Suggestion Box and site additions

Not a lot on Amish today, but a nuts and bolts post about site improvements and coming additions. Your suggestions, as always, are appreciated.

Following comments-I’ve added a feature to make following a comment thread easier.

Now if you check the box to be notified of new comments on a post, the email update you receive will include a link that takes you directly to that comment (not just to the beginning of the post as was the case before). This was somethng folks had been asking for and should be helpful on longer comment threads.

Business Guide-Have been getting a lot of questions on how to find a certain Amish business,say a quilt shop in Kentucky or cabinet maker in Maryland. I try to answer but don’t always know the details.

Usually I recommend posting the request in the comments section of the specific state guide page. Thanks to all of you helping out, a lot of people have gotten answers to their questions. I think that will continue to be a good way to do it.

But I’ve also been working hard on another full-fledged resource that should be helpful for at least some of these requests. More to come soon. (UPDATE: It took a little longer than planned, but as of November 2013 we have launched the Amish Business Directory, which will continue to grow).

Forum-The idea of a forum has come up and am looking into a program that would make that possible (there are a number to research and choose from). It would allow people to start their own post topics instead of only being able to comment on things I post.

It may also enable sending personal messages, creating profile pages, etc. It would probably also require filling out a basic registration form to prevent spam.

Forums are pretty common on sites but you see a lot that don’t take off. There can be a number of reasons for that including lack of participation from the site owner and/or readers (or, more common, not enough readers to begin with!)

Amish America’s readership continues to grow, and is currently over 65,000 unique visitors/month (by the way…a big thanks!). It may be time to go ahead and get a forum going here so I’ve put it on the burner.

Your ideas-Any other requests, would love to hear. I can’t promise I’ll be able to get to everything or even most things but if enough people would like to see a certain addition that might give me the push to get it done!

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  1. Ruth

    Texas Amish

    I moved from Ohio to Texas 10 months ago and I miss the Amish. Where I lived I was about an hour away from Holmes County. I know that there is an Amish settlement in Sounthern Texas but would like to know if there are any (even one) here in North East Texas. I’ve searched the internet but come up with nothing. Can you help?

    1. OldKat

      There are none in Texas outside of the Bee County community.

    2. Lou

      Texas Amish

      Please don’t waste your time going to Bee County Texas looking for the Amish. Trust me, if you are from Ohio/Holmes County you will be sorely disappointed in the Texas Amish settlement… what there is of it.

    3. Closest Amish to North Texas

      Oldkat is right, there is just the one community. And as Lou says, it is not a big settlement.

      Here’s more info on the current (and past) Texas Amish settlements:

      And if you’re in North Texas, odds are you are closer to the somewhat larger (though still small) Oklahoma Amish communities. Clarita for instance is a little over 2 hours north of Dallas. They hold at least one annual school auction, more here:

  2. Sharon R


    You sound like you’ve been busy researching, how to make this website better…..congrats on that Erik…..I think a forum would be a good idea, in that it will help separate some of the topics that get off subject, sometimes, during these posts. It’s only human to think of other things, when responding to an issue, which does lead to a bunch of threads that have gotten away from the subject originally posted…but maybe there is some way to separate them in the forum. As it is set up now, when I read through the comments, if the subject has strayed to something else entirely, and it really doesn’t interest me, I’ll just move on to the next comment.

    There is a world of knowledge about the Plain people, as well as Mennonite, etc. Different cultures are fun to learn about, I think. I love your pictures and maybe you could have a section that others could download “THEIR” photos, of something they saw in Amish country, etc….that would be interesting, plus tasteful, too. I enjoy the pictures—since I only spent 4 days in Lancaster, PA, last OCT, I really didn’t see whole lot…..and hopefully am going back, in the near future! For example, the picture of the barn raising…..!!!….That was awesome, and couldn’t get over all of the “helpers” pitching in on construction of the barn!! But, as I learn, more and more, this is their “way” — it’s nothing to them, to pitch in and help their neighbor….something that a lot of us “Englishers” have gotten away from, sad to say.

    Maybe also a section/subject on the forum, dealing with BOOKS written by or about the Plain people, fiction and non-fiction. That would be a good reference area. Plus readers could give their opinions of the books, etc…..

