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A History of the Amish of Lawrence County
By: Doyce Shaddix
The Lawrence County Historical Society met Thursday October 22, 2015 at the Old Jail Museum on Waterloo Street.
In the absence of President Curtis Peters, the meeting was called to order by Vice-President Denny Miner. The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag was led by Martha Ann Alford. Forty-six visitors have toured the Old Jail Museum since the September meeting. Twenty-three were with a group from Sylacauga, Alabama.
Dot Becker donated a whiskey jug that was found 70 years ago by her aunt. It was on the property belonging to Lem Motlow, owner of the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, where she lived. A sword, photos, and very old Spanish coins, dating in the 1620’s and 1630’s found in southern Lawrence County, were donated by Joey Jurek.
After the meeting Diann Pollock gave an interesting and informative presentation about the history and lifestyle of the
Lawrence County Amish. Diann works at the Amish Center in Ethridge where many tourists come to tour the Amish
farms. She says that many of the tour busses regularly follow the same route by first going to the Grand Old Opry,
then here to tour the Amish country and then go on to Graceland in Memphis. Tourists are drawn here from all over
the world. Just recently in a thirty day period, tourists came to the Amish Center from thirty different countries. This
regular stream of visitors from other states and other countries is a boon to the Lawrence County economy. When
tourists come by the store, they expect to find Amish running the stores and shops and are amazed they do not.
This history of the Amish begins in Europe before their migration to the United States. In 1693 there was a split in the Swiss Anabaptist group led by Jakob Ammann. After the split those who followed Ammann became known as the
Amish. High taxes, high rents, wars and rumors of wars and military draft along with religious persecution encouraged
believers to leave Europe. When William Penn in 1681 received ownership of what is now Pennsylvania from King
Charles II to satisfy a debt he owed to William’s father, he decided to try a “Holy Experiment” and have a colony that
allowed religious tolerance. The Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and others took advantage of the opportunity by
coming to the United States and settling in this land owned by Penn.
As a result of living in Pennsylvania, the old order Amish still speak the language coined as “Pennsylvania Dutch”.
Bruce Stoll, a retired high school teacher from Ohio who speaks German, was asked by Diann at the meeting for input
on the Amish language. He said, because of the difference between their dialect and standard German, he can only
understand about every third word they speak. The Amish Bible is written in German, but not necessarily the German
spoken by the Amish today. According to one Amish man, it is about as different as the English of the King James
Version is to the English we speak today. A second wave of immigration from Europe began in 1817 and lasted until
1860. About 3,000 Amish came to America during this period and settled in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New York,
Ohio, and Canada.
Fast forwarding to the 20th century; three Amish men living in Mississippi heard about farm acreage being for sale by
the First National Bank in Lawrenceburg. In January 1944, these three men, Dan Yoder, Joe Yoder, and Joseph
Gingerich came up and purchased land, settling with their families just north of the Ethridge community, where there
and throughout northern Lawrence County their population has grown to about 250 families.
When these Amish came, they were looking for an area with a government that would allow them to have their own
schools that teach only eight grades and allow their children to stop their formal education at the age of fourteen.
These Amish know their children will not be seeking a job outside their community, therefore, according to them, no
higher education is needed. Diann says tourists are amazed the Amish are not required to attend school past the
eighth grade or the age of fourteen. One reason further education is not compulsory is because Amish do not take
anything that is considered government funding. They do not pay in to or draw social security, receive Medicare or
From age fourteen until age twenty-one, the children have the opportunity to advance into a trade. Learning farming
is first and foremost and a trade is secondary. During and after learning farming to the satisfaction of their parents,
young boys are trained in a trade, which could be, for example, making furniture, making saddles, running a sawmill,
making cabinets or any other trade practiced on their farms. The girls are trained in cooking, cleaning, and canning,
which can be an enormous task. Diann related an example where an Amish lady recently told her that she cans from
3,000 to 5,000 cans of food a year, canning almost everything they eat through the winter including peanuts, chickens,
hamburger meat, fruits and vegetables.
With some families having as many as eighteen to nineteen children, this number would not be outlandish. These old order Amish are among the most conservative of all the Amish in the United States. They are made up of two local groups, the Swartzentrubers and the Millers, with the Swartzentrubers being the strictest and most conservative of the two. Their customs differ in many ways from the ones in Ohio, Pennsylvania and other northern states. Their simple one room schools are found in each district with only one school to the district. All students dress alike which makes for no distinction between them because of their clothing. They usually have only one teacher per school and that teacher instructs them in reading, writing, arithmetic, English and German.
The Amish basically believe in God, family, and land. In each district, they have church every other Sunday so they might visit other church services in other districts on off Sundays. Their worship services, spoken in high German, last about four hours beginning about 8 AM to 8:30 AM on Sunday morning and continue until about noon. Their music is a cappella, and typically slow, with drawn-out notes sounding much like a chant. They sit on benches with no backs in rows on each side of the room facing each other. The men sit on one side and the women on the other. Little boys, who are big enough, will sit with their dads but if they are babies they will stay with their mothers. In their beliefs, if a person is caught in sin he or she is shunned by the church. That person can attend church meetings but cannot take communion.
They do not meet in church buildings but in their homes. When it becomes time for a meeting to be held at a certain families house, that family is expected to feed from 200 to 225 people after church services. These meals are considered light by their standards, which consists mainly of bean soup, scalded milk, bread and a light dessert. Diann visited an Amish lady recently who had a dozen five gallon buckets in the kitchen that she was filling with cookies just for an upcoming Sunday noon meal. When it becomes time for the meal, the men eat first, then the women, then the children. Those shunned must eat at a separate table with no communication with others. After the noon meal, anyone may go home anytime they wish but usually stay around and fellowship for awhile.
