08 March 2016
Channeling my inner Amish
Over the course of about the last two years, our preservation organization has been working on telling the "untold" stories of certain cultural groups and enclaves that settled in our county. The Amish, who first settled in 1850, have become a large part of our population and continue to expand. My great x3 grandfather, Samuel Hochstetler, was the first Amish to settle with his family in our county in that year, followed by four other families in the course of the next five years.
While on the path to discovery, our chief genealogist organized a meeting with the historian of the local Amish church and asked if I wanted to participate in the meeting. He just happened to live at my great x3 grandfather's farm. So, certainly. He took us to the grave of my ancestor at the community's cemetery next to their first school. And his grandson gave me a tour of the farmhouse and barn.
Last year, several cemeteries in that township were featured in a tour and my genealogist friend asked if I would be willing to play Sam Hochstetler and discuss the migration of Amish from Ohio to the area. I've done these cemetery tours before, but this one really caught my interest. But, I needed to dress the part and our family gave up those simple clothes a long time ago. A mutual contractor-friend of mine, an Amish fellow who was almost exactly my size, loaned his Sunday best so that I could look the part. The clothes fit like they were customized for me.
And so, with many of the Amish gazing on that cold May day, I did my best to tell them about their history, which most seemed to know quite well. Talk about a tough crowd. The first thing I asked was how they used the bathroom with all of the hooks and flaps and straps.....evidently, that was taboo. And then several poked at me with questions in Pennsylvania Deitsch. It was both awkward and communal, if that's possible.