An expert on Old Order life uses a story approach to provide the most detailed, authentic, and interesting account of the Amish wedding ever published. Other stories depict a funeral, auctions, choosing a minister, and an Old Order meeting. Captures a sense of community.
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Chapter 1 -- A Lancaster Amish Wedding
It was eight o'clock and pitch dark on a chilly October night. A gray-top carriage traveled north on Newport Road, its red flashers and red triangle warning motorists of a slow moving vehicle. But the horse pulling this vehicle was far from slow in comparison to other standardbred steeds. The driver, Levi Lapp, a young man of twenty-four, urged the horse on. He had already traveled eight miles from his home near Gap and the remaining four miles would take twenty minutes more.
Levi checked in his coat pocket to make sure he had the letter; without it his journey would be wasted. Just last week he had gone to the deacon of his church district to request this Zeugniss/ or testimonial letter, which could not be obtained until the fall communion after the October 11 fast day. Deacon Abe Stoltzfus took Levi's request to the bishop and two ministers in the church. Each put his signature on a letter, handwritten in old German script, which gave witness that Levi Lapp was a member in good standing in the Pequea Lower South District.
Levi was glad that the church had faith in him even though he had lived a wild life before his baptism the previous fall. Levi had run with the "Mule Skinners," one of the rougher Amish young people's groups, and had even played guitar in the group's band which performed at Saturday night hops. But now he was through with that way of life. Levi's brother Sylvan had always admonished him, more by his life than with words, that the life he was living was not right. Then after the terrible accident two years ago that left Levi's best buddy in a wheelchair and hospitalized Levi for a month, Levi saw the error of his ways. Against the taunts of his buddies he had joined Sylvan's group, the "Quails." The Quail members did not feel that it was necessary to live undisciplined lives before settling down. Sylvan, although younger than Levi, had been baptized several years before him.
Levi had gotten rid of his guitar and fancy clothes. He no longer drove the car he and a number of his buddies had jointly owned. Levi started wearing a hat consistently and had his hair cut in the order of the church.
It was after he joined the Quails that Levi met Mary Beiler. He had observed Mary at the Sunday night singins, a tall, thin girl of 21 with ash blonde hair and blue eyes. Mary wasn't the prettiest girl Levi had ever seen, but something about her attracted him. She was very quiet but not shy with the other girls; she seemed to be well liked. Mary never joined in the fun that some of the more wayward Quails indulged in (even the Quails had bad eggs). Perhaps Levi saw Mary as a source of the stability he so much desired. Levi wasn't sure if Mary would even consider a boy like him who had had such a bad reputation, but she accepted a date.
Amish church services are held every other Sunday. Every Saturday night preceding the "off Sunday" in Mary's church district, Levi went to Mary's house for a date. They often visited married brothers and sisters or cousins on their dates. In earlier times, dating had been more secretive than it was now. Not long ago dating couples would hardly admit that they were courting. There was still, however, a certain reluctance to talk about the matter too much.
Sometimes Levi and Mary got together with their "buddy group" of close friends on Saturday nights. They did not, however, go to the hops or hoedowns that were discouraged by the church. Levi didn't often enjoy the privilege of taking Mary home after the Sunday evening singings. They lived too far apart to justify driving away half the night with a horse and buggy. But Levi's love and respect for Mary grew as they got to know each other better or their visits. She was far different from the girls he had dated among the Mule Skinners.
Levi turned onto Leola Road and passed two farms before he came to the lane of Isaac Zook, the deacon in the Mill Creek Middle West District. Levi really did not know this man at all. He had seen him only a few times. In a large Amish community like Lancaster it was impossible to know everyone in the 84 church districts. Levi nervously knocked on the door of the small western addition of the house, as Mary had told him to; Isaac's son and his family lived in the larger part of the house.
Isaac had been napping in a hickory rocker. "Ike, someone's at the door," his plump wife Katie announced as she pieced quilt patches at her threadle sewing machine.
Isaac laid aside the copy of the Botschaft/ newspaper he had been trying to read before he dozed off. He slowly stretched his short but wiry figure and shuffled to the door. He had spent a long day picking corn--a job which he concluded was almost too much for a man of 67 years. Isaac's hair was thin and white, his face deeply etched. Not only had he seen many days of hard labor on the farm, but his work as a deacon had involved a great deal of heavy responsibility.
The man opened the door and greeted the apprehensive young man standing there. The two stepped out into the yard. Levi introduced himself and stated the purpose of his visit. Isaac could have guessed; he anticipate such visits from young men soon after fall communion. Many had appeared at his door during his 32 years as deacon.
Levi explained that he wished to marry Mary Beiler and presented the Zeugniss. Yes, Isaac knew Mary; she lived only a mile and a half away. She had been their hired girl when Katie was sick last winter. Yes, deacon Isaac would take care of the matter. Before departing Levi looked Isaac in the eye and with a strained voice said, "Remember us in your prayers for the next step we are about to take."
Early the next week Isaac walked to the Aaron and Barbara Beiler home. He would not act as the Schteckliman/ or go-between. It was eight-thirty in the evening when he arrived, and the youngest of the Beiler children were in bed. Mary and her oldest brother, Mose, were sitting in the kitchen with their parents. Isaac rapped on the door and Mose sprang to answer. He returned with a sly grin and told Mary someone wished to see her. Mose plopped in the chair and beamed over his magazine as Mary blushed and went to the door. Isaac extended his hand, which seemed a strange formality to Mary from someone she knew so well. Isaac seemed more businesslike than normal, although his tone was kind. He cleared his throat and asked if it was true that she and Levi Lapp planned to be married. Mary verified this report. Isaac cleared his throat again. "Can you say that you have remained pure?"
It was never easy for him to ask this. But Mary could look Isaac in the eye and honestly answer in the affirmative. This was all Isaac needed, and he was soon on his way. He sometimes had the unpleasant task of telling a young woman that she would need to change the way she dressed before the marriage could be performed, but this was not necessary in Mary's case.
Mary was glad she could answer yes to the deacon's second question. She could not imagine the shame of having to confess in church the sin of impurity and not being able to wear a white cape and apron nor have the evening part of the wedding.
Back in May, Mary had shyly told her mother about her plans to mary Levi. Aaron and Barbara Beiler had known about their daughter's relationship with Levi Lapp, but had made it a point to stay in the kitchen while Levi and Mary visited in the parlor on Saturday nights. The Beilers were concerned that Mary would marry a young man who would be a good husband and father and a loyal member of the church. They had some misgivings about Levi at first, but soon became convinced that he had truly had a change of heart. Levi's conversion was obvious to the whole community.
Table of ContentsTable of Contents
Chapter 1 -- A Lancaster Amish Wedding
Chapter 2 -- Other Wedding Practices
Chapter 3 -- A Woolwich Mennonite Baptism
Chapter 4 -- Choosing a Minister: Holmes County
Chapter 5 -- An Old German Baptist Annual Meeting
Chapter 6 -- Meetings of Other Groups
Chapter 7 -- An Amish Sunday in LaGrange County, Indiana
Chapter 8 -- A Big Valley Amish Funeral
Chapter 9 -- The Auction at Bart
Chapter 10 -- Holidays, Family Days, and Working Days
About the Plain Groups
Readings and Sources
About the Author