By Kevin Williams
Well, my modest goal of hitting two new Amish settlements (new to me) has been accomplished this year and its only April, so I have hopes for more. I visited Degraff, Ohio in February and on Thursday I spent time in Grabill, Indiana. And, wow, I've been missing out! As someone who studies Amish culture, Grabill is a fascinating stew of various Plain groups. There are Mennonites, charity churches and a huge contingent of Amish.
Size: 22 church districts
Buggies: Black and generally open
Language: Mixture of Swiss and Low and High German
Common Last Names: Lengacher, Steury and Schwartz
The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia put this settlement's population at 2735 in 2011 but I think it is safe to say that they'd be well over 3300 by now.....
Visitors: You know,unless I am missed something, there's not a ton in Grabill to do for visitors. That doesn't mean it's not worth going to Grabill. After all, the Amish don't exist to be tourist attractions, they are a real people living in a real community and this is a very vibrant unique settlement. But I think many Amish men work in construction, contracting or carpentry in this area instead of running home-based businesses or farming. That's not to say there aren't any Amish businesses for visitors to sample, I'll talk more about those in the coming days. But there just aren't a ton considering the large population. For example, in tiny Hardin County, Ohio's Amish settlement there are dozens and dozens of home-based businesses from toy shops to bakeries and you just don't see that in Allen County. There are plenty of homes offering fresh eggs (I came away with way too many).
Probably the "don't miss" place in Grabill is Grabill Country Sales, a huge bulk food store and buffet. The business is Amish-owned and the buffet and deli is amazing. The business is owned by Elmer Lengacher. He is an entrepreneurial Amishman in the area who even owns the local Save-A-Lot grocery store! Grabill Country Sales even has a website. The Grabill settlement is the only one where you'll run into the surname Lengacher in such large numbers.
The Amish here are definitely more permissive when it comes to allowing technology into their business lives.
I experienced a lot in Grabill during my short time there. Next week we'll explore Grabill more in depth!
Love reading Amish 365. I have been several times to Lancaster,Pa. In June my sister's and I are going to the Berlin, Charm area in Ohio and then to Shipshewanna, In. Have you been to these areas? If so do you have suggestions of things to see and do. Love reading Amish books and learning about the Amish.
Barbara, I could write a book about your question (actually, I have...it is called "The Williams Guide to Amish Country"!)...I'll try to get back to you in the next few days, though, with my recommendations. Thanks for stopping by!
Shipshewana is a wonderful place. So many things to see and taste. For quilters there are Lolly's fabrics and Yoder's. On Tuesday and Wednesday there is a gigantic flea market during the summer. Menno-hof is a place where you can see how the first Amish and Mennonites came to the USA. Well worth a visit. We go to Shipshe frequently as our doctor has his clinic there. We really like going to E&S Sales, a bulk food store and has lots of Amish products. The Davis building has lots of small stores and a neat Merry-go-round on the third floor. There is a thick tree trunk in the middle of the building.
Thank you, Erica, superb advice! Menno-Hof is great, but, yes your recommendation of E & S is spot-on....one of the best, if not the best, Amish bulk food stores out there...just a super place!
I love reading your travel stories about the Amish. Tell you the truth, I had no idea they settled all over the United States.
The one mentioned in today's column,about Grabill Country Stores, I was unable to reach the website.
Could you please direct to the correct web site they have?
Connie, I tried the link and it did work for me...but try just cutting and pasting this in your browser: http://www.grabillcountrysales.com/
Thanks for your kind words about the website!
Kevin, in Grabill you mention not a lot to do for the visitor, is the huge antique store still open? It was gigantic with some very nice antiques!
Sorry, I haven't been on much lately. Some personal things occurred and it's been difficult to get back to normal.
Barb, your ears must have been burning because I was actually just wondering about you yesterday, hadn't heard from you awhile so I checked to see if you were still on the email list. Glad you are around still, thoughts and prayers to you as you work through this difficult time! - Kevin