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Plain People in the News February 2023

Updated: Mar 14

An Amish Farewell

By Erin LaBelle. Manchester Press.

Close to 1,000 gathered in a former chicken house at the Borntreger farm in Delhi Jan. 31 to remember Ervin Borntreger, 22, his son Marlin Borntreger, 1, and his nieces, Emma Borntreger, 4, and Rebecca Borntreger, 2. The four lost their lives in a Grundy County van rollover accident Jan. 27 while traveling to Missouri with an Amish group during a snowstorm.

The tragedy has left the Delhi Amish and non-Amish communities in a state of shock, drawing them closer together to grieve and support the three families most affected.

Ervin Borntreger was well-loved and many speak of his work ethic and kindness. He had opened a window business and taken over the family farm after his father lost his battle with cancer a few years back, according to an Amish source.

He’d stabilized the farm again and both his small family and business were thriving. As the youngest sibling in his family, he’d done a good job rising to the occasion of being the man on the farm and home to both his young family and his mother, Edna.

When he first opened his business, Borntreger worked with the Delhi United Methodist Church, teaming with men from the church to install windows. The Rev. Keith Pitts describes him as “very humble, quiet, hard-working, a loving husband and father, polite and a genuinely nice guy. He was mature for his age.” Pitts visited the farm one week before the accident to purchase eggs from Borntreger’s wife, Edna, and spent time with Ervin and his son Marlin. “I cherish the short friendship he and I had.”

The farm was full of visitors Jan. 30-31 for the wake and funeral. Women filled the kitchen preparing meals for the families and for the after-funeral lunch. Non-Amish neighbors dropped off food, the most the community has ever received from “the English,” according to an Amish source. Another wise Amish woman pointed out we all feel the same way when something like this happens because we’re all human.

The funeral began at 9 a.m. with many arriving much earlier. Frozen roads and frigid temperatures didn’t faze the local community or those who traveled from across Iowa and from other states. The chicken house, having been cleaned in preparation by community members, was heated with two wood stoves. Young Amish men walked down the center aisle at one point removing insulation to create air vents in the ceiling.

The sounds of infants crying filled the space, with a temporary nursery walled off by tarps in the back left corner. Men and women sat separately, except for the immediate family who sat together facing the two simple wooden caskets. There were less than 15 non-Amish in attendance, making the room feel like a black-and-white photograph dotted with orange water coolers and the pink and blue of baby blankets, sweaters and toys. The service lasted until noon, with two ministers reading and praying.

Soon after pallbearers carried the caskets out of the building, men began moving benches and clearing space for the lunch, setting up white folding tables that women quickly filled with an assortment of pies. Many traveled by van and buggy to the cemetery, while others socialized over their midday meal, sharing stories and posing the questions sudden death evokes.

They spoke of the gratitude expressed by Edna, wife of Ervin and mother of Marlin, regarding the fact God had spared one of her children, so she wouldn’t be alone. They asked why God would choose those four out of the 13 who traveled alongside them that fateful day. There was also much laughter and the usual reconnection of people who live great distances and see each other on such occasions.

Pitts, who has led fundraising efforts through the Delhi United Methodist Church, feels it’s time to rise up together and respond to the survivors and those who have been affected in the community. “What matters now is how we respond. From my Biblical understanding, the reality is we live in a lost and broken world, and in the midst of that is tragedy — I see God moving and working. That’s where the hope lies — God is going to take care of the survivors.”

Donations made at the church, the Delhi Thrift Store, Heritage Savings Bank or through GoFundMe added up to $20,000 as of Sunday evening. “People have come together and said by their donations that this matters and we can all come together for this,” said Pitts. “It’s overwhelming. We didn’t believe we could raise $2,000. A huge thank you to all those around the area who have responded with money and prayers.”

All survivors of the accident have been released from the hospital except Mary Herschberger.

4 teens, 1 adult charged in crime string targeting Amish

By: Noelle Haynes. WKBN.

MERCER COUNTY, Pa. (WKBN) – Four juveniles and one adult were charged last Thursday after a string of burglaries, thefts and criminal mischief incidents that targeted Amish communities, according to a report.

According to a Pennsylvania State Police report, PSP Mercer investigated a string of crimes through Fairview, Coolspring, Perry, New Vernon, Sandy Lake Townships and the Jackson Center Borough.

The incidents occurred from September 2021 to November 2022 and were focused on rural areas targeting both businesses and private residencies. The specific target was the Amish community, according to the PSP report.

Victims of the thefts reported more than $16,000 of moveable property stolen, including an ATV, tools, fuel, firearms and chainsaws. The suspects also took $5,100 in cash and did $26,000 worth of property damage, according to the report.

PSP Mercer recovered most of the stolen goods. As a result of the investigation, PSP reports 21 burglaries were solved.

A burglary ring of four juveniles and one man were arrested for the criminal acts.

“The organized group planned, scouted, selected, communicated and executed the criminal activities they set out to accomplish,” said PSP in a release.

The Mercer County District Attorney filed charges including burglary, theft, criminal mischief, unauthorized use of motor vehicles, theft from a motor vehicle, corruption of minors and possessing instruments of crime.

Caden Hinkson, 19, was the adult charged in the crimes. He faces 17 felony burglary charges, three criminal mischief charges, three theft charges, one possession of criminal instrument charge and four corruption of minors charges.

Hinkson’s bond is set at $25,000, which he already posted. His preliminary hearing is on Thursday.

The Sweet and Sour Origins of Amish Soul Food: In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, African Americans have created a distinct and delicious cuisine.

Atlas Obscura.

The delicious meals that chef Chris Scott cooks up in his Harlem kitchen may seem like new-fangled American fusion: Pennsylvania Dutch-style chicken and corn soup alongside shrimp grits; lemonade fried chicken with bread-and-butter pickles. But these are actually examples of a cuisine that has been stewing along quietly for generations: Amish soul food.

This combination of Southern and Amish cooking hails from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Scott grew up. “We’ve been eating this since we were kids,” says Scott. “Our parents, [too.]” Coatesville is located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, home to long-standing Amish and African American communities whose cuisines have commingled over generations. Scott is on a mission to share the unique food of the area’s Black residents, along with the stories of resilience and creativity within their sweet, sour, and savory cuisine.

Scott’s great-grandfather Chester Howard migrated to Amish country in search of economic opportunity, as did the ancestors of many other African American families that call the region home. Howard brought the cooking techniques of Virginia tidewater cuisine to Pennsylvania, where he and his family adapted it to suit the ingredients, baked goods, and preserves available at Amish markets. Amish and Southern African American cuisines are natural bedfellows, Scott says, in that they share the same spirit of resourcefulness. They even share certain staples, such as cornmeal and chow chow, a relish made of pickled vegetables.

Howard’s daughter and Scott’s grandmother, “Nana,” was a master of Amish soul food, serving the “Seven Sweets and Sours” of Amish cuisine—a set of condiments ubiquitous at Amish meals—along with meals such as turkey neck gumbo. Along with scrapple, an Amish paté of cooked pork parts, she would make okra chow chow, a Southern relish with West African roots.

Long hours in the kitchen with Nana inspired Scott to become a chef. Yet for many years of his professional career, Scott kept the story of Amish soul food to himself. As Scott writes in his new cookbook Homage: Recipes and Stories from an Amish Soul Food Kitchen, “I came to believe that working in European restaurants, with a focus on fine-dining techniques, was the only professional path worthy of attention and respect.” But following years of introspection and hard-won sobriety, he decided to look to his heritage for culinary inspiration.

