New York Amish

New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    New York Amish
    Book Description:

    In a book that highlights the existence and diversity of Amish communities in New York State, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner draws on twenty-five years of observation, participation, interviews, and archival research to emphasize the contribution of the Amish to the state's rich cultural heritage.

    While the Amish settlements in Pennsylvania and Ohio are internationally known, the Amish population in New York, the result of internal migration from those more established settlements, is more fragmentary and less visible to all but their nearest non-Amish neighbors. All of the Amish currently living in New York are post-World War II migrants from points to the south and west. Many came seeking cheap land, others as a result of schism in their home communities.

    The Old Order Amish of New York are relative newcomers who, while representing an old or plain way of life, are bringing change to the state. So that readers can better understand where the Amish come from and their relationship to other Christian groups, New York Amish traces the origins of the Amish in the religious confrontation and political upheaval of the Protestant Reformation and describes contemporary Amish lifestyles and religious practices.

    Johnson-Weiner welcomes readers into the lives of Amish families in different regions of New York State, including the oldest New York Amish community, the settlement in the Conewango Valley, and the diverse settlements of the Mohawk Valley and the St. Lawrence River Valley. The congregations in these regions range from the most conservative to the most progressive. Johnson-Weiner reveals how the Amish in particular regions of New York realize their core values in different ways; these variations shape not only their adjustment to new environments but also the ways in which townships and counties accommodate-and often benefit from-the presence of these thriving faith communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5886-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Who Are the Amish?
    (pp. 1-29)

    Mention ʺNew Yorkʺ and we think of the ʺBig Apple,ʺ the Hudson River, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Finger Lakes. Most of us do not think of the Amish. The Amish evoke images of horse-drawn buggies, barefoot children, barn raisings, and bonnets and straw hats. The Amish live peaceful lives on bucolic farms. As we know from talk show monologues and Hollywood movies, the Amish are country rubes, comically unaware of machines, the Internet, and X-rated films. They are hardly ʺNew Yorkersʺ—the fast-talking, hard-driving, ʺin your faceʺ type A personalities that an article in the British newspaper The...

  5. 2 Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties: Twentieth-Century Amish Pioneers in Western New York
    (pp. 30-51)

    ʺGo west!ʺ may have been the advice given nineteenth-century pioneers, but for twentieth- and twenty-first-century Amish settlers, the direction of choice is often east. In 1949, over one hundred years after the arrival of the first Amish settlers in New York State, Amish families from the Enon Valley in Pennsylvania and from Holmes and Wayne counties in Ohio arrived to start a new settlement in the Conewango Valley in Cattaraugus County, east of Chautauqua Lake. A short article in the New York Times about Amish real estate purchases announced the settlement to the non-Amish world. The Amish probably learned of...

  6. 3 St. Lawrence Countyʹs Swartzentruber Amish: The Plainest of the Plain People
    (pp. 52-77)

    In a November 1974 letter to a friend, one Amish man wrote about ʺa new settlement . . . starting in Canton, NY by some of the Holmes-Wayne Swartzentruber people.ʺ ʺMust be they like Canton,ʺ he joked, noting that the Swartzentruber Amish had earlier established a settlement in Canton, Minnesota. The man commented further that he would ʺwatch the Budget a bit, but . . . [that] Nov. ʹ74 would go down as the founding date,ʺ and he added that ʺthe one family—the father comes from Conewango Valley, NY but joined the Swartzentruber church in Ohio for his wife.ʺ¹...

  7. 4 From Lancaster County to Lowville: Moving North to Keep the Old Ways
    (pp. 78-99)

    In 1999, four Old Order Amish families from the Path Valley in Pennsylvania arrived in Lowville in Lewis County, the first new Amish settlers to the area in over one hundred years. Six years later, there were twenty-one families and forty children in the communityʹs two schools, and by January 2007, there were twenty-five families. More progressive than Swartzentruber and less progressive than Clymer-area Amish, the Amish in Lowville bring to New Yorkʹs North Country traditions that have their origins in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the oldest Amish settlement in North America.

