The Amish of Somerset County, PA (25 Photos)
I paid a visit to Somerset County, Pennsylvania on my “way home” from last week’s stay in Lancaster County. I have “way home” in quotes here because it required a 3-hour detour west down the PA Turnpike in a snowstorm.
But I was determined to get there. This had been a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time.
Luckily road conditions weren’t slick, and weather cleared before I arrived in the community. It left a lovely blanket of snow across the hilly landscape, as you can see in the photos.
Somerset County is not a tourist destination and is well off the beaten path. However there are a number of businesses I visited as well as one or two Amish people I’d previously spoken with on the phone.
I had been wanting to visit for some time because, for a couple of reasons, Somerset County is a rather unusual Amish settlement.
An atypical community
Somerset County is interesting for a number of reasons. For one, it’s the second-oldest of all Amish communities, founded in 1772 or thereabouts. Only Lancaster County is older.
For that matter, only three existing Amish communities date to the 1700s, all in Pennsylvania (Mifflin County–“Big Valley”–is the other).
Another unusual aspect is the community’s custom of worshiping in meetinghouses, unlike standard Old Order Amish practice of holding church at members’ homes.
Meetinghouses are no recent innovation in Somerset County. They were adopted long ago, in the late 1800s. This kind of thing happened among Amish in that time period.
It typically signaled a progressive-minded community taking a turn away from an Old Order path (see A History of the Amish by Steven Nolt, p. 142-143 for examples).
However, in the case of Somerset County, the church embraced meetinghouses while still managing to hold onto its horse-and-buggy Old Order Amish identity (note: the photo above is not an Amish meetinghouse–see further below for that).
Many of the farm houses in Somerset County have a weathered appearance. The one home I visited inside also appeared rather plain by its interior. It feels like a fairly plain community, visually, though by one account a range of technologies are permitted here.
I would have liked to have spent more time to learn more about the community firsthand, but only had a few hours on this visit. Despite the time limitations, I was able to visit a number of places, including multiple Amish-run businesses.
In total I visited seven Amish businesses – two chair shops, two variety stores, a country store, a greenhouse, and a quilt business (though not much was happening in that business, as I describe below).
Peachey’s Country Store has a large selection of baked items, including pies, cookies, dessert bars, and homemade chocolate items.
The women running the place were especially friendly and helped me head in the right direction to my next stop, as this was the first place I visited.
The pie I bought there was labeled blueberry, but turned out to be cherry. Happens to the best of us. Come to think of it, I probably should have checked if they had peach.
Zook’s Chair Shop lies in the village of Summit Mills. A rather old Amish man was finishing chairs with the help of an Amish woman when I arrived to ask directions.
They had quite a few hickory chairs. He asked if I was interested, but I told him I am covered on hickory rockers for now.
Another chair maker I visited not too far away explained the technology used here. Tools in the shop are powered by a line shaft arrangement (see here for photos of another such setup driven by a diesel engine). This is considered a plainer solution than using hydraulic or pneumatic power.
There’s a quilt seller in Summit Mills as well, but as I mentioned, it’s a pretty low-key operation, run out of an Amish woman’s home. There were only a few quilts available when I stopped in, and they didn’t seem like traditional Amish quilts.
The owner, or rather the girl who was there with her, had to poke around to find things to show me. She said she was making a quilt for a church benefit sale this summer.
I stopped in at one greenhouse (Rosy Dawn), and was given the community greenhouse map you see below. It seems a pretty popular type of business, with nine greenhouses listed (eight in Pennsylvania and one over the border in Maryland).
They also list the holiday schedule for these businesses (and one assumes for the rest of the community’s shops as well):
With map in hand I was able to find what I was really after, dry goods and variety stores. The first I visited, Hidden Valley Variety, had more food items and books. I didn’t see it advertised on the road, but there was a sign for the greenhouse at the same location.
The lady at Hidden Valley helped me find the second, Valley Brook Dry Goods. This one had a wider selection of fabrics, and also some books including the community church directory.
I also saw one of the community’s four meetinghouses, the Summit Mills meetinghouse, pictured here.
On that note, my favorite purchase in the Somerset settlement was the community birthday calendar. I joked with the shop owner that I probably don’t need to know everyone’s birthday, but that I loved the concept.
Each month includes a photo of one of the community’s schools, with the last four months featuring photos of the four meetinghouses.
From this calendar I learned that the Summit Mills meetinghouse was founded in 1881, as was the Niverton house. The community’s two other church houses are much younger, built in 1987 and 1998.
One Amishman told me that a newer district does not have a meetinghouse but currently holds services in a schoolhouse (he may have meant a different daughter settlement also in Somerset County).
Page 17 of the church directory contains an interesting explanation as to why the community adopted church houses:
In the 1880’s Somerset County had a lot of coal miners living in the area. Since they had no work on Sunday they made a nuisance of themselves at the homes where church was being held. They’d go into the orchards and throw apples around; also messing with the food in the basement. This is what prompted our forefathers to build church houses.
This explanation surprised me. I’d never think harrassment by English neighbors would be a cause for changing church practice in a dramatic way like that (I’m also not sure how that would have prevented the harrassment described).
Perhaps there were other factors involved, and this is the more convenient explanation passed down in local lore?
Further details on the oldest houses:
The Niverton and Summit Mills Old Order Amish Church Houses were both built in 1881 and are still being used plain and unpainted on the inside. The Summit church house had a piece added in 1902, otherwise they are as originally built.
