Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
(Video by Taylar Tramil)
By Tara Schumal
Allen Yoder broke away from the Amish when his father decided to years ago.
Living in Arcola since 1966, Yoder’s family members were descendants of Amish heritage. His father was born into the faith and decided to change when he felt the need for the more modern age.
“I think my dad just didn’t want to stay with the horse and buggy,” Yoder said. “He’s still a farmer, but he uses tractors and such.”
Growing up, Yoder was familiar with the atmosphere. At that time, his mom and dad were both Amish. On his mom’s side, all his brothers and sisters broke away to the Mennonite church, and on his dad’s side, about half broke away and half stayed Amish; Yoder still has a lot of cousins and relatives who are Amish, many of whom he still talks to today.
“Amish make a choice one way or the other,” Yoder said. “Back then it was probably frowned upon that they do that but as time went on more and more of the people decided that they didn’t want to stay Amish and they still do that today.”
When it comes to choosing a side, there are a few things taken into consideration. When boys turn 18, their parents allow them to get a car if they want to and do whatever they want. Sometimes they decide to get married and if it’s to an Amish girl, they can choose to go back to the Amish lifestyle and sell their cars. But for then, the choice is theirs.
Yoder’s father broke away from all this because the Amish lifestyle doesn’t include electricity and telephones; some may use a cellphone, but only for business. He didn’t want to continue to use a horse and buggy.
“Their beliefs are simplicity,” Yoder said. “They’re very quiet and mind their own business. My dad is still a farmer, but he uses tractors and those kind of equipment.”
Even though they aren’t all Amish in the whole family now, the relationship is still intact. Relations used to be heated back in the day around 40 years ago, but that has changed due to the lack of farmland and the desire to be farmers.
“The Amish are located out in the country…there aren’t a lot in town,” Yoder said. “The area they live in is divided into about 20 districts. Each Sunday a person in one of the districts holds church at their own home. There are no churches as far as actual buildings. They use bench wagons to hold all the people.”
A “bench wagon” may best be described as movable seating. For church, every two weeks the Amish hold the gathering at a different district and move in these wagons which hold all the seating needed. Where each church meeting will be held is not publicized. It is told only amongst each other.
“If you go out and drive through the countryside and you see a long green wagon, you’ll see the bench wagon,” Yoder said.
Today, Yoder owns his own Dutch Kitchen with his wife in the middle of town. His brother owns Yoder’s Homestead Shop right down the road and a store out in Arthur.
Yoder is happy with the way his life is now.
“Arcola has everything a person needs,” he said.