A Visit with Amish in Vermont

On Sunday, David and I felt a little stir crazy from being around the house so much. He developed a blood clot in his leg several days after his surgery, which slowed his healing process quite a bit. He is now on blood thinner to deal with the clot and he is doing physical therapy exercises to regain the range of motion in his knee. But we were ready for a trip to restore our souls, and we knew just where to go.

Having lived in Vermont for thirty years, David and I are drawn to its beauty. We each breathe a sigh of contentment every time we enter the state… and it doesn't matter from which direction we enter it, we know when we're there, whether or not we've seen the "Welcome to" sign.

One of my favorite stretches of Interstate is 91 north of White River Junction. And I had a reason I wanted to travel that part of the highway.

DSCN0157
Northeast Kingdom in Vermont on Connecticut River

Several days ago, I found a story in my Google alert about Amish families moving to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. So besides taking in the soul-restoring vistas along the highway, I had an idea that I wanted to look up the Amish families and see if they were up for visiting on a Sunday afternoon.

I did find them. And we did have a visit. The patriarch of the family came to the door, and he was soon joined by his wife. They live in the farmhouse with their son and his family with eight children. They are hoping to build a "Doddy House" for themselves.

These two families have moved from Western Pennsylvania, just east of the border with Ohio. They are hoping to be joined by several more families by the fall. They live on a 90-acre farm, and the son has bought land several miles from there that he and his family will need to reclaim, with a delapidated barn and house.

Mr. Kauffman and I soon figured out connections, since he was 15 years old when his family moved to Conewango Valley, New York from Geauga County. Ohio. So it took about three minutes for us to make connections with people we both knew. Two of my uncles lived in Conewango Valley, and he knew them. In fact one of them worked as a hired hand on his father's farm when Mr. Kauffman was a boy. My uncle died just recently, and they happened to know that he had died only three weeks after his wife.

Mr. Kauffman is a first cousin to the father of the family who bought two acres of land from my parents when I was a teenager. (I wrote about this in my book, Why I Left the Amish). One of his first cousins is married to one of my first cousins, and one of his cousins on the other side of the family was married to my uncle who was killed in a farming accident some years ago.

Mrs. Kauffman is the niece of the blacksmith who was married to one of my great aunts. We used to get our horses shod by him.

I'm sure these connections are only the beginning of those that exist. I find it so fascinating that it takes about five minutes to make such connections with nearly any Amish person anywhere. It is a function of being so interconnected to community and family.

And yet, here these two families are in Vermont, hundreds of miles from their home community. I really got a sense of what a pioneering spirit they must have when I commented on their nice garden. They told me they planted it on June 22, six days after they moved in on June 16. I asked if the garden was already there or if they had to claim it. They said they had to claim it… in fact they had to take out trees. I was amazed at how fine the soil is… that is not always the case in Vermont.

The younger part of the family had gone for an afternoon walk, down by the river. From the back of the property, they can see the cut in the mountains where Lake Willoughby is.

I asked them how they discovered Vermont. They said their son had taken a trip to Canada to visit relatives, and came through this part of Vermont. They made a connection with someone there, and became interested in buying land and starting a community.

These two families will soon figure out how to sustain themselves, I'm sure. They have bought several head of beef cattle, and several horses. They are obviously hard workers.

Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman came out to the van to talk with David before we left. We both wished them well, and conveyed our hope that others will join them. David saw their modest little sign for baked goods on Saturday and said we came on the wrong day. Leave it to David to say such a thing. He has a soft spot for Amish baked goods. We once bought a dozen of molasses cookies at an Amish baked goods stand in Ohio years ago that David absolutely loved. He still talks about those molasses cookies to this day.

We didn't stay very long, since we had imposed on their Sunday afternoon. It was good to establish a connection with my people in the state I love. In fact, back in 2011, Erik Wesner asked the question on Amish America about which state would be the next one the Amish would settle into. I wrote this:

I guess Vermont. When I lived there for thirty years, I always thought Vermont and the Amish belonged together. There were many family farms growing nothing but new housing developments for many years, but now that has slowed. So many barns are collapsing from not be used or maintained as the family farms are no longer being farmed. Vermonters would be very welcoming, I believe. In fact, a friend of ours was trying to attract Amish to settle into an area they were trying to preserve as agricultural land.

