An Unusual Amish Convert Story In Unity, Maine

There’s a nice story making the rounds about a man named Matthew Secich who recently joined the Amish community at Unity, Maine.

If the name of that community rings a bell, you may have seen it discussed here before. Here is one reader’s account of a visit to the settlement, and a look at what makes the community unusual.

Secich is apparently a well-known and successful chef, who’s worked in top restaurants in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In his new home in southern Maine, Secich has opened a business selling upscale meats and cheeses called Charcuterie (I’m going to hazard a guess that this is the only Amish-owned business with that name). People seem to like his foods, as described in this story in the Portland Press Herald.

Matthew Secich in his meat and cheese shop. Photo by David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

One of the things that makes the Unity community atypical is that it is quite friendly to converts. Secich himself joined the community within the past year, and seems to have found some spiritual peace:

“I went home one night and got on my knees and asked for forgiveness,” he said. For his lack of compassion for others, his nights with restaurant friends and a fifth of Jim Beam with a side of Pabst Blue Ribbon, for that overactive ego. “I gave my life to the Lord, which I never would have imagined in the heyday of my chaos.”

After stops in Mennonite communities in Vermont and Maine, Secich found his way to the Unity Amish.

Secich is described in the article as “peripatetic.” If you had to look that word up, that makes two of us.

In other words he has a tendency to move around a lot, as evidenced by his previous work stints in numerous restaurants, never staying in one place for long.

With that in mind, I found one comment of Secich’s particularly interesting: “Lord willing, I stay here awhile.”

Perhaps this is the final stop of his journey, so to speak. But Amish seekers have had a reputation of not always sticking with it. And seeker-friendly communities have not always been known to flourish for that matter.

But of course, everyone writes his own story.

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    1. Robert Gschwind

      Convert Story


      1. Irene Collins

        Facial hair

        Amish men DO NOT sport mustaches.

    2. Min. Terry Miller

      Something wrong.

      Something is wrong. Old Order Amish (or even New Order Amish) do NOT wear a mustache because of it’s earlier identity with the military in Europe. This fella is already in contradiction to the Amish rule. He’ll probably be moving on soon. Interesting article.

      1. Michael

        Anabaptist Moustasche

        That’s a good observation about the mustache. I’m surprised I didn’t catch it myself. What someone needs to do is ask. The same thing goes for the photo itself, doesn’t it? Perhaps, being a convert friendly district, they tolerate a few atypical things? Or, they may give someone time to complete all the requirements. Remember, ordnungs are largely local.

        I know that in my “conservative Mennonite” church, which is very conservative, (small ‘c’ on purpose by the way,) mustaches are tolerated, but the few of us that have them, keep them quite short. As with most things, I don’t ask why. I’m content just following the lead of the leadership. They have made a place for me, and I am loved and growing there. So I don’t stir the pot. And it hasn’t come up within my earshot.

        I note that not all of Daniel Kauffman’s written rules for “conservative Mennonites” are strictly observed, such as limiting your cell phone use to talking only. Many of us fully enjoy the camera features, and to some extent, texting as well. So, are these things covered in Unity’s ordnung, or are they considered to be of minor importance?

      2. Wayne

        So that guy is not actually contradicting an Amish rule? I never saw an Amish guy with a mustache but I’m no expert.

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          He is not contradicting the Amish standards for the community he is living in. Depending where he would be living, wearing the mustache or full-beard would be an issue, but it’s the standard for his community.

          1. Janis


            I thought that only married men wore beards.

    3. Mark - Holmes Co.

      The Amish communities of Smyrna & Unity Maine do not technically have mustaches, but they do not shave it clean like the majority of Amish do. It’s kept clipped, but not shaved. I can vouch for that because we have friends & relatives living there. I am not 100% certain, but I believe there is a small community in Mich. that has a similar practice. The Amish at Aylmer Ont. and Lindsay/ Cameron, Ont. have some members (not all) who clip their mustaches but are not as clean-shaven as most. All of those communities are Old Order and fellowship with other Old Order groups. It’s certainly not the common, accepted, and traditional way of doing it… Incidentally, I doubt they’d agree it’s a mustache — as it is clipped. They think of it as a “whole” or “full” beard and reason that since there is no biblical basis for shaving the mustache, the upper lip can be considered part of the facial hair that includes the beard.

      1. Facial hair/mustache

        Thanks, Mark, I should have addressed the facial hair in the post. I believe we’ve covered it elsewhere, but obviously it’s not well known that a few Amish do this.

