By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Old Believers once abounded

ShutterstockHorsedrawn buggies are a common sight near Amish communities. The largest settlements are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois.
Horsedrawn buggies are a common sight near Amish communities. The largest settlements are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois.

Over time, readers with deep roots in the valley have mentioned a sizable community of Amish that  once populated the Amity area, with Whiteson serving as the apparent hub.

Curiosity about this group, and the extent of its local size and scope, prompted this story.

Thanks are gratefully extended to the Yamhill County Historical Society for information on this subject. The society maintains a treasure trove of material about the county’s fascinating past.

Even more credit must be given to Father Martinus Cawley of the Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, whose extensive research culminated in the publication of “The Amish of Amity” in 2003.

You will note that no close-up photographs of Amish people accompany this story. Why?

People call attention to themselves when they allow their photos to be taken, and that defies the sect’s key tenet of humility. Perhaps even more central to their beliefs is the Biblical commandment from Exodus 20:4, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image,” and a view that photographs represent a violation.

The so-called “plain people” diligently adhere to a simple, spartan lifestyle. This requires considerable self-discipline, particularly given the temptations proffered by “The English” — the blanket term the Amish use for outsiders.

Since their congregations typically consist of just a few families, Amish colonies have traditionally used their private homes as places of worship. One or more homes in the unincorporated community of Whiteson, lying just north of Amity on Highway 99W, must have served as local meeting places.

More than one person I spoke with had a vivid recollection of seeing them on Sundays, converging from all directions in their black, horse-drawn carriages.

In the manner of Amish worship, that would have been only every other Sunday, though. The alternate Sunday was set aside for visiting relatives and friends some distance away, requiring a lengthy buggy ride.

Since their houses had no electricity, living from dawn to dusk was a way of life. Under the circumstances, one comes to covet the daylight hours made possible by nature or, in effect, by God.

The Amish were very much in evidence in and around the area through the 1960s. Father Cawley’s research turned up evidence of three separate colonies.

The first group came to the Amity area from Clackamas County in 1895, seeking farmland for newly married couples. Apparently, there was no longer enough land around the colony they had established east of Hubbard some 20 years earlier.

Cawley said some sort of “crisis,” the nature unknown, compelled that colony to pull up stakes and move to California in 1913.

About a year later, several members returned. They remained in the area until about 1930.

A new group arrived in 1935. It reached its height in the early 1940s, then began to dwindle as older members died and younger members opted to join better established colonies elsewhere.

By the late 1960s, only a few remained. By the mid-1970s, even they were gone.

Farming has always been the Amish mainstay. In that regard, the Yamhill Valley was ideal.

But maintaining the principles of Amish beliefs requires a solid support group. Outsiders seems to look on them as a quirky bunch — at best, tolerating them and respecting their right to live according to their own beliefs, at worst, making fun of them and perhaps even badgering them when encounters occur.

The truth is that the Amish honor and embrace Jesus Christ as much if not more than any other Christian denomination. For the Amish, daily life and religion are incontrovertibly intertwined.

They are fundamental adherents of the German Bible of Martin Luther, publishd in 1534. Father Cawley’s book explains in detail their history and beliefs.

These devout, communal Christians are late 17th century offshoots of the Mennonites of Germany and Switzerland. They take their name from their original leader, the young minister Jacob Ammann.

His views, and his forceful presentation of them, attracted a sizable following. And its descendants have carried those views forward ever since.

Amish teachings demand strict adherence internally. They only place one demand on the outside the world — “a place where we can live at peace in the manner we choose.”

Marriage is entered into with absolute finality. There is no such thing as divorce.

After marrying, men are expected to grow full beards, but without mustaches, which are considered aggressive. Women are expected to exchange white aprons for black ones.

Symbolic practices, such as use of “hook and eye” fasteners for clothing, set them even more part. This unique convention harkens back to a time before buttons became commonplace.

That explains the origin of Hook and Eye Lane, between Highways 18 and 88W just northwest of Amity.

With no telephones, no radios, no television sets and no computers, the Amish rely on face-to-face communication for interaction with friends and relatives close at hand and letters for interaction with those living farther away.