In 2016 and 2018, respectively, he opened soul food restaurants Butterfunk Kitchen and Sumner’s Luncheonette in New York, and in 2018 was a semi-finalist on Top Chef, where he coined the term “Amish soul food” to describe his culinary style. In September 2022, he released his cookbook as both an homage to his grandmother and a celebration of the Amish soul food she cooked. At his newest restaurant, Butterfunk Biscuit Co. in Harlem, his interpretations of Coatesville’s African American cuisine take center stage. “It’s intoxicating to be able to truly be me in a world where I always couldn’t,” he says.

Gastro Obscura spoke with Scott about Eurocentrism in the restaurant industry, the definition of Amish soul food, parallels between Amish and African American histories, and the future of soul food.

You mention in your book that there was a period where you struggled to share the story of the food you grew up with. What changed?

[For many White chefs around me,] Black food to them has always been a niche thing. They feel like it’s just having its moment, but there’s no lasting or staying power—although we have been here for centuries.

[They’ll say,] ‘How hard can it be?’ ‘What kind of technique is it? It’s not even a technique-driven food.’ They even get into it being unhealthy. So I’d say at least nine out of ten things coming out of their mouths about Black food, Black culture, are all negative. So coming up, of course, it was embarrassing to embrace that side of me.

Once I started to accept [my food] and who I was, I started actually cooking some of the best food that I ever did in my life, because it was mine, because it was from the heart, and because I could be unapologetically Black.

What do you think makes Amish soul food unique?

Some of the most Southern flavors or dishes that you know—imagine them with brighter nuances, higher in vinegar, higher in sugar, higher in citrus, because the Germans really have a lot of sweet and sour components.

Back in the day, the slaves would have their own gardens. Sometimes you would have chicken bones to make your broth a little bit more flavorful, sometimes not. And then that would go over some type of cornbread. A lot of Amish dishes are very similar: things that are taken from the garden, preserves. A ton of stews: chicken and dumplings, or brisket with potatoes and cabbage.

Are these similarities just a coincidence, or is there a shared history?

Basically, it’s survival. [With the Amish] you have a group of people that have been ousted because of their religion. They move here to the States, and they hit the ground with nothing. Just like with slaves: we were given nothing. You make the best of nothing because you have to.

How would you describe the relationship between African American and Amish people in Coatesville?

The Amish were definitely a group of people that were mainly to themselves, and the only sort of interaction that you had was when you would frequent their markets or their stores. You would see them out in the suburbs, and—more on the Lancaster County side—in their horses and buggies, or [out] farming. But a lot of the interaction was in their markets.

Are there any specific dishes that stick out in your mind as examples of Amish soul food, with its sweet-and-sour flavor palate?

When I was on Top Chef, I did a lemonade buttermilk fried chicken. Down south, everybody and their mama brines chicken with sweet tea. [I grew] up in a household where sweet tea was in my refrigerator, and so was Kool-Aid and so was lemonade. It makes [the fried chicken] super duper bright.

What kind of Amish soul food dishes would your grandmother cook?

She would put vinegar in her sweet potato pie, not necessarily to where it was tart, but to where it wasn’t so sweet. In her cakes, rather than eggs and oil, she would put in mayonnaise, so the overall texture of that cake was now almost pillowy.

There were a lot of techniques that she got just from being in that area. In Virginia, they weren’t rocking spaetzle and cabbage and egg noodle stew and all that. But once [my family] made its way up North, my grandmother was doing [Amish] dishes but adding components like neck bone. Neck bone with egg noodles, with spaetzle. Okra chow chow with scrapple.

In your eyes, what does the future look like for Amish soul food, and Black culinary culture in general?

The whole Amish soul food thing was just a door to showing people that we are more than what people think we are. We’re so much more than just fried chicken, watermelon, biscuits and cornbread and anything that’s red velvet. I want to see more amplification of us that goes beyond the South.