According to Raber’s 2015 Alamanac, Somerset County contains seven Amish church districts, though I believe one of them (Berlin area) is considered a separate community.
Since as with other Amish, church is held on alternating Sundays in different congregations, one church house can be used for more than one congregation.
The Amish directory currently available is from 2010, so a bit dated (a new one is in the works).
Amazingly, on looking inside I discovered that someone has painstakingly hand-written additional information throughout the directory, including dozens of new births (up to 2014) and an updated ministers’ list.
A lot of work, especially considering the full stack of copies in the store.
As you see from the cover, this community has ties with the Letart, West Virginia settlement we learned about last year thanks to Tom Geist. Several families moved to Letart in the spring of 1996 to found a settlement there.
According to The Amish, the Somerset affiliation comprises 6 settlements in 3 states (as of 2011; see p. 139).
You’ll find a mix of both traditionally Pennsylvania and Midwestern Amish last names in this settlement, such as Zook, Beiler and Byler, Kinsinger, Mast, Hochstetler, Yoder, Fisher, Wengerd, Slabaugh, Beachy and Peachey.
I also saw an Amish mailbox inscribed with “Summy”, a name I don’t often see among Amish. There are around 10 Summy households in this community. Other less-common names found here are Hertzler and Brenneman.
Somerset County isn’t a tourist community, but if you’re in the area, there are a number of businesses worth visiting. Though my trip was shorter than I would have preferred, it was nice to finally visit the second-oldest Amish settlement, and I hope to do so again in warmer months.
Some of my Amish ancestors lived in Somerset county.
Another fairly unique thing about the Somerset Amish is that they drive ‘Midwestern’ style buggies, with slanted-in sides above the chassis, as shown in your fifth picture. I seem to remember reading somewhere that they are the originators of this style, which makes sense considering that a number of Midwestern settlements such as Holmes County were founded by people who left Somerset in the 19th century.
Good point, RC. In Plain Buggies, Stephen Scott writes that it is likely that Somerset originated the Ohio style. In PA you’ll also find this style in the Smicksburg community (Indiana County).
The Somerset county community is the one that found me as a child.
Loved this, Erik! Thanks for putting this together for us. Definitely a place we’d like to visit.
Thanks, Margaret. Wish I could have been there longer, but it was a nice time.
Re: the meeting houses
Erik, what an informative trip you experienced, and we readers are so appreciative when you share!
The shutters on the windows,three chimneys,and two entrance doors jumped out at me. The building didn’t seem big enough to have three stoves, but that’s my thought. When the building is idle the shutters provide protection from shenanigans that would end up with broken windows. Two doors mean men on one side and women on the other.
The Amish haven’t been the only ones to have segregation. A United Methodist church that we attended used to have it up until the 1960’s; we joined in 82, so missed it. Some Lutheran’s had it as well. When we visited stave churches in Norway there were always two entrances. And just where did the kids sit I wonder?
Last fall I was talking to an Amish friend who has been a preacher for 40 plus years, about having a church building. He commented that it would just be another building to maintain. His eyes widened when I told him of our church’s new 85,000$ roof that went on! I can see the Amish men standing around with their hands in their pockets before and after church bs’ing, and a surprised look when they learned of our roof cost! I’m thinking they were all in agreement that it was best, and cheaper, to have services in the home, barn or shed, and not in a church building. But, you’d have more room to sit!
As we readers know, having church is a lot of work for the host family. But, that means some scrubbing, painting, tidying up, etc. is going to be happening, and that isn’t all bad. And we can’t forget that there’d be a place for the horses and buggies.(Erik, did you see a buggy shed close by?) It’s the number of people coming in the door and where they’re going to sit, that has me baffled!
Nice observations, Terry. Cost is one reason among a number that nearly all Amish do not built meetinghouses, but it’s a hard one to argue against.
About buggy parking, good question. There was actually a long low unpainted wood building at the rear end of the meetinghouse, which might be the answer. You can see one end of it at the right of the very first photo of this post, or in the background of the first meetinghouse photo. It didn’t occur to me to take a closer look but I’ll check other photos I have.
This church is just down the hill from my husband’s childhood home. Yes, the long, low shed is for all the horses. They are unhitched and taken inside, while the buggies remain outside.
I was always told that our very mountainous terrain necessitated the meeting houses. Pennsylvania’s highest point is only a few miles west of here.
My in-laws back door was always open for neighbor Isaac to use the phone. Now, however, folks share phone sheds placed at the end of their lane or in a mutual field.
Thanks for a view of “home.”
Somerset county meeting houses have horse sheds. The buggies get parked outside.
Are you related to Jacob Maust. He was my 6th great grandfather from Somerset County. Born in Bernville, Berks, Pa 1752.
My husband is a direct descendant of Jacob Maust, specifically Ronald Maust in California.
Each meeting house has it’s own horse barn and plenty of room to park the buggies.
I enjoyed reading your comment about separate doors. I grew up in a Norwegian Lutheran church in rural Minnesota and we had the same practice of separate doors. Women and girls went in the door on the north side of the building and sat on the north side of the sanctuary. Men and boys went in the south door and sat on the south side. I’m not sure what year the practice ended, but I think it was about 1946. When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, women and girls still entered the north door,and men and boys the south door, but then we would meet in the small area between the rooms and join each other and sit together as families.
