Amish after words
The Feb. 8 Connections Out & About feature, “Old believers once abounded in Amity area,” brought forth responses from several readers able to lend additional insights.
According to online respondent “Ebbie,” “The title of the piece, ‘Old Believers,’ is misleading. When I lived in Oregon, Old Believers always referred to a Russian religious sect living in the Woodburn area, not to the Amish.”
Correction noted and appreciated.
A look into the subject shows that some 2,000 Russian Old Believers immigrated to Oregon in the 1960s to establish a colony between Gervais and Mount Angel.
They left Russia for China in the wake of the Bolshevik takeover in 1917, then left China for Brazil in the wake of the Maoist revolution in 1947. A search for better farmland brought them to Oregon.
A study undertaken by the Oregon History Project in 2002 determined there were nearly 10,000 Old Believers in Oregon, the largest concentration anywhere in the United States. Interesting as this may be, however, it’s getting me off the track.
Ebbie went on to say, “I remember well the Amish and their buggies in the early 50s. I was 10 years old and lived near Hook And Eye Lane, on a farm with my parents.”
The mention of that intriguing road name leads to one of the most illuminating responses this writer has ever received in regard to a story about local history. Apparently encouraged by Amity historian Doris Baker, Virgil Broadwater sent me this account:
“In May of 1946, Eddie Yoder and I were playing in a softball game at our school, Amity Grade School. We were playing McMinnville Junior High, and the game was still being played after school was out and our school bus had left.
“Eddie was our pitcher and I was playing second base. Our coach and school principal, Mr. Yoder, no relation to Eddie, asked us to stay and finish the game, saying he would take us both home. We decided to stay and finish the game, which we won.
“After the game was over, Eddie and I decided to walk home, since it was only about three miles. My home was on a road, now called “River Bend Road,” running west out of Whiteson. Eddie lived about three-quarters of a mile closer.
“But with time on our hands, we didn’t take a direct route. We started out west across the bridge over Salt Creek. Just after the bridge, we took a gravel road running north and west where it crossed the railroad tracks. Just past the tracks was an unnamed gravel road that ran northerly, parallel with the tracks, to River Bend Road.
“All of the families and farms that were along the west side of this road were of German descent, and were either Amish or Mennonite. Although Eddie was Amish, he was very outgoing. I asked him if we should name the road we were on. We walked on toward home discussing names.
“Eddie knew the slang name that was used to refer to this very good and religious group. Their clothes were hand-made. They used plain material with soft colors for the girls and ladies, while the boys and men wore plain denim. They used buttons, hooks and eyes for fasteners instead of zippers for their jackets and pants.
“I asked Eddie if he thought we could use the words ‘Hook and Eye Lane’ for the name of the road. We went to his house and found a couple of boards and then went to my house where I knew we had some paint and a brush.
“With our supplies in hand, we rode our bicycles back to the end of the road and nailed one of the boards to a telephone pole. I then painted ‘Hook And Eye Lane’ on it. We did the same thing at the other end of the road.
“Eddie said, ‘I hope nobody ever finds out I did this, as I would be skinned,’ and I figured the same applied to me. We didn’t think the signs would stay up for very long.
“The signs were eventually taken down, but were replaced by the county with metal signs. It must be official now, because the signs still read, ‘Hook And Eye Lane.’”
That’s apparently how Ebbie came to live near Hook And Eye Lane. She went on to say in her account:
“My family was part of that Amish colony from 1936 until 1949, then moved to a large Amish church in Virginia.
“Even though I have long since left the Amish community, I have many happy memories of those years — not to mention many Amish relatives, as Amish families typically are large.
“However, there are many factions of Amish.
“For instance, the writer is incorrect in believing the Amish didn’t have electricity in their homes in Oregon. In reality, only one Amish family did not have it.
“When he built their new home west of Whiteson, my uncle Will Miller chose not to install electricity. When he eventually sold the farm and moved to Oklahoma. he paid a heavy price for that, as the new owners had to retrofit the house.
“It is true that telephones and radios and record players were prohibited, as was any musical instrument larger than a harmonica. And some church leaders were not too sure about harmonicas.”
Research on the Amish can be a bit complex, as the Amish were an offshoot of the Mennonites, who were an offshoot in turn of the Anabaptists. More confusion can ensue if one begins to pursue references to the Hutterites or Church of the Brethren.
Wilma Chupp of McMinnville sent in her own enlightening information on behalf of her and her husband, Gordon:
“Both our parents were Amish. They left to join the Mennonites when they came to Oregon, but still had some of their Amish clothes. We can both speak Pennsylvania Dutch and still go back most years to visit Amish relatives in Kansas.
“You mentioned that the Amish met on alternate Sundays in each others’ homes, and that is true. But for at least some years at the end, there was a service on the in-between Sunday at the Briedwell School.
“Ben Slabach was the pastor at one time. So was Menno Swartzentruber, Gordon’s grandfather.
“Also, I wondered if you knew about the Amish cemetery, Taylor Cemetery in Whiteson. It is actually a pioneer cemetery, but many Amish are buried here. This includes my brother, Samuel, who died before I was born, and two of Gordon’s uncles.”
Chupp generously supplied me with the names and numbers of other people knowledgeable about the Amish of Amity.
And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — contemplating a future story about the “Old Order,” as I am told the local Amish called themselves.
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 503-687-1227.