There’s so many of us now that we’re individually and collectively blazing the trail for the next generation. I certainly think that we’re here to stay. And hopefully there’ll come a point when all these arrogant Michelin chefs make space—or we take space—at the global table, showing them that our food is here to stay as well.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Bedeviled eggs: Bird flu, inflation bump egg prices, strain supply. ISABEL HICKS BOZEMAN. DAILY CHRONICLE. Darrel Kleinsasser, left, fills a pallet with thousands of eggs the Mountain View Hutterite Colony each week for the Billings market. Only Ike Hofer and his son are allowed inside the poultry barn. They always scrub their hands and disinfect their shoes before entering, and their chickens have stayed inside for months to prevent contact with wild birds. Hofer, the poultry barn manager for Rockport Colony, a Hutterite colony in Teton County, said the tightened security is aimed at staving off the bird flu. The colony’s laying hens haven’t yet been impacted by bird flu this outbreak, but the duo has been taking preventative measures. The bird flu did kill the colony’s 4,000 turkeys last year, only a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Like Rockport, other Hutterite colonies in Montana were hit especially hard by bird flu this year, and were forced to depopulate thousands of birds. It’s a similar story for poultry farms and egg producers across the nation. In Montana, it’s meant that grocery stores have struggled to find eggs and consumers have seen higher prices. Last week at Bozeman's Town and Country, customers scoured the fridge for their single allotted egg carton. The brands — some fully stocked and others all sold out — reflected the wide range of egg prices seen in stores right now: the most expensive dozen sold for $9.09, and the cheapest for $3.39. The store on South 11th Avenue began restricting egg purchases in mid-January, because while the number of available eggs was falling, consumer demand was not. Other regional grocery stores like Costco took similar steps to limit egg purchases last month, reflecting the nationwide supply and demand trends that are driving up prices to egregious levels. The impacts of inflation and an ongoing outbreak of bird flu have taken their toll on farmer profits all year — and now, more consumers are starting to feel those impacts. Travis Frandsen, president of Town and Country Foods, said the stores have been ordering a similar number of eggs this year compared to previous years. But it was just this January they started getting shorted on orders. Frandsen said Town and Country gets most of its eggs from local suppliers in central Montana and the state’s Hutterite colonies, while some come from out of state. The store’s egg orders in January have been shorted by 20% to 30%. If they ordered 100 cases of eggs, they may only get 70, Frandsen said. Across the country, bird flu has forced the culling of 58.2 million birds, according to USDA data. The laying hen population is down 5.8% from December 2021, and egg production is down 6.6%. Meanwhile, the cost of retail eggs has jumped 138% since the outbreak started, from a national average of $1.79 a dozen in December 2021 to $4.25 a dozen in December 2022. While the bird flu outbreak has dragged on since last February, Frandsen said until this year, Town and Country stores have been fairly insulated from supply shortages. That’s because they have solid relationships with local producers who prioritize them as a customer, Frandsen said. “I want people to know this is not the end of the world,” Frandsen said. “Generally, we have eggs.” Eric Belasco, an agricultural economist for Montana State University, said the magnitude of the price shocks has been pretty dramatic. Egg prices have more than doubled, jumping the most in price than any other food product in the last year. The economic explanation is that eggs are inelastic, Belasco said. Like gasoline or alcohol, there aren’t great substitutes for inelastic goods, so consumers shell out money even as prices rise. Typically, a small dip in supply of inelastic goods leads to large price increases, because consumers are willing to pay those high prices for the product. That’s what we’re seeing with eggs, Belasco said. But when the last significant bird flu outbreak swept the U.S. in 2015, egg prices didn’t increase by nearly as much. In 2015, the price received index for eggs — which measures changing costs of a good while accounting for inflation — was up 50% from pre-outbreak levels. Prices dropped after the outbreak ended in 2015. But in 2022, they climbed again — this time by nearly 140%. “The price shock in 2015 looks like nothing compared to the shock this year,” Belasco said. Some farm groups have called on the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether large egg suppliers are using bird flu as an excuse to price gouge, pointing to their record high profits. But this year’s outbreak has become far more extensive than the last one, impacting nearly 8 million more birds and counting. That coupled with high costs for feed are a recipe for higher consumer costs, Belasco said. Matt Rothschiller, who runs Gallatin Valley Botanical, said that while the farm has managed to avoid bird flu, they still have to raise prices because their operating costs increase each year. The biggest costs for the laying barn are labor and feed, Rothschiller said, and those will only keep going up. This year, the chicken feed price for Rothschiller jumped from $456 a ton to $555, and it’s set to increase to $580 this coming season. When the Rockport colony’s turkey population was culled it was a huge loss for the colony, Hofer said. Government indemnity only covers the market value of the birds and not all the feed it took to raise them, he said. The government policy for controlling bird flu is to cull entire flocks with a known positive case. As the scale of the outbreak continues to expand, government officials are looking into other ways to slow disease spread in the future. One idea in discussion is requiring facilities to have biosecurity plans to receive indemnity payments, said Martin Zaluski, Montana’s state veterinarian. That would ensure producers are taking necessary precautions to decrease the risk, Zaluski said. He added that many commercial facilities have already improved their biosecurity to protect from bird flu, by adding things like netting, rodent control, and disinfecting stations for employees. Still, those safeguards cost producers time and money they may not have, Zaluski said. Bird flu vaccines do exist, but they’re not used in the U.S. because they’re not fully protective — some birds would still get infected and die, Zaluski said. There’s no treatment for the disease, and it can cause over 90% mortality to a flock in just a few days. Zaluski said it’s more humane to depopulate, and that also lowers the chance of the virus mutating and jumping to humans. Vaccination would also hinder surveillance testing efforts because vaccinated birds could falsely test positive for the virus, he said. U.S. trade policy stipulates not to vaccinate for bird flu, but to depopulate affected flocks instead. Widespread vaccination would cripple international markets for American bird products, Zaluski said. Along with Rockport, other Hutterite colonies in Montana were hit especially hard by bird flu this year and were forced to depopulate thousands of birds. Last April, the ducks and broilers at Seville Colony contracted bird flu, and because of their proximity to the layer barn, they had to cull those chickens too. Nearly 34,000 chickens were depopulated, and it took the colony nearly eight months to get back to full egg production. Hutterite colonies produce Montana's egg supply Cascade Colony also had to depopulate some 15,000 laying hens last year. In Glendale Colony, over 1,000 turkeys caught bird flu and were culled just weeks before Thanksgiving. The losses impacted Bozeman grocery stores and consumers too, who have to pay more for Hutterite eggs and turkeys or settle for something else. The Bozeman Co-Op was unable to sell Hutterite turkeys this year because of bird flu in the colonies’ flocks. Fortunately, egg suppliers for the co-op haven’t gotten the disease, and the store has avoided raising its egg prices this year, said Alison Germain, the co-op’s marketing manager. But like other grocers right now, they can’t always guarantee stock. Bird flu has most severely impacted large commercial suppliers, Germain said. That’s made more consumers start buying local, organic eggs — which are sometimes the only option on the shelf. Local eggs are now more in demand, but harder to find, Germain said. Derek Angel, whose egg distribution business sells to Bozeman stores, said that when the commercial stock goes down because of bird flu, that carries impacts to local suppliers. None of the farms who supply for Angel Eggs have dealt with bird flu this year, but they’re stressed from taking on the demand typically shouldered by commercial farms. Economists said egg prices should stabilize once the chicken population returns to pre-outbreak levels. Once there’s more supply to meet demand, that will drive down the price, Belasco said. The Bozeman grocery stores said that historically after Easter, egg demand drops. Hens also lay fewer eggs in the winter, so naturally there is lower production this time of year anyway. But rebuilding the nation’s flock won’t happen overnight. Producers who had fully-grown birds are now having to start from scratch. Hens can only lay so many eggs, and there’s only so many hens, said Angel, the egg supplier. “We can’t force them to lay more eggs just because we want them to,” he said. Coupled with inflation, it’s unclear how much a return to supply would drive down egg prices. “It seems like the higher prices eventually become the new norm,” Frandsen of Town and Country said. “You just can’t get eggs for 99 cents anymore, anywhere.”.

Stuartburn Reeve reaches out to Amish.

Written by Lexi Olifirowich Steinbach Online.

The Reeve for the RM of Stuartburn has only been in her position for a few months and has already seen ways to help everyone in her RM.

Michelle Gawronsky says when it comes to the Amish, though they are very private people, they have been open enough to ask for help from her office. For example, when the pandemic hit, the Amish ran into troubles as things turned online.

She says one of the biggest issues the Amish dealt with was getting birth certificates for their children, as government offices were closed.

"These folks not having electricity and no computers, they were having babies and couldn't get birth certificates because you had to do it all online.”

She says one couple was going home to Wisconsin for Christmas, but they couldn’t take their two children across the border because they didn’t have birth certificates.

Gawronsky and MLA for La Vérendrye, Dennis Smook worked together to make sure these kids got their birth certificates.

“Dennis Smook, he put a lot of time and effort in ensuring that these children got birth certificates so that their parents could go home to visit,” she says. “And just for these poor parents to actually have the rights to their children, which sounds so strange, but that's exactly what it is.”

Gawronsky mentions that the Amish are currently dealing with another problem regarding the Canada child benefit cheques.

She says the Amish don’t accept government money, so when the government continues to send them cheques, they didn't know what to do.

"One gentleman came with a bunch of checks and said, ‘Can you help us stop the government from sending us these? We don't accept them. We send them back and because we haven't cashed them, they send bigger ones back because they have to add interest to it.’”

Gawronsky says she may have come up with a possible solution and is currently in the process of working with them on whether they’d be able to donate the money toward something in the community.

She says it could be anything from play structures to their farmer's market.

The Amish have to run it through their church to see whether that is a possible solution, and Gawronsky believes they will be able to come up with a plan so the issue is resolved..

One breeder recounted how the future member of Congress made off with four golden retrievers, leading to a criminal charge in 2017.

By Jonathan O'Connell, Emma Brown, and Shayna Jacobs.

The Washington Post.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — It was after dark when George A. Santos approached the farmer in Pennsylvania’s Amish country looking to buy at least eight puppies.

He promised a wire transfer of more than $5,000, the farmer said, but it never appeared. He said Santos ended up writing a smaller check — and driving off with four golden retrievers.

“Something inside me said I just cannot trust him,” the farmer told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect his privacy.

The check bounced.

The farmer, who has not previously spoken to the media, said he called police after the encounter in 2017. It took nearly two years for the authorities to locate Santos back home in New York, but he was eventually charged with theft by deception, according to a brief mention in the Star, a newspaper in York County. In May 2021, the paper reported, the case was dismissed under a provision of Pennsylvania law that allows misdemeanor charges to be dropped when a prosecutor consents and “satisfaction has been made to the aggrieved person.”