        With so many Amish groups, there are often little exceptions to otherwise universal “rules” that you wouldn’t expect 🙂

      2. Min. Terry Miller

        Mustache etc.

        I liked the explanation, but a mustache is a mustache is a mustache, trimmed or not. I wonder if this was part of the Hutterite influence on Elmo Stoll? The communal “all things common” aspect was certainly Hutterite. Elmo Stoll had considerable contact with them, but differed in some important areas.

    4. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      I am not going to doubt or question Matthew’s sincerity in his new spiritual home or spiritual centredness.
      I kind of hope that he just isn’t using the stereotype of wholesome and quality food the Amish are generally associated with as a gimmick to start a chic restaurant. But I am actually going to give the man the benefit of the doubt here and wish him good luck.

      [Sometimes committing to a church community can be difficult for a myriad of reasons. For instance I guess some people I know might have doubted my own commitment to the Quaker Meeting/Church I had attended until late November, I didn’t quit, with Christmas, work considerations, my own little birthday, I didn’t go, for my life it was a little bit too hectic at that point in the year and I decided I needed a physical day of rest, this month or next month I am planning on going back, on a personal note]

      I hope all the seekers reading this interesting Amish America article will find there way “home” wherever that will be. Thoughts and warm wishes to everyone 🙂

    5. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I really like the way you worded that, SHOM. I wish you God’s blessings and guidance in your own journey & your plans to return to your Meeting/Church.

    6. Alice Mary

      Always interesting!

      What an interesting post! Comments, too, and the explanation of a trimmed moustache wasn’t familiar to me at all, as it relates to the Amish.

      I’d like to meet the Unity Amish someday. Interesting to be able to make comparisons here to there, with various customs.

      Who am I to judge who’s “truly” Amish, judging by facial hair or length of dress, bonnet style, etc. I appreciate knowing about these differences!

      Alice Mary

    7. Mark FitzGerald

      The Unity community reinforces the truth that one cannot say “All Amish do this, or do that”. Unity is quite unique in many ways. As a “descendant” of Elmo Stoll’s Christian Community, it is very open to seekers. I have not met a single brother in Unity that doesn’t wear a mustache. It is now accepted in many plain communities, such as Old Order River Brethren. As for Matthew, I have known him for a year and a half. Let me assure you that this was no spur of the moment move for him. He has become more conservative as he has progressed through other conservative Mennonite groups here in New England. Be assured, he has absolutely no desire to start a “chic restaurant”. He has a very simple shop specializing in bologna and sausages.

      1. pls1721


        Mark Fitzgerald,

        Hi. Have you been up to this shop yet? We drive past the cluster of little businesses on the way to our weekend home up there. We noticed in late Fall that the Charcuterie (“Well, that’s an interesting name for an Amish shop”, we thought) sign went up next to the bike and shed shop signs.

        We have hesitated to go up because we were unsure of the lay of the land up there. Is there a house up there or just the businesses?

        Thanks for any info.

        1. Mark FitzGerald

          I have indeed been to Matthew’s shop. Some of the best bologna I’ve ever had! It is very easy to find. Just follow his signs. Drive in, bear right, and follow the road right into his yard. Well worth your visit!

          1. pls1721


            Mark Fitzgerald,

            Muchas Gracias for the info. We will check him out this weekend on our way by.


    8. Judith


      The name of his shop is the French word for a shop that sells cold butchered meats. It is still used today. And it very well could have been a name of a shop that could have been owned by an Amish butcher in Alsace centuries ago.

      It is also the name of a store that I always go to in any city I have ever visited. A charcuterie is a foodie heaven.

      I wish him well and hope he has found peace.

      1. Thanks Judith, I know 🙂 I actually somehow found myself working as a waiter in a French restaurant for several months while in university (it had previously been a Polish restaurant, later bought and converted by new owners) so charcuterie was quite familiar…though I don’t know a lot of Amish who deal in French today (perhaps some in Ontario?) perhaps at some point there were Old World Amish in the charcuterie business 🙂

        1. Judith

          French speaking Amish...

          You bring up an interesting question I’ve been wondering about. Yes, no Amish in Alsace, nor many French speaking Amish. But when I lived in Basel, Switzerland, I could literally walk my dog across the border and arrive in Alsace where they spoke French. I read that the Amish History begins in that area. Did the early Amish speak a Schweizer Deutsch dialect (Penn. Dutch has a swiss canton-like speak to it, but closer to German), or Old French (it’s technically in France), both perhaps? Because now it’s the French speaking area but so many are bi and trilingual in German and French (and some English) because of the proximity to the borders that probably moved back and forth throughout history.

