Swartzentruber Amish

The Swartzentruber Amish are among the most tradition-minded Old Order peoples

The Swartzentruber Amish affiliation came about in Ohio in 1917.  Today Swartzentruber Amish are considered among the “lowest” of Amish affiliations.

Swartzentruber communities can be found in over a dozen states, though their population is highest in Holmes County, Ohio, where they live side-by-side with more progressive Amish.

Facts about the Swartzentruber Amish:

  • swartzentruber amish farm homeSwartzentruber Amish use only minimal technology.  Battery-powered flashlights are acceptable while electric lighting on buggies is not
  • There are actually 3 separate non-fellowshipping Swartzentruber groups.  These recent divisions came about due to internal conflict in the 1990s and again around the year 2000
  • Unlike most Amish, Swartzentruber Amish generally do not hire cars except in emergencies
  • Some Swartzentruber Amish fellowship with similarly conservative “Nebraska Amish”, aka “white-toppers”
  • Swartzentruber Amish generally earn a lower income than higher-order Amish, which can affect everything from lifestyle to health care to diet

Read more on the Swartzentruber Amish.

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    1. richard

      when i had a very small sideline business trying to sell amish crafts in florida, i went to ohio to meet with a amish family who made hickory rockers, and other hickory items. i was told that they really dont deal with the public as far as making and selling items to the english( being us). i still dont know much about them really, they seem to fly under the radar, and im sure they like it that way.i never had a problem finding anyone who was amish to make and sell any items for me.in the lancaster area where ive just moved to from florida, im looking at thier homes which seem to be getting larger.so i think not only are amish familys growing, which they are, thier wealth is growing as well. amish stands seem to be everywhere, and i think its a good thing because thier products(most) seem much better to me. that reminds me, i need to stop by one very soon before it gets too cold, and pickup some homemade rootbeer…………. richard

    2. Christina

      “Plain Secrets” by Joe Mackall is a good read about Swartzentruber Amish.

    3. How do Amish make homemade root beer?

      Richard this is sort of off-topic but when you scoop up the homemade root beer if you happen to get a rudimentary sense of how they make it I’d be glad to know.

      I’ve had the Amish homemade version before (a couple glasses just last week in fact) but take it that any sort of roots aren’t actually involved in the process (though has never occurred to me to ask). I kind of doubt anything to do with beer is involved here either. If anyone can enlighten on this one please do.

      1. barbie

        Homemade Root Beer

        Homemade root beer is typically made from root beer extract, sugar and yeast. We are Mennonites from Lancaster, PA, and have also made it for years.
        It is very important to have sparkling clean utensils, containers, and spring or well water. We sterilized the jugs, so that when we set the jars in the sun, the yeast fed on the sugar, causing the bubbles, and producing clear sparkling root beer. (not cloudy)
        Personally, I would never buy or drink homemade root beer from anyone without seeing their kitchen and observing their hygienic practices.

    4. Christina

      Erik, homemade rootbeer is pretty simple actually. Just water, yeast, sugar and rootbeer concentrate that you can buy at almost any grocery store. I think there’s actually a recipe for how to do it on the concentrate box.

      OR, you can order a kit from Lehman’s. You can also find various home soda pop making supplies on the web if you google it:-)

      Hope I didn’t take the fizz out of your pop…no roots involved and a pretty easy process!

      1. susan

        just a thought

        Don’t forget to adjust the yeast content according to altitude. I found that out the hard way while visiting friends in Denver. They asked me to make root beer and I gladly did, using my regular recipe. I gave no thought to the fact that I was in ”mile high” city. One night, while it was fermenting under the kitchen sink, we heard a huge bang. Several gallons had blown the the doors open under the sink. Boy, did I feel foolish……not to mention that it was one sticky mess to clean up.

    5. Thank you for the explanation Christina–I guess I was secretly hoping that it involved digging up a special plant and extracting a magic component from the root–but your description sounds pretty plug-and-play to me!

      On another note, the stuff is actually pretty good–was never the biggest fan of store bought root beer but what i drank last week was nice.

      1. Sharon

        Real homemade root beer does call for taking the roots of a sassafras tree, washing the dirt off, and boiling it. My husband was brought up on a farm and they would make it. When we married and moved across the county to a wooded area, he showed me how it was done. You make it as strong or weak as you want and add sugar to it. Never knew there was a store mix that could do this.