When we left, David had the idea to go to the Williougby Inn to have dinner. We used to eat there on our way back to Vermont when we traveled to David's parents' cottage on Lake Rangeley in Maine. We had a very tasty dinner in a beautiful setting. I went out on the porch and took several photos of the lake. Though the lake doesn't look that big, it is 320 feet deep.

DSCN0168

Our trip up and back were more beautiful than I had remembered. We stopped on the way up and took several photos. There were many, many more vistas that we didn't capture on camera.

photo2

One of the things that fascinate me is how much rock they had to cut through to make that highway. I've only ever taken one geology course in my life, but I am captivated by what kind of rocks are found where. These hills they cut through have all kinds, in all colors. Some are layered vertically and some horizontally, and still others are halfway between, at an angle. I saw a lot of veins of white, which would be quartz running through them.

photo

By the time we arrived home, less than an hour after sunset, David and I both felt restored. The Bible phrase "He restoreth my soul" came to mind.

Sharing is caring

31 thoughts on “A Visit with Amish in Vermont”

  1. Pingback: A Visit with Amish in Vermont | Former Amish News

  2. Is Conewango Valley Swartzentruber Amish? The reason I am asking is, this past year I met Swartzentruber people who have moved to Fort Fairfield Maine from Missouri. I am wondering how far apart these two are in location?

    I love information like this.

    1. Hi Katie. No, the Amish from Conewango Valley are not Swartzentrubers, but they are almost as conservative. They are about like the Amish in Punxatawney.

      The Amish in Maine are in the northern part of the state, so they are still 400 miles from the Kauffman family in Vermont.

      So glad you enjoy this information. It’s always good to hear from you.

  3. Kristine Lange

    I’ve heard about this from two other sources, but thanks to you, we now have the “scoop” on this news. The pictures are a lot like Missouri with the rolling hills and “mountains”. Many Missouri roads are cut through rock like that – especially down in Branson (to accommodate all the “tourist traffic”.

    I hope everything is going better “health wise” for you and David.

    1. Kristine, it is great to hear from you. Glad to share.

      I’ve not been to that part of Missouri. I’ve been to Seymour, but not as far south as Branson, where many of the tourists are.

      Thank you for your good wishes. David is doing well, considering the situation.

  4. Although I know it probably isn’t true, the Green Mountains in Vermont look different (nicer) to me than the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I love Vermont.

    If you like geology, the geology of the area you live in is absolutely fascinating. The continents came close to splitting along the Connecticut River Valley a long time ago. The book Dinosaurs, Dunes, and Drifting Continents: The Geology of the Connecticut River Valley, by Richard D. Little is in the library. I highly recommend it.

    I’m glad David is healing. May it go speedily from this point on.

    1. Johanna, thank you for your good wishes. I’ll need to sign that book out from the library. David would find that fascinating, and he needs something good to read.

      Yes, I love the mountains in Vermont. Though we were probably looking at the mountains of New Hampshire much of the time on Sunday, and I have to say, they didn’t look to shabby!

      We went to visit the dinosaur tracks south of Northampton when Hadassah was here. Fascinating!

  5. We call it the Mennonite game, but it’s the Amish game, too. (Making connections with who you’re related to and know.) Whatever name it goes by, I enjoy playing it. I felt the thrill of all the connections as you wrote about making them.

    1. Aleta, there is a thrill to the game isn’t there? It gives one a sense of how interconnected the human family is, whether we are aware of it or not.

      Look forward to reading your story someday, Aleta.

  6. I thought of you as soon as I saw the news article on this community at Vermont Public Radio, Saloma. Looks like your prediction of a few years ago was right on. I was curious, did you get a sense of how they are doing church? Is there a minister there among them, or is someone visiting?

    How nice that you were able to visit so soon after they moved in. And I believe the VPR article mentioned three families, is that correct or were there just the two?