          I wonder.

          Anyhow, cool job working in a French restaurant!

          1. Oldkat


            Judith; not sure that you will see this post, but I have delved into this very issue to some degree. As you stated, the Alsace (and Lorraine)region of France “officially” speaks French, but the Alsatian German is apparently still spoken to some extent.

            I was familiar with Alsatian, as my mothers family spoke it in her home community of La Coste, aka Lacoste, Texas. Many of the residents in that and surrounding communities descended from settlers from Alsace, arriving in Texas in the late 1840’s to mid 1850’s. Some, such as my mothers maternal side, originated in Switzerland; migrating to the Alsace some 50 to 60 years prior to settling in Southwest Texas.

            About 8 or 9 years ago I was in the Beeville, Texas Amish community to have my two draft horse mares trained by one of their young farmers. I over heard several of his brothers speaking a language that sounded familiar to me so I asked what they were speaking. I was told that it was “Swabish”, but was told they referred to it as “Swiss German”. When I investigated I learned that Swabish, or Scwabish, is one of the Alemannic or so-called High German dialects, along with Alsatian, Basel German and several other related dialects.

            In this link:
            there is mention of this family of German is spoken in the Amish community in Allen County, IN. It turns out that the father of the young men that I was talking with was not born in that community, but his family originated from there. Or at least that is the best I can remember what he told me on a subsequent visit.

            A few years ago on this site there was a rather lively discussion for a several days among some Europeans that found their way to this site and were debating if “The Amish” or at least some of them were speaking Alsatian. Of course, I believe that if it is not Alsatian that the “Swiss” Amish speak, it is VERY closely related. Though I am far from being an expert on such matters.


            1. Mike Caron

              Amish & other Alsace settlement geography

              if you do not already know Terry Jordan’s German Seed in Texas Soil it contains considerable archival and field research about the Alsace and other source areas of German settlement geography in your state. Jordan was an extraordinary historical geographer who challenged many conventional views about the impact of small successful German settlements on the development of Texas rural landscapes. His work illuminated details of local agricultural practices, land tenure and folk life carried to America. He gives considerable attention to what drove rural German migration acros the Atlantic beyond the usual generalizations about conscription.

    9. Judith

      For some reason...

      He reminds me of Babette in Babette’s Feast. A beautiful Christ-like film where a turn of the century woman who is a counter revolutionary refugee seeks refuge in a small village in Denmark and unbeknownst to the villagers, she is a 5 star Parisian Chef. She never tells them who she was, but as a way of thanks for the years of safety, she cooks them the greatest culinary masterpieces ever created in a single dinner for them.

    10. Mike Caron

      Unity-Thorndike Amish

      I was in Matthew’s shop yesterday when this article appeared. There was a mob in his small shop which is reached by a long driveway that runs through another business. Every time someone ordered anything Matthew took the time to slice samples to share with everyone who was waiting, about 18 of us. One of the customers informed him that he was there because he had read about the shop in the New York Times on line. That was clearly the first time Matthew realized that this sudden flood of patrons was not just related to the story that had appeared in the Bangor and Portland papers, both of which contained numerous errors and distortions that clearly had annoyed him.
      I’ve visited the Amish furniture business in Thorndike and bought my chainsaw from another Amish shop also in Thorndike that all my neighbors here in Freedom, Maine assured me was by far the best place to purchase one. I figured if these old Mainers thought that much of his service it was worth the adventure to find the place.
      I have family in Millersburg, Ohio and realize that the Amish here live differently. As has been repeated so many times on this site, there are more ways to be Amish than there are tree species in the Maine woods around here. They certainly have won the respect of their Maine neighbors in record time.

    11. Terry

      Just my thoughts

      Erik and all,

      Many people of PA German descent including the Amish, have their roots in Alsace where French and German are spoken. When my mom made pork and sauerkraut, sometimes she would shred the pork roast and mix it through the sauerkraut which she called sharkoot (charcute).


    12. Dan Holsinger

      At least some, maybe all Unity Amish men wear mustaches, because their tradition goes back to the Christian Communities of Elmo Stoll. Smyrna, the first Amish settlement in Maine originally was one of the five Christian Communities of Elmo Stoll. Smyrna was founded in 1996. When Elmo Stoll died 1n 1998, his five communities did not hold together, but each one looked for a new affiliation or disbanded. Smyrna affiliated with the so-called “Michigan Churches” of the Amish. Unity was heavily influenced by Smyrna.