I think that practice stopped in the 1970’s. I think Beachy Amish and some conservative Mennonites still practice separate seating.
Terry in Wisc, It was interesting to catch your comment about the men and women’s separate meetinghouse entrances– as I noticed it also –it bringing to my mind memory of Friends (Quaker) meetinghouses of old having separate entrances for men and women.
Sandra in Ohio
Neat e-Visit, Erik
Don’t know that I’ll ever make it to this community after a snow-fall, so thanks for taking us to such a beautiful setting this morning. It really does seem to be an interesting place, with some neat history.
In looking through the picture, (unsurprisingly) a question comes to mind: Being that the history of this community goes back to colonial days, is there any noticeable impact on the design/architecture of the Amish homes or other buildings? (And for that matter, do you see any significant variations in home/building design from the various Amish areas throughout the states?) I can’t pinpoint it, but something about some of the buildings hints at some touch of old-world characteristics.
Don there are definitely variations across communities. This is probably most apparent in a place like Holmes County with the very plain Swartzentruber Amish having a distinct style while the more progressive Amish homes can almost look English. Homes in other areas vary as well. For instance brick construction is popular in Allen County, Indiana.
It’s a good question about homes in Somerset, and one reason I wish I had more time to spend there. I was inside one home (the quilt lady) and found the interior quite archaic for lack of a better word. Not the plainest Amish home, and had a certain style which just felt very old, seen in the wooden ceilings and other wooden elements. The problem is that I don’t know enough about architectural styles and their history to really talk about it. Interesting question though.
The eaves ...
on some of the buildings don’t overhang as much as they do on many contemporary buildings. Because of this some of the buildings, particularly the meetinghouse towards the bottom, almost have a New England salt block appearance to them.
Somerset County is a large place and has more than 1 town, it would be helpful if you added the name of the town to each of the businesses you visited.
Somerset County Business Addresses
Most of these are in the general area of Summit Mills. Usually you need more than just the town name to find an Amish business. They’re typically in the rural areas around towns. For those who don’t want the adventure of finding these on your own 😉 , here are the addresses which I have:
Valley Brook Dry Goods
6518 Mt. Davis Rd
Meyersdale, PA 15552
Hidden Valley Variety Store (& Greenhouse)
169 Hidden Valley Dr.
Meyersdale, PA 15552
Rosy Dawn Greenhouse
6748 Mt. Davis Rd.
Meyersdale, PA 15552
Peachey’s Country Store
3319 Rockdale Rd.
Meyersdale, PA 15552
Zook’s Chair Shop
6954 Mt. Davis Rd.
Meyersdale, PA 15552
I am a born and raised Somerset County woman (40 yrs.) currently living in Ohio. It really is not that simple to name each town, especially if you are not familiar with the area. It is very rural and much time can be spent traveling from one place to another. Meyersdale for example is more based on the school district which includes the borough of Meyersdale and Summit Township which actually surrounds the borough. The area in particular that was visited by Erik is in Summit Mills which is in Summit Township. To visit the places mentioned ( except Peachy’s) you would simply stay on the road that takes you through Summit Mills and into Maryland. However because of it being so rural there is not a post office in Summit Mills therefore the address is Meyersdale which is the nearest post office.
I would like to encourage everyone to visit this area especially during the Pennsylvania Maple Festival which is held in Meyersdale
Also the Somerset County Fair
This area also is home to the highest point in Pennsylvania which houses a tower in which you can climb and see numerous states from a top…which is visually spectacular any of year but especially during the fall.
Also The Great Allegany Passage
Which is an amazing hiking and biking trail.
This area is not Lancaster however it is a true gem that will take you on a walk back in time.
Great story, great pictures. Snow makes everything more beautiful. The Variety store looks like my kind of place. One more place to add to my Pennsylvania Bucket List!
Thanks Janet! It was a pretty day with the snow. The schoolchildren in the third photo were playing a game of which involved tossing a ball on the church roof. I didn’t really pay close attention until the ball got stuck in the snow up there.
Andy Over? Maple Syrup Tapping?
Were the children playing a game of Andy Over?
Did you see any maple trees being tapped for sap to make maple syrup, Erik?
I didn’t know what Andy Over is, but after reading the description, it’s very possible. I wish I had paid closer attention, I just noticed they were throwing something up on the roof. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ante_Over
I saw maple taps everywhere in Somerset County. They were using the classic metal buckets to collect sap.
On that topic I participated in a sap collection one evening in Lancaster. The last time I joined in, a few years ago, we had to awkwardly carry plastic 5-gallon buckets up the hill to the dumping container (the maple trees grow mostly on a steep riverbank). This time one of the sons had come up with a small engine pump which sucked the sap up a tube and up the hill into the container. They were also using plastic bags instead of buckets, which seemed to work better as well.
My kids play a version of this at their little school. They call it Over the Roof, and they tag each other instead of throwing when the ball is caught. They’ll be interested to know where the game came from!
I have visited this community a couple of times when I was Amish. The first time for a wedding. The buggy shown here is a two-seater and the only way to get in the back seat was to crawl over the front seat.
Erik, where do the Amish here fit on the “strict” scale? The buggies seem toward the plain side with no reflective tape which would suggest some conservative leanings. There are SMV triangles, which with the disk brakes clearly argues against their being hyper-conservative. I also notice what I’ve elsewhere been told is a “torsion bar suspension” on the buggy passing the church — something I understand would be shunned by strict groups. So I’m seeing some things that pull me one way, and others that hint at the opposite.
