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Amish Pull Up Stakes in Washington Colony

The Nation

Four Wisconsin families find small settlement untenable without more support from brethren.

May 23, 2004|From Associated Press

SPRINGDALE, Wash. — Four Amish families put their farms up for auction Saturday, saying they would return to their native Wisconsin because there weren't enough Amish to sustain a community near this small eastern Washington town.

"It's paradise here," Vernon Yoder said. "It's going to be hard to leave it. But it's for our families' sake. We've got to do it if we're going to keep our family together. That's one of the most important things in life."

Yoder is the patriarch of four families that are leaving the settlement about nine miles west of Springdale and about 50 miles north of Spokane.

They once lived near Sparta in western Wisconsin and expected to go back to a spot about 90 miles north of there.

He said some of their children were growing up and needed to find mates who shared their religious beliefs. Those who are leaving are all part of Yoder's immediate and extended family.

Two other families who came here with the Yoders five years ago to establish a settlement said they would stay for a while, hoping other Amish would join them.

The Yoders grew hay and grain and operated leather, machine, wheelwright and furniture shops.

A couple of miles down the Springdale-Hunters Road, Christy Shrock and his older brother, Moses, said they hoped Amish people from other parts of the country would join the community.

"At this time, we don't feel it's the Lord's will for us to move," Christy Shrock said. "We'd be very happy if others would join us here, but that's all in a higher power's hands. If it's his will, it will happen."

If others didn't come, it would be difficult to remain, Shrock said.

The Amish are pacifists who split from Mennonites in the 17th century, under the leadership of Jacob Amman, a Swiss Mennonite bishop. A self-effacing people who prefer not to be photographed, they set themselves apart by avoiding modern technology.

Although the Amish avoid electricity, motors and other modern conveniences, they don't consider it a sin for their neighbors to share those things.

"We use stationary motors sometimes," but insist on tending their fields with horse-drawn equipment, Yoder said.

For the Wisconsin move, Yoder and his family will hire trucks and ride in cars owned by others.

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