Indeed, the farmer said he was finally paid for his four dogs. In his handwritten bank ledger, he wrote: “George Santos reimburse bad ck.”

The farmer told The Post he did not think that Santos, a Republican elected to Congress in November after brazenly lying to voters about his past, should be in public office.

“Sometimes people change for the better,” the farmer said, “but would he really, after crimes like this?”

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) has falsified his personal history, padded his résumé and made other outlandish claims that have put him in hot water. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

Police and court officials said no record of such a case is available. Pennsylvania law allows for the expungement of cases that end in dismissal, which then erases records related to those cases and bars officials from acknowledging their existence.

Santos’s attorney, Joseph W. Murray, declined to comment. David Sunday, the York County district attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.

A lawyer friend of Santos’s who said he consulted her after police came knocking gave The Post copies of nine checks from a “George A. Santos” bank account, six of which mentioned “puppies” or “puppy” in the memo line. She said he told her that he did not write the checks and that they did not clear his account. They were written for amounts totaling $15,125 and were dated November 2017 — a period in which Santos, then the head of a purported animal rescue charity, was holding puppy-adoption events on Staten Island. The checks and the charge against Santos were first reported Thursday by Politico.

The farmer whose complaint sparked the theft charge is one of four dog breeders in Amish country, flanking the Susquehanna River in southern Pennsylvania, who told The Post that they received bad checks bearing Santos’s name that month. The checks were used to buy golden retrievers, German shepherds and Yorkshire terriers. The other three breeders said they did not file police reports and were never paid.

Shown photographs of Santos, the farmer in York County and another of the breeders The Post contacted identified him as the man who wrote the checks. The other two said they could not tell because the encounters occurred one night in the dark more than five years ago. All spoke on the condition of anonymity to guard their privacy.

The recipients of the five other checks could not be reached.

Tiffany Bogosian, the lawyer friend who has stayed in touch with Santos since they attended junior high school together, said in an interview that he called her in a panic one day in February 2020, during his first run for Congress. He told her that New York City law enforcement officials had informed him that he was wanted in Pennsylvania regarding bad checks and needed to report there immediately. He sent her copies of the nine checks, she said.

Bogosian said Santos wanted to keep the case quiet because he was in the middle of his first congressional campaign. “He said if this comes out it will be a scandal,” she said.

Bogosian said she contacted a Pennsylvania state trooper who had been assigned to the case. In an email, she told the trooper that Santos said that he did not write the checks and that his checkbook had gone missing shortly after he opened the account.

She described Santos to the trooper as “a victim of fraud.”

She said she also spoke to the trooper by phone to assure him that Santos would report to Pennsylvania.

“I was like, ‘Listen, he’s definitely going to turn himself in because he’s running for Congress,’” she said.

Bogosian said she then advised Santos to get a lawyer with credentials to practice in Pennsylvania. Bogosian said she has since come to believe that Santos was behind the scheme, prompting her to share her experience with reporters.

The state trooper declined to comment.

After Santos was elected in November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, helping Republicans secure a narrow majority in the House, news reports revealed that he had lied about many aspects of his biography, including that he was a college volleyball star and that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors. He has apologized for what he called “résumé embellishment.” He stepped down from House committee assignments but has rejected calls from New York GOP leaders for his resignation.

The Justice Department is investigating Santos’s campaign finances amid questions about $700,000 in loans he reported making to his 2022 campaign and $254,000 in payments the campaign briefly reported to recipients listed as “anonymous.” Santos’s attorney has not commented on the investigation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating Harbor City Capital, the Florida investment firm where Santos previously worked that the SEC has called a “classic Ponzi scheme.” Santos has said he had no awareness of any wrongdoing at the company.

The farmer with the golden retrievers in York County said Santos arrived after 9 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2017. Santos said he would pay more than $5,000 by wire transfer for eight puppies, the farmer said, and insisted that he could see via his cellphone that the money had been transferred.

“He was there for more than an hour trying to convince me,” the farmer said. “His tongue waggles, he talks fast. Smooth talker is how I’m going to explain it.”

Wary, the farmer called his bank, which had a customer-service line open late. He was told no payment had been wired to his account.

Santos then offered to take just four dogs and to pay by check, the farmer said. Santos said he would come back with cash for the rest of the puppies, but he never did. The Post is not specifying the exact amount of the check to protect the farmer’s anonymity.

The other breeder who identified Santos from a photograph said Santos gave him a check that same night for two German shepherd puppies. After the check bounced, the breeder said, he tried to contact Santos by phone but couldn’t.

“I tried to reach him back numerous times, never got an answer,” the breeder said. “It just almost floors me that you tell me that this person is a member of Congress. … People like this need to be stopped.”

The two breeders who could not say if Santos was the buyer said they received bad checks from Santos’s account on the evening of Nov. 22, 2017. That date matches the dates on the checks provided by Bogosian.

“What caught my attention was the check just had his name on it, it didn’t have his address or anything,” one of the breeders said.

Still, the breeder said he accepted a check for more than $2,000 for three or four Yorkshire terriers. The breeder said that when he went to the bank two days later, the check did not clear. He said he did not call police because he did not think it would make a difference.

The other said the buyer claimed to own three pet stores in New York City and already had a carload of puppies when he arrived late at night. “Obviously he was going around buying puppies,” he said. The breeder sold him an English cream golden retriever.

At the time, Santos was running what he described as a pet-rescue charity called Friends of Pets United, or FOPU. FOPU held several puppy-adoption events at Pet Oasis, a local chain on Staten Island, according to posts on the store’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

On Nov. 16, 2017 — three days after breeders interviewed by The Post received the bad checks for golden retrievers and German shepherds — Pet Oasis advertised the next FOPU event with a photo of the animals that would be up for adoption. They included golden retriever and German shepherd puppies.

On Nov. 24, 2017, the store advertised another FOPU adoption event with photographs of dogs whose breeds matched those taken from Amish country two days earlier.

Staten Island resident Michele Vazzo said she adopted an English cream golden retriever at one of FOPU’s Pet Oasis events that year, paying the charity $300 or $400. She said Santos told her at the time that the dogs had been rescued from an Amish puppy mill.

Daniel Avissato, who owned Pet Oasis at the time, said the store did not share in any of the money Santos took in and cut ties with him after a short period. When the store gave a check to Santos’s charity, the cashed check showed that the charity name had been crossed out and replaced with Santos’s name, Avissato said.

The episode was first reported by the New York Times.

“That’s when things got really heated and I no longer had anything to do with him,” Avissato said in an interview Friday. “We were a legitimate business. He was a con artist.”

Branch County Road Commission wants authority to license, regulate Amish traffic.

Don Reid, Coldwater Daily Reporter.

February 01, 2023.

BRANCH COUNTY — Branch County Road Commissioners will again ask state legislators for the power to regulate and license Amish buggies.

Past efforts to gain the authority exercised in Indiana for safety and to recover some costs for road use failed to gain any support in past Michigan legislatures.

Going back to 2014, California Township residents and officials complained about the damage the carbide-tipped steel horseshoes and steel wagon and buggy rims did to the roads.

Former Michigan Senate president Mike Shirkey promised to introduce a bill in 2019.

Shirkey told Branch County officials he would propose a law "mimicking what's being done today in Pennsylvania. There, with a flourishing Amish community, they have regulation on buggies, drivers, lighting, and rubber wheels.” The use of polymer shoes like those used on Mackinac Island could help.