      Elmo Stoll, the founder of the Christian Communities was heavily influenced by the Noah Hoover Mennonites, an Old Order group with ties to the Orthodox Mennonites.

      Both the Noah Hoovers and the Orthodox Mennonites are not just traditionalists, but rather “intentionalist-minded” groups. Both groups emerged from a complicated history of splits and mergers of small Old Order groups that were seeking a more pure form of Anabaptist life.

      For some time they were in a process of consideration which tradition were the most biblical and the most appropriate for them. In this process the question of beards was reconsidered and lead to a split among the Orthodox Mennonite. The full beard wearing group grew and was successful, while the group who did not wear beards, disbanded.

      In the end two new successful Old Order Mennonites groups, that wear full beards with mustaches, emerged: the Orthodox Mennonites and The Noah Hoovers.

      As already explained, the Orthodox Mennonites “invented” the wearing of full beards among Old Orders, influenced the Noah Hoovers, who then influenced Elmo Stoll, whose Christian Communities are the roots of Smyrna and Unity.

      I don’t know exactly the process among the the Orthodox Mennonites and The Noah Hoovers that lead to the wearing of full beards, it is also possible that the first impulse to wear full beards came from the Noah Hoovers.

      1. Min. Terry Miller

        Hutterite Influence?

        1} Just curious about how much “Hutterite” doctrinbe influence there was on Elmo Stoll and his Chritian Communities, and the group at Unity today? They seem to be close to the Hutterite teaching on communal living. 2) Are these people actually recognized as “Old Order” Amish by the larger Old Order Amish communities?

        1. Dan Holsinger

          Hello Terry,

          Elmo Stoll started his communities in 1990 and knew about the Noah Hoovers and the Orthodox Mennonites. He chose Cookeville, Tennessee because the Noah Hoovers at Scottsville, Kentucky were not too far away for help and advice. And the Noah Hoovers actually helped to build the first houses in Cookeville.

          I don’t know but I can imagine that Elmo Stoll didn’t even know about the Hutterites. At that time there was no place in the world were Old Order Amish or Old Order Mennonites lived close together. Actually there are geographically quite separated even until today.

          Without the Internet and without a very good library it was not so easy to learn something about the Hutterites and 25 years ago all the Old Orders and the Hutterites were not as popular as they are today.

          Since Elmo Stoll had no problem to ask the Noah Hoovers for advice, I can imagine that would also have asked the Schmiedeleut Hutterites or the Bruderhof Communities, that were part of the Hutterites at that time, for advice how to organize communal living, but obviously he didn’t.

          “Are these people actually recognized as “Old Order”…”

          For most Amish what counts is their “affiliation” and not the rest of the Amish. There are about 40 different Amish affiliations.

          If Amish do not live in the same settlement or have family ties, there is not much interaction between different Amish affiliations. I guess that there are very few Amish who are even aware that there are communities like the “Michigan churches” of the Amish with whom the people in Smyrna and Unity are affiliated.

          G.C. Waldrep wrote in “The New Order Amish And Para-Amish Groups: Spiritual Renewal Within Tradition” in Mennonite Quarterly Review 3 (2008), page 426, that the “Michigan churches” are still “technically” considered to be part of the larger Old Order Amish, even though there are many spiritual and material similarities to the New Oder Amish.

          On the other hand some scholars see the New Oder Amish best described as a subgroup of Old Order Amish, despite the name. But these are scholarly discussions that do not affect the Amish.

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Dan, I’m going to disagree with one part of your post. I like how you explained things, but this part —

            If Amish do not live in the same settlement or have family ties, there is not much interaction between different Amish affiliations. I guess that there are very few Amish who are even aware that there are communities like the “Michigan churches” of the Amish with whom the people in Smyrna and Unity are affiliated. —

