My First Five Amish Settlements
I've been to literally dozens of Amish settlements over the years. From Maine to Montana to Florida and plenty of places in between. But what were my first five Amish settlements I visited and when?
ADAMS COUNTY, OHIO - 1986: This was my first-ever encounter with the Amish, when I was just 14 years old. Here's an except from my future book, Not So Simple, about that first encounter. I was with my parents and they stopped at a roadside stand where an Amish man was selling baked goods and cheese...to put the next passage in context, I am comparing and contrasting this Amish encounter with me living in The Middle East just a few years earlier:
The Amish entrepreneur running the roadside stand had a broad smile and a lingering black beard, not unlike the ones sported by the most devout Muslims I had lived among just a few years earlier. I peered into the buggy, spying billowy loaves of bread sealed in plastic bags, an assortment of homemade cookies, and a handwritten sign advertising cheese. My mother motioned to the cheese, while my father rummaged through loaves of bread on the table. The Amish man reached into a Coleman cooler for a block of Swiss cheese. It was a minor, meaningless detail, but the fiberglass cooler with its bright green lid seemed oddly out of place in an otherwise undisturbed tableau of ebony and ivory turn-of-the-century simplicity. Then the scene reverted to something more familiar to me: Dad handing, this time a few dollars instead of dirhams, to a person dressed in black. And, of course, the black was not a burqa. The man was dressed, as most Amish men dress, in dark denim, suspenders, and a work-shirt. As I watched rapt, the transaction occurred between the Amish man and my father, much like it had between the elderly Afghan woman with the stone oven. I surveyed the simplicity: the horse, the buggy, beard, suspenders, and denim. Deep within I felt a fascination, a tug, a longing of some sort, and then the sensation let go.
I would return to Adams County several times over the next couple of years, the last time being in 1993. It'd be another 10 years before I'd go back after that. The settlement has only grown and prospered.
NOVA, OHIO - 1989: I was a high school junior on assignment for Environmental Action Magazine. Toured an Amish sawmill and really honed my early journalistic skills and stoked my interest in the Amish. I've not been back since, but it was a very conservative Amish settlement.
READING, MICHIGAN- June 1991: Exploring the area on assignment for Michigan Country Lines magazine. Made the drive from I-75 near Monroe, Michigan over to Hillsdale and finally found my way to the area of Reading and Camden, Michigan. Very conservative Amish settlement at the time and far smaller than it is now.
REED CITY, MICHIGAN/CORAL MICHIGAN:- June 1991: Visited the home of an Amish family in Reed City who had 13 children. The Coral settlement had just been established and it would last about 15 years before being disbanded. Meanwhile, the Reed City Amish community has grown.
GENEVA, INDIANA - 1991: Met the original Amish Cook, Elizabeth Coblentz, and I created and started The Amish Cook column which has been authored by 3 writers over the years.