Another good question. Some things feel very plain while others do not. It’s a bit dated, but up above I linked Stephen Scott’s chart showing tech use across groups. It’s here if you want to see what I’m referencing:
For the categories listed, Somerset permits nearly every technology, including tractors in the field and supposedly pneumatic tools. But as I wrote above, the one chair shop I visited had a line shaft power setup, which is generally used by plainer Amish who don’t use pneumatic. So, a bit puzzled.
Yeah, noticed your chart earlier today — first I had seen it, though. Sidenote: You know, you have so much great stuff on this website — I get re-amazed all the time. Just wish there was some form of Master Table of Contents or something — there’s probably other great stuff that I haven’t found yet, and haven’t even thought to search for.
I guess one unfounded assumption on my part is a tendency to over-generalize, even within a single community. While there is obviously a stated cap on the maximum technology (for example) that is allowed, that isn’t reason to assume that everyone will push to that max. For example, a planer buggy may be more a personal choice than a bishop/community dictate, and thus may not speak for the community norm.
Thanks for the idea Don. I agree that would be nice, we do have different ways of organizing content including the menu sections and post categories, but nothing that covers everything in one place. Maybe that will be a good project once the FAQ is finished (btw not too long now on that, I decided to add more to it so that has delayed it a bit). You can also use the search box at the top which does pretty well at finding specific posts and topics.
Master Table of Contents
Don, at the end of this page is the Amish America sitemap, to View all posts, that you can click on. However, it only seems to have A-M, and the sitemap has moved to different places on the page.
I forgot about the good old sitemap Linda. That would be the one place that in theory lists everything. But now I’m puzzled why we’re cutting off at “M”. Will take a look. Just so I understand if there’s another issue, what did you mean by it moved to different places? Thanks!
The sitemap link used to be in the left sidebar, but now it’s toward the bottom right hand side. Maybe when the layout of the page was changed.
Thanks Linda, yes that is what happened. It is at the bottom right now.
HOLY MOLY!! “Ask and you shall receive” the Good Book says…. I asked for a TOC…, and got the mother load of all TOC’s!
I had never taken to time to read through all the individual links at the bottom of the page, and just assumed that all of them were links to individual pages or the like. Thanks Linda — that is what I was asking for. (Now if I just had the 87 years to look through them all.
A few things...
First, I wish you could have met my mother or aunts since my Grandfather Beachy came up with very unique ways of making life easier mechanics-wise, but still within the regulations of the church. He was not Amish after he moved there, but maintained a close connection with the Amish community with a huge showing at his funeral. He lived up from the Tiverton church house. The Crossroads school near there is now Amish, but at one time was a mixture of Amish and English when my mother attended. I had the honor of being invited to sit in on some classes and the class sang Gott Ist Die Liebe for me as it was one of my favorites growing up. I do not have pictures of the students However, I have a lot of pictures from inside the school, their books, works, etc. It is still one of my heartfelt memories.
Tractors, yes, but only a rubber tread over the metal wheel, no air inflated tires.
I would have so loved to see inside that variety store! I love the pictures and the snow!!
Welcome to my home stomping grounds. 🙂
Yes, the Somerset Amish allow pneumatic. Some prefer not to use it. Same with tractors, there was always a family or two that used only horses even though tractor farming was allowed (except for corn planters, horses had to be used for those)
Berlin is considered part of the Somerset churches and was always referred to as one of the districts.
You’re right Somerset is a very unique settlement. In some ways extremely plain/conservative yet in other ways especially when it comes to things that affect men it was quite progressive.
I was hoping you’d chime in! Thanks for your insights here on your home stomping grounds. We appreciate anything you can share.
When I first started writing this post, I wanted to describe the community as plain, but it didn’t quite seem to fit. Stephen Scott’s chart says pneumatic is accepted here, but as I wrote the shop I visited was using something else.
The one Amishman I spoke to spoke of a new congregation, up near the turnpike or highway is how I think he described it, which didn’t have a meetinghouse (yet?) for church service. I thought this might be Berlin, but maybe not. The JAPAS settlement listing places Berlin as a separate community, but as you write it sounds like locals consider it part of the Somerset community.
Do you know if the West Virginia community has a meetinghouse?
As far as I know Letart does not have a meeting house. It’s been a while since I talked to anyone from there, but they used to plan on not having one in hopes other Amish will be more open to work with them.
Very interesting, thanks. I’ve wondered how much meetinghouses might be an impediment to cooperating with other groups.
On the Summit Mills meetinghouse pictured above, I just stumbled onto this interesting photo on Flickr, giving a rather different perspective:
Neat pictures you found on Flickr. Looks like the youth girls are all waiting on the porch to be picked up after church.
Mary Ann, I’ve really enjoyed your blog for several years now. My “old-fashioned” computer doesn’t let me leave comments on certain blogs. I don’t know why and I’m not motivated to find out, but I’m glad now for the opportunity to say “Thanks” for sharing your journey. It’s nice to be able to put some pictures with your stories, in addition to the ones you have posted.
Hi Naomi, Nice to meet you! It’s always good to hear from readers. Glad you enjoyed my blog.
