Woman Abandoned As a Baby at Amish Farm Seeks Birth Family

How far would you go to discover your origin? A recent AP story tells the fascinating and moving tale of Diane Bell, who was abandoned as a three-month-old on an Amish farmhouse porch:

Forty years ago, a widowed Amish woman and her daughter watched from their window late one night as someone in dark clothing walked up to their farmhouse near Gordonville, Lancaster County, and left a basket on the porch.

The frightened widow summoned her son from the attached house next door. They saw movement in the basket and assumed it was kittens.

Then they saw a pair of tiny, fluttering hands and knew someone had left them a baby.

The widow, 65-year-old Annie Lantz, sent her son, David, more than a mile on foot to a neighbor with a horse and buggy. From there he rode to a Mennonite home, which had a phone to call police.

Meanwhile, the baby waited contentedly on the porch, swaddled in a blanket and sucking her thumb. The widow and her daughter watched from inside, afraid to approach the basket until police arrived.

Diane was adopted by a local non-Amish family, and decades later, is now seeking her birth family. The pull to discover her roots is strong:

“It’s unbelievable,” Bell says. “Everybody has somewhere they came from. Everybody has family trees. People can say if breast cancer runs in their family, or if it doesn’t. People can say their family has certain dispositions. I have none of that.”

Bell knows her love of music comes from her adopted mom, and her fondness for trains comes from her dad. But where, she asks, did she inherit artistic tendencies?





There have been sightings of Diane’s supposed double, lending intrigue to the story:

Her desire to find her natural family — if not her birth parents, she says, maybe a sibling — has waxed and waned over the years. The desire was reinvigorated last week when Bell made a delivery in York to a woman who confused her with someone that, apparently, looks identical to her.

It’s happened before, Bell says. Years ago, an ex-boyfriend’s mother thought she saw Bell walking hand-in-hand with another boy. Even Bell’s own father swore he saw her at a pancake breakfast, but she insists she wasn’t there.

“There’s someone walking around who looks a lot like me,” she says. “I know, I sound crazy saying that.”

Unfortunately, no one has ever approached or been able to identify the blue-eyed, blond-haired doppleganger to give Bell a place to start on her quest for family.

And what if the Amish family who found the abandoned baby had been the ones to adopt her? For Diane, who has worked as an artist and pastry chef, life would probably be very different today:

Annie Lantz and her daughter, Rebecca, are dead, Bell says. David Lantz, now 75, lives in the same house on Musser School Road with his wife and children, and he clearly recalls the night of Bell’s discovery.

The family, he told Bell, has long regretted not keeping her themselves. Lantz said the Amish community gave his mother a hard time for giving the baby up, Bell says, “but she didn’t feel it was right. She cried a lot about it afterward.”

Surrounded by people who, with a slight twist of fate, could have been her siblings, nieces and nephews gave Bell an odd feeling.

“How could you possibly put into words how different a life that would be?” she asks.

She spent time with several Lantz youngsters who were excited to learn that Bell enjoys baking and painting.

“Some of the granddaughters want me to teach them to paint,” she says.

“We’re going to have a giant get-together. We’re going to have a picnic,” she adds. “Apparently there are a lot of people in the Amish community who want to meet me. Who’d have thought, after all this time, it’s still being talked about.”

Read Diane’s story in full here.

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    15 Comments

    1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      It was very interesting to read this. I had heard little bits of it over the years, but had kind of passed it off as one of the stories that might or might not be true but hearing this took place on Musser School Rd. got my attention, as we have connections to families living there. Thanks for sharing this, Erik.

      1. To be continued?

        This seems like the type of story which would really resonate in Amish communities, I’m not surprised she is still talked about today. Dramatic and inspiring. Though she wasn’t adopted by the random family who found her, sounds like she ended up in good hands.

        The idea she has a “double” circulating out there that even fooled her own father is intriguing. Maybe there will be another chapter to Diane’s tale.

    2. Carolyn B

      Long time no hear from me. I do miss you all when I don’t check in.
      I love reading this story.

      1. Hi Carolyn, it’s true we haven’t seen you around here in awhile. Thanks for checking in, and I’m glad you liked the story.

        For me this was a nice reminder that the news isn’t always bad. Very nice she was able to connect with the community where she was found, and hopefully she’ll find some answers to the mystery.

    3. Carol

      abandoned baby

      If she were to have one of those DNA tests it might show up that she would have some matches to the heritage of the surrounding Amish area. I’m thinking perhaps she was from an unmarried Amish girl who arranged to have her dropped off at the Amish home. With a somewhat narrow gene pool in some areas, a match might become apparent.

    4. Juanita Cook

      Very interesting to read about this. I hope this lady is able to find her family in the near future.

    5. Carol Holstein

      Woman Abandoned As a Baby at Amish Farm

      I definitely look forward to a follow up to this story!! As Carol above said, DNA testing may indeed help Diane in her search. And of course, social media,such as Facebook.

    6. Alice Mary

      This is so intriguing! If she has a twin, so many questions could be answered, if only those involving health issues. With so many modern tools available, I do hope some investigator (someone who investigates “cold cases”, perhaps) takes on this challenge.