After discussion with other senators, Shirkey changed his position to allow local county controls, rather than a statewide regulation. No bill was ever filed.

BCRC vice chair Steve Weigt said a new letter will go out to now Sen. Jon Lindsey and Representative Andrew Fink.

“We decided to restart that fire now we've got a new senator. We are not sure how up-to-date he is on this issue.”

Road commission manager Jay Miller said the damage from the Amish transportation causes road damage and they pay nothing for road use since like electric vehicles they pay no gas taxes.

Last year the road commission milled and then put an asphalt cover over Ray-Quincy Road from Gower to Southern roads.

“We had to because it was nearing a point of no return for repairs,” Miller explained. “The cost was just short of a million dollars.”

The manager said, “it’s the southeast townships, Algansee, and California where there is a problem.” Repaired Ray-Quincy Road “is already showing wear.”

Hoof and wheel rim tracks are evident on roads in all the townships where Amish families are moving in, especially now in Bethel, west Bronson and west Matteson.

Indiana allows counties to license and tax all non-motorized transportation. On January 9, the LaGrange County Commissioners doubled the fee it charges to license Amish buggies.

That fee was increased to $200 a year per buggy.

The fee for plates required on horse-drawn vehicles will increase an additional $10 a year for the next ten years to $300 annually.

LaGrange County, with the largest percentage of Amish in its population in Indiana, will use the money to help fund road projects.

Indiana counties can also require no carbide-tipped horseshoes and rubber rims on buggies.

Current costs to chip seal a mile of road in Branch County is around $17,500 a mile.

“To mill and overlay a mile around can cost upwards of $135,000 a mile,” Miller said. Total repaving cost more than $160,000 a mile. “It’s not cheap.”

Safety is another reason for licensing. Amish bishops in northeast Branch County allow battery powered flashing LED light and reflector tape on buggies for safety. Those in the southeast townships only small reflectors and some tape.

“There is that matter for safety” after several buggy accidents a year Miller explained.

A registration plate would also show ownership.

“Heaven forbid , if everyone in a buggy dies in an accident, we would not know who owned the buggy or how to contact anyone,” Miller said. Licensing would help.

A 1949 law grants all persons riding an animal or driving an animal-drawn vehicle upon a Michigan roadway all of the rights and subjects them to all the duties, criminal penalties, and civil sanctions applicable to the driver of a motorized vehicle. It does not address vehicle lighting safety or registration.

Their Work Was Delayed but Not Denied as Unity Amish Prepare for Year Ahead. Morning Sentinel staff report Members of the Amish community in Unity guide blocks of ice harvested Thursday from a farm pond. The ice was taken to icehouses to keep produce cold for up to a year. Photo courtesy of David Leaming. UNITY — A group of 30 Amish men and teenagers gathered Thursday for an annual effort to cut blocks of ice from a farm pond that were then stored in icehouses to keep produce cold for up to a year. The labor-intensive work is normally done earlier in the winter, but farmer Stephen Smith said it was delayed by the unseasonably warm temperatures. They were able to complete the work ahead of the bitterly cold and gusty weather that moved into the region Friday. Farmer Stephen Smith uses ice tongs Thursday to load heavy blocks of ice onto a wagon in Unity. He said about 30 Amish men and teenagers cut and chipped long pieces of ice from a farm pond before carving them into blocks for storage through the year in icehouses to keep produce cold. Photo courtesy of David Leaming. A chainsaw was used to cut large pieces of ice from the pond, and then they were crafted into smaller blocks, which were guided over to a conveyer belt using poles. The blocks were loaded onto horse-drawn wagons and taken to icehouses near a community harvest building not far from the Amish Community Market and Bakery on state Route 139, also known as Thorndike Road. The heavy load required each wagon to be pulled by a team of four horses. Smith said approximately 300,000 pounds of ice was collected as part of a project that’s essential for storing produce and other food through the year. “We’re glad it’s cold now as we usually do this in January and had to wait this year due to a warm winter,” Smith said.

Two women charged with stealing tens of thousands from Amish growers in St. Croix County.

ST. CROIX COUNTY (WQOW) - Two women are charged in St. Croix County for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Amish growers.

Linda Curtis, 50, is charged with identity theft, theft of a business setting, and two counts of resisting or obstructing an officer. Court records list a New Richmond address for her.

Sabreena Stage, 22, is charged with identity theft and theft from a business setting. Court records list a Roberts address for her.

According to the criminal complaint:

Curtis and Stage, who are mother and daughter, were hired in April 2022 as representatives for St. Croix Valley Produce. They submitted resignation letters two months later on June 18, 2022.

At the time, St. Croix Valley Produce business consisted of about 26 Amish growers. They sell their produce and goods to grocery stores. Their Amish religion does not allow them to be insured. So, they hired non-Amish representatives to handle the insurance policy and the computerized accounting for the business. That is what they told investigators Curtis and Stage were hired to do.

St. Croix Valley Produce had an Amish board of directors to oversee the business and supervise the non-Amish representatives.

Because of how the corporation was structured, the non-Amish representatives were given 33 shares of common stock that had no monetary value. Curtis told police they paid $1 for these shares of stock.

When police contacted Curtis about the allegations, Curtis told police she and Stage owned the company now and wish to sell it back to the Amish. However, she didn't want to sell it back for the $1 she paid for it. Their lawyers sent a letter to the Amish board saying they would sell their ownership interests for $473,347.47.

The Amish board members told police they preferred to resolve this matter outside of court for religious reasons. They hired a lawyer but weren't able to come to a solution. The board contacted authorities in July 2022 to report the fraudulent activity after Curtis and Stage allegedly sent collection notices to people who had paid their bills to the new company.

Following their resignation, Curtis and Stage retained the company's computer and had sole access to its accounting program, QuickBooks. They also had control over its website. In December 2022, Curtis and Stage posted a message on the company's website, saying they are the owners of St. Croix Valley Produce and people should send payment to a new address. The new address was Linda Curtis' home.

That message remains on the website as of Friday, February 3. The website also shows paperwork dated August 3, 2022 from Curtis and Stage's lawyer again stating they alone own St. Croix Valley Produce.

From the time of their resignation, checks for St. Croix Valley Produce were allegedly sent to Curtis' address. Bank records show the following amounts were put into the company's bank account, which Curtis and Stage controlled:

June 2022: $2,301

July 2022: $17,211.65

August 2022: $14,542.50

September 2022: $534.25

The Amish board told police they believe much more money was lost and suspect money was deposited into personal accounts for Curtis and Stage. In addition, investigators report that it appears Curtis and Stage wrote unauthorized checks to themselves from the business. For example, memo lines stated they were issued checks for PTO, meal reimbursement and owner's compensation - none of which was allowed under the terms of their employment.

Accounts were also lost to the business during this time, including HyVee.

Amish board members told police they had to change their business name to stop Curtis and Stage from holding funds from them. They said many customers didn't know of the change and continued to send money to Curtis and Stage.

The exact amount of money lost is unknown. Authorities are still waiting on documents and warrants for other accounts, including Cash App and Venmo.

Computers and paperwork were seized from Curtis' and Stage's homes on February 1, 2023. Officers said Curtis was blocking them from searching her home and had to be physically restrained at one point.

Both women are free on a $10,000 signature bond. They are due back in court February 8 for a status conference. The judge ordered they are not allowed to have contact with St. Croix Valley Produce or its website.

