top of page


Plain People in the News: March 2023

How Ashland County tried to change Amish buggy laws in the 1990s.

An Amish buggy parked outside the Ashland Municipal Court in late January.

By Nathan Hart, Report for America Corps Member.

ASHLAND — A county commissioner, a state politician, a police officer, and a local trustee walk into a meeting room. This is not a setup for a bad joke. It's a scene from Ashland's Amish Buggy Committee, a group of state and local officials that came together in Jackson Township in the 1990s to pursue a single goal: change state laws so that Amish buggies have to display slow-moving vehicle signs.

Former Jackson Township Trustee Carl "Ross" Oehling, now 79, started the committee after years of living in Amish country. "I used to tell our kids when they were growing up, soon as they started to drive. I said, 'watch for the buggies'," he said. Joining Oehling in his legislative crusade were then-county commissioner Dick Myers, state rep. Gene Byers, along with a number of officers from the Ashland County Sheriff's office and Ohio State Highway Patrol. The group was not a collection of "Amish bashers," as Oehling put it, they just wanted to improve road safety, he said. The group met once a month and took multiple trips to the statehouse to speak in support of a bill that would require buggies to display a slow-moving vehicle sign. The first time they went, 10 members packed into two cars and made the drive to Columbus. Upon their arrival at the statehouse, the state capitol's rotunda was already filled with the bill's opponents. "We got in there and there were Amish all the way around there, and (they had) their babies. They came up to testify against it," Oehling said. After the buggy committee testified before the lawmakers, Oehling got the impression they were unfamiliar with the Amish and "probably didn't even know a horse." The lawmakers kept adding more safety requirements for the buggies to the bill, straying further from the committee's goal. Ultimately, the bill's additional safety measures killed it, Oehling said. "They (were) putting too much on them. If we just got that slow-moving vehicle sign, that's a plus," he said. With the bill's failure, the committee's goal was put firmly out of reach. So the group stopped meeting. The county-wide coalition was no more. "Well, we, we didn't really accomplish anything," Oehling said. While the committee's efforts fell short in the 1990s, the Ohio General Assembly did pass a law requiring buggies to display a slow-moving vehicle sign in 2009. Recently, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a new law requiring buggies to display flashing lights, sparking defiance in Ashland's local Swartzentruber clan.

"I hope that they stick to this law. I don't know how they got it passed, but it's great," Oehling said.

Southeast Iowa school bus, Amish buggy collide; horse had to be put down.

by John Garlock.

Tue, March 7th 2023, 1:33 PM EST.


VAN BUREN COUNTY, Iowa — One person was hurt Tuesday morning when a school bus and an Amish buggy collided in Van Buren County.

It happened just before 8 a.m. near the intersection of Highway J40 and Heather Avenue, west of Keosauqua. The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office said its initial investigation revealed that the horse pulling the buggy got spooked and crossed the centerline into the path of the oncoming Van Buren County School bus.

A woman in the buggy was hurt. She was taken to Van Buren County Hospital for treatment. The investigating deputy told KTVO he did not know the extent of her injuries. No one on the bus was hurt. Unfortunately, the horse was injured and had to put down.

Amish barn raised in 60 degree temperatures in mid-winter.

Sandra Lepley | The Daily American.

Brotherhood and kinsmanship came together for an Amish barn raising on a 60 degree day in Northampton Township this month.

Jesse and Malinda (Fisher) Yoder, who have lived in the Amish community located in Pocahontas in Greenville Township most of their lives, recently purchased a farm in December along Brush Creek and Mance roads. While there originally was a barn on the property, it was torn down about five years ago because of roof problems. So the need to have a new barn was paramount for this Amish family.

The Yoders' oldest son, Jason, remains in Pocahontas, but their children Martha, married to Jonathan Yoder, and Esther, married to Joseph Yoder, and their son Vernie moved to the new property in December. Jesse enlisted the help of his brothers, Alvin, Noah, Paul and Lewis, and their children who were not in school. Brother Floyd was not able to be there but sent several of his sons to help out. And, other family members and friends showed up to total about 70 men working on the 40-by-64-foot structure for the day. Work was done peacefully and methodically alongside the babbling Wills Creek and within range of the sounds of train whistles from the railroad. Many Amish women also showed up to prepare a luncheon at the nearby house. "We put messages out and talked to people and finally decided on today because the weather was supposed to be nice," said Jesse, taking a break from the construction. "It all worked out very well. This can't be done when the weather is cold or there is snow. Barns are not usually built in the middle of winter. This is unusual." Jesse and his family started laying the concrete blocks for the barn's foundation in December and while the weather wasn't always warm enough then, the crews would sometimes put antifreeze in the mortar to get it to set better. Once the concrete blocks were placed, it was all a matter or time to wait for the right weather conditions to build. And, while the Amish family thought spring or summer would be a likely time, they took advantage of the warm weather in February. Lewis Yoder, one of Jesse's five brothers, was there to help out and he related that he thought the turnout was good. "I enjoy being a part of the community coming together," said Lewis. "Everyone is working together and it's a nice feeling when the work is done at the end of the day." Ray Yoder, of Springs, an Amishman known for construction projects who organized a barn raising in June 2020 in Elk Lick Township for the Brenneman family, was in attendance to help out and while he wasn't overseeing this particular construction project, he was there to assist in any way possible. Ray is also Jesse's second cousin. "A lot of people have the opinion we are putting up a barn in one day and naturally it looks that way but this project started way before this. The concrete blocks had been laid first and then it took months for the wood to be sawed out. Once everything is pre-cut, it is like putting a puzzle together with numbered pieces. It can go pretty quick that way," said Ray.

