Working Alongside Some Mennonite Women, 2005, Part 1

17 01 2008

Western Kentucky is the home of many Mennonite and Amish groups.  Having grown up in Western Kentucky–I can tell you that has not always been the story.  My first aquaintance with the horse and buggy people was in Iowa in l973.  My husband to be took me home with him for Christmas vacation.  His little rural area that he grew up in had quite a few Mennonite and Amish communites.  I was amazed at seeing the people in their old fashioned dress.  I was even more facinated with their travel by horse and buggy.  Well, as I returned to Kentucky and later back to college in Alabama–I soon forgot about these charming folk.  I never had occasion to see them again until our family moved from Alabama to Western Kentucky in l985.

The Mennonites and Amish had taken a liking to Western Kentucky in the thirteen years than I had been gone.  I began seeing them everywhere.  Traveling to and from surrounding counties –I saw more and more communities of them.  I was later to learn that many of these people had grown tired of their communites in Pennsylvania and Ohio –being infiltrated with commercialism.  Land was fairly inexpensive in Kentucky.  Thus, they began migrating to Kentucky–especially Western Kentucky.

The Mennoites and Amish can trace their roots to the Anabaptists of the 16th century. They were greatly persecuted for their stand against infant baptism.  In fact, many of the reformers actually murdered many of these people.  They began traveling to America so that they could have their religious freedom. 

Today there are so many different groups of Mennonites and Amish –that one can not define them easily.  Some of the groups have developed very modern ways.  For instance, an Amish group about 13 miles from our home maintain the old fashioned dress but have electricity and telephones.  They have built a community center that has modern refrigeration, stoves, microwaves, etc.  Once a month they cook a dinner and invite the public.  We usually try to attend this dinner.  It has become very popular and we see many people we know at this function.  Yet this group won’t drive cars.  They buy tractors and build little wooden trailors that they attach to the trailors.  The women and children ride in these trailors. 

I can remember getting so very excited about seeing a horse and buggy tied up to a pole at our Wal-Mart in our first years back in Kentucky.  Now the horse and buggy traffic has greatly increased.  On our way to Murfreesboro, Tn. on Sunday mornings–we often see the horses and buggies right on the four lane highway before we pick up the interstate road.  ( No, they don’t dare enter an interstate.  They would never survive)

In August 2004, Maria, my daughter moved to a very rual area.  She was so excited that she was surrounded by an old order Mennonite group.  Those first couple of months she lived there–I made quite a few visits. The Mennonites owned all of the land beyond her backyard fence line.  Quite often horses would be in the wooded area.  One Sunday afternoon the fence line broke and some of the Mennonite’s cows were in her backyard.  She called me very excited that a group of men had come to retrieve their cows and to fix the fence.

In September of that year this group were harvesting their sorghum crop.  They had built their own processing plant to make the sorghum syrup which is much like molasses. Maria and I just had to find out how they made their sorghum –thus, we ventured down to their plant.  Just outside this plant, many of the men were taking a break to eat water melon.  Likewise, their workhorses were also eating watermelon.  Inside the plant, I was shocked to see men and boys working barefoot.  They had a creative system whereby the finished sorghum went through pipes down to another level where it was poured out by a spout.  On this lower level there were several young women pouring it into jars.  I remember one mother having a baby in her lap as she worked.  Then labels were put on the jars and the jars were placed in boxes. 

The next adventure Maria and I had was to follow a sign on the road that advertised the sell of fresh farm eggs.  We just had to find out about the family that sold these eggs.  So we drove the narrow path to the farmhouse.  A mother of about ten children came to the door.  She was very gracious to talk with.  We asked if we could buy a couple of dozen eggs.  Standing on the porch, we noticed the chicken coops.  They were large and spacious.  The chickens had so much room to roam around freely.  We took our eggs back to Maria’s home.  There was a curiosity in both of us to learn more about these old order Mennonite people.

This is the background for an opportunity that Maria and I had in 2005 to actually get to know the women in this community.  For the next several posts , I will give an account of some of our adventures.  I hope you stay with me for all of the details.

God bless each of you!

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7 responses

17 01 2008
Brent WC

Greetings Nichole:

It was interesting to see horse and buggy on Ft. Campbell boulevard when I was last in Hopkinsville with John in 2001. The influx to Christian County is fairly recent, I know.

Having lived in Bowling Green seven years, I had significant contact with Amish and Mennenites in Logan and Todd Counties. THOSE COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN THERE FOR A GREAT MANY YEARS AND PROBABLY NETWORKED WITH THE NEWCOMERS ABOUT ACQUIRING LAND AND RELOCATING.

The Shaker museum is in Warren County also, of which Bowling Green is the County seat. The shakers did not believe in the consumation of marriage, and as a result, they ceased to exist after awhile.

Those eggs sound pretty tasty and natural, not to mention the molasses that my sweet tastes fancy. God bless you and Jim.

17 01 2008
nichole3

You are probably right about the networking. You lived in Kentucky during most of the time I was in Alabama–so you know more of their history of coming to Kentucky. Thanks for commenting!

Blessings to you,
Sis

21 01 2008
Maria

Mom – you are right on target – Good memories.
Love Maria

21 01 2008
nichole3

Thanks, Maria

They are indeed good memories.

love,
Mom

30 01 2008
June Patterson

I would love to hear about your future visits to the Amish communities.

1 02 2008
nichole3

June,
Thanks so much for commenting. I don’t actively go in their homes any more. However, Maria my daughter has quite a few stories of her own. She lives in that community.

Nichole

11 05 2010
MicytEss5

Such a pleasant article! I am so glad you decided to write about it.

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