Supervisors: Building codes apply to Amish residents too.

Evan Lawrence, Special to The Post-Star.

FORT EDWARD — Amish residents of Washington County won’t be exempt from meeting building codes, the county Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee decided Tuesday.

An Amish working group, made up of committee members and others, checked with legal counsel and was advised not to give the Amish exemptions from certificate of occupancy requirements based on their religious beliefs, several members reported. However, the group also drew up a draft waiver request form for discussion at the meeting.

Committee members and members of the working group debated whether the Amish are a unique group that should be exempt when other state residents have to follow state building codes. Granville Supervisor Matthew Hicks and Whitehall Supervisor John Rozell pointed out that many structures in the county were erected long before building codes were introduced and never received certificates of occupancy.

In a roll call vote, Putnam Supervisor Darrell Wilson, Kingsbury Supervisor Dana Hogan, Hicks, and Hampton Supervisor David O’Brien voted against offering a waiver. Rozell, Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff and Salem Supervisor Evera Sue Clary voted for a waiver. Haff cited the First Amendment right to free expression of religion as his reason to support a waiver, although one person at the meeting asked what religion has to do with the New York state building code. Haff said he would introduce a resolution for a waiver at the next full Board of Supervisors meeting. County Code Enforcement Officer John Graham said he was told a year and a half ago to hold building permit applications from Amish residents until the matter could be resolved, and never deposited the checks that came with the applications. The committee decided that enforcement of the building codes would start as of Jan. 1, 2023. Applications before that date could be returned.

Wilson said Graham is allowed some discretion when he inspects a building. For example, the code specifies a wired-in smoke detector but Graham may allow a battery-powered device, he said. Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell, a member of the working group, said violators would be referred to town court, where a judge could either order enforcement or dismiss the case. Wilson thanked the members of the working group for following through on the issue. “We’re all better educated,” he said. In other business…see link

From ‘no phones’ to smartphones in 38 years [The Scribbler].

JACK BRUBAKER | The Scribbler.


The Scribbler recently re-watched “Witness,” that exceptional movie made in Lancaster County in 1984 by director Peter Weir. The Scribbler was struck this time by two particular lines. The chief bad cop from Philadelphia is talking by telephone with a Lancaster police sergeant. He wonders how he might locate a good Philadelphia cop (played by Harrison Ford) who is disguised as an Amish man living among real Amish. The sergeant rejects some ideas.

“Maybe, sergeant, you could do a little telephoning,” the bad cop suggests as a last resort. “Yeah, maybe I could,” the sergeant replies, with sarcasm dripping through the phone line, “but since the Amish don’t have any telephones, I wouldn't know who to call.” That was not true. By 1985, when “Witness” was released, quite a few Amish had telephones, either individual or party lines. Usually, these phones were located in outhouse-like shanties outside the house. Some Amish still use phone shanties. Not all phones were located outside houses. About the time of the movie’s release, the Scribbler was interviewing a young Amish carpenter at his home in Bird-in-Hand when a faint ringing sound came from the basement. The carpenter excused himself, walked down to the basement and answered his phone. Some Amish began using cellphones in the 1990s. By the first decade of this century, mobile phones were common in some church districts. Every Amish contact but one that the Scribbler had at that time had a cellphone in his pocket. In recent years, smartphones have become the mobile phones of choice, particularly among young people. Amish leaders in some church districts still frown on smartphone use, but the devices are easy to keep out of sight — or to borrow from an “English” friend. The Scribbler mentions this because Isaac L. Stoltzfus, of Gordonville, discusses the dangers of smartphone use in a letter printed in the January issue of The Budget, an Old Order Amish newspaper. “Many youth are simply told how bad smartphones are ... and not to use them,” writes Stoltzfus. “I feel in 2023 we need to do more.”

His primary concern is the sharing of images on phones. “The problem is you depend on others,” he writes. “Too often those others control your technology use, your language, and it is them that do you harm, not the technology.”

By using smartphone technology, he adds, “the less focus we have left for work, for people or God. Sharing means we cannot shut it off, limit it to mail only, or walk away from the addictive views and values.” It’s a long way from 1985 to 2023. It’s an even longer way from an outsider claiming incorrectly that the Amish have no phones to an insider worrying about how smartphones may damage individuals and the culture.

Erb's Coleman Museum is still burning strong. Andrew Dolph. The Times-Reporter. SUGARCREEK – It goes without saying that museum visits can provide a glimpse back in time, and Erb’s Coleman Museum is illuminating. Forty years ago, Ed Erb started selling gas-powered refrigerators and fixing Coleman lanterns for the Amish community — particularly the fisherman. Then those fishermen started bringing him the antique lanterns they found in the attics of their parents' homes. With his passion for Coleman ignited, Erb co-founded the International Coleman Collectors Club with his friend Ernie Hyatt from Rochester, Indiana, about 30 years ago. Today, the group has more than 4,000 members from as far away as Germany, Holland, England, Thailand, Australia and Japan. The club will host its annual convention June 22-24 in Saskatoon, Canada. The club pays homage to all Coleman products. William Coffin Coleman introduced the first outdoor, all-weather gasoline lantern in 1914. The Coleman company notes that those lanterns helped illuminate "the first evening football game west of the Mississippi. And in WWII, soldiers parachuted into Europe with our camping stoves in their backpacks." Erb is proud of his well-kept museum at 149 Seldenright Road SW in Sugarcreek and outlet store that showcases more than 7,000 Coleman items. While exploring two floors of vintage Coleman products, visitors can discover lanterns from all over the world, in addition to vintage stoves, kerosene stoves, a Coleman mini-bike, snowmobile and nostalgic camping gear. Among the most notable pieces in his collection is a “Spirit Lamp,” a kerosene Coleman lamp that Erb has lit every year for the past 29 years to honor people who have passed on. The lamp was produced for only two years in the 1940s. Erb lives with his wife next door to the museum. They have two grown children. In addition to tending to the Coleman Museum and running the family farm, Erb also helps run Erb’s Stove Center in Millersburg. Group and personal tours are available by appointment. To contact Erb, call 330-763-1549.

Sewing service to others; Hutterite quilting project sends hundred overseas.

By Dana Melius. The Free Press.

At the Altona Christian Community in rural Henderson, dozens of women joined forces to put on a colorful display of service to others.

In what has become an annual project at the Hutterite colony in eastern Sibley County, the four-day sewing spectacle stretches well beyond the Altona community. Hutterite colonies from as far away as Missouri and as close as the Starland Hutterite Colony in rural Gibbon, on Sibley County’s western side, participated in the four-day gathering. It’s also a celebration of community, bringing together the generations to piece together these works of art.

“It’s the favorite week of the year for us,” reflected Myra Wollman, a teacher at Altona who served as tour guide. “All of these quilts are going to be donated to Christian organizations that get them to people who need them.”

Her aunt, Esther Wollman, served as lead organizer of the quilting efforts, bouncing from station to station to visit and chip in whenever needed.

