“The wash” gave them away. When I saw that clothesline of purple and blue shirts and dresses fluttering in the breeze, I knew we’d done it!
My Mennonite historian husband and I had found a settlement of Old Order Amish in the sparsely-populated eastern part of Prince Edward Island. We knew a few families had migrated from two areas of Ontario in the last year or so, but weren’t sure we had enough information to locate them. Doing so was one of the highlights of our recent vacation on PEI. (We always search for settlements of small Anabaptist-related groups wherever we travel.)
Below is a “guest blog” from Sam Steiner about our experience.
Several weeks ago, my wife Sue and I had the opportunity to find two Old Order Amish settlements on PEI during a vacation there. We knew only general locations based on newspaper articles. We searched back roads north and east of Bridgetown, and had about given up that part of the search, when Sue spotted from Highway 4, just west of Bridgetown, a clothesline full of Amish-colored clothing. There was no mailbox, but a hand-painted sign advertised Summer Sausage and Maple Syrup. As I took a picture of the sign a horse and buggy turned in the lane, and across the road a young Amish lad was dealing with the truck delivering feed.
The next farm, identified as a Kuepfer family, advertised a harness shop and “free-range brown eggs.” This settlement, seemingly the smaller of the two on PEI, was composed of Amish from the Milverton area of Ontario.
We then explored between Montague and Summerville. On a sideroad west of Montague we found the first of many Miller families, again alerted by a clothesline of colorful wash.
We soon found, east of Summerville on Highway 3, more Miller families, including a Miller bakery that unfortunately was not open on the day of our exploration. We did not linger to take more pictures, since a young Amish girl in a dark green dress was walking towards us on the side of the road, and we didn’t want to cause alarm, or invade their privacy by taking their picture.
This settlement appeared to be larger than the “Milverton Amish” settlement at Bridgetown. There was much evidence of new buildings being erected in this settlement, and it seemed relatively compact, which speaks well for its long term prospects. Besides the multiple Miller families, we also saw Byler and Troyer family names. The roots of this settlement are the Old Order Amish community around Norwich, Ontario. These Amish are somewhat more conservative than the Milverton Amish.
The CBC in Prince Edward Island provided an “Amish 101” article in 2016 that is quite helpful in distinguishing the two groups. The PEI government has also begun to erect road signs near the Amish communities on the larger roads, though “evidence” of horses was not as easily spotted as on some Region of Waterloo roads!
After our return to Ontario, we learned that five Old Order Mennonite families have also moved to Prince Edward Island this summer (2017). My informant did not know a precise location, but said they were west of the Confederation Bridge.
I (Sue) was sad that the Bakery was closed on Mondays, so I was unable to buy a loaf of bread or a fruit pie or some cinnamon buns (or all three!) from Mrs. Miller. I would have loved to talk with her, tell her I am from Ontario, and wish her and her family a peaceful life on PEI. I’m pleased that these distant spiritual cousins of ours have found a compatible rural setting for maintaining their way of life, that they are well-received by the surrounding community, and that they’ve joined 2000 Buddhist monks in re-populating eastern PEI!
The Miller’s bakery building is situated near the road, while their house and barn are further back on the property, hidden from the road behind a thick row of trees. I hope the PEI Amish can find ways of keeping their privacy, while interacting with the local community and passersby via farm-based businesses, as they were used to doing in Ontario. I wish them well. Their adherence to a traditional lifestyle speaks to the part of my spirit that yearns for a “simpler” way of life….
Sam’s full blog, including background on the move to PEI, will be posted at https://ontariomennonitehistory.org on Monday, July 18.
Questions for Reflection:
Have you ever longed for a “simpler” way of life? If so, what practices of simplicity have you been able to incorporate into your present life?
Of Wind and Sea, Cows and Canada Day