        1. Sharon thanks for getting me caught up. There usually is a logical reason for the names we give things, even when chemicals take the place of what nature once was used for. In the pantheon of soft drinks I rate root beer mid-to-low, for that matter…above cream soda but a few notches down from ginger ale and even orange soda.

    6. Bill

      “Plain Secrets” by Joe Mackall is a good read about Swartzentruber Amish.

      I will second that. Excellent book.

    7. linda saul

      I was wondering if Lancaster Pennsylvania is the largest Amish settlement in America

    8. Henry Troyer

      The Lancaster, Pa. Amish community is the second largest in America. The Holmes County, Ohio, Amish community is the largest, Lancaster the second largest, Elkhart-LaGrange Counties in Northern Indiana is the third largest. I grew up in an Amish family in the Holmes County, Ohio, community. Even though I left the community some years ago, I maintain very good relations with many of my boyhood friends and families.

    9. Alyssa

      Do the Swartzentruber Amish have assurance of salvation–do they have Jesus in their hearts in order to go to heaven?

    10. Henry Troyer

      I am not sure how to answer your question. They would all claim to attempt as nearly as possible to follow Jesus, but they would not claim assurance of salvation. Claiming assurance of salvation is thought to be an arrogant claim, or even boastful. They do the best they can, but the decision will come on the Judgement Day when they face their Creator. These comments could actually apply to all the Amish subdivisions except perhaps the New Order Amish. Most other Christians would put much more emphasis on grace and claim salvation.

    11. Leaidan

      And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me starghit.

      And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me starghit.

    12. Scripture Focus

      The Ordnung vs. The Gospel

      The Amish, while a really wonderful group from a sociological perspective, have really departed from the Christian faith to a works-righteousness that is far more Old Testament than New Testament. We can be thankful that the New Order Amish have recovered much of the Good News that was lost in the legalism of the Amish Ordnung. Christ died to give us life freely, but the Ordnung puts Amish back under the Law. The Swartzentruber need our prayers and ministry.

    13. Melissa

      More conservative Nebraska Amish

      I love visiting this site and I have read many books about the Amish. I learned about the Nebraska Amish that are located in 1 or 2 settlements in PA and I think 1 in NE Ohio. I have heard that they are ultra conservative, even more so than the Swartzentruber’s. Does anyone know anything more about them? Do they ever interact with non-Amish other than on a have-to basis? I cannot find much written about them other than just the basic history and ultra-conservative position. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

      1. How conservative are the Nebraska Amish?

        Hi Melissa, there’s not a whole lot written on the Nebraska Amish. They were covered in the classic Amish book Amish Society by John A Hostetler, who was raised Amish in the Big Valley settlement. There is a fair bit about them in the new book The Amish. There is also the Mifflin County Amish and Mennonite story, 1791-1991 by S. Duane Kauffman.

        I think it’s arguable that they are more conservative than the Swartzentruber Amish. I would say the Swartzentruber are most conservative, especially considering that there are about 5 different divisions within the Nebraska Amish, some being more progressive. At least one of the groups even uses cell phones. And of course all Nebraska Amish use the SMV triangle which the Swartzentruber do not. I know they’ve been described as the most conservative in the past, but given the above I do not think about them that way. However they are still one of the most traditional Amish groups.

        I have a couple of Amish friends/acquaintances in the PA Big Valley settlement. The folks I know are very friendly and enjoy visiting with non-Amish. Both are business owners, one employs about 30 people and also uses a skid loader. They are from one of the more progressive divisions.

        I’ve also been to the northeast Ohio community, which is a much smaller population than the main Big Valley settlement.

      2. Mark - Holmes Co.

        There are at least five groups of Nebraska Amish. In some ways they are more conservative than the Swartzentrubers, in other ways they are much more liberal. Comparing the two would be very difficult — apples & oranges. Some Nebraska Amish have cell phones, fridges & freezers, weed-eaters, for example, but only wear white shirts and have no dash or front in their buggies. All Nebraska Amish will make use of hired drivers, but Swarztentrubers rarely do.

    14. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Oops… I must have writing this when Erik’s post went on.