All the timber was cut either from the Mance property or Jesse's former home or home farm in Pocahontas or from the nearby Roger Newman property in Mance. Jesse's brother Alvin owns a sawmill in Pocahontas and Alvin and his son Levi cut most of the wood in the past few months. In addition to Levi, Alvin's sons Aquilla, Seth and Steven were also there to help with the barn raising.

During the day, many area residents came out to take photographs and videos of the event. There is not an Amish community in Northampton Township so this site was unique for that area. At the end of the day, most everything was complete except for some interior work that needed done. Jesse Yoder said he was pleased with the work the men got done that day and while they got a little late start in the morning, everything progressed well during the day until many had to go home to do the milking. Jesse says that his barn will house some dairy cows and horses and other animals as well. "It could be zero degrees and snowing today but here we are building a barn," laughed Jesse. "This is a summer month project and not a winter month project. But, once we had access to the property, we waited for a nice day and here it is. We are happy to get it done this early in the year.".

Amish neighbors credited with saving 4 lives. By Diane Rutherford. WWNY. Fire damaged this home at 300 Barker Road. TOWN OF ROSSIE, New York - Amish neighbors are getting the credit for saving the lives of 4 people in the town of Rossie. Volunteers from the Gouverneur Fire Department were called to 300 Barker Road shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday for a report of a chimney fire. Fire Chief Tom Conklin says when firefighters arrived, they found smoke showing from the roof and eaves of the home. While inside, crews found fire in the walls and ceiling of an addition to the home. Conklin said firefighters worked quickly to douse the flames and were able to confine the heavy fire damage to the addition. The rest of the home sustained moderate damage, he said. The chief said a woodstove chimney sparked the blaze in the walls and ceiling. 7 News spoke with one of the people who lived in the home. He said he and three other people were sleeping when the fire broke out. The resident said Amish neighbors saved their lives by alerting them about the fire and helping them to get out safely.