            could use a gentle correction. Maybe 30-40 years ago that would have been fairly accurate, but don’t overlook an increase in Amish publications, better travel ability, and many more “large” Amish gatherings.
            Many Amish people get The Budget or Die Botschaft and follow what is going on in other communities and new papers like The Plain Community Business Exchange and The Connection have created new connections. More Amish being willing to travel with drivers has made a huge difference, too. Years ago a trip to another community by bus or train was a big event. Now we go motoring off to another community for the weekend without much thought to it.
            Another thing that draws Amish & Mennonite people together are circle-letters & circle letter reunions. I write in several letters and many of those other writers are not relatives or of the same affiliation. In the case of one letter that has been going for 23 years, none of us are connected by family or church but have become good friends through our writing & reunions.
            Other places/ events/ times you see Amish people from other areas & affiliations connecting and making new friendships are — horse sales, reunions: there are reunions or gatherings for all kinds of things and we love to go to see old friends and meet new ones and value the connections with other communities & affiliations. Some reunions are: handicapped, adoption, sudden-death, widow or widower, teachers, single men – single women, various business reunions like the yearly buggy makers or tarp-shop owners reunions, converts, those who went on big trips together… and on and on. I once heard a guy say there are even reunions for people who love going to reunions. 🙂 So… the suggested lack of connection or interaction between affiliations looks different from my view-point. Does everyone participate in such things? Well, there is some personality differences — not everyone likes meeting 80 strangers, but we see Amish from some very mixed affiliations at those things, including Nebraska Amish. We rarely see Swartzentrubers and the like, but business & auction events even bring them out. Oh, yes, a huge event like Horse Progress Days or the Airworks auction is going to give a mixture of people that covers about any kind of Amish.
            For those who like to go to Florida, they will be mixing with everything from Nebraska to New Order, though again the Swartzentrubers are missing.
            As for not being aware of other affiliations like the Michigan Churches… Maybe in the beginning of that movement, but with even Nebraska, Swiss, and Swartzentruber Amish seeing some of their people leave their affiliation to become part of the Michigan churches, I can’t picture any Amish person as not having some connection to a Michigan Church settlement.

            I’m not arguing or trying to pick a scrap, Dan, just thought I’d share my thoughts on this. In other posts not long ago there was a strong suggestion that Amish diversity keeps people apart. I disagree.

          2. Min. Terry Miller

            Elmo Stoll and the Hutterites

            Elmo Stoll did know about the Hutterites and had contact with them. I understand he loved the communal aspect but felt they did not have enough emphasis on the individual family. Nonetheless, he was very close to their theology, and seemed to pick up many Hutterite ways. Their influence on Stoll was considerable.

            1. Dan Holsinger

              Hello Marc,

              what you say about Elmo Stoll and the Hutterites is very interesting. Could you maybe explain a bit more, which aspects of Hutterite theology he adopted from the Hutterites?

              1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                Dan, it was Terry who mentioned Elmo & the Hutterites. Are you familiar with the “Plain Things” magazine Elmo’s son edits? He had a very good article on the beginning of the Cookeville movement and his father’s interactions with the Hutterites. I do not keep copies of the magazine after reading them — I pass them on to others — but you may be able to get a hold of a copy.

                1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                  Well, what do I find in my desk — a copy of “Plain Things.” Elmo Stoll’s son Aaron is the editor.
                  It is published bi-monthly, six issues per year. Subscriptions are $14 per year, back issues are $2.50 each. All the issues from Jan. 2013 to the present are avaiable. When ordering only one back issue, please include an extra dollar to help pay postage. Foreign subscriptions are $18 per year. Make checks payable to Caneyville Christian Community.
                  Send to: Plain Things, 1000 Choncie Lee Rd., Caneyville, KY 42721.

                  I copied that from the magazine. Please note Caneyville is not an Old or New Order Amish community, though in many ways they live as conservatively or in some ways even more conservatively than the Amish, but there are some significant differences — use of a church building, English preaching, etc. and quite a few of their members come from non Anabaptist backgrounds while some come from Amish, Mennonite, or German Baptist backgrounds.

                  Erik, if it’s not fitting to have posted this on here, my apologies. I assume you’ll delete it if it is not okay.

                  1. It’s perfectly fine Mark, and thanks for taking the time to share for anyone who wants to subscribe. We have shared other publications’ subscribe info on other occasions, so if you feel people here might appreciate it it is always welcome.

                  2. Dan Holsinger

                    Thanks for your answer Mark! I read about “Plain Things” and considered to order it, but I haven’t done it yet.

                    How good do you know the Caneyville Christian Community? I read about them what I could find, but many aspects remain unknown to me. I wrote most of the Wikipedia article about them:

                    Do you think the information in this article is correct and are there important aspects you would add? I couldn’t write much about their belief, because I lack the sources for it.