    1. Erik, I thought of visiting as soon as I read about them. The report did say three families, but there are only these two so far. Mr. Kauffman is a deacon, and he said there is a preacher in the mix of other families planning to come. So I don’t know how they are doing church. I did ask about schooling, and they are planning on homeschooling in the fall until they have a big enough community to build a school. 

      1. Thanks Saloma, interesting to hear. I suppose this autumn will be an important time for this fledgling community, hopefully the prospective families will in fact come.

  7. Pingback: Amish Moving To Vermont?

  8. I spent 20 Years living in Vermont and still love it … especially in the summer. I’m not sure my aging bones would do well in the cold again, but it was wonderful when I was younger. It’s a wonderful place to live. as you know, Saloma.

    1. Joan, I’m with you on “especially in the summer.” Spring, summer, and autumn are so beautiful in Vermont that one forgets completely the suffering winter brings. I know many people like winter, as I did when I was a child. But as I get older, I long for milder temperatures and shorter winters. The Pioneer Valley is better by one a few degrees. So at this point, I find Vermont a better place to visit than live. A summer home would be ideal, I suppose. Yet I don’t relish the thought of having two homes.

  9. Enjoyed this a lot, Saloma.

    I can see the win/win for the Amish in Vermont. The type of farming they do is perfect for small farms, now falling into disuse and disrepair. They’ll have those barns looking ship-shape in no time.

    1. Glad you enjoyed, Shirley. Yes, I hope it’s a win-win for the Amish also. Some if it will have to do with who follows, I’m sure.

      They will repair the barns… of that I have no doubt.

  10. Ahh, I love the pictures. And how nice that David and you have been able to visit this family. Hope you will give us an update on how the family settles.

  11. I love the way that you are so easily able to find connections. We find this too in our religious community in England. You are either related or know relatives/friends of theirs. I rarely meet someone I can’t ‘place’. I sometimes wish that we too had let less of the ‘world’ into our lives although being disabled the internet is incredibly useful for shopping! x

  12. Saloma, your stories about traveling back to settlements are interesting. I have mentioned that we live in Iowa. We spend alot of time in northeast Iowa and have made very good friends with a Amish family there. Mattie was born in Ohio, then they moved to Canton (by Harmony Minnesota) where she taught Amish school. They have been here about 12 or 13 years. She just attended a single girls reunion just across the border in Pennsylvania and she was so refreshed and excited. The family here has a wonderful bulk store and a bakery. I am like David, nothing beats the Amish bakery. Love to read your post. Keeping good thought for David’s recovery.

    1. Pat, good to hear from you. I’ve met a few people from Harmony. Sounds like Mattie might be from a Swatzentruber group. I like a good Amish bakery too. If we visit again, I’m sure we’ll go up on a Saturday :-)

      Thanks for your good wishes for David. He appreciates that very much.

  13. The Kauffmans were my neighbors in PA. They are the best neighbors in the world. I hope that they have success in VT!

    1. Maureen, thank you for writing… so glad to hear from someone who knows them. We’ve not been back to see them, but we hope to sometime this summer. Shall I let them know you wish them well?

      You may email me: firstnamelastname at gmail.com.

  14. We have a Mennonite connection in our family. Although its little known. Alexander Dewdney married Catherine Honsberger. Had 3 children, then died in childbirth with the fourth. She is buried in New Brunswick with the child. Her people were from PA. Then Alexander Dewdney, returned to Ontario and married Alice Hannington, and had 4 sons…Alexander was a Minister. The last of Catherine’s children have passed on. They lived in British Columbia. Here in Ontario, one of the children died, in Banta, Ontario…which is literly a ghost town, with a cemetery attached. The Dewdneys of the present family don’t recognize the fact that their father married a mennonite…but I have made sure its in our family history……my tree is called The Family Orchard.

  15. Thank you for your story and information. I am the local home birth midwife in Newport VT (20 min from Brownington) and am so happy to have had the privilege of already helping some of these beautiful families with their births. So many farms and properties neglected so very grateful these families are coming here with their amazing skills to resurrect old farms and buildings. It is a perfect fit with Brownington, VT. For those of us that have moved here (me 4 yrs ago from Massachusetts) -it has taken all of us a time to adjust but I know we can all find what we need and do it together.
    (-:
    Sybille

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top