I looked out the back door of our store the other day, and much to my surprise there was someone looking back at me. It was the buggy horse of one of our Amish customers, who had left him tied to our back dock while they were shopping. I have lived in this area for quite a while so I am very used to seeing the Amish every day, but for those of you not from this area I will give you a brief introduction to the Amish of Northeastern Ohio.
The Amish belong to a sect of the Anabaptist religion that originated in Europe at the time of the reformation. Because they refused to belong to the major religious orders of the period they were persecuted for their different beliefs. After enduring this persecution for many years they decided to emigrate to the new world for religious freedom, like many other minority sects. They settled in Pennsylvania and then Ohio and have now come to live in several states. According to the sign as you enter Middlefield we are in the fourth largest Amish settlement in the world.
The Amish seem to draw the attention of most strangers because of their differing dress and lifestyle. They dress in a plain,uniform style, and forgo many of the trappings of modern life such a electricity and automobiles. They use horse drawn buggies, or hired taxis for transportation and non-electrical lights and appliances. Many of them live on small family farms and farm with draft horses the same way everyone did years ago. If they cannot work on the farm then many of the men are carpenters, or work in one of the traditional crafts such a cabinet or furniture making. The women work keeping up the home and usually raising many children. They also produce home products such as jams, jellies, bakery products and quilts. These are often sold right at the farm along with farm products such as vegetables and maple syrup.
Amish children go to local parochial schools up through the eighth grade, when they leave school to go to work. They join the local church when they are about 18 years old and then are considered full members of the community. Their local church does not consist of a church building though, the Amish attend worship services every two weeks held in each other’s homes on a rotating basis. Their limited education and exclusiveness may seem strange for outsiders, but the point is to avoid becoming too “worldly” which they see as leading to trouble.
The Amish are some of our best customers here at the hardware store, as the men are usually involved in either farming or the trades, and need a steady supply of tools and supplies. The Amish ladies also often come into the store to buy things they need for their home. I have come to appreciate the Amish people in the time that I have been living in the Burton area, and now feel privileged to count many as our customers and good friends.