Aw,phooey, Erik! Had I known you were visiting chair shops, I’d have given you a list (I need new kitchen chairs & have been shopping around for Amish-made ones). I’ve been saving up for a rocker, too. (Just kidding about the list, of COURSE!) 🙂
I’d have loved to visit the shops you’ve listed!
I, too, noticed the closed shutters on the meetinghouse. I wish I had “operating” shutters for all the hailstorms we’ve had in recent years. I don’t recall seeing working shutters on most other photos of Amish housing/businesses/etc. in this blog.
It’s very interesting to learn about the meetinghouses and how they came to be in this community, especially dating back to the 1800’s! I know meetinghouses are the exception in the Amish communities around the country. About what percentage of Amish communities are “meetinghouse” communities?
I hope you go back there in the summer when it’s “greener”. I’d love to see photos with things growing. We had wonderful spring weather last week (all the snow melted) and then, BAM!, yesterday we got hit with 5″ of HEAVY snow. So, I’m really looking forward to “greener” pastures…and yards, parks, etc.
Thanks for a great post, so amply illustrated!
Sorry Alice Mary! Unfortunately I was in a four-door rental car and not a pickup, so hauling a chair would have taken some creativity 🙂
The percentage of Amish settlements which are meetinghouse communities is very low. 2-3%? Nearby, Oakland, Maryland is another one. The Amish in Pinecraft also have a church house. I am assuming the daughter settlements of Somerset County would be meetinghouse as well.
Erik, have you ever visited the Oakland, MD community? A number of people in our church have their roots in Oakland. An article that I read some time ago piqued my interest. There seem to be a number of unique aspects to the community, including that the local public school is maintained by the Amish, and employs Amish teachers who teach primarily Amish pupils.
I have not, Naomi. I had ambitions to do so on this trip but time grew short. I have a friend who visited Oakland this summer and he said something similar. Also, he said that there aren’t that many families with school age children in the community, which surprised me, but he thought might have something to do with the school arrangement there.
Correction on the Amish teachers at the local public school, Swan Meadow. I believe the school has only employed teachers with degrees. Which would have included Mennonite teachers, but not Amish. I had a cousin and sister that taught there, but in the last at least 10 years they have not had conservative Mennonite teachers. The school is a Garrett County public school, and more and more non-Amish students are attending. The Oakland Amish (new order) also have electricity and phones in their homes.
Alice Mary, I had exactly the same thought about delivery of a hickory rocker.
Loved this post and pictures. The out of the way Amish General stores are the ones that I like to go shop in. You can find so many useful things that you can’t find d in our stores. Things long forgotten.
You speak of Berlin so Summeset county is near Ohio or is this Berlin you speak of different from the one in Ohio.
This is a different Berlin from the one in Ohio, roughly in the middle of Somerset County. I passed through on my way to the area in the photos but there is an Amish congregation in that area.
I’m fairly certain they are connected, or were at one time. My family ancestors were Amish Troyers, and the first to arrive in America (in the 1750s) is buried in Brothers Valley, along with some of his sons. The rest of the children moved on to Holmes Co, OH. Some stayed there, but some moved on from there to northern Indiana. My family at that point left the Amish and moved on to Missouri. That was around the 1860s. Did you meet any Troyers in Somerset Co?
I don’t believe I did Gretchen, and I just checked the 2010 Amish church directory, there are no Troyers listed there.
Thanks! There are plenty of Troyers in PA, and it’s fun to know that we are almost all related, descended from that first Troyer, Michael. There are not many Amish Troyers left in PA though. I read up on your post that mentioned the Troyer Amish in New York, and found that the first Troyer there, Eli, would have been Michael’s grandson. His father, Joseph, moved to Holmes Co with his children; I am from his line but not Eli’s. I’m still trying to figure out which order my branch was. Do the Amish change orders like we change denominations?
And I forgot another fun fact: I now live in East Berlin (Adams Co, PA). The town got its name from the fact that Berlin, PA got its post office first, and the postal service does not allow two towns with the same name, so since we are east of Somerset Co, we are now East Berlin!
That first picture is awesome!
Thanks for your post Erik and for the great pictures. I love reading your blog. It gives me a glimpse into a world that is very far away from my everyday life. Especially in the snow it seems to be frozen in time. I’m still hoping to visit Amish Country one day. Perhaps not in the winter!
Josie from Australia.
Thanks a lot Josie! I bet you’d enjoy a visit no matter the time of year. I don’t know how cold it gets in your part of Australia, a lot of the Amish communities are in the colder US states. Thanks for reading and glad to hear from readers in Australia.
Awesome pictures and information Erik
See subject line 🙂
Tom in Lincoln
I enjoyed all of the pictures. I would be interested to see what those meetinghouses look like inside. Questions I have: Do they have a pulpit? If so, is it on the same level as the congregation? In the front of the room, are there chairs where the ministers sit and face the congregation? Do they use the same style benches most Amish use when worshiping in homes? Do they ever have meals after the Sunday worship service? If so, do they use the benches to make tables to eat on like other Amish do? Maybe when you go back to Somerset, Erik, you will have opportunity to go inside one or more of the meetinghouses.
Al from KY, They don’t have a pulpit, and no the benches are not the same as other Amish churches use. They never have meals at the church house. Instead we would often invite friends home to have lunch with us.
I shared pictures of the inside of the meeting house in our district on my blog.
You can check it out here.
Thanks for this information. I enjoyed looking at the pictures. Beautiful wood in the building, benches, table, etc.