From the farm: Traveling back through time. By CAROLE SOULE. For the Monitor. What could be better than a standing invitation to stay on an Amish farm? In November, Harley, an Amish farmer, bought 11 of my Scottish Highlander cattle and, with the help of a non-Amish driver and rig, took them from New Hampshire to Ohio. Before he left, Harley invited us to visit his farm in Ohio, “You are welcome to stay with us, and if you find more Highland cows, bring them with you. I want a herd of thirty.” It sounded like fun to me – a road trip with cattle. Then last week, farm friend Dick Piper called me looking to sell his beautiful 3-year-old Highland heifer named Lilly. Harley wanted her, and husband Bruce and I decided to deliver. We also brought along two steers named Gilligan and Walter, who would spend a layover week at Harley’s farm waiting for transportation to a buyer in Colorado. We loaded the three bovines into the roomy stock trailer and set off. The trip was uneventful until an intermittent problem flared up as we drove through New York State – the power steering died. Without power, turning at slow speeds required super-human strength, but highway driving was more manageable. To minimize turning, we stayed on major highways and refueled at the expensive rest-stop gas stations. We arrived at Harley’s farm Saturday night, unloaded the cattle, and parked the broken truck in the barnyard. Without a functioning truck, we relied on Amish horse-drawn carts to get around. On Sunday morning, we rode in a horse cart to the cow pasture with Harley driving. The cattle looked fat and content, with lots of hay to eat and spring water to drink. Nina, one of my former show cows, walked over, looking for alfalfa cubes and neck scratches. I couldn’t have done better for the cows than selling them to Harley and his sons. On Sunday afternoon, we walked with the whole family back to the pasture so I could teach them some Highland cow handling. But they didn’t need much tutoring. I watched as Harley’s son Ernest put a halter on a reluctant black heifer while his brother Clarence did a sort of “cow dance” to put a halter on another squirmy calf. Six other heifers moved away as Harley tossed a lasso toward a fluffy silver calf and then put a halter on her. This family knew how to handle cattle and needed little advice until a brindle calf kicked one of Harley’s sons, Milo. “Want to see how to de-kick a calf?” I asked. “First, you stand to the side of the calf facing the calf’s rear and out of kicking range. Then reach down and pat the calf halfway down her rear leg. If she wants to kick, she’ll do it at first touch. Usually, the calf has one kick in her and won’t kick again. A few will kick twice, but most won’t.” I demonstrated the de-kicking technique on Milo’s brindle-colored calf. The Amish don’t use electricity, but we had comfort, warmth, and indoor plumbing, including a hot shower and the most amazing food ever. We ate with the family, and each meal included conversation about Highland cattle and farming with a dose of humor. One conversation went something like this: “Did you see me de-kick that heifer?” Jerry asked. “On my way home, I de-kicked the dog,” Milo said. “Well, I de-kicked, Ernest,” said Clarence, and we all laughed. Bruce and I “helped” with chores, which meant we watched while the boys fed the horses, milked the Jersey cow, and cleaned horse stalls. Like the cows, the horses were well-fed and fat. Except for the getting fat part, if I were a horse, this is where I’d want to live. On Monday, the truck’s power steering was working again. Excellent timing because we couldn’t find anyone in the area to repair it. We packed up, put the dogs in the truck, and with the power steering functioning, made it home by 2 a.m. Tuesday. Just as Bruce and I got to unwind on a magical Amish farm, maybe the truck did too. Next week I’ll share more about staying on an Amish farm where, for a few days, we lived as my farm’s namesake, Miles Smith, might have in the 1880s. How the Amish live without electricity. By CAROLE SOULE. The Laconia Daily. Could you live well without electricity? A few days on an Amish farm in Ohio showed me how it’s done. Earlier this month, husband Bruce and I delivered a cow to Harley and Sarah, who invited us to stay on a bit. The Amish people want to keep themselves intact and apart from the modern world, which is why they hold modern technology at arm’s length. Where do they draw the line? Here’s where my friend Harley draws it. He won’t have a telephone in the house, so he keeps it in a small building on the edge of his property, powered by his non-Amish neighbor's electricity. He won’t own or drive an automobile, but last fall he hired a driver, truck, and trailer to come to New Hampshire to pick up 11 of my Highland cows. Electricity is not allowed, but the use of propane-powered motors is. While they can use a commercial laundromat, most Amish women do laundry using a motor, located outside the house that drives a shaft that rotates an agitator in the drum of a washtub. Sarah, our hostess, added hot water from a nearby hot-water tank and some soap and then stuffed sheets and clothes into the washtub. Later she cranked the items through a wringer into a rinse tub. After rinsing, she put each item through the wringer again, dropping the wash into a third tub. With the help of her son, Lavon, they hung the laundry on a line with a pulley system that carried the clothes high over a small pasture in the front yard. Sarah washed a pile of laundry that would have been more than 10 loads in my electric washer. The drying made sense too. Clothes last so much longer when air dried and, except in freezing weather, it’s easy with Sarah's setup. The families’ exquisite clothing was hand-made by Sarah. She showed me her sewing room with a treadle foot-operated Singer sewing machine, just like my grandmother used, and told me she shares patterns with other Amish women. How about refrigeration? The family uses ice from a nearby pond. They extract blocks of ice using horsepower and saws and haul the ice blocks to an insulated storage space in the house's basement. Sarah told me the ice lasts 12 months and sometimes longer. The cold air is channeled through a vent into a refrigerator of sorts. The family does a lot of canning. Sarah showed me shelves stacked with jars of peaches, onions, vegetables, and meat — enough to feed her family for a year. Sarah gave me a jar of peaches to take home. At dinner, we drank raw milk from their Jersey cow, homemade bread, butter, and creamy yogurt. Everything was from Sarah's pantry, and there was plenty of it. My favorite was Sarah's chocolate cake with a buttery frosting. The house, always warm, was heated by a central wood-burning cooking stove. We were astonished at the uniform heat. The house had no cold spots, and the stove ran all day on a few armfuls of wood. Who needs a microwave when the stove top is always hot, ready to heat a cup of coffee or brew some tea? I don’t know what they do in summer. The stove also heated water for the shower. Sarah filled a bucket with hot water, then added some cold water until it felt just right. Then she poured the warm water into a bucket hanging in the shower. I turned the handle on the shower bucket and gravity did the work. A steady stream of water poured over me, not quite as robust as a modern shower but good enough. I turned off the spout, soaped up, then on again to rinse. With lots of water left in the bucket, I stood in the luxury of falling water until the bucket was empty. The kitchen, bath, pantry, and washroom all had running water, courtesy of gravity. There was another source of water for the cattle, a spring. A pipe feeds water into a concrete tub. The constant flow keeps the tub free of ice most of the time, so the cattle had a clean, delicious water source. I'm jealous. Our visit was a peek into how my farm's namesake, Miles Smith, lived, and I’m eager to learn more. We've scheduled another trip in June to see how Harley harvests 6,000 bales of hay with horses. I can't wait. ••• Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm ( in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef and other local products. She can be reached at


Recent Posts

See All

A collection of recent Amish and plain Anabaptist studies research publications in healthcare. Cory Anderson & Lindsey Potts (2022). Physical health conditions of the Amish and intervening social mech

bottom of page