Amish do not believe in having their pictures made or having pictures and mirrors on their walls. They wear no jewelry or flashy clothing. Men have beards but no mustache. Some sources state that this custom is based upon the Bible verses - Psalm 133:1 & 2; NKJV, which mentions a beard but not a mustache: 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! 133:2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
The Amish do not marry until age twenty-one. When there is a marriage the bride customarily makes her own wedding cake. Couples do not marry until after all the crops are harvested in the fall. Traditionally, the local Amish marry on Thursday and the Amish in West Tennessee marry on Tuesday. This custom prevents conflicts of times of marriages so each group can attend the others’ weddings.
They have what they call “black cousins” which has nothing to do with race but are cousins who are not far enough removed and considered too closely related to marry. In their daily lives these Amish will use gasoline or diesel engines but absolutely no electricity running to their houses or barns. They have no automobiles, tractors, amenities like air conditioning, refrigerators, electric or gas ranges, nor other electric kitchen gadgets. Lighting is provided by either candles or kerosene lamps. They might have a kitchen sink but the water supply is by a hand pump.
Bruce Stoll commented on a question frequently asked by tourists who come into his store which is on Brewer Road behind the Amish Center. They see his beard and ask if he is Amish.
His response is, “No, I have air conditioning and a mustache!”
LAWRENCE COUNTY, TN
LEDGER OF SHERIFFS
FROM 1817 TO PRESENT
1817 Luke Grimes
1818 Bracewell Farmer
1818-1823 Bradley Halford
1823-1824 William F. Cunningham
1825-1830 Douglas H. Stockton
1831-1841 Thomas J. Matthews
1841-1842 Daniel Smith
1842-1846 John Foadren
1846-1848 Thomas P. Roundtree
1848-1850 Franklin Hughes
1850-1854 William Chaffin
1854-1856 Lewis Miller
1856-1860 Robert J. Kelley *
1860-1862 John W. Stewart
1862-1863 C.H. Nicholson *
1863-1864 John McLaren, Jr.
1864-1868 Alfred M. Harrison
1868-1870 James H. McKey
1870-1872 Charles McClain
1872-1876 James K. Garner
1876-1878 John H. Harrison
1878-1880 George W. Sanders
1880-1884 Jim Wells
1884-1886 David Quarles
1886-1892 James K. Garner
1892-1898 Polk Comer
1898-1899 E.D. 'Lige' Richardson
1899-1900 Lee V. Davidson
1900-1906 Finis C. Wisdom
1906-1910 Willie John T. Smallwood
1910-1912 J.R. Boyett
1912-1914 Ben F. Watkins
1914-1918 Arthur M. Smallwood
1918-1920 S. Vince Tidwell
1920-1921 B. Frank Curtis **
1921-1926 Noah Moore
1926-1930 Leonard E. Black
1930-1934 Neal Morrow
1934-1936 Samuel J. Davis
1936-1938 Floyd Bottoms
1938-1943 Cleve Weathers ***
1943-1946 Earl Gaither
1946-1950 Claude McAfee
1950-1952 Samuel J. Davis
1952-1956 Willie C. Thigpen
1956-1962 Arnold J. Davis
1962-1964 Pat Sutton
1964-1970 Harold Brown
1970-1976 William Burkes
1976-1982 Roy Powell
1982-1990 Tom Purdum
1990-1994 Bruce Durham
1994-2006 William Dorning
2006-2010 Kenny Taylor
2010- Jimmy Brown
* Resigned from Office
** Died in Office
*** Murdered in Office
The Old Jail Museum is located just over a block west of the Public Square in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, The Old Jail was built in 1893 and used as a jail until 1973. It now serves as a museum for the Lawrenceburg Historical Society. Curtis Peters, Historian and retired History Teacher along with fellow members is providing an extensive collection of local artifacts and documents that include those that are connected historically to faraway places, especially WWl and WWll. The NBC INTERVIEW Button to the left is devoted to old letters found that were exchanged between locals and German Prisoners that returned home after being held during WWll here in Lawrenceburg.
The slide show below shows various old photos and old Post Cards from past generations in Lawrence County, Tennessee
Type your paragraph here.
Legacies unnoticed are most Powerful,
such is the case of James H. Stribling.
One Man's Vision ..... One County's Reward is a History of James Henry Stribling and how he made Lawrence County a better place to live. It contains lots of info on the CCC Camps in Lawrence County, the WWII POW Camp on Pine Bluff, the WWII Service Men's Home and much more (with hundreds of local photos).
It is now on sale at New Moon Antiques, The Lawrence County Archives, The Kraus/Crockett Theater Annex, and The Old Jail Museum. All proceeds from the sale
of the book go to the Old Jail Museum and the Lawrence County Historical Society.
Type your paragraph here.
Get a signed copy . . . .
by contributors Peters and Pettus
most mornings at Square 40 Restaurant
on The Public Square in
Lawrenceburg, Tennessee . . . .
A Giver we never knew. . . .
LipscombUniversity is a private, coeducational, liberal arts university in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. It is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The campus is located in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville between Belmont Boulevard to the west and Granny White Pike on the east. Student enrollment for the fall 2015 semester is 4,680 which includes 3,030 undergraduate students and 1,650 graduate students. It also maintains a location called "Spark" in the Cool Springs area of Williamson County.Type your paragraph here.
OLD JAIL MUSEUM