      I could see this story being made into a movie of some sort (not that it would be ideal, but it seems that a lot of us here are interested in Diane’s outcome, down the road.) I wish her the best in her quest to find her origins.

      I’ve known a couple of men who were adopted (into the same family, and grew up as brothers, though they were unrelated), but never told about their adoption. They found out as adults, and it was traumatic for them and for their “adoptive” families and extended families, all of whom kept their adoption a secret for decades.

      Truth IS stranger than fiction.

      Alice Mary

      1. I could see it as a movie as well, Alice Mary. Maybe it’s waiting for one more chapter.

        Can’t imagine what it would be like to be told you are adopted. I’m really not sure how I’d react. I’d hope I’d mostly just be glad that I ended up with good parents. But psychologically I could imagine there is an element of “my birth parents didn’t want me”, though countered by “but someone else really did”.

        1. Diane Bell

          Amazing!

          Yes! Being adopted is always been a blessing due to the wonderful family I ended up with. Thank you all for your kind and loving support. As far as an update, I did do a DNA test and currently have a team of experts who work for the tv show Long Lost Family looking into all my connections.

          Hopefully I will know more soon!
          Again, thank you for all your support and good thoughts!

          Diane

      2. beth menke

        SEEKING MY BIRTH MOTHER AND BIRTH TWIN SISTER

        I AM LOOKING FOR HELENA HOLMES SHE MAY HAVE LIVED IN THE VIRGINIA AND MICHIGAN AND MAYBE NEW JERSEY AREA. MY REAL BIRTH DAY IS FEB 24 1955. I KNOW THAT MY BIRTH TWIN SISTER LIVED IN THE ANN ARBOR AREA OR HER HUSBAND WORKED OR OWNED A COMPUTER BUSINESS IN THE ANN ARBOR AREA. THEY HAD 2 BOYS AND THERE WAS A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ON THEM IN THE EARLY 1990S I GOT AHOLD OF THE HUSBAND AND CALLED MY TWIN SISTER BUT MY MEMORIES WERE BLOCKED SO I GAVE WRONG INFO TO HER. I WAS BORN IN JERSEY CITY NJ AND THE PAPERS ARE IN TRENTON NJ. ANYONE WHO CAN PASS THIS INFO TO ANYONE WHO FITS THIS I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL TO BE REUNITED WITH ANY BIRTHFAMILY. I HAVE LOTS OF HEALTH ISSUES AND IT WOULD SO HELP ME TO KNOW ANY MEDICAL BACKGROUND. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO HELP ME PLEASE. THANK YOU.

      3. beth menke

        SEEKING MY BIRTH MOTHER AND BIRTH TWIN SISTER

        I AM LOOKING FOR HELENA HOLMES SHE MAY HAVE LIVED IN THE VIRGINIA AND MICHIGAN AND MAYBE NEW JERSEY AREA. MY REAL BIRTH DAY IS FEB 24 1955. I KNOW THAT MY BIRTH TWIN SISTER LIVED IN THE ANN ARBOR AREA OR HER HUSBAND WORKED OR OWNED A COMPUTER BUSINESS IN THE ANN ARBOR AREA. THEY HAD 2 BOYS AND THERE WAS A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ON THEM IN THE EARLY 1990S I GOT AHOLD OF THE HUSBAND AND CALLED MY TWIN SISTER BUT MY MEMORIES WERE BLOCKED SO I GAVE WRONG INFO TO HER. I WAS BORN IN JERSEY CITY NJ AND THE PAPERS ARE IN TRENTON NJ. ANYONE WHO CAN PASS THIS INFO TO ANYONE WHO FITS THIS I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL TO BE REUNITED WITH ANY BIRTHFAMILY. I HAVE LOTS OF HEALTH ISSUES AND IT WOULD SO HELP ME TO KNOW ANY MEDICAL BACKGROUND. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO HELP ME PLEASE. THANK YOU. THIS IS NOT A DUPLICATE MESSAGE.

    7. Carole

      Adorable Baby

      As adorable and happy as the baby in the picture appears to be, she must have had good care where she was before being abandoned. There is probably a logical story behind her being left on a doorstep. At least the mother or whoever knew an Amish person would do the right thing for the baby. A 65 year old widow would not have been in a good position to keep the child, but a good home was found for her. People in desperate situations do desperate things and should not be judged too harshly.

    8. Jim (Jakob) Kramer

      Adopted

      Erik and everyone, This is a story that is truly touching! Beverly Lewis handled the idea of a baby adopted by Amish and reared as their own child already, but not one in which the baby was turned over to local authorities, brought up in a non-Amish family and later met the Amish family which had found her all those years ago. Yes, I agree: this would make a wonderfully inspiring movie! I love that she has reconnected with the Amish who had “done the right thing”, since adoptions are so complicated and the legalities involved are potentially heartbreaking to those who might later find that they must give up a beloved child. Erik, if more information becomes available, that is, a continuation to her experiences and life story, it would be wonderful of you to keep us informed. Best wishes at any rate to Diane Bell–and may you soon find those answers you seek.

    9. M.H. G

      A wonderful, touching story