Several horse-drawn buggies filled a designated parking area at the Columbia Township Community Center chicken dinner on Sept. 7, along with one green motorized buggy. The horse-drawn buggies belong to some of the Amish families that will be having a chicken dinner benefit this Saturday at the Community Center. Staff photo by Bob Hansen
Several horse-drawn buggies filled a designated parking area at the Columbia Township Community Center chicken dinner on Sept. 7, along with one green motorized buggy. The horse-drawn buggies belong to some of the Amish families that will be having a chicken dinner benefit this Saturday at the Community Center. Staff photo by Bob Hansen
COLUMBIA TWP. -- Some of the earliest European settlers in Fayette County came west 200 years ago  for religious reasons, land and better opportunity.

A new group of settlers is coming for those same reasons, with 14 families having moved in since summer 2018. These are Old Order Amish. They have settled in southwestern Fayette County, looking for an opportunity to continue their way of life, which is based on traditions dating back centuries.

One tradition is to avoid publication of their names and photos. This article is based on an interview with one of three members of a committee that is organizing a chicken dinner scheduled for Saturday but we are not publishing his name.

The group is raising money to build a two-room schoolhouse for their children. Currently, their children are going to school in a workshop on one of their farms.

The chicken dinner will be from 3-7 p.m. Saturday at Columbia Township Community Center, 3520 Columbia Road. The cost is a free-will donation and proceeds will go towards the new school. The meal will include deep-fried chicken along with homemade mashed potatoes, green beans, noodles, cole slaw, homemade breads, pies and desserts.

At the chicken dinner sponsored on Sept. 7 by the Community Center, organizers had set up a special area for buggy parking, and it was full. Wanda Vaughn, who works with the Amish on a regular basis, said all 14 of the Amish families came to the dinner, and she is hopeful the community will return the support this Saturday.

This group of Amish families have moved to this area from the vicinity of Berne, in Adams County, Indiana, where their ancestors began settling in the 1850s. Many came there directly from Switzerland and the Alsace region of Germany.

They are here because land near Berne became too expensive, the spokesman said. Traditionally, Amish families farm on small plots of land, using horses instead of tractors, and traveling mostly by horse-drawn buggies. They do not use electricity and some other modern conveniences, with the exception that some have solar-powered electric fences, the spokesman said.

Many also are involved in other kinds of work. The man we spoke with does construction and had just finished building a new house. 

The Old Order Amish maintain their own language of Swiss and High German, the spokesman said. When the children get ready go to school, they learn English. 

The language gives the Old Order Amish a certain degree of difference from other Amish people, such as many who have settled in Wayne County over the past 22 years. Most Wayne County families moved west from the area around Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where farmland had also become too expensive and crowded.

The Old Order Amish who live here drive open-top buggies with no backs on the seats. Even in the cold of winter, they do not put tops on their vehicles. Most in the Wayne County community drive "top-on" buggies. 

They call most non-Amish people "English." Many hire English drivers to get them around more quickly than horse-drawn transport.

Another difference is the straw hats that the men wear, with Old Order wearing rounded tops with a ridge, and the Wayne County group wearing flat-top hats.

There also are many similarities. They rotate church services from house to house, meeting for organized worship every other Sunday. They observe a day of no work every Sabbath. Their religious and cultural practices are ruled by local bishops. Currently, the Old Order bishop for Fayette County is living near Berne, but the community will eventually get its own bishop. 

Here's an editorial comment to end this article: Amish people live by different traditions than we English. But my experience has been that they are more alike than different from us. They enjoy a good story or joke, they work hard, they pay their bills, and they are generous to family, neighbors and friends.

And they are known as good cooks. Saturday's chicken dinner promises to be tasty.
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