                    1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                      Hi, Dan. If you are interested in Caneyville or the history of Cookeville, you’ll definitely want to check out the back issues on how Caneyville got started and Marc Villeneuve, a convert who was very involved in Elmo’s decision to leave Aylmer. I thought I knew the events very well, but the articles Aaron put together on that part of history allowed me to learn some of the underlying factors that I was not aware of at the time. I’d encourage you to read “Plain Things” not just for the history, but it would be a great way to understand where they are in practice and beliefs. I did read your article and I don’t see anything that comes across as incorrect or questionable. I thought it was well done.
                      It is interesting to see that both Caneyville & Brownsville continue to have a rather unstable population. Oh, that’s not really the word I want… it sounds like they have mental issues! What I mean is people don’t tend to stay. There are families that have been there from the beginning, but there have been many who came and were attracted by the English language and open-door welcome, but after being there for a while they still drifted away. It’s strange that communities created specifically to attract and ease converts is not succeeding at it very well, but that’s a whole different topic. Anyhow, what I wanted to say here was there are a lot of folks moving out of both communities in the last year or so. Many are relocating to other plain affiliations, but a few have gone back out into mainstream society. A relative who visited there recently said it’s sad to see it taking on almost a “ghost town” look with empty homes scattered around.
                      How well do I know Caneyville? I’ll admit I never visited it, but I’m embarrassed to admit that because we have family and friends there! It’s not that I feel we need to avoid the community — it’s just not in the direction we tend to travel much. We get regular personal letters from connections there and get visits from them, but we have yet to actually visit Caneyville. Reading Plain Things combined with personal visits & letters from folks at Caneyville & Brownsville gives us a good insight, but a personal visit to Caneyville would give us a better view.

                      1. Min. Terry Miller

                        Mark Villineau?

                        Does anyone know what happened to Mark Villineau (probably not spelled correctly) who was so instrumental or influential in the early stages of the Elmo Stoll movement. Is he still with them? Is he still alive? It seems he was such a major player in the beginning, but I wonder if he stayed with the movement? Or did he return to “the world” or some other church??

                      2. Dan Holsinger

                        Thanks for you long answer, Mark.

                        Terry, the name of the guy is written like this: Marc Villeneuve. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about his whereabouts.

    13. Dan Holsinger

      By the way, the Swiss Mennonites and the Amish in the Alsace spoke German dialects as their mother tongue, never French, even while living among French-speaking neighbors. Probably some of them spoke French as a second language, in a way as they speak speak English today.

      To learn more about this subject the history of Markirch is very instructive.

    14. Mike Caron

      Mustache Geography

      Thank you Dan for that very thorough and interesting explanation of the way full facial hair traditions came with many of my Thorndike and Unity Amish neighbors.

    15. Mike Caron

      Amish business signs

      In Berlin and Millersburg one sees the word Amish on so many businesses, whereas here in Thorndike and Unity there is little or no signage outside suggesting that a business is owned by Amish or sells Amish goods. I recall someone complaining on this site that a chair they purchased from the store here was made in China. There are indeed many items on the shelves and on the porch that are not Amish made, but I do not believe there is an ounce of deception intended.
      This store in Unity and the chainsaw place in Thorndike or any of the other Amish enterprises here are not primarily marketing to tourists. Most of their customer base is local and the proprietors are simply stocking goods that meet their customer’s basic needs. The canning jars I picked up for a neighbor were not Amish made, but they are going to be put to use by a Mainer whose lifestyle and values are substantially closer to the man who owns that store than the overwhelming majority of tourists who purchase “genuine” Amish goods in Berlin, Ohio’s peak season.
      There are plenty of Amish made goods in this store, and I have indulged in the fresh made donuts on Wednesday mornings. But the Amish coffin maker up the road is not expecting to make a living off tourism, and many Mainers in these parts find it refreshing to have new neighbors opening businesses that are not focused entirely on the tourist trade as so many new businesses are in this heavily tourist dependent state.

    16. Marcus Yoder

      Normally when the word Amish is used in the sign the business is not owned by an Amish person. Maybe Mark from Holmes county can tell us if any business in Berlin is owned by an Amish person. I have quite a few Amish cousins that own business. None of them have the name Amish on there signs.
      Marcus Yoder

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Marcus, there are a few businesses in the Berlin area that are Amish owned. None of them have “Amish” in the name, though. We often shop at “North Market Variety” and “North Market Shoes” in Berlin and I always think it’s funny how tourists can go in there and be disappointed at an authentic Amish store and go to the gift & souvenir shops instead… North Market Variety is full of things the Amish are going to buy. It’s worth checking out. Yes, you’ll see things you can also find at a place like Walmart, but it does have some unique items and again, it’s in business to sell to locals.

