Every summer we take a long grueling twenty-hour trip from South Carolina to Northern, Wisconsin, trading the smoldering heat for mosquitos as big as baby birds. The trade-off is worth it since we get to spend the summer loving on our two Wisconsin granddaughters.
However, what makes the trip is planning our route around a visit to an Amish community. This year our route ran right through southern Indiana and smacked dab in the middle of Daviess County.
Regardless of the area we visit, farming is still the backbone of Amish life. Many Amish men cannot make a living off the land as their fathers did, but what I did notice in this relatively flat rural landscape was each family has carved out a way to support themselves. From pole buildings to greenhouses, the Amish are true entrepreneurs. In every corner of Daviess County, you’ll find a business thriving. I am sure as with every Amish community, some of their success stems from tourism.
Let me take you on a tour of the little town of Montgomery, Indiana.
As we traveled the dusty backroads, trying to get a feel for the country, what struck me was it was an Amish community built around the values they hold so dear. Men were in the fields plowing; women were working in their gardens, older children were mowing grass, and little kids were running barefoot through the cool spring grass. It was a community who’s mailboxes sported the names, Knepp, Stoll, Yoder, Graber, Raber, and many more just living life in their quiet Amish surroundings.
The area has a mixture of both Amish and Mennonite, and most times it was hard to tell one from the other. Only knowing the Mennonite men by pockets on the backside of their trousers and the Amish women by the size of their white starched kapps, it was a picturesque scene at every turn.
We only had one day to visit, so we didn’t get to take in all it had to offer, but just the same what we did experience gave me my simple living fix for the day.
We like to try and visit at least one tourist spot to get a feel for the area and pick up any literature they have. This trip, we used the Gasthof Amish Village as a starting point. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the restaurant in the Village and decided not to follow a map and just explore. Some of the best places we discover are when we get off the beaten path and experience the country without relying on a map to tell us where to go.
Taking a right onto NCR 650 E, and then a right onto CR 200 N, our first stop was Sam’s Greenhouse. Tucked behind a small barn out back was a greenhouse filled with spring and summer flowers just calling my name. The woman at the counter was very helpful, and we struck up a conversation about our trip to Wisconsin and how the basket of flowers I was buying was going to spend its summer in Wisconsin’s Northwoods.
Making a stop at Wagler’s Variety on NCR 700 E for coloring books and a new game for our granddaughters, we marveled at the array of hats, bolts of fabric and enough shoes to cover the feet of every Amish child within a fifty-mile radius. For some reason, shoes seemed to be their specialty.
Waglers Quilts and Crafts on CR 200 N was our next find. I was in quilting heaven! The small older woman who was working the store was all but too anxious to show me her working project and talk about the quilts her family made. They loved to work cross-stitch blocks into the quilts, and I had never seen that before in all the Amish quilt shops I’ve visited. Her story might make it into a book, so I’ll keep that conversation private and share it in one of my upcoming stories.
On our way out of town, we stopped at a small grocery and bulk food store and enjoyed an afternoon ice-cream treat as we wandered the aisles of the bulk foods on display. This trip, a bottle of pure vanilla, made it in my shopping basket. Nothing tastes better in my favorite Amish recipes than pure, not imitation, vanilla.
Sometimes I have to remember that the Amish are a lot like us and they appreciate short cuts and convenience as much as we do.
This trip, my “Did you see that?” moment, was an Amish woman parked outside of the laundromat carrying loads of freshly washed laundry to her buggy cart. Her cart was full of groceries, hanging baskets, and clean laundry. She let me look inside her buggy to get a close up look at the compartments and detail inside. It was the highlight of my day!
If your summer vacation plans include a trip through Southern Indiana, be sure to download this Visitors Guide from the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce and experience the dusty backroads of Daviess County first hand.