Manton, Michigan is a sleepy burg along US 131 about 45 minutes south of Traverse City. I’ve passed the town numerous times over the years as I’ve gone to and from Traverse City for various events. There’s not much notable about Manton that would persuade one to stop. A small hardware store, a mom and pop motel, a Subway sandwich shop and a farmer’s market is about all that beckons from Manton. But push beyond the little town to the west into the surrounding countryside and you’ll find a small but sprawling Amish community. The Manton Amish community isn’t typical.
While the Amish here consider themselves Old Order they worship not in homes but in churches (they call them meetinghouses) and have a bit more of an evangelical streak, which has made Manton a destination for Seekers (outsiders who wish to join the Amish) over the years. The community is currently home to one Seeker and some Mennonites who made the rare step of joining the Amish (often it’s the reverse). The settlement is loosely affiliated with similar Amish churches in Smyrna, Maine; Unity,Maine, and some Canadian Amish communities. While most Old Order Amish don’t want their photos taken for religious reasons, there’s more openness here. One Amish man explained to me that it was left up to the individual here to decide how they feel about photography. This is a photo of an Amish woman working at the Fruitful Hill Farm Market on 16 1/2 Mile Road. She was completely fine with this photo being taken and her husband even asked me to send them a print if I could. The community does not use electricity and they travel by horse-drawn buggy. The produce sold at Fruitful Hill is grown on site in gardens and greenhouses like the one pictured here. Fruitful hill also sells a selection of bulk foods and home-baked goods made fresh on Tuesdays and Fridays for sale.
If you have a bit of time, here’s a long but fascinating article about Bill and Tricia Moser, a Seeker family from Detroit who made their way to Manton on their journey to join the Amish. I actually tried to find the Mosers last week because I think they have such a fascinating story. But I learned that they no longer live in Manton. I was told they moved a couple of years ago to a small Amish community near Marion about 45 minutes away, so I went there to look for them but the trail grew cold The address I had for them seemed abandoned and I could not find anyone who knew them.
This laundry was on the line of one of the Mennonite families who joined the Amish and now lives in Manton. They said the term Seekers is not usually applied to Plain people who switch to another Plain church like they did. The pants on the line, by the way, are denim with the tops sort of turned inside out to dry. Nearby was an outbuilding where an Amish man was constructing sheds. The first Amish began arriving in Manton in 1993. Amish in the community have come from all over: Tennessee, Maryland, Illinois, Maine, and other places attracted to the church’s “independent streak.”