      2. Janis


        I would like to know how someone ( Englisher ) goes about joining the Amish.

        1. Dan Holsinger

          Make your homework and then get in touch

          Hi Janis,

          a good thing in the beginning is to read reliable books about the Amish. I would recommend:

          John Hostetler’s book “Amish Society”

          Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner and Steven M. Nolt’s book “The Amish”

          Kraybill’s “The Riddle of Amish Culture”

          Joe Mackall’s “Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish”

          The next step is to get in touch with the Amish. There are Amish communities, that are more open to outsiders than others. The New Order Amish and the so-called “Michigan Churches” ( are said to be more open to outsiders. Unity, Maine belongs to the “Michigan Churches”. A place to meet Amish from different communities is Pinecraft (Sarasota) in Florida, where many Amish live, especially in winter time.

          If you google a bit you’ll find other communities that have welcomed seekers. There are even some few Old Orders that have a telephone through which you can contact them.

        2. Dan Holsinger

          At the very bottom of this article ( there are some helpful web links and also some books.

          To get in contact with the Amish the large settlements with a lot of tourists are not the best places.

    17. Mike Caron

      Still learning

      Marcus, I do not doubt you are correct. I know some of the businesses, especially in Berlin, are not owned by Amish, even when virtually all of their employees appear to be Amish. I thank you for helping to clarify something that was not obvious to a fellow whose primary contact with Berlin is breakfast at Boyd & Wurthmann’s. My confusion, which I suspect is rather common, comes from places like Kauffman’s in Millersburg, very near my brother’s place, whose sign prominently displays the classic buggy and says “from the Heart of Amish Country”. I should have realized that the fact they are open Sundays might suggest the owners are not Amish. I appreciate learning to be more observant. Thanks.

    18. Amish Girl- Rebecca

      Most of Kaufman’s Bakery employees are Amish, but the owners are not . Go to Hershberger’s Farm or Miller’s bakery if you really want Amish baked goods.

    19. Mike Caron

      Hershberger's Farm

      Thanks Rebecca, I have stopped at Hershberger’s many times and enjoyed baked goods from Miller’s as well. I suspect I am not the first or last to fail to notice the signage difference. Slow, but I’m teachable and appreciative of the enlightenment.

    20. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Terry, Marc & Silvi Villeneuve are alive (or were about 2 months ago), but are no longer with an Amish group. They are living in Ontario not far from the Aylmer community. If I’m right, they are with a “Charity” type church — but don’t hold me to that, please. If it was not a Charity church, it was something similar. I’m starting to think I should save such magazines so I can refer back to them instead of just reading them and passing them on!

    21. Dan Holsinger

      A question for Min. Terry Miller

      I don’t know if this here is the right place for my question (Is it okay Erik?), but most probably it is the right person to ask, if you are the person, who as a young man converted to the Hutterite form of Christianity.

      Is it possible to live a more or less traditional Hutterite life at a Hutterite colony, when there are many born again Christians there?

      As far as I know most people among the Hutterites with a born again experience leave their colonies.

      There are also whole Hutterite colonies that drifted towards a more evangelical, born again version of Christianity, like Elmendorf, Fort Pitt, maybe also Altona and Rainbow and and for some time partially Flat Willow.

      My impression is that all these colonies are on a drift towards assimilation into the mainstream society that most probably in some decades will lead to Churches, that have lost most of their Hutterite characteristics.

      This question is very important to me: Is it possible to combine a traditional Anabaptist life with a born again form of Christianity, not only among Hutterites, but also among Old Order Amish or Old Order Mennonites? Maybe others have also something to say about this.

      1. Sure, feel free to ask it here Dan. Also if you’re interested there are also several Hutterite-themed posts, mainly by Linda Maendel, member of a colony in Manitoba, which you can find if you use the search box at the top.

      2. Judith

        The Born Again Question

        Minister Terry – the evangelical, or “born again” as you and many others have put it, is something that concerns not only the Hutterites. When they first started to appear in the 1980’s, many of us Catholics were ambivalent at best, and at worst, we were repelled by it. It was something Catholics just didn’t do. We don’t go door to door, we don’t ask people if they’ve “found Jesus”, we live our lives as Christian as we can and we fast and we get ashes on our foreheads, and we go to Mass. We preach the Gospel by example, not so much in words.

        In the 90’s we saw the movement get bigger and bigger and by the 2000’s we saw the Mega-Church. Huge, huge complexes filled with evangelicals of no denomination in particular. Their coffers grew and grew because they’re pastors asked for more and more money. Some of those pastors owned private jets. It was disheartening to witness.

