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Write While You Wait
Copyright 2023 © by Jim Potter
It may not seem like it, but my children’s book, K-9 Kudzu: Observations of a Working Dog Who Loves to Play, is progressing. Gina Laiso, Integrita Productions, is very close to sending us a draft copy of the entire book with color illustrations. Once that occurs, we’ll start tweaking the images.
While publishing a book, it’s normal for authors to have time to begin writing their next one. I’ve started a sequel to Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish, a novella where Deputy Tom Jennings interacts with the horse-and-buggy Amish near Humble, Kansas.
In my novel-in-progress, I intend to hear more from my female characters, including Jesse Jennings—wife of Tom, and from Old Order Amish women.
The book begins when Jesse meets some Amish women in the waiting room at a chiropractor’s office. Jesse hears the women discussing how their “English” driver won’t be available to take them bulk-shopping the following week. Since one lady, Rosanna Borntrager Yoder, knows Tom, Jesse decides to speak up and make them an offer. However unlikely, Jesse volunteers to be their driver since she’s already planning a shopping trip to Wichita.
This introduction prepares readers for Jesse’s cultural exchange during her round-trip adventure with a van full of interesting Amish women.
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of historical research on the Amish, both at local cemeteries and in friendly conversations with individuals. I don’t know yet if my day trips will inspire a fictional story of death and burial or if I’ll mention any migration from eastern Amish Country to the plains of Kansas.
A recent horse-and-buggy ride could be duplicated between the book covers, but if it does, I’ll need to account for Tom’s obesity if he and his family want to ride together.
The Old Order Amish community that I’ve been searching for in Hayes Township, McPherson County, Kansas, has been located thanks to a book by David Luthy (The Amish in America: Settlements That Failed, 1840-1960, copyright 1986) and information from Harry W. “Historian” Bontrager, Yoder, Kansas.
Luthy writes that the first Amishman who migrated to McPherson County, John Schlatter, came from Iowa as early as 1872. John Zimmerman, who arrived in 1877 from Iowa, became the settlement’s first minister. In 1884, Jacob J. Stutzman, a newly ordained minister from Indiana, assisted Zimmerman in the ministry.
Until I studied Luthy’s book, I didn’t know if an Amish settlement ever existed in Hayes Township. Now I understand that the Amish settled in an area between the towns of Windom, Monitor, and Inman. I’ve also learned from Bontrager that the “Amish Mennonite” cemetery I visited is only a half-mile east from where John Zimmerman’s congregation’s meetinghouse once existed.
It makes sense that a congregation would have a nearby cemetery. And now I have a better understanding of how the word “Amish” became a part of the cemetery’s name. The burial ground was used by the early Amish and by a congregation of Old (MC) Mennonite families that became the West Liberty Mennonite Church 1.5 miles NW, before they started their own church cemetery.
The Amish settlement that was ministered by John Zimmerman and Jacob J. Stutzman sorted themselves out after a disagreement in 1886 over whether to continue holding church in the homes of the members or to build a meetinghouse for group worship. This controversy led to a division between Zimmerman and Stutzman, and they parted ways.
By 1902, Jacob Stutzman was living in Michigan. “In 1904 the Amish-Mennonite minister, John Zimmerman, and his congregation moved to Harper County, Kansas, in search of cheaper land. They dismantled their meetinghouse and rebuilt it at their new location.” (Luthy)
It’s common knowledge that over the years many Old Order Amish became Amish Mennonite and later, Mennonite, but I wonder how often Old Order Amish church members seek out a more conservative community.
While living in Harper County with their children who were Amish-Mennonite, John Zimmerman and his wife remained Old Order Amish and began attending Old Order Amish church services in Sumner County, twenty miles down the road. They traveled the extra distance because they believed their Amish-Mennonite congregation was becoming more Mennonite than Amish.
In 1919 the Zimmermans moved to Sumner County and became Amish members in that congregation. Then, John Zimmerman began taking his turn preaching with the other ministers.
As an example of irony, “when Jacob Stutzman died in 1921, a funeral service was held in Harper County at the Amish Mennonite meetinghouse which he had opposed in McPherson County. Then his body was taken to Sumner County for another service in charge of the Old Order ministry.” Old friend, John Zimmerman, “with whom he had disagreed thirty-five years earlier” preached the funeral sermon. (Luthy)
Jacob was buried in the Sumner County settlement’s cemetery. Two years later, John Zimmerman died. He was buried two graves away from Jacob. “Thus, two ministers who had parted ways in McPherson County now lay together in peace.” (Luthy)
Until next time, happy writing,
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