For a state with few Plain people, the Amish in Maine sure get a lot of coverage.
Over the past several years, we’ve seen news stories on the atypical Amish community at Unity, ME, Amish convert and Unity resident Matthew Secich, the conservative Amish enclave at Fort Fairfield, and the Smyrna Mills community, the state’s oldest.
Last year, Maine press outlets began covering a community in the works at Whitefield (Lincoln County).
Interestingly, the initiative of a local non-Amish couple, Pat and Robin Chase, led to Amish deciding to move to the southern Maine destination from their home settlement in New York:
In early April, they sent a letter to one family, the Yoders, expressing that Whitefield would be a good fit for their slower-paced, agrarian-centered lifestyle. Mose Yoder wrote back explaining that his family might not have time to make it to Whitefield on their land-scouting trip but ensured that they would try.
This didn’t sound concrete enough for the Chases. So instead of writing back, they took a leap of faith, driving overnight 10 hours to the Yoders’ home in Heuvelton, New York.
“We hopped in the car and drove there and landed on their doorstep and said, ‘We’re the Chases, we’re from Maine,’” Robin Chase recalled while sitting in her kitchen this week.
The leap of faith worked. Over the past eight months, the Chases have acted as point people for the Yoders and other Amish families looking to settle in Whitefield. In June the Yoders closed on a 64-acre plot of land just across the Sheepscot River from the Chases’ home.
“That’s quite an interesting thing how we’ve come together. I almost want to say it was meant to be. I guess it was meant to be because it’s happening,” Mose Yoder said.
Mose Yoder and his wife Anna moved to Whitefield about two weeks ago. Since it sounds like they are technically the only families there now, this won’t officially be a “settlement” until a few more souls show up.
But more are expected next month, and a school is planned for the fall.
Learning about the community
Today the Whitefield group gets a profile courtesy of the Lincoln County News.
The piece is an introduction to the new residents, mainly via comments from Mose Yoder, plus general information about Amish culture and beliefs.
In it, we learn:
- The Whitefield area has been preparing for the new Amish residents for some time. A potluck meal introduced the Yoders to the community. There are already yellow buggy warning signs on the roads. Robin Chase is described as “proud of her community” for the welcome they’ve shown. This is not always the case when Amish move to new areas.
- Besides farming, the Yoder family plans to have a sawmill and furniture shop – a typical mix of businesses.
- Amish here are likely from a different affiliation than those elsewhere in Maine: “The Yoders do not know much about the Amish that have settled in other areas of Maine, they said. They are from different families, but it is good to have a mix in the area, Mose said.”
- Mose’s comments on photographing the Amish might surprise you: “Pictures are prohibited, and no one in the Amish community will pose for a photograph, Mose said. However, when people stop to take photographs, it is not necessarily considered disrespectful. ‘We know people are used to it, and for them it’s an everyday thing,’ he said. If photographs are taken, it is preferred that they be at a distance, and facial features are not recognizable.”
- And I liked this wholly Amish quip: “‘It’s a joke we have that we use wireless,’ Anna said, referring to some of their tools. The family used hand-powered drills in the construction of their barn, which was livable after 20 days of work.”
This is the third article on an Amish community which technically is still being created.
This coverage and positive non-Amish response bodes well for the fledgling settlement’s prospects, since Amish are not isolated from their surroundings, but often thrive in part due to their interaction with outsiders.
Note: If you entered last week’s contest for an autographed copy of The Return, we have chosen a winner.
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