Indiana Amish lecture by Professor Steven Nolt

Goshen College has kindly passed along a link to a recent lecture on the northern Indiana Amish given by Professor Steven Nolt (no longer online).

Professor Nolt is one of the preeminent scholars on the Amish.  He has written numerous books, including A History of the Amish and Plain Diversity (w/Thomas Meyers) on Amish communities in Indiana.

Nolt explains that northern Indiana is unusual in that it allows much diversity among districts.

He contrasts this with other communities where uniform standards are required or where differences would more likely result in new affiliations being formed.

He also discusses the impact of recent economic decline on the region and the unusual situation of Indiana Amish accepting unemployment assistance.

Interesting bits from the lecture:

  • Indiana is the only state where you’ll find license plates on buggies, though not every county requires them.  Thus in the community at Nappanee, some have plates while others do not.
  • Amish population growth has resulted both from having large families as well as an increased retention rate.  Nolt estimates that of children born in the 1930s, less than 80% joined the Amish church.  Today that figure stands at around 95%.
  • A few northern Indiana Old Order districts hold biweekly Sunday School, but most do not.
  • During the Great Depression, church leaders temporarily allowed young unemployed men to acquire drivers’ licenses for delivery jobs, with the stipulation that they be used only on the job and only while working for a non-Amish employer.
  • The rates of children joining the Amish church are no lower among factory families than the settlement average.
  • The average age of ordained ministers has fallen from 40 a couple of decades ago to 32 today. Professor Nolt has an interesting explanation why.

Read more on Indiana Amish communities. In addition to factory work and farming, Amish in Elkhart and Lagrange Counties (and elsewhere in Indiana) operate woodworking businesses. Read more on Amish furniture in Indiana.

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7 Comments

  1. Helen Parnell-Berry

    Hello Erik;
    There was a very interesting documentary on the Amish last night on BBC 2. It was called Trouble in Amish Paradise. You can view it via the BBC website on the iplayer. It should be on there for a week or so.
    It showed two young Amish men and their families and their conflict with their communities and subsequent shunnings.
    Hope all is well with you and will be in touch soon.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up Helen! I will try to have a look at it.

  3. Bill

    I tried to view this program but the BBC iplayer is currently unavailable here in the US.

  4. Helen Parnell-Berry

    That’s a shame Bill; maybe it will be shown on BBC America at a later date. In any case, it was fascinating.
    Erik, I get the impression you’re on the other side of the big water at the moment. Andrew and I are hoping to be in south east Indiana in July. We’re going to spend the day with my Amish pen friend and her family. They are old order and very similar to the Swarzentruber Amish that live in the western side of Indiana.
    I’ll keep you posted. Best wishes.

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