Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beachy Amish

MACON COUNTY, Ga. — In 1953, when military bases were expanding and land prices rising near Norfolk, Va., members of a growing population of Beachy Amish there began to shop around. “Carloads of men would go out and look,” said Crist Yoder, who was 1 year old at the time but heard the story from his father, Crist Yoder Sr.   They traveled the South, stopping in South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. But the price was right in Montezuma, Ga.                                               So in 1954, 11 families uprooted. They were mostly Yoders. Crist Yoder Sr. and his four older brothers and their families, along with Weavers, Kauffmans and Swartzentrubers, started a dairy farming community just outside Montezuma. “If you weren’t a Yoder, you married into the Yoders,” Yoder said. “Everyone was related.”                                                            

Amish groups — both the Old Order and the progressives, like the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites — have been moving to new states and communities throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. But today it is likely to be for a reason other than land prices. “It is possible that there’s more of that happening simply because the [Amish] population is larger,” said Donald Kraybill, who researches Amish life at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. “It’s doubling every 20 years"  Today the Amish Mennonite community near Montezuma includes around 350 members, 150 or so families.

 Beachy Amish roots go back to the 1920s. Today they have about 7,500 members and 97 congregations in 20 states.                 “They tend to be more independent in the sense that they aren’t connected to a larger group,” Kraybill said. Amish Mennonites have regional conferences; Beachy Amish don’t. Click to read the article By Kelli Yoder, Mennonite World Review October 29, 2012.