    I do enjoy this website, immensely, and hope you get some good ideas from others, too…..Keep it coming!! SharonR

    1. Joan Sheldon

      reply to Sharon

      In the Community in Unity, ME, almost every Thursday is a community work day, where most of the men help on a specific project, if someone is building a house, or when they built their meetinghouse, or to put up wood for the school for the winter.
      Last Thurs the men went and helped the Town of Thorndike build their new town office, and got the roof on. This winter in February there will be several work sessions, to cut the ice for the various ice boxes in the community.
      The women also occasionally have work days on Thursdays, at someone’s house, to make noodles or granola or applesauce, or whatever. I have been privileged to be included in some of these.

      1. Susan Mulderry

        Amish church service

        Hello! I have heard that it is possible to be invited to the Amish church service at their meeting house in Unity, Maine. Do you know how I could get to their church service? I am visiting Maine next month and this would mean so much to me. Although I am not Amish, I was led to the Lord by way of the Amish. I have 2 Amish friends in PA and 1 in Ohio. We will need a church service and this would be great. Thanks in advance for any help.
        Susan Mulderry

        1. Lattice

          There’s no one you can call, of course, so you’ll simply have to stop by the community’s bulk food store or other business and explain your desire to come to the service. Find out where a minister lives from whom you can get permission. Now, if they have frequent English visitors, anybody will feel free to give you the okay, but if they have seldom English visitors at church, they will direct you to get approval from the leadership. Just find out where and when, and don’t be late. Dress modestly, but don’t feel like you have to look like them. And go and wait where the women are waiting; men go and wait in the men’s circle. Don’t feel bad if they don’t seem particularly happy to see you at first. They are particularly solemn before church, and will be much friendlier afterward. It’s three plus hours long, and you’re not going to understand it… Best to get a good night’s sleep so you don’t nod off, although you wouldn’t be the only one doing that!!

    2. Great ideas Sharon, thank you 🙂 Sounds like some of these might help in organizing and finding info, which seems to be a basic need in anything online.

  3. Christine


    Erik, I so appreciate all the interesting topics covered here on this website and am excited that you are considering a forum. Having been interested in the Plain Culture since I was quite young (visited Lancaster and Ohio frequently), learning more here and being able to find topics a bit more easily, books, photos, discussions etc on a forum would be an added plus. I tend not to share much here as everyone else is quite knowledgeable, but would likely be more comfortable in a forum setting. It would be nice to follow a topic without having to comment right away.

    I belong to two that are very easy to follow and another that I’ve always found confusing – just not easy to find one’s way around. I’ve considered joining other forums now and then, but those also had the more confusing format.

    You have put much thought into many suggestions – thank you!

    1. Thank you Christine, and for your thoughtful ideas here. I agree with you on forums. I think ease of use is a key.

      To be honest the comments section we already have is okay, but I think it could be a bit easier to follow with some minor design changes. May need to do a little experimenting.

  4. Anne

    Great job on these things Erik. As I travel to my sons wedding in Wisconsin (.he is from a new community in Minnesota) I am reminded of how large and diverse the Amish are.

    Is love to see an encyclopedia of sorts that lists all the different communities, their locations and what branch or other churches they are affiliated with. I’m new to this post, so maybe this already exists…And maybe a connection with the businesses connected to each community.

  5. Marilyn from New York

    Don’t put anything complicated to find or do on here as there are some of us old folks who don’t know how to work computers that well. I don’t how to get here and work ebay and that’s about it.

    1. Marilyn, I hear you loud and clear. Simple is usually better, at least when it comes to blogs!

  6. Marilyn from New York

    Don’t put anything complicated to find or do on here as there are some of us old folks who don’t know how to work computers that well. I do know how to get here and work ebay and that’s about it.

  7. Lattice

    It would be nice to have a way to locate other comments from a particular poster. It’s probably complicated to set up, but sometimes I’ll read things from a particular poster and wonder what else they’ve had to say about other topics.

    Your site is wonderful. Thanks for always striving to improve.

    1. Valerie

      Reading Particular Posters

      On the bottom right of a poster’s comment box is the title of that thread. If you click on that, it shows a list of comments by that particular poster! I stumbled on that, pretty nifty!

      This is a wonderful site, Erik, you have done a great job & it has alot of helpful information and people seem to enjoy each other on it as well. Everyone made good points & suggestions, just don’t bury yourself trying to accomodate!

      1. Lattice

        Ohhhh, thanks Valerie! Yes, that’s exactly what I was talking about. Hmmm, it would be helpful if it said something like “view other comments.” I can be a little dense, but I’ll bet others don’t realize that this is available. Thanks again 🙂

        1. Lattice, Valerie, much appreciated! Yes if you click that corner title it does show a selection of previous comments but not all (part of the blog theme I’m using). A forum set-up I believe can give you the ability to find previous comments more easily.

