I was never around the Amish growing up. So when I decided I had an Amish story to tell, I was at a bit of a disadvantage. “It’ll be okay,” I thought. After all, Amish are Amish are Amish…right?
Not at all.
The many divisions of the Amish faith fascinate me. I find it intriguing that next door neighbors can be in different church districts. I’m enthralled with the fact that some Amish can ride bikes while it’s forbidden for others. In fact, I find their entire way of life to be riveting.
But not all Amish are Amish are Amish. I found this out quickly. Oh, there’s Old Order and New Order and scads of other divisions in between. But it’s more than that.
Oklahoma–where I live now–is host to two sets of Amish communities. There’s one in Clarita which was established in 1978 and one in Chouteau settled around 1910.
Both are small, the Chouteau being the largest with around six hundred people. When the Amish moved into Oklahoma, they quickly learned that the soil in the Sooner State is rocky. Before long, the residents were asking for the use of tractors. Of course the elders were not crazy about the idea and a split occurred. Some decided to keep the old ways while others embraced the use of tractors with rubber tires. After a while, the Amish who held on to the more conservative traditions left Oklahoma, unwilling to bend to the use of machinery and unable to farm the soil profitably.
I have heard them referred to as Beachy, though there are a lot of aspects to the Oklahoma Amish that makes them seem less like Beachy and more like Old Order with tractors. For instance, they hold church in their homes, they drive buggies, wear traditional prayer kapps and conservative dress.
In my latest book, Caroline’s Secret, Caroline Hostetler moves from Tennessee to Oklahoma to start a new life with her daughter. But when secrets are revealed, Caroline must choose between the love she has found and the love she once had.
Imagine Caroline’s surprise when she comes to Oklahoma to discover the residents driving tractors to town. Caroline comes from Ethridge, Tennessee, and the Swartzentruber community nestled there. Swartzentruber are among the most conservative Amish sects. They have no indoor plumbing, which includes no running water or in-house toilets, and they can only ride in cars in an emergency.
Quite a big difference.
As I continue to write Amish fiction, I learn more and more. After all, not all Amish are Amish are Amish. Just another reason they captivate us all.
Amy Lillard is an award-winning writer who loves reading romance novels. Born in Mississippi, she now lives with her husband and son in Oklahoma. She has always been intrigued with the Amish’s gentle ways and slower-paced lifestyle. Her latest book in the Clover Ridge series, Gabriel’s Bride, released in February. Her latest book, Caroline’s Secret, released on August 5, 2014.
Purchase Amy’s books here.
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