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Source: (consider it) Thread: Amish/Mennonites and transport
Shubenacadie
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Earlier this year I visited various relatives and friends in different parts of North America, travelling between them by train, and noticed several groups of people on trains who I presume were Amish, Mennonites or something of that kind -- the women were the most noticeable because they wore bonnets and long dresses, but I think a few of the men may have had beards and hats. They seem to make up a much higher proportion of Amtrak passengers than they do of the population as a whole.

Does anyone know which group or groups they belong to? What are their rules about transport? (I'm guessing that different groups might have different rules). The usual image of the Amish is of people in horse-drawn buggies, but clearly the people I saw are prepared to travel by train, and given the scarcity of railway stations in most parts of the USA you'd think they might need to use motor vehicles to get to the station; but I presume that their presence in noticeable numbers on the trains is because they don't fly.

What is the basis for these rules? I'm reminded (not that I'm trying to laugh at them) of Michael Flanders's introduction to 'The Slow Train' in which he referred to 'the old lady who said that if God had intended us to fly he'd never have given us the railways'. I'm all in favour (on the grounds of environmental impact, enabling people to see the world they're travelling through, and personal preference), of using trains and not planes (unfortunately it wasn't practicable for me to make the trip without flying across the Atlantic), but I presume that these people's customs predate modern environmentalism, and also that it's not just a case of prohibiting forms of transport that were invented after 1900 or something like that.

In case it helps with anwering my questions, one group boarded at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and changed at Pittsburgh for the Chicago train (I'm not sure whether they went as far as Chicago). Another group boarded at a small town in Iowa; some left the train at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and some were I think still on board when I left it at Grand Junction. I noticed a few more while travelling through Oregon on the train from California to Seattle. I didn't much notice what language they were using, but one of them sitting near me appeared to be writing a diary in English, whereas when a large white bird came into view one of them pointed it out to another as a 'grosse weisse [something]'. (As an aside, my first thought was 'gannet', but that would have been unlikely in the middle of the continent; it turned out to be a pelican).

(I considered putting this in Heaven, as it's more of a request for information about something interesting that I noticed on holiday than the start of a discussion, but I didn't want to be suspected of flippancy about people's beliefs, and it might of course trigger discussion. Hosts please move it if you think fit).

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Jay-Emm
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I understand there's a degree of independence (which ties indirectly with sustainability) that they require.
(Rather than e.g. it being modern)

That would seem, to first order, to contradict with use of the train. (But I guess they can just stop using the train at any time)

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mr cheesy
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I've heard it said that some groups of Amish will not travel by car but will fly on holiday...

I think there is quite a variety of views on technology within the various Amish groups.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Many Mennonites on the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Mennonites. Pretty parallel to the Mid-west USA. There are other groups, particularly Hutterites which appear to resemble Old Colony Mennonites or Holdeman Mennonites, but are from a different tradition, living in agrarian colonies. Mennonite Churches are some of the largest here.

The basic issue in answering the question in the OP is that there are so many groups, which make independent decisions as a congregational group that it is hard to generalise. The Amish don't drive and dress in old fashioned ways. The Hutterites dress like the Amish but are okay with communally-owned vehicles. I wonder if some of whom you're seeing travel might be visiting other groups of similar bent; we see that some travel to check out marital partners for their children in the summer.

There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. With links to Mennonites in Mexico, Uraguay, Peru and Argentina.

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Pomona
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What did the dresses and bonnets look like in terms of patterns, shapes etc? That might well be the clearest indication as to which group they belonged to, as they each have a distinctive style (eg plaid dresses and kerchiefs usually mean Hutterites, floral prints usually mean some kind of Mennonite group etc). Some, like modern Plain-dressing Quakers, don't follow distinct rules and can be distinguished by that.

They are more likely to be Mennonite than Amish, but there is a lot of diversity even amongst the Amish. Not using technology is predominantly about simplicity, but some Amish do have small generators on their land. Using public transit could reasonably be seen as a more economical and simple option for long-distance travel as opposed to a car or even a horse and cart (which wouldn't be suitable for long distances).

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Palimpsest
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In general, there's a lot of diversity in the way Amish use technology. For example, exceptions were made so that milk to be sold could be refrigerated as required by State Health Boards.

I had a friend whose father left the Amish (He didn't think they were religious enough.) The great burden of leaving the religion is that there's often a large group of relatives whose religious practice doesn't allow them to own or drive cars, but allows them to ask non-religious relatives to drive them where they want to go. They were always being asked to chauffer their many relatives.