Good pictures and story. These are 60 second vacations.
I’ve lived in Somerset County all my life, have Amish relatives, and know the locations of all your shots, so it was especially enjoyable to read your post, see the accompanying pictures, and identify greenhouses from 1-9 by location. I was astonished to learn of the calendar, and surprised that the 2010 directory is still being updated. The story I know about the reason for building meeting houses is that rowdies showed up when it was time to eat, and when one of them knocked a young Amish boy off the porch and broke his arm, the leaders said, “Dass ist genunk!” (That is enough!), and they built four church houses, two of which (Niverton and Summit Mills) are still in use. If you come back in warm weather, you may want to check out the Countryside Produce Auction near Springs (Tues/Fri)as well as some local businesses–a harness shop, a furniture shop.
Thanks Phoebe! I’m loving seeing all these comments from people with ties to the area. I didn’t expect it. It sounds like people really appreciate the area and community.
As far as a directory, in addition to the hand updates they added, they also sold an addendum which listed all the new marriages which had happened since the last one, for 60 cents. I picked it up too. The lady and I were really laughing b/c it was the end of my trip and I was low on cash, no ATMs around of course, and I had to go back to the car to scrounge change two times to get both the directory and then the addendum. Pretty funny 🙂
Springs is home town and I live close to homles county Ohio
And have also lived in goshen IN
Each place has it is own typ of Amish
Hey Erik, if you suddenly get in the mood to carry more maple sap….come on over,I use the bags too! This past week it has been flowing great! 😉
Would enjoy it Jerome. Actually, let me know when it’s boiled down, and I’ll come help with that! 🙂
I did not see any mention of the unique fact that the Amish of Somerset County do not smoke, drink or encourage “rumspringa” of the young people. They have certainly been a blessing to this community, and I believe for the most part are dedicated Christians.
Yes, Alice, l agree. The clean lifestyle is an outstanding trait of “our Amish”, as my husband refers to the folks whose farms adjoined his dad’s. He said if one sees Amish smoking or drinking here, they are visitors from another community
When I was growing up we used to go to the Springs, PA area to visit relatives. It was *always* referred to as Somerset County so I didn’t know it had any other name until I was old enough to navigate a map. 🙂 My husband & I love to visit the area, although we never have the time we would like to have to really explore the area. I’m related to some of the Kinsingers there. My parents & we were invited to a private family auction after my Great-Uncle Ray died. We enjoyed that day immensely. He owned a greenhouse north of Springs right on Rt. 669. Benny Yoder, who worked for him for many years, owned the business after that. He has expanded into some other things too. I have great respect for the Amish that I know in what area.
I grew up and still live in Somerset County, hometown was a village called Springs. I am a descendant of some of the first Amish in America. My 9th great grandfather settled in Berks County Pa. They were massacred by Indians because of a land dispute from what we gather. His son, my 8th great grandfather, was the first Amish settler in Somerset County. If you should come this way again sometime, come to Springs there isn’t too much, but they do have a historical museum open during the warmer months. When you go in there is a doorway to another room in the museum at the very end, and on the left wall by the door is a portrait of my 8th great grandfather and his wife. There is also a Folk Festival every year in September.
Thanks for the tip, Kimberley. I am sure I will plan to return here in warmer months. How neat you can trace your ancestry back so far. I only know maybe 3 generations.
i also am related to the hostsetlers,
my grandfather 7th or 9th,,not sure which was a=in berks massacre,,, my grandmothers maiden name was hostchsetler,,i think i spelled that right,, live here in somerset county all my life 61 yrs and live in heart of amish country,,love it here
My great-great (many times over!) grandfather was Michael Troyer, who came from Bern Switzerland to Berks Co and from there to Somerset Co. I’m told he is buried in Brothers Valley, though there is no grave marker left. The Troyers moved on to Holmes Co, OH, so I don’t know if there are any left in Somerset Co. They are related to Hochstetlers (sorry if the spelling is wrong), probably yours.
Troyer from Kokomo, Indiana
Gretchen, you may be interested in the Troyers of Kokomo, Indiana, at:
Believe it or not, it looks like the link goes all the way back to Somerset Co, and the original children of Michael Troyer. Michael’s son David, who was John’s father, was brother to Joseph, whose son was Joseph C, who is in my direct line. Phew, that took some digging! Very interesting story, thanks 🙂
Springs Festival in October
The Springs PA festival is always in October. This year it is Friday and Saturday October 6 & 7, 2017. Well worth the trip. Truly people come from around the world for this. Not to be missed.
I know it’s your blog, but would love to share the pics from inside the Crossroads Amish school 🙂
Joyce, drop me an email at , would like to hear about it.
Next time your in the area, turn on Pleasant Hill School Road (right up from the meeting house you talk about). About a mile back the road is an Amish farm on the left. Brennaman shop is located there. Simon Brennaman and his sons run a leather shop. They make all sorts of wonderful things. My sister and I grew up and would play on their farm as a kids. They are really nice people and I am sure you would find then inviting as well.
Reading you post and seeing the pictures was great. It is always nice to see images of home now that I am so far away.
Super. I’ll note this for the next time. Thanks, Ashley.
there is also a school in coalrun now,,,its sits below a farm in the field,,kids from st paul and down toward hunsrick go to it,,plus a few from coal run,,which is where i live
From what I understand, there were originally 4 church meeting houses covering Somerset Co., PA and Garrett Co., MD.