“There are so many people who have less than us,” she said, stressing the need to serve others. Myra Wollman added that while the Altona quilters never really know where the quilts end up overseas, she believes this year that many will be heading to Eastern Europe, possibly Ukraine, which has suffered from the Russian invasion. While it started as a small venture by individual quilters years ago, according to Myra, it’s grown to some 60 quilters, occupying the community’s gymnasium for four days. Beverly Brandt, longtime neighbor to Altona in Henderson Township, has been watching the growth of the community and its quilting efforts for two decades. And it’s become an important part of her life, beyond just the week of quilting. She estimated that “about 10 people from four different colonies” joined the Altona project. And a half dozen Henderson area friends chip in, Brandt added. “I love coming over here and doing things,” said Brandt, now 86. “It’s just fun. I just try to keep busy.” And busy it was. Brandt patiently pieced together a smaller piece of fabric which would become part of a larger quilt. Myra Wollman called Brandt the Altona community’s “adopted grandmother.” Now widowed after a 68-year marriage, Brandt called the Altona Christian Community a gift back to her. “I always say, ‘How did I get here?” she reflected, smiling, amazed by the sense of community at Altona. Another member of the Altona community, maneuvering a sewing machine next to Brandt, “too shy” to be pictured or share her name, said simply: “We love it when she comes over to help.” Esther Wollman said the 400 quilts were expected to be completed by early Thursday afternoon. The Altona Christian Community is an independent Hutterite colony, founded in 2001, with about 130 residents, according to Myra Wollman. It was joined by members of the Grand River Christian Community in Jamesport, Missouri, the Elmendorf Christian Community in Mountain Lake, and the Starland Hutterite Colony in rural Gibbon. The Hutterite religion calls for pacifism and “a belief in community of goods, in which all material goods are held in common,” according to The Altona Christian Community also owns and operates Rush River Steel & Trim and farms in the Henderson Township area. The community also operates the Altona Christian School, with a reported 36 students pre-k through 12th grade.

Place: Mercer County, PA—northwestern Pennsylvania region.

Group: Area Amish—and possibly Mennonite—groups.

Charges held for court for man accused of robbing Amish community.

By David L. Dye. Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — Charges are proceeding to the Mercer County Common Pleas Court for the man accused of organizing a string of burglaries.

Caden Hinkson, 19, of Fredonia, appeared in court for his preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon before District Judge Daniel W. Davis, Mercer.

The charges were held for common pleas court, and Hinkson’s arraignment is scheduled for April 11 before Judge Daniel P. Wallace.

Hinkson is facing charges of attempted burglary, burglary, theft, criminal mischief, possessing an instrument of crime, and corruption of minors, according to court documents.

Hinkson’s charges stem from a series of 21 burglaries, thefts and criminal mischief incidents that were reported between September 2021 and this past November in Jackson Center, and the townships of Delaware, Coolspring, Fairview, Perry, New Vernon and Sandy Lake.

Police said the suspects included Hinkson, a 17-year-old Clarks Mills boy, a 17-year-old Utica boy, a 16-year-old Fredonia boy, and a 16-year-old Mercer boy, which police described as an “organized burglary ring.”

Police said the group specifically targeted the local Amish community.

The group victimized businesses and homes in rural areas, with forced entry at several properties. This caused a total of $26,000 in property damage.

Victims reported more than $16,000 worth of tools, fuel, ammunition, crossbows, trail cameras, a bicycle, shotguns, an all-terrain vehicle, firearms, chainsaws, beer and $5,100 in cash were stolen.

Photos and videos of Hinkson were captured on trail cameras during two of the incidents, which helped police identify Hinkson.

One photo showed Hinkson wearing an Amish hat, black face mask, backpack and a pair of gloves. Hinkson allegedly told police the hat was meant to “lure police astray” while the backpack contained self-made burglary tools including bolt-cutters.

Hinkson and the four boys admitted to the crimes during interviews with police, and police recovered some of the stolen items from Hinkson.

Hinkson’s preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon was related to the crimes reported in Coolspring, Delaware, Fairview and Perry townships.

Hinkson’s charges for the crimes reported in New Vernon and Sandy Lake Townships and Jackson Center include unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief, four counts each of theft and burglary and two counts of criminal mischief.

Hinkson’s preliminary hearing for those charges will be at 11 a.m. Feb. 15 before District Judge Douglas E. Straub, Pine Township.

Fire destroys wood shop.

Cresco Times.

CRESCO - At 8:54 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, the Howard County Sheriff’s Office took a 911 call of a shed fire at 7011 Unity Ave., northwest of Cresco.

Cresco Community Fire Department Chief Neal Stapelkamp said, “The entire shed was fully involved upon arrival, with fire threatening another structure that was very close to the fire. Initial efforts were to save the threatened structure, which was accomplished, and then the fire department worked to extinguish the involved structure.”

Howard County Sheriff Tim Beckman reported the owner of the shed was Fred Miller. It was an Amish woodworking shop about 50x60 feet.

“Fred said he was warming up a diesel engine in the shed with a kerosene heater, and he went to town to get a battery.” When he came back, he noticed the smoke, and he tried to put the fire out with fire extinguishers.

Beckman added, “He said he almost had the fire out, but was just a couple minutes too late. The shed is obviously a total loss.”

A friend of Miller, Joe Beachy, shared the owner didn’t feel confident with the extinguishers he owned, so he purchased some bigger and better units. They were delivered the day after the fire.

Stapelkamp noted heat was restored to the adjacent building that was saved, which was the Woodworking Finishing Building.

Cresco Community Fire Department kept the fire from spreading to the nearby finishing shed, but it had some damage from the heat.

The temperature that day hovered around zero with wind chills reaching negative 30ºF.

Cresco firefighters were on scene for approximately three-and-a-half hours.

The Cresco Community Fire Department was assisted on scene by the Lime Spring Fire Department, Regional Health Ambulance Service, the Howard County Sheriff’s Office and Cresco Fire Dispatch.

Neighbors help neighbors.

According to friend Ron Corbin of Cresco, the embers were still warm when neighbors and friends started clearing away the debris from the slab.

“By 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, holes were being drilled for the new structure and lumbers was already being delivered. On Thursday, Feb. 2, the new building was enclosed, except for the west end.”

Corbin noted 45 workers were served lunch on Thursday.

Unbelievably, the work was finished up by Friday, three days after the loss, including insulating and lining the walls.

The new building is much bigger than the original. Plans are to put concrete over the existing concrete and add more to the rest.

In addition, although the wood finishing building was saved, the plan is to disassemble and include it in the new structure.

All of the equipment was destroyed and will need to be replaced.

The new shop should be better than ever when it is back up and running, thanks to friends and neighbors.

Dan Lee: There's much to appreciate in the Amish community.

Dan Lee.

In previous columns, I have noted that, even though I am not a Roman Catholic, I find much to appreciate in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. This includes Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in veritate (2009) and Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ (2015), all of which I use as assigned reading in various courses that I teach.

Because I have great appreciation for these and other documents of the Roman Catholic Church, I have sometimes been asked why I don’t convert to Catholicism. That’s not going to happen. I am perfectly happy being a Lutheran. And there are some practices and teachings of the Catholic Church with which I am not comfortable, among them the prohibition of women serving as priests.

The fact that I would not be comfortable being a member of the Catholic Church, however, in no way diminishes my appreciation for the encyclicals noted above.

Another religious group with which I have recently spent time are the Amish. As noted in a previous column, the students I recently took to Montana for a special January course joined me in visiting an Amish farm and in attending a Sunday morning Amish worship service. As with Roman Catholicism, there is much that I appreciate in the Amish way of life.

Unlike Catholic masses, which historically have been held in ornate churches (though that has changed somewhat in recent years,) Amish services are held in the homes of members or, as in the case of the Amish service we attended, in a meeting place that doubles as a school house when it is not being used as the site of the Sunday worship service.