To have no interest in the outside world, beyond that with which they must deal in order to obey laws and follow governmental rules and regulations, is perhaps the most confounding thing to observers.

Old Order Brethren — another term applied to the Amish — show zero tolerance for those who fall away from the pure path dictated by their strict teachings. And that’s understandable, considering what might happen if they began to allow worldly ways into their lives.

As a consequence, excommunication and shunning can be fast and final when one stays too far.

Father Cawley’s “The Amish of Amity: Memories of Oregon’s Plain People,” is available for purchase at the Yamhill County Historical Society’s Miller Museum, its log cabin headquarters in Lafayette. And the book includes a section, complete with maps, providing directions for anyone interested in touring local areas once occupied by the Amish.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.



My family were part of that Amish colony from 1936 until 1949 when they moved to a large Amish church in Virginia. Even though I long since left the Amish community I have many happy memories of those years – not to mention, many Amish relatives. 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 it- the new owners had to retro-fit 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 of harmonicas. :)


Incidentally, the title of this piece "Old Believers" is misleading. Old Believers, when I lived in Oregon always referred to a Russian religious sect living in the Woodburn area, not to the Amish.


As a “johnny come lately” compared to a lot of us, Karl, we know that Old Timers are largely identified with Woodburn, Oregon. They are of Russian decent, mostly.

Here is an article that explains how they got here, etc.

Dances with Redwoods

Karl can be kinda funny that way. I've always enjoyed his take on things, whether real ..or.. imagined.

Michael Tubbs Sr

While we're on the subject of what is real, and what is imagined, did anyone other than myself and my wife hear a rather slightly loud rumbling or fluttering tone during the early AM this morning ... out here in Grand Ronde?

I've only heard/felt/experienced that particular sound only twice so far in my life. Once back in late December of 1992, and the other back in mid September of 1978.

The first time, I was watching a bullet coming at me that ended up lodged (of all places) in the back of my throat. It actually passed through my adams apple on journey there. The second time that I'd heard that similar sound, it had been made by a meteorite that at the time (roughly about 22:00) had the appearance of a flaming VW Beetle tumbling across the sky above my two young daughters and I.

At the time (1992) I'd been pointing out various constellations from a snow covered vantage point roughly about 14 miles from the Yosemite Valley.


A bullet into the throat? Sounds like a story there!

Any idea of what you heard this morning?

Michael Tubbs Sr

No Ebbie, haven't been able to figure that out yet. Whatever it was didn't seem to bother any of our three dogs so I was kinda stumped as to why only my wife and I had heard it. After having turned on the computer and seen the news about the meteor over Russia this morning, thought maybe something similar in nature had occurred in our vicinity, but, I guess not. Though it did sound a heck of a lot like what my daughters and myself heard that night up in the Sierras.

The sound of the bullet coming at me made a somewhat scaled down, yet similar sound. What I'd thought to be the sound of the fluttering wings of a very rapidly approaching bug, apparently had been the heat radiating from around the bullet.

Burned like hell for a bit, some blood ran down my down my neck, but then the bleeding had stopped by the time I'd made it out of the woods and into the cab of my truck. I chalked it up as a bug bite drove home. About a year later my throat swelled up real bad and one of my buddies (Dar Polhman) looked down inside my throat with the aid of a dental mirror and a pen-light, then he employed a bent shisk-ka-bob skewer that enabled him to arch over my tongue and down deep enough to dislodge what appeared to be a small meteorite, while his wife (Liz) pinned my head down on her kitchen table during the operation. Real nice lady.

I hacked it up and into his hand. He then told me that I'd been shot. I said really?

He pulled out his buck knife, cut it in two, and sure enough, the little meteorite was pure lead.



Michael Tubbs Sr

Sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. Anything you'd like to share that others may view as a somewhat out of the ordinary experience, Ebbie?

Michael Tubbs Sr

That is, providing of cousre, that Karl doesn't object too much to our hi-jacking his 'buggy ride' down memory lane.


I remember well thr Amish and thier buggies the early fifties.I was ten years old and lived near Hook And Eye lane on a farm with my parents.I went to school with Sylvia Miller.Frieda weaver.Ben Chupp Mahlon Troyer.I picked beans in the fields with them.They were very hard workers. Betty Riley Schara-Snow.

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