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Golden Key
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Some Amish practices vary. Encroaching outside culture, and lack of jobs, has meant that many men work outside the community. I saw a documentary show where Amish, Mennonite, and mainstream men worked together in a small wood-working factory. IIRC, some accommodations were made. AIUI, the Pennsylvanian branch is more conservative than the Ohioan. Some Amish are even online.

I don't know of any Amish communities on the West Coast, so the people you saw there were probably conservative or Old Order Mennonites, or maybe Hutterites. There might be other groups that dress similarly.

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sabine
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I did 20 years of anthropological fieldwork with the Amish and belong to a Mennonite church. Unless you can describe the clothing more carefully, it is hard to know which of the many Anabaptist groups you saw on the train (Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Beachy Amish, Old German Baptist, Old Order Mennonite, Amish-Mennonite, Dunkard Brethren, etc.)

Most of these groups will ride a train. The premise with the Old Order Amish is that they do not own cars (for various reasons not related to how they feel about people who do) but will hire a car if necessary and use public transportation if necessary.

I know it appears from the outside that hiring a car or riding a train is somehow going against an ideal, but the ideal has more to do with what is best for the community (owning the car) than it does with the goodness or badness of cars in general.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:


I don't know of any Amish communities on the West Coast, so the people you saw there were probably conservative or Old Order Mennonites, or maybe Hutterites. There might be other groups that dress similarly.

I don't believe there are Hutterites on the West Coast (at least not in the US). Hutterites drive cars, but like the rest of us, might not want to for a long trip. The women's dress is quite distinctive from other Anabaptist groups (see Pomona's post).

I've suggested some groups that might be seen riding a train in my last post.

sabine

[ 07. August 2017, 15:24: Message edited by: sabine ]

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:


There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.

Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada would be the most fulling "assimilated" denominations. They are not Mennonite Brethren.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
AIUI, the Pennsylvanian branch is more conservative than the Ohioan. Some Amish are even online.

There is no "Pennsylvania Branch" or "Ohio Branch." You will find a wide spectrum of practices in both places.Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana have the highest Amish populations in the US, so the chances of finding diversity among them is great.

sabine

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Golden Key
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sabine--

IIRC, there's been a Hutterite community in the Pacific NW, probably Washington. Don't know if that's still the case.

Thanks for your other responses. I'll try to get to them later.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
sabine--

IIRC, there's been a Hutterite community in the Pacific NW, probably Washington. Don't know if that's still the case.


Appreciate this, GK. I checkrd, and there seem to be Hutterites near Spokane in eastern Washington state. Whether or not that is "the coast" is entirely up to individual interpretation, of course. [Smile]

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:


There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. With links to Mennonites in Mexico, Uraguay, Peru and Argentina.

Oh dear, I misread this earlier and posted a completely unneeded correction. I'm sorry.

sabine

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"Hunger looks like the man that hunger is killing." Eduardo Galeano

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Hedgehog

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quote:
Originally posted by sabine:
Whether or not that is "the coast" is entirely up to individual interpretation, of course.

Those would be the "Beachy Amish" you were mentioning? [Big Grin]

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Shubenacadie
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Thankyou everyone for your replies. I expected that there might not be a simple clear answer, but I hadn't realised quite how much diversity there was.

I'd have made more detailed mental notes of their clothing if I'd realised that I might end up discussing it with the experts of the Ship [Smile] . I don't recall any patterned dresses; the one photo that I have, a general view of the observation car of the train passing through Oregon with one of these women among the passengers, shows an unpatterned dress of a light purple colour and a small simple white bonnet worn on the back of the head. (The man sitting next to her, who wouldn't otherwise stand out from the other passengers, has short hair, no beard and a light blue shirt). I don't remember the people I saw further east looking very different -- I have a vague memory of blue, grey or purple unpatterned dresses -- although some of the bonnets may have been bigger.

Does the use of German in conversation (among those travelling from Iowa to Colorado) shed any light on which group(s) they might belong to?

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Without knowing the dialect of German it is very hard to say. The varieties of German are quite many. Locally there is Plott Dietch (Plautdietsch), other varieties of low German, Mennonite German, Hutterite dialects, with some groups having come to North America from Russia, Switzerland, German borderlands to Netherlands, and from Europe via South America and everywhere in between. All I know is that the bits of high German I know helps me very little in understanding when we go to farmers' markets. Though I am told (don't know if it is true) that some groups use High German in worship.

Plain Dress may also be helpful.

[ 07. August 2017, 23:39: Message edited by: no prophet's flag is set so... ]

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