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Amish Technology Use in Different Groups

Amishcommunitiestechnology_graph_gr

Diversity in the Amish world is a common theme of this blog.  Ever wonder how different Amish groups use technology?

Judging by the chart, it can be seen that the most conservative groups include the Swartzentruber Amish, Nebraska Amish, and the Buchanan County, Iowa Amish (the three of which Amish historian Steven Nolt groups together under the ultraconservative label, referring to the Buchanan group in particular once being seen as ‘almost a conservative conscience within the larger Old Order world), as well as certain segments of the Adams County, Indiana settlement.

Often within the same settlement, there will be differences in what is allowed.  For example, in the northern Indiana settlement, churches on the west side of the community allow gas-powered lawnmowers, while those on the east tend to stick with those old-time rotating-blade pushmowers.

Holmes County, Ohio is a very diverse Anabaptist area.  Donald Kraybill says that there are nine distinct Amish groups living in this, the largest of all Amish settlements.  The four most significant, in order of increasing conservatism, are the New Order, Old Order, Andy Weaver Church, and the Swartzentrubers.

Speaking from experience, I have found that this gauge of openness to technology is also a fairly good gauge of how open the Amish groups are to contact with outsiders.

For instance, in Holmes County, I generally found it much easier to approach members of the Old and New Order churches.  People from those churches were fairly open and talkative.  I got a slightly colder though not unpleasant reception from Andy Weaver members, but found it most difficult to connect with people from the Swartzentruber districts.  Members of ‘lower churches’, as they’re called, just seemed a bit less open to outsiders, or at least to me.

The Amish in Arthur, Illinois, Nappanee, Indiana, as well as the Kalona, Iowa Amish compare to the Holmes County Old and New Orders in my personal experience on the ‘approachability scale’.  Of course it all comes down to the individual, but as you meet a lot of people in a specific settlement, general patterns seem to emerge.

The chart is found in Stephen Scott and Kenneth Pellman’s book, Living Without Electricity.  Scott is a member of a group somewhat related to the Amish, the Old Order River Brethren, and has written a number of informative, concise works on the cultural practice of various Plain groups, including Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, such as Plain Buggies, and Why Do They Dress That Way? Highly recommended.

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    13 Comments

    1. I just wanted to let you know your site is amazingly informative. I have been interested in the Amish (and Shakers, etc) for years and have done a lot of reading on these groups. I thought I knew some things, but you have really educated me.

      The photos are also amazing.

      Take care
      Leah

    2. Thank you Leah very nice to hear!

    3. Beth

      I have recently moved to Delaware, and in shopping around Dover have come to see Amish in this area. I was wondering if it is inappropriate to offer assistance to an Amish woman at a store if she is having apparent difficulty lifting something.

      I offered such assistance and was ignored. The first time I thought she couldn’t hear me, the second time I figured she wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

      Are there rules in place to keep Amish women from talking to English women?

      Thanks for your blog!
      Beth

    4. Theresa

      I recently had the opportunity to visit with the Amish in Ethridge Tennessee. I to wonder if the Amish women are forbidden to talk with “fancy people”. The husbands and male children were friendly and talkative. But the women and female children never talked at all!
      We did visit one family where the wife (Mom) talked to us…….this was only when we had made a purchase and she was helping us with our finds! I too read about the Amish. I read anything I can get in hand if it is pertaining to the Amish culture and ways of their life. This website has taught me alot about some of the things I still wondered about. Very Informative!!
      Thanks so much for sharing Amish news and photos.I look forward to my emails filled with Amish news!

      Theresa in Alabama

    5. Rivka

      I am an Orthodox Jew who was raised in T.O. and N.Y. and I have met plenty of Amish during my travels, but for my youngest, it was something completely new and facinating. We were in Chicago waiting for our train to go back home (Amtrak, a great place to meet Amish people) when we saw 5 Amish sitting in a McDonalds. My son kept asking me why there were Rabbi’s in Mc Donalds. I looked at what he was looking at and told him that they weren’t Rabbi’s but Amish, and even though they look like Chassid’s they are not Jewish but Christian. I waited til they were done eating and when they stepped outside of the restaurant, I inquired where they were from and if they had a couple of minutes because my son had questions. They were polite and allowed this dialogue. They were surprised when my son asked them why they looked like Rabbi’s and they looked at me funny. At that moment my husband (who is a Rabbi) walked up wearing his fedora and long coat and they finally saw the connection. (I do believe that this was the first time that they have seen Orthodox Jews.) They explained that they weren’t Jewish but that we all have similarities, and the Amish women asked me if I get asked questions because of my wig or head covering. I told them well not in most places but I have been asked what Muslim sect I belong to when we were in Montana. Anyways to wrap up I have found that most Amish (like us Jews) have come to an understanding that we are different and that to educate the world is a necessity to have acceptance and acknowledgement.

