to what to wear (as in a nuns habit)and the practice of taking care of the older ones in the dowdy house connected to the main house but separate. I even like the fact that they stop their formal education at a certain point…just the basics….maybe because I had a terrible fear of school in 6th grade…a breakdown. College seems wasted on many people, can’t get a job in their field and so many women don’t have a clue as how to make a home….just go to work, make money money money…and have someone else raise any kids they might allow themselves to have. Then divorce if things are difficult. If not forced or abused into having a large family, I like the Amish acceptance of children as gifts. Men have lost their roles too, as fathers (they have no authority tempered with gentleness but are either abusive or wimps) in our society and it’s almost impossible to be a single income home as we were so I can’t blame moms and dads for being confused. Let’s face it, life is hard in their and our societies but it’s nice to have people around you who believe the same way, as the Amish do…to feel protected. To be shunned is awful tho. I can’t imagine the emotional toil that takes on a person.

    7. OldKat

      Weenie dog sighting?

      On the video right before Rich Bishop comes on camera there is a shot of a wagon just coming down a grade and is starting to head back uphill when something darts out from the roadside,crosses behind the wagon and then proceeds to cross to the other side of the road. Can anyone make out what it is?

      It appears to me to be a Dachshund or maybe a miniature Dachshund dog. I never noticed how common they are until our son gave us his young Dachsund two years ago when he got married & he could no longer keep her. Now I see them everywhere, including maybe some places where they aren’t really there. I think this one is legit though. Anyone else notice it?

      1. Lattice

        Hey, OldKat, I agree with you. It appears to be a Dachsund (probably miniature). Not much of a farm dog, but being German, perhaps it understands the language better!

        You make another observation that everyone can probably appreciate: Whenever something captures your interest, you see evidence of its existence everywhere (your newly adopted Dachsund, your new baby, your new 3/4 ton Dodge Cummins Diesel, your interest in the Amish, perhaps…AND your newly found faith in God). I bet you guessed that’s where I was going:)

        “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Luke 12:34 KJV

        1. “Whenever something captures your interest, you see evidence of its existence everywhere”

          I experience this syndrome often…can be both unnerving and entertaining, as with mini-Dachsunds!

    8. Carolyn B

      Erik, I don’t remember from the video. Did the guide take the reporter through a real Amish home, or is this one that’s set up for tourist tours? Loved it no matter what.

      I also liked seeing the Amish furniture when she was interviewing “Dennis”.

      1. Carolyn I believe those home shots are from the Amish Country B and B in Canton.

    9. Lin

      Soon after the crowing rooster picture, is that a rabbit darting out on the road?

    10. MaryAnn Pepe

      Such Peace!

      Made my day on a hectic Saturday! 🙂

    11. Lee Ann

      This is one of the Amish communities I have visited. I bought my bedroom set from this community and also many baskets from them. I really enjoyed the time there and visiting with some of the people.

      Thanks for posting the video! Brought back many memories!

    12. Al in Ky.

      Thanks for this posting about the Amish of Harmony. I was raised
      not too far from there and have been to that settlement many
      times. There is some beautiful scenery in the area — gently
      rolling hills, mixed with prairie, on the eastern boundary of
      Minnesota Bluff Country. Like the other comments, I was surprised
      that Dennis allowed to be interviewed and pictured so much.

      If a person is new to visiting the community, it’s best to stop
      in Harmony at the information center to get directions to where
      the Amish stores are, etc. Also, if a person is interested in
      visiting other Amish communities, St. Charles/Utica is about 30
      miles north. There is a good Amish produce auction there on
      Tues. and Fri. (May thru early Oct.) and several small stores.
      About 35 miles to the southwest is the Riceville/McIntire, Iowa,
      area that has a small Amish settlement with several stores. Stop
      at one of the Amish greenhouses on County Road T62 for further
      directions/information. South of Riceville is a large Old Order Mennonite settlement(horse and buggy/Groffdale Conference). They have a great produce/flower auction and several very interesting stores (Dutch Valley bulk foods, Sunnydale Dry Goods, Farmland Hardware, many greenhouses). I always look forward to visiting all of these settlements.

      1. Thanks Al, we appreciate the Harmony information. I am sure people will find it useful.

    13. Terry Berger


      Do you happen to know what make of stove is shown in this video?