Those meeting houses were – Niverton, Oak Dale, Maple Glen, and Cherry Glade. Sometime in the late 19th century, or early 20th century there was a schism and 3 of those meeting houses became churches in the Conservative Mennonite Conference. Of those three, I think only Maple Glen is still on the original site, but the original meeting houses/churches for the other two are still standing.
This is an interesting article (http://www.amishmennonitehistorians.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Jan.-2004-Historian.pdf) dealing with some of the history of those meeting houses.
Also, if you are interested in more history of Somerset/Garrett Co. Amish/Mennonites, you should visit the Alpine Forest at Penn Alps in Grantsville. There are many old restored buildings that were built by founding Amish from the area. One building that is of particular interest is the home of Bishop Benedict Miller, which doubled as a church meeting house.
The four church buildings were Summit Mills, Niverton, Maple Glen, and Cherry Glade, if I’m not mistaken.
Nice article and photos. I was able to identify the location of all of the pictures as most of them are within 1/2 to 3 miles from my house and I shop at many of the Amish businesses. My maiden name is Yoder and my Great Grandfather was Old Order Amish. Glad you enjoyed your visit.
As a kid we would always frequent the Amish shops in the area. Peachy’s was a favorite among my grandparents both now passed. There are also several leather good shops in springs that locals know well and visit when we need that type of item. Plants for the garden always came from the Amish greenhouses also.
Thank you for capturing the beauty of my first home area on a snowy day. Reading the blog and seeing the photographs made me want to go back and roam those back roads again!
Gladly Sharon! These posts are some of my favorites to do. Obviously, because they give me an excuse to visit a new place. I like Dave’s description above, I guess these are 60 second vacations (or longer, if you read more slowly like I do 🙂 ).
It seems I always have plenty of volunteers for that part Erik! 🙂
No doubt you do Jerome. On maple syrup, at breakfast in Lancaster County, I noticed the maple syrup on the table was “Brenneman’s”. I first thought it was from Geauga County (they make maple syrup, and I thought that the Brenneman name appears there, have to check) but then saw on the bottle it was from Salisbury, PA.
I didn’t realize that Salisbury was a community in this Somerset County settlement til I got there. And then I saw the same stuff in one of the variety stores I stopped in. I believe the lady said she knows the people who make it. Small world. Of course I had to get a bottle.
Tourism is alive and well in Someret County!
I enjoyed your article and pictures. I grew up in Meyersdale, so I must object to your statement that there are no tourist areas in the county! Meyersdale is known as the Maple City, and the annual Festival is going on right now. Google Meyersdale Maple Festival for their website. Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania, is close by. And there is lots of skiing in Hidden Valley and Seven Springs! Fairly new to the area is the Great Allegheny Passage for hiking and biking which runs through Meyersdale.
Vickie, I should have said “Amish tourism” rather than just tourism. I’m not surprised there is tourism in your county, it’s a beautiful area. In fact there may very well be some signs of Amish-themed tourism that I missed, the statement was meant to convey not to expect something like you’d see in Lancaster (buggy rides and Amish-style restaurants galore). A friend in another state I mentioned my visit to also commented on how beautiful Somerset County is. Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for checking in!
This is where I live… All these places are about 10 mins from my house.The Amish are very kind and special people and have amazing bake goods as well as others. I have come to learn alot since moving out here to Meyersdale and I am ever so greatful of this experiance
my home town
lived here all my life know many of the amish,,do a lot of business with them,,they are very friendly,,, never cause trouble and very helpful, it wouldn’t be lower somerset county without our amish,,my great great how many greats not sure was amish,, first amish here in somerset county after indain massacre in berks county,,, you misses a lot of things come back to see more,,, we have many many amish stores each different from the other,,, and many many more schools then there used to be,,, love this place and seeing them gives me a feelling of history,, maybe we all need to go back in time,, their children are so well mannered ,,,come visit again spend a week theres a lot to see loved you post
My many-greats grandfather and his family also moved to Berlin from Berks and Lancaster County after an Indian raid, or at least that’s the lore. They lived there for about 30 years before moving on to Holmes County, Ohio.
Where I grew up
This is where I grew up, until leaving in my teens. We did business with the Amish as they shod our horses we rode growing up. Many of the pictures and places were paced time and time again either in a vehicle or on our great adventures we took on horseback. The highest point is not far at all from the one “meeting house” and we rode horses there many times. Our days weren’t filled with watching TV or playing games on the TV or computer, there was none of that, but rather pack snacks and lunch, saddle up horses, tie our water and food to the saddle and depart home. We were gone pretty much from sun up to sun down and sometimes returned in the dark. Amish children were our friends, Mennonite invited us to church and bible school, we went every summer. Grew up Lutheran in West Salisbury, but enjoyed our time spent with our friends! So many memories.
Amish in Belleville, PA
Iam originally from Huntingdon Co. I enjoyed your article very much. I visit the PA Maple Festival Quilt Show in Meyersdale. Some of the quilts are made by the Amish.
Have you visited the Amish community of Belleville in Mifflin Co. Pa. It is in a valley between Huntingdon and Lewistown. It is called Big Valley. They have yellow and white buggies. I have been under the impression they are more strict than the gray/black ones. On Wed they have the Belleville Auction and people come by the bus loads. After they leave, the area goes back to the quiet community it is the rest of the week. You may remember, back in late 1980s or early “90s”, there about 7 (maybe more) barns burned one night. Arson of course. It made Life’s Magazine.
looking forward to visiting!!