    6. Lindsey Barker

      I have had Amish helpers for several years. I have written an e book about an Amish girl who worked for me for two years. It will be available soon on my website. I have had many experiences with the Amish and I can tell you that the Swartzentruber sect is very conservative and they are not open to outsiders. I came to your site looking for Amish superstitions because the Amish girl who works for me now took a picture of me sitting in one of their buggies. The next week I had a lot of bad luck. I believe that there must be a superstition about bad luck if an English person sits in an Amish buggy. Does anyone know? I have noticed a difference in her attitude. She has gone from being very warm and friendly to reserved. I know that the Amish have a lot of superstitutions.

    7. stephen dale

      Let me tell tou about my experence with the Amish People.
      First i have had many dealings with them.That has proved to me that these people,are Truly honest.hard working,loveing people that i have ever meet.
      Second If i ever had the chance to find and marry one of their women i would be the happest man in the world.Watching them i have found a great respect for them.In thier devotin to not only their religon but to their family as well.
      they donot belive un divorces like we do ,they make sure their family is well taken care of.As well as the women work along side of their men , not only as a wife and mother but also as a partner in everything .
      This has always been thir way, as well as their relationship is also a pertnership unlike the english , who belive in divorce and dont realy work along side of their husbands and children as the amish do .

    8. bubba

      hi i live in kentucky and i drive taxi amish for a living and i have been blessed with the friendship of the amish they are good people but there are a few bad apples here and there thata anywheres you go these days but the amish are good people as far as i am concerned

    9. co

      hello. im in NY area and i would like so much to meet amish pople to know them, to talk to them and to share ideas.. could you please tell me if there is an amish community not so far from NY area? Thank you

    10. An avid frequent traveler to Lancaster, I took a ride to Mohawk Valley last week in Upstate NY to “hunt” for the Amish as I now live not too far away. True to the info supplied on this website, there seems to be a small Swartzenruber type settlement in that area, completely unlike the Lancaster County Amish. We found may scrappy farmsteads with Robins Egg blue doors, saw many brown buggies, and, most importantly, was able to purchase some egg noodles and lots of gorgeous squash from road side stands. The girls wore black caps instead of the Lancaster area white, all clothing were dark colors, and the homes were not adorned with lovely gardens and meticulous grounds. However it was a nice ride and thrilling to see another Amish sect.

    11. Kathy Harrison

      I am looking to see if the Amish people make there own soap and if so how would I purchase it

    12. Robert Gschwind

      Brenda;
      I am certainly happy that you enjoy being around the Amish and were able to help in a time of need. However, giving everything up including your marriage to be happy may not be quite what you think.

      First of all, there is no such thing as divorce in the Amish church. So if you did join a district and then met someone you would be unable to marry until you former spouse died.

      Getting more into religion is good. Because, that is the reason to join the Amish. To follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and the word of God. I don’t thing the elders will put much stock in the learing to sew thing either. Though that IS an admirable thing.

      If you truely believe this is the life you want then you need to visit an Amish district and talk to a Deacon, Minister or the Bishop and find out what you would really be getting into. Do some reading up on the subject as well. Not just the romance novels. It isn’t all peaches and cream in the church by any means.

      A couple of the books you could get are: Amish Society and Growing Up Amish. You should get a good idea of Amish life from those.

      Good Luck.

    13. Theresa in Alabama

      the more I visit the more friends I make!

      We have continued with visiting the many Amish families that my husband & I met several years ago. As time goes by we are fortunate to meet many new families and friends to happily go back & visit with.
      I had wondered a few years back if the women were forbidden to talk with Englishers or outsiders. No, they aren’t forbidden. In fact, the more we visit the more they talk! I believe there are some that could be considered shy or maybe just conservative but for the most part I think We have made a friend at just about every farm there…and I love it! The kids are so kind, respectful and knowledgeable it makes it a pure joy to see each of them. I have a family that I made friends with from the beginning in the yr of 2007. I have had the pleasure of seeing these little ones grow up and to see new ones as the come along and it is a beautiful experience. Of course I asked before hand, and we always carry each child a treat or 2 they are so appreciative and their manners are very commendable! I have had the pleasure of meeting at least 1 of the Swartzentruber Bishops and I was in complete awe. He & his wife are 2 of the sweetest people you could ever wish to meet. While he makes brooms & mops to sell, she makes all kinds of woven baskets. These are the prettiest baskets I have ever seen! I am looking forward to going on our next visit in May to get me another large size one that she is making for me.
      I wish everyone could have at least one chance to experience this wonderful lifestyle…the Amish are a great bunch of folks that make wonderful friends!

      Theresa