  8. Robin Wyatt

    Amish in Texas

    Ruth, I lived in Kaufman County Texas, There is a community of Amish or Mennonites in the are area. There is a Furniture store and A general store with food, it is in Kemp on Highway 274. The name is is Pennsyvania Duthch store I think. There is also A Church in Greys Prairie. I hope this helps. I miss the store alot, but in Dec I will be moving again, and going to Ohio. I have never been there.


    1. Ruth

      to Robin

      Thank you for the info. Kemp is a ways from Mt Vernon but would make a nice day trip. Where are you moving to in Ohio? Let me know, maybe I can give you some suggestions of what to see and where to go. I lived in Coshocton County which is right next to Holmes County to the South, where there is a large Amish Settlement and many many places to go and things to see.

  9. Al in Ky.

    I was wondering if it would be possible to have a state-by-state
    guide for certain topics — such as Amish salvage stores,
    Amish restaurants, new Amish communities etc. We could all
    contribute to it. As the old saying goes, “None of us is as
    smart as all of us.” I think this would be used a lot by us
    regulars of Amish America as well as by new people who are
    seeking information about a certain aspect of Amish life.

    Glad to hear of your new ideas. I’ve only been reading Amish
    America since the first of this year, and it’s amazing that
    you’ve kept it going for several years and always have
    new information and new topics. Thanks for all of your work.

    1. Al I appreciate that, and also you reading–have enjoyed you sharing your experiences in different communities. And I think you hit to the heart of it–would be great to make it easier for all to contribute in some form. Whether that’s a wiki or forum or something else will need to figure out.

      The new addition I mentioned above will I think be a start toward what you are getting at, at least when it comes to Amish businesses.

  10. Slightly-handled-Order-man

    Excellent Job, Erik!

    Personally, I don’t think that your blog needs a forum. The replies as they are set up function in the same manner as on forums. I like how those who reply to other replies directly can do so in a reasonably tidy manner.

    I also like how you can check the box (“recent comments”) and check out where people had recently posted. I think that is orderly and I feel it is unique to your blog, it might be used elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it.

    I think you’ve done a fabulous job on the blog.

    1. Thank you Shom! I like the recent comments feature as well. Always enjoy your contributions from north of the border. To be honest you can probably tell I am leaning towards some sort of forum but I’d hope it would be more an addition to what is already here. Wouldn’t want to take away from the comments section, but it could also give people a little more freedom on what to discuss and not feel tied in to one thread, as I think is hinted at in comments above.

      Could also probably have something like a “Recent Forum Activity” sidebar similar to the recent comments feature.

  11. Ed


    Hello Erik,
    Great job with your website. It is one of the joys of my internet experience.

    Regarding a forum, I’d love to have one here. It would enable some discussions continue beyond a day or two and would also enable multiple discussions to go on at once. It could be a unique place to discussion the intersection between culture, religion through the perspective of the Amish. Only possible downside would be the need to moderate it if it grew big, though I suspect one or two volunteers would come forward to fulfill that role.

    Another comment – I love your Amish “encyclopedia”. Let’s keep it growing. Perhaps a wiki format, to let the whole group contribute?

    1. Thank you Ed! Yes the moderation aspect is one thing I have had in mind but if any volunteers wanted to help if it got too large for one to handle that could be a nice thing. Generally we have a very good group here and I rarely have to delete comments, ie for language, etc.

      A system which would enable more group contribution I think would be a good thing. For instance there are a lot of requests on how to locate a certain type of business, etc, and I think that is just one area where that would come in handy.

  12. OldKat

    Thanks for asking Erik.

    I’d like to see:

    1)Spell checker
    2)Preview screen to review a post before submitting
    3)Edit function for those frequent “oops that isn’t really what I intended to say” moments that occur all too frequently.
    4)The ability to change font size, make it bold or use italics from a menu box (for emphasis of a specific point)
    5) As someone else already suggested the ability to find all posts by a certain poster.

    1. Spell check

      I appreciate the ideas Oldkat. I think at least one or two of these could happen. One of my concerns is balancing simplicity with useability. For example, I’ve thought about a spell checker but I’ve also wondered if it might slow commenting down, ie, in the interest of keeping a conversation going I’d rather see folks comment more with the occasional errors rather than less but with perfect spelling. I think there is a degree of spelling forgiveness we extend online that we might not in other areas 🙂 But that is not a “no”, more a “lemme think ’bout it” 🙂

  13. Debbie Welsh

    I also want to thank you, Erik, for a great site and all the trouble you go to to make it one!

