Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Amish Bonafides


Last week I discovered some pictures of my maternal grandfather and grandmother. They were born in 1894. The first picture, on the left is of my grandfather as a young man, evidently before he joined the church, since he would be violating the ordnung by wearing a tie and having his picture taken, and judging from the cut of his hair. His coat, though is an Amish coat, with the lapel turned to make it appear to be an ordinary suit coat. I would guess he was around 17 - 18 years old, maybe about the time his father sent him east to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with a couple of thousand dollars in his pocket, to look for a wife. That was the trip, after which the Lancaster County bishops sent a letter to the Illinois bishops saying, "Don't send us any more of your young people because the last one taught our young people how to dance." The wife he found was back home in Illinois and the second picture is of my grandfather and grandmother in 1969, when he was a respected Amish bishop, 75 years old and not about to voluntarily allow anyone to snap his photograph. I am told that one of my cousins took this picture surreptitiously from a long way away. My how things change.

5 comments:

Linda said...

What a neat story about your grandfather. The pictures are great. I didn't know those type of suit coats could be forced into a modern collar. I wonder if your grandfather missed not wearing a tie after he joined the church? Probably not.

Amishlaw said...

Linda, I cropped the picture to just show a headshot. The complete picture shows how he folded the edge of his coat to make it look more modern -- well, not really. It looks like an Amish coat, they call it a "mufti," to make it look like a regular coat. It would be interesting to know what he really thought after he joined the church. He would sometimes make wry comments about weird Amish practices. I remember he once said that he doesn't know what it is about air that makes it worldly if you put it inside a tire. Also, before the Amish decided that farming with tractors was too worldly, he was one of the first farmers in the area to get a self-propelled tractor to use on his farm. Of his nine children, only two stayed Amish, so I am sure they picked up some questioning as they were raised.

Lydia said...

Wow - only two kids joined church? That sort of surprises me, though it reminds me that the professor for my class on the Amish said she originally set out to study them (in maybe the 50s) cuz it was assumed the culture would be dying out - as you know, it's done anything but. Glad to see that your lineage is of the bonnet-strings -in-front type of Amish, as that's the only correct kind ;).

Amishlaw said...

It's interesting, Lydia, that of the two of my grandfather's children who stayed Amish, none of their children left the Amish church. I speculate that there was something happening in the mid-50's that was causing a lot of Amish to leave the church,and whatever it was hasn't reoccurred because by and large most Amish stay in the church. Since they have large families (7-12 children) their population is expanding dramatically, and there are a lot of Amish communities now in places that didn't have them 50 years ago.

Lydia said...

Interesting! I wonder what it was about the 50's? I'd learned in class that the communities had grown and spread because so few don't join the church. I wonder if it was the same for far-flung Amish communities or if it was a local phenomenon. Hmm!