    For the modern-day Amish settlers in Lewis County, Lowville...

  8. 5 The Mohawk Valley Amish: Old Order Diversity in Central New York
    (pp. 100-121)

    Whether Amish life is truly slower, calmer, or, as often depicted, simpler, is debatable. Certainly, having to earn a living, feed numerous children, build homes and barns, milk cows, grow much of oneʹs own food, do laundry, and preserve gallons of fruit and vegetables each year, all without the aid of many of the labor-saving devices mainstream America deems essential, makes for a challenging and sometimes complicated life. That the Amish must do all these things while remaining separate from a fast-paced, dominant society presents challenges few outsiders can begin to appreciate.

    Each Amish church meets these challenges differently. As...

  9. 6 In Search of Consensus and Fellowship: New Yorkʹs Swiss Amish
    (pp. 122-140)

    Despite their common origin in the Anabaptist movement and Jacob Ammannʹs break with the larger Mennonite movement, todayʹs Amish are ethnically as well as religiously diverse. The Swiss Amish began to arrive nearly a century after the first German immigrants had reached North America, and, although they identified as Amish, the Swiss Amish immigrants differed in many ways from their German Amish counterparts.¹ The Swiss immigrants, who came to North America directly from Switzerland or from Swiss enclaves in Europe, including Swiss communities in Alsace and Lorraine, had few kinship ties to those who had immigrated earlier. Further, while the...

  10. 7 On Franklin Countyʹs Western Border: New Settlements in the North Country
    (pp. 141-161)

    The Empire State is spacious, and the Amish have arrived to take advantage of its rich and plentiful farmland. Two of the newest Amish settlements in New York are the Burke settlement in Franklin County and the nearby Swartzentruber settlement founded near Hopkinton in St. Lawrence County. The Burke settlers, representing one of the more progressive realizations of Amish identity, have come north from Marion, Kentucky, eager to begin farming on new land. The Hopkinton settlers, ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish from the area around Holmes County, Ohio, also want land, but they seek a region where their young people will not...

  11. 8 The Challenge of Amish Settlement
    (pp. 162-177)

    Not all the Amish who come to New York are successful in their attempt to settle here. At least six Amish settlements in New York State alone have become extinct since 1950, namely the settlements in Sinclairville (Chautauqua County; 1950–1960), Clyde (Wayne County; 1979–1999), Newport (Herkimer County; 1979–2003), Dundee (Yates County; 1981–1988), Albion (Orleans County; 1986–1996), and Poland (Herkimer County; 2002–2007).¹

    Amish settlements are, for the most part, individual enterprises, undertaken by families acting in concert rather than by groups organized in advance. Amish churches do not oversee the move and do not sanction...

  12. 9 Amish Settlement in New York: For the Future
    (pp. 178-184)

    Nearly two centuries after the first Amish arrived in New York State, the Amish newspapers the Budget and Die Botschaft report that New York Amish churches are growing. ʺA week ago our church district was divided and then our side had services yesterday,ʺ wrote the scribe from Jasper, New York (Northwest District) in January 2009.¹ In the same issue of Die Botschaft, other scribes announced weddings, births, and deaths. One family, announced the scribe from Lowville, ʺhad a little dishwasherʺ join them, welcoming a new baby girl into the community.²

    There continue to be tragedies, big and small. A scribe...

  13. Appendix A Existing Old Order Amish Settlements in New York
    (pp. 185-186)
  14. Appendix B Extinct Old Order Amish Settlements in New York
    (pp. 187-187)
  15. Appendix C Amish Divisions
    (pp. 188-188)
  16. Appendix D Amish Migration to and from New York (number of households)
    (pp. 189-190)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 191-210)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-218)
  19. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 219-220)
  20. Index
    (pp. 221-224)