I was out singing for Mrs. R. a few weeks ago (I’ve talked about her before), and I heard the most wonderful love story! I thought it was worth sharing, especially since my beloved Mrs. R. is one of the main characters.
I worked on her family’s genealogy a few months ago, and I noticed that her late husband was from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Although Lancaster is one of the largest Amish settlements in existence, nevertheless, it is rare for someone from Lancaster County to come out to Amish Indiana and settle here—so I was curious and asked the family how that came to be. Mrs. R. has a hard time talking due to her stroke, but her daughter-in-law filled me in while Mrs. R. listened and smiled. Out of that conversation came the most amazing story…
The year was 1958. Three young Amishmen from Lancaster County were traveling west on a vacation to California to see the redwoods—Hank, Frank, and Eli (not his real name). Eli’s mother had made him promise to stop in Indiana on their way out west, to visit an uncle who lived in Nappanee.
While in Shipshewana, Eli decided to go to the Sunday night singing being held nearby for the local young people. (These singings are one of the main social mixers for young unmarried Amish.) While there, he met a young lady who instantly captured his heart. (That would be my beloved Mrs. R.!)
Eli knew at once that he had found what he was looking for. So did she, apparently, because when Eli asked her if he could see her home that evening, she let her boyfriend Sam know that she wouldn’t be needing his help getting home that night. She managed to tell me that she still remembers the look on Sam’s face!
Eli told his young traveling companions to go on out west without him—but they ended up heading back to Pennsylvania instead. Eli returned with them, but not before starting up a friendship with the young lady that was carried on with letters and visits back and forth for the next two years.
As things got serious, she wondered what it would be like to leave family and friends and start life with Eli in Pennsylvania—an area where the Amish dress a bit differently and live by slightly different rules. She says now that she was ready to do so—but it turned out not to be a decision she had to make. Eli was perfectly willing to settle down in northern Indiana. He soon moved out to Indiana and lived with an Amish bishop named Yoder and his family.
The young couple got married in 1960, and before long they bought a farm near Shipshewana, where Eli made his living as a carpenter. God blessed them with six daughters and six sons and a good life together.
Tragically, Eli died of a heart attack at age 52, leaving behind his wife and twelve children—nine still at home... So Mrs. R. has been a widow for a very long time! I’ll bet she could tell me a lot of stories, if it was easier for her to speak. I hope someday she will.
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