        I don’t doubt that those who call themselves “born again” truly and sincerely wish to follow Christ. But they are vulnerable to the whims of greedy pastors who see dollar signs in the eyes of their congregants.

        I don’t know as much about the Hutterite Community as I do the Amish. But my guess is I don’t think these people who want to follow Christ and call themselves born again will change the ability of the Hutterites to live a traditional plain life as long as they are guided pastorally with love and wisdom – but beware the born again/evangelcal pastor – some of them are not “the good shepherd” and will steal from the flock.

        But overall, we are told to go out and preach the Good News – but all of us can do that in different ways, some use words, some don’t. I personally believe the ones who lead by example, who don’t speak to the public uninvited, who don’t invade another’s space, so to speak, are much more attractive to the heart that secretly seeks God.

        It’s not like we’re living in the Dark Ages where some people have never heard of the Jesus Christ. Christianity is literally everywhere. If someone wants to know God, anywhere in the world, in this day and age – they can seek you out.

        1. Dan Holsinger

          Thanks for your long answer, Judith!

          I made something like a born again experience in an environment, where nobody was familiar with the phenomenon and its name. I took me years until I found out that others had an experience like mine and called themselves “born again Christians”.

          Even though I experienced myself the strong power of this “born again” thing to transform one’s own life to become a more committed follower of Jesus Christ, I also see the dangers to destroy whole communities by this very emotional transformation, that tends to ignore rules and to follow one’s own (divine?) impressions.

          I wonder if there are a communities that can deal with “born again” experiences and the boost for spirituality they can mean without breaking the whole community.

          The New Order Amish, the “Michigan Churches” of the Amish, the Elmendorf and Fort Pitt (Ex)-Hutterites, the Noah Hoover Mennonites and others tried to integrate a higher level of spirituality with traditional Old Order life, but to very mixed results.

          In my view the dangers of revival and born again forms of Christianity to Old Order communities are immense.

          I would appreciate to hear about the views of others concerning all this.

          Unfortunately Min. Terry Miller has not yet answered.

          1. Judith


            Hi Dan – Spirituality is a very overused word in this day and age. In the distant past, people who experienced extreme awakenings to God were called Mystics. These people had unique and extreme emotional reactions to God, Christ, Mary Mother of God etc. and they would go to a mountaintop cave and write about it. The Mystics were somewhat solitary creatures who connected to God in special ways that not all of us can do. It happened to them organically and was not manufactured by a group of other mystics. It came from within.

            Today, I hear a lot of people say “I’m spiritual but not religious” and I don’t even know what that means. I think they don’t even know what that means. It brings up big questions about theology and it would take me a thousand years to come to a conclusion about it. But this I know – to have spirituality without religion – is akin to loving deeply, but with no one to love – it’s like buying the most beautiful furniture in the world, but not having a house to put it in – or like producing the finest wine in the world, but no bottle to store it in. One can have religion and no spirituality (but always try to attain it) – but one can not have spirituality without the container of religion.

            Anyhow, these are my thoughts on this – and I apologize if they tend to wander a bit. I hope that makes a little sense about the incredible spirituality that some born again Christians have, but no place to put it. Next time I’ll try to be more succinct.

    22. Jim (Jakob) kramer

      An Unusual Coversion Story indeed :)

      1. The Alsatians speak French and a German Dialect related to Schwaebisch. Here’s a saying for the linguists among us, from the Alsace-Lorraine region: Uff de Berge isch gut Lewe! (There’s good living on the Mountains).

      2. Charcuterie: French and corresponds to a butcher shop type of place. Where you can get the best cuts of meat, for those of you who eat meat. Will he also have frommage? (cheese-Kaese in German) 🙂

      3. I wish him the best of success and enjoyment as he learns to adapt to his new lifestyle. Don’t forget to study German 🙂 after all, you’ll need the Dialect for day-to-day dealings with the People, and usually a form of High German for Church services. How I envy you that–we have only 2 times a year German in Pittsburgh at one Church, and to be honest, the Pastor could use Nachhilfe (remedial help!!). He’s been here too long LOL. Once he started off the Christmas service “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, und des Heiligen Geistes.” In other words, it was practically PA Deitsch!! In Germany by the way, the term they use for mixing English with German is now “Denglisch!”

    23. Marijane Grassie

      Do you know of any Amish families that allow you to visit with them and work with them during their daily chores to learn more about their ways first hand?