Swartzentruber Amishman Interviewed at Alabama Amtrak Station

Chris Gingerich, 47, is a member of North Carolina’s sole Swartzentruber Amish community. A writer for AL.com met Chris and his wife Iva, along with 2 of their 13 children, at the Amtrak station in Birmingham, Alabama. Writer Greg Garrison managed to have a nice conversation with Chris, which he shares in an article for the site.

This is a neat article for a few reasons. One is that Amtrak and Greyhound stations are the rare places where you’ll find Amish in cities, far from any Amish settlement. There are no Amish communities for over 100 miles in any direction from Birmingham.

Plainer Amish groups in particular, like the Swartzentruber Amish, who don’t hire vans or other sorts of Amish taxis, use this mode of transport when they need to go some distance. So do Amish youth on trips out West.

Chris and his family happened to be returning from the community in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where they have relatives. They moved to North Carolina two years ago from the community at Ethridge, Tennessee. “It was getting so crowded in Ethridge,” he explains. “I just like the mountains, and there’s no mountains in Ethridge.”

It seems Chris and Greg had a wide-ranging discussion. Chris shares his opinion on smartphones: “I consider that the most worldly thing you can have,” he says. He’s not the only one.

In 2003, Chris was rear-ended by a mini-van, going at full speed, while driving his buggy in Mississippi. He was hospitalized six weeks, out of work for eight months, and calls it “a miracle” that he survived. The driver was distracted by her children. “I don’t blame her,” says the Amishman. “I make mistakes myself.”

About different faiths, Chris says: “There are horse and buggy Amish, and there are Amish with cars. The name don’t tell you what they are. We’re not all alike. We’re still human.”

The NC Swartzentruber community was founded in 2014. There are currently 19 families. I had planned to visit this community last month, but decided to shelve that trip for when I’ll have a bit more time, likely next month. Maybe I will bump into Chris and tell him I read a bit about him already.

Finally, the last thing I found interesting here was the photo which accompanies the article. This is Chris and his 14-year-old daughter Amelia:

Image: Greg Garrison/AL.com

As you can see it is blurred so facial features are not recognizable, but looks like the author took it face on. Maybe that was the stipulation they agreed to. Amish are not always as strict about photos as we think.

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11 Comments

  1. Christy

    North Carolina

    Very interesting Erik! I’m from the North Carolina area and I had no idea there was Swartzentruber Amish there. Have you any idea where at in North Carolina?

    1. Sherri
    2. Christy they are in the area of Ellenboro, NC. There are more details at this thread: https://amishamerica.com/north-carolina-amish/comment-page-1/#comment-167468

      When I visit I plan to share more in a post but that might not go up for another month or two.

  2. Lisa Maikranz

    Story and pictures

    I visit my friends in Upstate NY every year, we park our Motorhome on their property, I have been meaning to send a story a long with pictures of the inside of a swartzentruber home, the farm and a splendid buggy ride.
    They are unique and wonderful people ~ they also ride the train to visit family in Ohio.

    1. That would be great Lisa. Feel free to email me at ewesner(at)gmail(dot)com.

  3. Patrick J.

    Amtrak

    I ride Amtrak’s California Zephyr every other year from Union Station in Chicago to Emeryville in CA to visit relatives. That particular train has a dozen or more Amish on-board whenever I go. Always makes the trip a little more pleasant than it otherwise would be. They usually debark in Colorado or Utah.

  4. Angus

    Amishman interviewed a Alabama amtrack station

    Did i miss the interview in the read? Did i only receive a portion of the inteeview? Hum!
    I learned that this gentleman was rear ended by a car , spent time in the hospital, lost work in recovery.. has 13 children and that it is not often that one would find the Amish in train stations or bus stations.
    Just as my interest peaked, the artical ended.
    Perhaps it was a very short interview.?
    Oh well, i i always love reading the articles, but from what i received , it was more of the authors comments than a true interview.
    Perhaps i only got a portion of the article. ??
    I love Amish America… but this read just seemed incomplete.

    1. The full original article is linked in the first paragraph.

  5. Daye Delan

    Amish too crowded in some states

    Here in western Canada, we are not over crowded.Many other plain folk have good farms and families. Folks such as Hutt rites, Menonites, and especially where I live, Doukhabour. Good people. Good land. And yes, we also have some mountains.

  6. Joe Wurz

    Re Trips out west.

    If any Amish People travling in Saskachewan might be looking for lodgings overnight, they would be welcome to stay over at our colony, near Cutknife Sask. Phone 306 398 2014 or Cell 306 398 7927

  7. Diann Pollock

    Swartzentruber Amish in N. Carolina

    Chris and Iva are friends of mine. We really hated to see them move from Ethridge TN. It was good reading the story about them. Thanks for sharing.