There is no religious art – or art of any other type – in the meeting place. Nor is there a pipe organ or any other musical instrument. The singing, which is powerful, is unaccompanied.

The two-hour worship service is held every other week with Sunday school classes for children held on the intervening Sundays.

As in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, there is no way that I could be a member of an Amish community. I am a veteran who served in the military during the height of the Cold War. The Amish are pacifists who do not serve in the military (or in any type of official government capacity).

Now in my 49th year as a member of the Augustana faculty, I have dedicated my professional career to higher education. The Amish typically do not go beyond the eighth grade, though some Amish boys might go to a trade school where they can learn carpentry and other construction skills.

I am a strong believer in equal rights, including gender equality. The Amish are a patriarchal society. The leaders of their worship services are all male. The women prepare the lunch that is served after the worship service.

Yet, notwithstanding all these cultural differences, there is much that I appreciate in the Amish community. They are kind, gentle people who genuinely care about the well being of others, including those who are English (the term they use to refer to all those who are not Amish.)

They believe in the gift of simplicity. They are people who believe that quality of life is determined, not by how many material possessions one has, but by time spent with family and friends and by rejoicing in the beauty of the natural world which God has created.

Above all else, they are people who are profoundly thankful, both to other members of the community and to the creator who has created the world and all that exists.

The minister who gave one of the sermons at the service we attended spoke of the danger of always wanting more and more, thinking that will bring happiness, which it never does. He is right about that.

The Amish live lives insulated from the crass commercialism that afflicts so much of contemporary American society. We have much to learn from them.

Just as there is no way that I could be a Roman Catholic, there is no way that I could be a member of an Amish community. Yet there is much to appreciate in both traditions. We would do well to look beyond the differences and gain a sense of the insightfulness of both traditions.

Kirksville man life-flighted to Columbia after buggy is struck from behind.

KTTN News.

The operator of a stationary horse and buggy received serious injuries when the buggy was hit from behind by a pickup truck in southeastern Adair County.

Forty-year-old Mervin Miller of Kirksville was flown by medical helicopter to University Hospital in Columbia. The driver of the pickup, 50-year-old Larry Hamlin of Brashear, was taken by private vehicle to Northeast Regional Medical Center in Kirksville with minor injuries.

The accident happened Saturday evening four miles northeast of La Plata on Route E as the pickup was eastbound when it hit the rear of the stationary horse and buggy.

The pickup and the buggy were demolished and Hamlin was wearing a seat belt.

Big-Sky Country: Photographs that capture traces of American industry, class divides, and westward expansion.

Children at the Gildford Hutterite colony.

In 2005, the photographer Christopher Churchill visited a Hutterite colony on the Montana Hi-Line, a sparsely populated stretch of prairie along the Canadian border. He was traveling the United States for a project about faith, hoping to find commonalities among divergent beliefs. But as he spent time in the small religious community, surrounded by endless wheat fields and tracks that once formed the main line of the Great Northern Railway, he soon became interested in another American belief system: capitalism. Churchill was struck by the way commerce had shaped even this isolated landscape—and also by how the colony, in which members live and work together and share the proceeds of their labor, offered an alternative view of prosperity.

The experience got Churchill thinking about how individual lives intersect with broader economic forces. It became the inspiration for a new project, focused on “the American dream,” that brought him back to Montana last summer. The resulting photographs, some shot in black-and-white and some in color, contain traces of American industry, class divides, and westward expansion: power lines interrupting the horizon, the glint of a belt buckle, the wind blowing through a reservation town. But the people Churchill met in brief encounters on his drive across the state take the foreground.

There is something precarious in these images, yet also defiant. A toughness and a tenderness. Churchill’s subjects look directly into the camera, their expression demanding interpretation. This elusiveness offers its own revelation: A dream, after all, is a matter of one’s own perception. Hutterite children bounce on a trampoline, their long skirts floating against the open sky. The girl in the center seems to smile, suspended in mid-air. It is impossible to know whether she is going up or down.

Barneveld man charged with DWI following crash with Amish buggy that injured 5.

Two adults and three children were injured after a pickup truck hit an Amish buggy in Trenton. The truck driver was charged with DWI.


TRENTON, N.Y. – A Barneveld man was charged with DWI after New York State Police say he crashed into an Amish buggy, injuring two adults and three children under the age of 3.

The crash happened on Powell Road in Trenton around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 11.

State police say 58-year-old Douglas Cark was driving his pickup truck eastbound when he struck the buggy, which overturned and ejected the family of five inside.

According to Oneida County Emergency Services, Clark initially left the scene and then returned shortly after.

A 2-year-old girl was semi-conscious when emergency responders arrived and had to be airlifted from St. Elizabeth Medical Center to Upstate Univesity Hospital to be treated for a fractured skull and broken leg. She is in critical condition.

A 3-year-old boy and a 4-month-old girl were also taken to St. Elizabeth’s for minor cuts on their heads.

Andy Swartzentruber, 26, who was operating the buggy, was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Mattie Swartzentruber, 25, was treated at the hospital for a leg injury.

State police say Clark had a blood alcohol level of .21% at the time of the crash. He was charged with aggravated DWI, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, failure to exercise due care, leaving the scene of an accident involving an animal, following too closely and other traffic violations.

Clark was issued an appearance ticket and is scheduled to answer the charges in town of Trenton Court on Feb. 27.

Local council looking to assist Amish community with tax issue.

By Bob Montgomery.

Blackburn News.

Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Mayor Glen McNeil says council has been asked to the help the Amish community in the municipality.

McNeil says, in the past, the Amish communities in Ontario and more specifically in Huron County were exempt from paying tax on their property as determined by MPAC. But McNeil says MPAC has now determined that the property the Amish schools sit on will be declared commercial and be taxable.

“So we have an Amish settlement within Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh that came to our most recent council meeting and asked if we could help them with communicating with MPAC to continue to have the Amish schools exempt,” shared McNeil.

McNeil adds their municipal staff have said they’re more than willing to work with the Amish in communication with MPAC to see if they can find a solution that would continue to see the Amish schools exempt.

Lawrence Co., Ethridge residents thankful damage from 2 EF-0 tornadoes wasn't worse.

Kerri Bartlett.

The Columbia Daily Herald.

A few residents and business owners are assessing damage to their property after two EF-0 tornadoes ripped through Lawrence County, including the town of Ethridge, late Thursday afternoon, uprooting large trees and damaging structures.

After surveying the area, the Nashville Weather Service confirmed Friday evening that the severe storm produced two tornadoes that touched down in Lawrence County in addition to an EF-1, which hit Marshall County Thursday.

Mature trees along the tornadoes' paths were unearthed in Lawrence County, while a popular antique store and rural residence sustained the most damage when high-speed winds reaching 85 mph tore through the area. According to NWS weather forecaster, Matt Reagan, the first tornado touched down in rural Lawrence County at Granddaddy and Gore roads, spanning 3.7 miles, while the second tornado touched down in Ethridge, or what is known as Amish country, spanning 5.5 miles.

No injuries were reported.

Linda Staggs, co-owner of 13-year old business Heart & Soul Antiques and Collectibles in Ethridge, was sitting Thursday on the porch of the popular antique hub she owns with husband David, when she realized she was in the path of a possible tornado.

"I was on the phone with David, and he said he heard it was coming near the store, so I got up to turn on the radio," Linda Staggs said. "When I did, that's when it hit. I ran to the bathroom and waited it out."

The viole