    I agree with Al in Ky.’s suggestion of a state by state guide of all the Amish restaurants, bulk food stores, farmstands, etc., which would be extremely helpful when traveling to a different area or state. And also, I like Sharon R’s idea of having a section where we could download our photos. I know I sure have tons of them and would love to share some of the ” good ” ones!

    1. Debbie, those are 2 great ideas. I should also say I really appreciate you and everyone else on here checking in and sharing, it makes it fun.

      I like both the guide and photos ideas, will keep them on the burner. Speaking generally I tend to prefer changing things gradually so additions will probably be more an incremental process.

      Have appreciated all these ideas, feel free to add more!

  14. Ruth

    I am so glad that I found this site. Moving here from PA and Ohio, I miss seeing the Amish and interacting with them. In Ohio I lived in Coshocton Co which is the County bordering Holmes County to the South, so it wasn’t unusual to see the folks come to town to shop. In PA I lived in Beaver Co which is on the Western border of PA. There are a few Amish there in Enon Valley as well as in some of the more Northern Counties of Lawrence and Mercer.

  15. Slightly-handled-Order-man

    Hi Erik,
    You’re welcome. I’m glad I could be of even a little service.

    You’re right, if a forum is added, it should complement the content you post.

    I think being able to do a “key word” search would probably be a good idea.
    It would compliment the AOE and probably make searching the comments. I mean if I forgot where I had read an interesting comment someone had on the Beachy Amish Mennonite group, for instance, I could find it quicker.

    Like the Amish though, I’m kind of slow to adopt change, I’m sure the blog will evolve, it should, but “if it ain’t broke…”

    1. Good point Shom on the keyword search. At present you can use the search box at upper right but it only searches the posts and pages (State Guide, AOE). One that goes through comments might be useful, if I can somehow adapt it to include comments.

      For the time being a regular old Google search with in the query usually turns up a number of comment replies.

  16. Paul Hitchiner

    Non Christian Amish

    Are ther any Non Christian Amish?
    We assume that an Amish man knows Jesus Christ and is willing to go His way, but are ther any Amish that wear outward uniform but have another life underneath? Or does their willingness to conform to the Amish culture eventually lead them to know their Savior, Jesus Christ?

  17. Valerie

    Non-Christian Amish

    You ask an important question, & could get a variety of answers. My answer would be yes. Being Amish is a culture & system that one is be born into. That does not make one a Christian as Jesus said in John 3:3 “,Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” & went on to say in v 5, “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

    There is a time for every person born into Amish to determine if they will be baptized & remain in Amish life. Some I know were baptized not because they were born again, but because of pressure to make the decision to remain Amish. Some formers I know had to leave Amish because their zeal for Jesus was not acceptable in their particular community & this varies from community to community, order, to order.

    There will always be some that remain not because they are Christian but because of the high cost of leaving-their families typically will have to shun them. So they remain because they don’t want to lose family, but not necessarily to follow Christ.

    There’s alot of assumptions about the Amish and their faith, but most I know would make sure you realize there’s a difference between following Christ & following Amish culture & system, & the Ordnung.

    Someone else may offer another answer in their experience.

  18. Matthew



    If you are looking a bulletin boards, just be careful. I just recently loaded and converted the data on a third bulletin board for a client because the other two she had were either a nightmare to manage or didn’t have the features she wanted. In my experience, there’s a greater issue with spammers as well, so more moderation may be needed. If you need some suggestions, let me know.

    As always, keep up the good work.

    1. I do appreciate that Matthew. These were exactly the concerns I’ve had. Will proceed with caution and may give you a holler at some point.

  19. Nitin Gadia

    new settlements, drupal forum, maps

    Some ideas and suggestions:
    *I really like the questions section. One to add, that led me to this site: How does an Amish settlement start?
    I see the question about a new affiliation, but I was wondering how exactly a population expands.
    *You mentioned a forum. I strongly suggest Drupal. This is usually well designed and versatile, and though there are a lot of options, it’s relatively easy. For one, you can just install it. If you’re using a company to host this site (like godaddy, etc), you can just go to online and click “install”. If you have any questions about this, I can help 🙂
    *I liked the idea above of a state-by-state guide. One idea is to for one add the following maps:
    I could perhaps eventually obtain the data for the map, and you can make it interactive 🙂

    1. Nitin Gadia

      drupal add...

