Edwards Amish Population Continues Its Growth Spurt

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Six Old Order Amish families moved from Pennsylvania to the Edwards area in the spring of 2018. Since then, the number of families has increased to 13. One very hospitable Amish wife and mother of 12 from the settlement agreed to talk about her family’s life and some of the cultural differences between Amish and “English.” She deferred to Amish custom, and asked that photos not be taken, and that her name not be used in this article.
She said that Amish people who moved here came from a settlement in Pennsylvania that was established in 1967. Most of the people who had been in that settlement for a long time had originally  belonged to a settlement in Ohio that had been around for a hundred years or more.
“We came here because traffic on the roads was becoming more dangerous in Pennsylvania, and the weather in Missouri is milder,” said the Amish Woman. “I was also surprised by the kindness of people who welcomed us to this community, and waved when they saw us. We even received welcoming gift bags from “English” ladies near our settlement.”
Amish Woman invited this reporter and an “English” woman, who was a friend to both, into her living room where a short history of some of the furniture was discussed. She had a small bench made for young children that her husband’s grandfather had built. Her couch was an ornate wooden pew-like structure with padding and an attractive throw on the back. There were hardwood floors and several rocking chairs arranged around the room. Two grandfather clocks and a thermometer, as well as a calendar, decorated the walls. A small Rayo lantern sat on a table that  Amish Woman said she used in the morning, and two pressure gas lantern, used later in the day, were on the mantel and in a corner. She had a treadle sewing machine hidden by a hanging plant and numerous indoor potted plants set on a table by the window. One of the Amish Woman’s daughters could be heard washing dishes in the kitchen, and another was seen in an outbuilding using the washing machine that was hooked up to a Honda motor.
This Amish family heats their house with a wood-burning stove that is also for cooking. Amish Woman also has a one-burner plate that is heated with mineral oils or just oil. She tends to use it more in the summer. No one in the settlement owns a car.
One of the routines of the Edwards Area Amish people is to go to church every other Sunday. Services are held in different, alternating family houses. The host family does a lot of house cleaning and plenty of chairs are put out for guests. Lunch is always served after church services with kind of a pot luck array of foods from all attending. Amish Woman said that the Amish family that is farthest away from the majority of people in the settlement lives across Hwy 65 near Fristoe. It takes her family about one and a half hours in their buggy to get there. On in-between Sundays, the Amish have visitations with one another. Courting couples are able to see each other at church services.
Amish Woman said that every family has a closed buggy, and some also have a wagon. The buggies are pulled by one horse. Each family usually has a barn for horses, but the barn is not needed as much in Missouri as it was in the colder weather in Pennsylvania. The Amish have been concerned about traffic on Hwy M because of all the hills that make it hard to see a buggy when it is on the other side of the hill from the driver of a car. There was one accident where a motorcycle frightened a horse, causing it to leave the road, resulting in the demolition of the buggy, breaking of a young baby’s leg and injury of an Amish man.
Although Amish Woman had a dry-goods store in Pennsylvania where she sold fabric, and other sewing implements needed for making clothing, she has not had time to start such a business locally. She and other Amish women make their own clothes from patterns that have been passed down for many generations. Patterns do not go by size, but by age. So a pattern for a 9-year old boy might or might not fit. The main business for the Amish is building houses. Two families also raise and sell produce, and cattle are raised to be sold in the fall. There is also one blacksmith who takes care of horses. The women often sell eggs and baked products. There are some Amish men who are available for carpentry or other related jobs in the local area. They can be reached by visiting one of the Amish houses, or by putting a note with phone number in one of the mailboxes at the junction of Hwy M and Rockingbird Lane in Edwards.
The Amish have no phones, but are grateful to some “English” who let them borrow a phone when they need it for business calls or emergencies. They also have a few “English” friends who provide taxi services when they need to go somewhere that is not suitable for a buggy ride.  Sometimes Amish Woman and some other ladies like to go to Versailles to shop for Christmas gifts, and to do other business in Windsor or other nearby towns or cities. They are looking for anyone with a mini-van or large van to provide taxi services for large families, or for large groups of people.
Amish children go to school from first to eighth grade. Last year there were 28 students and this year 26, since two graduated. They are taught Arithmetic, Spelling, English, History and Cursive Handwriting. On Fridays, they are taught German. Amish Woman taught school last year, and this year there two new teachers. Most of the student desks are single with raised tops, or have a firm top and an opening underneath for supplies. The desks are often gotten from public schools who decide to replace these type of desks with something new. School usually takes place from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, Monday through Friday. There are 160 school days with only one day off for Christmas, one day for Thanksgiving, a day for Good Friday, and a day for “Old Christmas” which is celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas. School is out for the summer.
Amish Woman said that everyone in the settlement seems glad to be here, but there are some difficulties. For one thing, when they want to travel, (say- back to Pennsylvania) they have to make plans ahead of time because some trains do not take cash and they have to mail in a check to get tickets.  For those who have used buses in the past, the route that they took has been cancelled.
As in all Amish settlements, when new Amish families move in, frolics are scheduled and the men and boys come together to build houses. Family, community and faith are very important to all. When families began moving to Missouri, it took a lot of work and patience. But, the frolics helped them get settled. One day, Amish Woman hopes to have a quilting frolic, and that might turn out some of the traditional, beautiful quilts that are so popular. Amish Woman said that she would like to see a food store too.
Amish Woman said that one thing that the “English” may not know about them is that Amish pay taxes. She also said that letters are a very important way to keep in touch with each other. She displayed what is called a circle letter that had a sheet with names of friends in four states and many settlements. Each person in this circle letter group writes a letter, and it is added to a batch of previous letters from others in the group. The whole batch is then sent to the next person on the list. As the data sheet is passed on, updates are made to show marriages and new addresses.
“Letter writing was very important to me when we first moved here,” said Amish Woman. “I looked forward especially to getting letters.” 
The clothing and hair styles of Old Order Amish have not changed for a long time. Both men and women wear plain or solid colors, the darker the better. Women wear a white cap when at home, and usually wear the well-known black bonnet when in public. They only wear their long hair around their families. They don’t usually cut their hair, unless it is very thick and unmanageable. When a young man marries, he starts growing a beard. That is a good way for a young woman to know who is single and who is married. Amish Woman said that during this COVID-19 time, the masks are difficult to wear for men with beards.
Amish people have senses of humor. While this reporter was completing the interview, Amish Woman was asked by the third woman in the room to display the little wooden house that was sitting on the mantel. It was made by the man of the house. A closer look determined that it was a model of an outhouse and when the little door was opened the house suddenly dismantled into pieces flying in all directions, ending up on the floor. It was a startling, unexpected event, and supposedly it was meant to have that affect. Apparently, Amish men make these outhouses with a mousetrap inside connected to the door and when the door opens the mousetrap goes off shedding walls. They are used as “joke” gifts, and sometimes have a fake spider or snake that jumps out when the door is opened. So, beware of Amish offering gifts?