A study of three Amish homesteads: one in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, one in Holmes County, Ohio, and one in LaGrange County, Indiana. Scott examines the history and cultural development of a typical Amish house and barn, one in each of the three largest Amish communities in North America. Home is the center of Amish life and most life events:birth, marriage, daily work and play, retirement, and even death happen ...
A study of three Amish homesteads: one in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, one in Holmes County, Ohio, and one in LaGrange County, Indiana. Scott examines the history and cultural development of a typical Amish house and barn, one in each of the three largest Amish communities in North America. Home is the center of Amish life and most life events:birth, marriage, daily work and play, retirement, and even death happen there. Stephen Scott explores the history and cultural development of three Amish homesteads, each of which has been occupied by the current family of residence for at least four generations. The Stoltzfus Farm of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Yoder-Miller Farm of Holmes County, Ohio, the Bontrager-Miller Farm of LaGrange County, Indiana. Amish Houses and Barns also includes a photographic essay of typical Amish architecture in each of the three communities. Its numerous anecdotal stories,"Barn Fire," "The Farm Is Strip-Mined," and "Amish Style Graffiti", enhance the human story.
Stephen E. Scott grew up in southwestern Ohio. He attended the Beavercreek Township schools. Cedarville College, and Wright State University. During a time of spiritual seeking, he attended many "plain" churches, including a variety of conservative Mennonite churches. Scott lived in the Amish and Mennonite community in Holmes County, Ohio, for a year. In 1969 he attended the Numidia Mennonit Bible School in Pennsylvania and the same year began two years of alternate service at Lancaster Mennonite High School in Pennsylvania. During this time, Scott joined the Old Order River Brethren Church, one of the consrvative Anababptist groups. In 1973 he married Harriet Sauder. While working as a researcher and writer for Good Books, he has written Plain Buggies, Why Do They Dress That Way?, The Amish Wedding and Other Special Occasions of the Old Order Communities, and Amish Houses and Barns. He is also the coauthor of Living Without Electricity.
The Old Order Amish have no church buildings, no recreation halls, no nursing homes, and no funeral parlors. All the functions of these facilities normally take place in their homes. The Amish world revolves around the home.
Although hospitals and modern medicine are used by the Amish people when needed, many Amish women also prefer the warm, familiar surroundings of home for giving birth. Registered midwives and doctors who agree to make home deliveries are patronized. In some Amish communities doctors provide rural, home-like birthing centers for their Amish clients.
Most Amish people also prefer to spend their last days in the familiar home environment. Every effort is made to preserve life (although not artificially prolong it), but when death seems imminent an Amish person will usually choose to be with the family at home. While the deceased person is taken to a mortuary for preparation, the body comes back to the home for the viewing and funeral.
Togetherness At All Costs
As the institution of the home crumbles in North America, the Amish take great effort to preserve it. Many of the radical nonconformist practices Amish life were instituted to nurture family cohesiveness. The whole idea of restricting mobility by forbidding the ownership of cars is an endeavor to preserve home life. Amish people argue that fast, easy transportation draws family members away from the home.
Limited technology within the home further draws the family together and discourages the isolation of individual members. The lack of central heating promotes family togetherness in the few heated rooms in the house. Prohibiting electricity and restricting the number of light sources encourages family life by fostering a central place where all family members spend time reading, working on hobbies, or playing games.
The Elderly: Needed and Wanted
The Amish also try to keep the elderly involved in the life of the home. Typically, a small separate house or an addition to the larger house will be built for the grandparents after their children have families of their own. This is the classic Dawdy Haus/ (grandfather house). In wisdom their quarters have their own kitchens, and the grandparents usually do all of their own food preparation. The Amish realize that parent-child relationships can be strained by the continual presence of grandparents. However, the aged are highly respected and made to feel useful around the farm and home.
While an Amish farmer generally hands over responsibility for the farm to the younger generation earlier than normal retirement age, he does not really retire. His help around the farm is both essential and welcome. Often the older family will start a small cottage industry to occupy their time and provide some extra income.
Home: The Place of Work
Younger families have also increasingly turned to cottage industries as farmland has become scarce and expensive. These home businesses make it possible for young Amish men to stay at home with their families. They work together with their wives and children in much the same way as they would on a farm. Buggy shops, harness shops, woodworking shops, dry goods stores, and many other businesses typically involve the labor of many members of the family. Many Amish mothers also supplement the family income by producing quilts and other crafts in the home.With the exception of occasional help from Grossmommy next-door, no day care is needed.
Home: The Place of Worship
Individual Amish families are directly involved with the life of the church because they take turns hosting worship services in their homes. Each Amish congregation consists of a geographical unit called a "district" which typically includes from 20 to 40 family units. Worship services are held every other Sunday in most Amish communities; thus, a turn comes around no more than once or twice a year. By focusing on the home as the place of worship, the church in Amish society is thought of as a body of believers rather than a building or a place. Each family contributes to the life of the church by providing both a place for meeting and the food for a fellowship meal after the services.
Most preparation precedes an Amish church service. The family spends many hours cleaning the house, sprucing up the farmstead, and preparing food. The furniture is removed from several rooms in the house, and simple, backless benches are arranged in closely spaced rows. Some of these same benches are transformed into dinner tables after the church service.
Home: The Place of Recreation
On a different level, the home is also the scene of evening social activities among Amish young people. Traditionally, unmarried young folks have gathered around tables in living rooms and kitchens to sing hymns on Sunday evenings. Depending on the mind-set of the particular youth group, the gatherings occasionally are not so docile.
Courtship also takes place at home. A young Amish man typically has a date at his girlfriend's home after the Sunday evening singing. In some communities Saturday night is also a time for dating. Although the dating couples meet in the home, they are normally secluded from other members of the family, spending their time together in the formal parlor after the rest of the family has gone to bed.
One of the few major functions of life that does not take place in the home is school. However, even in this case the schools are small, one-room buildings maintained and managed by the Amish community. They are usually within walking distance of every student's home.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 -- Home: The Center of Amish Life
Chapter 2 -- Amish Architecture
Chapter 3 -- The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Amish Community
Chapter 4 -- The Stoltzfus Farm of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Chapter 5 -- The Holmes County, Ohio, Amish Community
Chapter 6 -- The Yoder-Miller Farm of Holmes County, Ohio
Chapter 7 -- The Elkhart-LaGrange, Indiana, Amish Community
Chapter 8 -- The Bontrager-Miller Farm of LaGrange County, Indiana
Readings and Sources
About the Author