    15. Melissa W.

      Nebraska Amish

      Thanks so much for the reply. I was surprised to learn that there are 5 divisions in the Nebraska Amish. Some of the things that I have read or seen regarding Nebraska Amish that led to my belief that they are more conservative include: absolute separation from outsiders as far as possible; no curtains, or paint on houses; intolerance of photographs being taken, even from a distance.( I recall a picture of several Nebraska youth approaching a photographer from up a long lane to request him to not photograph even from a distance. Most Old-order Amish just seem to tolerate it and try to ignore it, or some even smile goodnaturedly.) From photos that have been taken, their clothing also seems to be very limited in colors allowed, (black, white, and dark blue); and very primitive buggies. I guess, however, that one can never say anything absolute about the Amish in general, or even of a specific affiliation. Thanks again for info and this site. It is very interesting.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Most, if not all of the Nebraska groups do allow curtains now. While houses have always been allowed to be painted, barns usually are not. Nebraska Amish do not wear black clothes, but head-scarves for women. Men always wear white shirts, but blue, brown, or gray pants & coats. Women may wear several colors, but never green. I’ve been surprised to see some pretty loud colors on a few of them. As for pictures, check out Bill Coleman’s Amish photo gallery — some Nebraska Amish are more relaxed about pictures than folks in our community. Go figure! 🙂

        1. Melissa W.

          Nebraska Amish

          Holmes County Mark,
          I must be thinking of a particular division of the Nebraska Amish. In the photos, they drive the white buggies that do not appear to have any “luxuries” such as padded seats or vinyl. To me they just appear to be wooden. I am also thinking of two photos where everyone in the photos were dressed alike. In most photos of OOA (Old-order Amish), there are several different colors. In these photos it appeared to be white and black or dark blue. Unfortunately, the photos were taken from a distance, but the caption indicated that it was a wedding. It also indicated that they were Nebraska Amish, and very insular or separate. I am not sure when these photos were taken, perhaps many years ago. I will have to do some digging and see if I can find a link to them. Ever since I saw them, I have been intrigued, because they seem so different from the “norm” of guarded but friendly.

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Melissa, all 5 Nebraska groups drive white buggies with vinyl top-cloth or “oilcloth.” None allow fronts or dashes and four groups have lanterns while the David Zook group has recently started using battery lights. Instead of climbing in the side like everyone else, they climb in the front off a step on the shaft cross-piece. Most have a wooden seat covered with a loose piece of foam and that is covered with a blanket, but I have seen padded seats on a few Nebraska Amish buggies. The lower two groups do wear darker colors, mostly blue, purple, & brown, but the higher groups can have some louder colors. They really are very different from other Amish.
            Check out Bill Coleman’s photo gallery on-line and you’ll see a lot of newer pictures of that type of Amish. I learned about him after finding a book of his pictures called “Amish Odyssey” maybe twenty-five years ago. When I compare those pictures with what we see now, there are changes.
            Earlier this year there were Nebraska Amish where I work and they looked really conservative… until one of the girls pulled out a cell-phone and started texting. Later her dad, maybe in his mid-fifties, used his cell phone to make a call. The phones didn’t match his long hair and big hat brim!

    16. susan

      lots of differences amount old order groups

      Churches will split over issues that seem silly to the English. I have seen splits over the color of the buggy, flashy markings on the buggy horse and a flashy gait if the horse is a retired American saddlebred show horse. Dating practices can cause considerable debate. I lived in Kentucky when numerous moved there from Lancaster Pa because they felt the area had become too worldly and commercial. This was approx 40 years ago. The settlements were extremely old order. After a few years, there were phones in the barn, workshop etc so they could conduct business more readily. Soon they were in the house. Electricity in the work areas and the home soon followed. Indoor plumbing was a blessing, not to mention no longer having to do laundry outdoors in a hand cranked washer in the dead oh winter. These changes did not take place before considerable prayer and the approval of the church leadership.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Interesting. I have never heard of a horse’s breed, gait, or markings cause an issue in any Amish church or community. Dating practices I have heard and seen. Buggy color usually stays pretty stable — places like Big Valley where there are several colors of buggy tops did not split over top-color, but different groups adapted differently. white buggies (Nebraska Amish) were originally made of un-waterproof canvas but now of white vinyl. The yellow tops came after and were made of rain-coat material. I’d disagree with any split being related to buggy tops even though I have seen that written before. We have family living in places like that and I’ve heard this discussion many times.