Last fall Gary and I drove some Amish horse-loving friends to a Dutch Harness horse auction in northern Ohio. These are two-day events, and all the way over we were trying to think of something to do while our friends were schmoozing at the auction.
Right before we got there, Emmon provided the spark. He pointed out a rather rustic-looking farm and said, “Those are Swartzentruber Amish.” I’d always wanted to snoop around a Swartzentruber community—they are among the very most conservative of all the Amish!—so Gary and I were off to the races, so to speak.
We dropped off our friends and then I got on my iPad to figure out where these reclusive Amish could mainly be found. I went to one of the most reliable sites on the internet for info on the Amish—amishamerica.com. Sure enough, Erik had the answer for me, and we headed north to Lodi, Ohio.
Sidetrack: A little background, from the above-mentioned website. The Swartzentruber Amish are more restrictive than other Old Order Amish groups in the technology they allow. Their clothing is heavier and plainer, especially for the women. They don’t hire cars except in emergencies. Their church services are closer to four hours than three. They keep an even greater distance from the English (non-Amish) than the other Amish groups. Their education is very basic, even compared to other Amish groups.
Ironically (or maybe not!), their youth have a reputation for wild behavior.
The Swartzentrubers have no indoor plumbing or hot water and still use outhouses. Their farms are much rougher in appearance, with unnecessary paint and landscaping and gravel looked upon as “fancy.” They refuse to have orange safety triangles on the back of their buggies and wagons, even at the threat of legal prosecution. Their buggies also lack windshields and the battery-powered safety lighting that is standard in other Amish communities.
They don’t use the pneumatic, hydraulic, or battery-powered tools common in other Amish business and farms, using only line shafts powered by a diesel engine. Their dairy farms can sell their milk only as “B grade,” due to the lack of cooling tanks which are commonly used in other Amish areas. Their retail businesses don’t have separate buildings, nor do they advertise beyond signs on the road. They have lower incomes, larger families, and are less likely to seek conventional medical care. All in all, they are what the Amish would call “low Amish”—very far removed from mainstream society.
The Swartzentrubers were formed out of a split in the Holmes County, Ohio Amish in about 1913. This splinter group felt that the mainstream Amish weren’t strict enough about shunning those who left the Amish church. You would think that such a group would stay small or die out, but on the contrary, they are growing. This splinter group can now be found in thirteen states and Ontario, Canada.
Now, back to our visit:
We headed to Lodi and then started wandering the nearby roads. Soon we saw the telltale ruts in the road that told us we had ‘struck Amish.’
Soon we saw Swartzentruber farms. Here are a few, top of post and below:
The farms had the type of signs that amishamerica.com had mentioned. Here below are two:
We passed several roadside produce stands:
Blue clothing is said to be common here, as seen on this clothesline:
We also stopped and talked to several people, but we didn’t take pictures. But I did have some photos of Swartzentruber men that I took (from inside my car) last year at a horse auction, which shows how they typically dress:
In Lodi, I got this stealth photo of one of their buggies:
At the same auction last year, I was able to take a better photo of one of their buggies, below. You can see the lack of a front wall, exterior lights, and other features common in other Amish communities.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Lodi, Ohio community of Swartzentruber Amish!