In my last post I talked about the conservative yellow buggy (Byler) Amish of the Big Valley area in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. This time, I’ll focus on their even-more-conservative neighbors—the Nebraska or white buggy Amish. They weren’t easy to find, but it was worth the effort! We asked around, and drove further and further out from the town of Belleville, Pennsylvania, before we found the area where they live. It’s both beautiful and remote.
Experts say that the Nebraska Amish, along with the Schwartzentruber Amish, are the most conservative Amish groups in America. The Nebraska Amish are found mainly in the Kishacoquillas or Big Valley, with a smaller group in northeastern Ohio. They broke from the Byler Amish in 1880, desiring to live more conservatively than their Byler brethren.
For more information on the white buggy or Nebraska Amish, I found two online resources to be very helpful: Erik Wesner’s excellent Amish America website and the University of Pennsylvania’s “Center for the Book.”
The most obvious difference to the outsider is in their buggies. The Nebraska Amish (named after their original bishop, Yost Yoder, who was from Nebraska) drive white-topped buggies (undyed fabric) which are simpler than the buggies of other groups. There is no front to the buggy, either below or above.
The men wear longer hair than other groups—it has been called “William Penn style” in that it is closer to shoulder-length and long on the sides. Their hats have a wider brim. The men do not wear suspenders or belts. Their normal attire is brown denim pants and vests and white shirts, with gray coats.
Unlike other Amish groups, the Nebraska Amish women are not allowed to wear bonnets, opting instead for black or white kerchiefs. When working in the fields, they wear a flat straw hat which resembles those worn by Alsatian peasant women. Their dresses are longer than other Amish groups.
In the fields, the Nebraska Amish, like other Amish groups, don’t use tractors.
In their homes, certain things which my Amish friends in Indiana take for granted, are not allowed here. There are no curtains, no carpets, and no screens on the windows. Motorized lawn mowers are forbidden. Barns are normally left unpainted. Houses used to be unpainted as well, but this seems to be changing. Projecting roof gables are not allowed—and this issue is so important to the Nebraska Amish that they split over it in 1933!
Is such an ultra-conservative group dying out in modern times? On the contrary. In Mifflin County, there are three distinct Amish groups (black buggy, yellow buggy, and white buggy)—and the white buggy (Nebraska) Amish, who number perhaps 2,000 altogether, are the largest and fastest-growing of the three.