We are coming to southern PA in July and were planning on making a trip to the northern part of the state to an Amish settlement. Our plans have changed slightly and we don’t have enough time on our trip to do that. I was so happy to find a settlement near to where we will be staying. Are there any other places that you recommend us going while in the area? (other than the places listed in this article) I am so excited!! Thank you for this wonderful article!
a wonderful place!
Love Somerset County! I grew up there and enjoy visiting every summer. Liked seeing the picture of Zook’s Chair Shop. My grandmother was born in that house in 1923! Lots of history and memories dear to my heart there. Good people, beautiful place. Thankful it’s a part of my life.
Are you aware of any Amish roofing crews in Somerset County, PA who do residential asphalt roofing projects in Johnstown?
The Amish of Somerset County
Good article however I was surprised at your comment that Somerset County is not a tourist destination. Fall festivals such as Mountain Craft Days and the New Centerville Farmers and Thresherman Jubilee are big draws as is the Flight 93 Memorial and Museum. Seven Springs and Hidden Valley ski resorts draw many in the winter.
Hi Dick, glad you pointed those events out, I believe I meant “not a tourist destination” from an Amish tourism perspective…I didn’t see a lot of signs of that, especially not compared to some other settlements. Sounds like quite a few other things bring tourists into the area though.
This is an interesting post Erik.
The Somerest Amish managed to settle in one of the largest, yet least populated counties in Pennsylvania. The county also has a shrinking population. The only population growing there is the Amish. I’m surprised that more Amish aren’t considering Somerset county as a potential place to move to considering availability of land there.
I also wonder if the “meeting house” adopted by the Somerset Amish is one of the last vestiges of the Amish split in the 1800s when many split from the Amish and adopted things like meeting houses, eventually merging with Mennonites or withering away altogether.
Just read the full article, and I see that they do have a reason other than the Amish 1800 split. Interesting reason for adopting meeting houses.
Do you know if these businesses are still open? I would really love to meet some amish folks who are more local than the Lancaster amish folks.
Amish store in Berlin, PA?
I’ve heard about a nice Amish bulk foods and country store near or in Berlin, PA, but I can’t find it. Does anyone know the address?
Miller's Olde Roxbury Store
There is a Miller’s store at Roxbury, PA. It is Mennonite owned, but not Amish. You can find it on Facebook.
Somerset County PA Amish
Nice to see this Article I live on “Huckleberry Highway” Outside of Berlin PA very close to Reels Corner and The Flight 93 Memorial. Most of my neighbors out here are Amish, and In the past year of living here I know most of the Amish Families especially the Fellow Men, however I have yet to meet any of my Non-Amish Neighbors! As far as the Amish Store it is located on Shanksville Road and it’s more of a “Dent and Bent” which means they sell defective and damaged food and hygiene products, but they also sell lots of Amish Made goods some in bulk. However everything they sell with the exception of produce seems to be from other supplier, also the Amish out here from my observations tend to be a blend of Traditional and Modern Tradition. They have a small one room schoolhouse, they do Church at one anothers homes. They helped build the house I live in and are always quick to lend a hand if needed. Their Tractors have Rubber Back Tires but Steel Front Tires, The rubber back tires can not Hold Air air though by their rules. Taking pictures of Amish is considered incredibly rude, and is a good way to get “shunned” as a neighbor. My Grandfather was a “amish taxi” which meant when they needed a ride they would call him or stop by ahead of time to arrange travel plans and he would drive them where they needed to go for a small charge.
Laurel Highlands Tourism
Your photos are outstanding!
I was born in Meyersdale and all of my ancestors are from Somerset county. My ancestor was one of the first settlers in Salisbury/Elk Lick and was a sharpshooter in the Revolutionary War. Half of my relatives remain there. I’ve spent so time there then and now.
Actually, Somerset does attract a certain amount of tourism. It’s part of the larger 7 county Laurel Highlands. For instance the Seven Springs and Hidden Valley ski resorts in Somerset have always attracted people even during the summer months. Also the Flight 93 memorial has become an easy and de rigueur stop along the turnpike. We should also consider the impact of the Great Allegheny Passage weaving through the Meyersdale area. The Salisbury Viaduct near Meyersdale is an incredible walk or bike ride and it’s attracting numerous people to new bed & breakfasts in that area. There’s also the Pennsylvania Maple Festival every spring in Meyerdale as well as the Somerset County Fair that’s held there as well.
A little farther south is the historic Casselman Bridge and Penn Alps Restaurant & Mountain Crafts near Grantsville MD. Route 40 is the National Road which is as historical as anything you will find.
Farther west in Fayette county is Fort Necessity and the Mount Washington Tavern. Also, the ultimate draw, FLW’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob are nearby in Fayette county.
There’s actually quite a number of reasons to visit the area.
Photographing the Amish
At a recent family reunion in Elk Lick township the Beachy Amish neighbors assisted with some of the food and entertained the guests with horse and buggy rides. We asked the Amish neighbor about taking photos of the guests in his buggy and he allowed it so long as his face was obscured. That seemed to be the key but it’s important to be considerate and ask in each situation. The “English” and Amish are often adjacent to each other and develop very friendly relationships.