      … in fact, I see you’re using wordpress. That’s good for starting a basic site, but once you reach a certain point, you start getting limited. I would suggest using drupal for the whole site. If you need help transferring everything to drupal, I could perhaps offer some advice, but I’m not yet an expert 🙂

      1. Nitin Gadia

        … actually, scratch my comments from before. Drupal does offer more, but it is really not user friendly, and Worpress is fine. Plus, you don’t have to complicate everything by combining things with drupal. Plus, any plugin in wordpress is installed instantly, and you can use it right away. Perhaps you should start a separate page and play around with it before you use them.

        For forums we are using bbpress with threaded replies:

        bbPress forum wordpres plugin:
        Main site:
        bbPress threaded replies wordpress plugin:

        For these blog/discussion topics, I strongly suggest using Disqus. They haven’t integrated that with a forum yet, but they are great for what you’re doing here. It is threaded, comment boxes pop up quickly, and it integrates with peoples facebook/google/twitter accounts.

        You can play with it in this great demo:
        An example using Disqus (scroll down):
        Wordpress plugin:

  20. Will Post

    HELLO Erik- I am trying to locate some type of directory of Amish cannery’s. Trying to talk with a company that can produce my canned products.(tin can-pop up lid). PLEASE help

  21. Sandra Kathleen


    I’m new to the site — which is totally wonderful BTW, Erik — but find it sometimes confusing to know “where I am” in a blog. It would be nice to have the conversations shown with newest post first…I know this mixes up answers to an earlier post, but I also should be better aware that I’m not responding to something that was posted in 2009!!!

    Also, there was one post that was dated April 2013, but placed between two posts in April of 2012! That makes it kinda hard, too!

    Maybe I have a setting that I don’t know about?? Anyway, a thought!

    Thank you for the site availability.

    1. How the comment system works

      Great to have you Sandra and I am grateful for your comments and sharing. The blog comment system has been set up in a chronological manner, meaning you see the oldest, first responses first, on down to the newest.

      However, sometimes a newer response will land in the middle of the pack. For instance, the reason you saw an April 2013 comment between two April 2012 comments is because we use a threaded comment system, and the 2013 was in response to one of the older ones.

      If you look closely, each comment is enclosed with a box. If you reply directly in response to a comment, your comment will go inside that box of the comment you are replying to, creating a comment “thread”.

      It is basically a way of keeping comments in one conversation thread in the same place. If you look up from this comment 5 or 6 places, you can see where I replied directly to Matthew (or see my reply direct to you on this comment which went inside the box of your comment). These alternate between white and grey background to make them easier to tell apart. I am the site admin so mine have orange around them.

      If you notice, some comments have multiple box-within-boxes, indicating a longer comment thread with multiple replies. The key if you want to focus only on fresh conversations is just to check the date before posting in response. Though some responses come months, and even a year or two later and still get replies.

      One reason for that is because regular readers may simply notice the comment in the “Recent Comments” box on the right sidebar. You’ll also notice if you check the box below the ‘submit’ button you can subscribe to get a notification of comments. This site currently has thousands of active individual comment notification subscriptions, so there is a decent chance that the original commenter may be notified of a response made to an “old” comment.

      We changed to this threaded system a couple of years ago to make it easier to follow responses (before, if you wanted to respond to say the first (oldest) comment on the list, your response would go on the very bottom, even if there were 50 comments in between–not very easy to follow at all).

      The chronological oldest to newest order is probably the most commonly used on the web (ie Facebook) and I hope easiest to follow for the greatest amount of people. I am glad you asked and I hope this explanation is useful for anyone else who might be wondering the same.

      1. Sandra Kathleen

        Thank you!

        Thanks for the tutorial, Erik! I’m going to print it out to check out the site as I have more time.

        What I especially like, is that the community of commenters is so very nice…they seem like good friends. 🙂

        1. Sure thing Sandra…I probably could have written a much shorter version of it, but wanted to be as specific as possible.

          Basically you can reply directly to an old comment, and it goes within the same box, wherever that comment happens to be on the page. This keeps conversations organized. But sometimes a newer comment will appear above an old as a result.

  22. Otis

    I laught at your stupidity! Your rigid and farfetched “believe” is a stubborn idiocy! You think, that “tradition” is your way, but is just a fear of truth and haterance for God’s creation. By rejecting what He gives, you disgrace Him. By preaching hundred years old nonsenses, you are no better than cathle christians. You are the heretics, who are mislead. Does Jesus preached any of those nonsenses? You rejecting progress allowed by His mercy, because you know that you are weak in your belief. That’s why you are living in your inbred colonies, build from lies and illusions.