Amish buggy

As yet without strobe lights, an Amish buggy awaits its 1st trip on Jersey Mountain Road, where drivers should also watch for Amish pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Amish families have been moving here from Pennsylvania, settling in the area around Points.

They say they are seeking only to farm their land, educate their own children, and remain separate from the modern world.

Gentrification has come to their former homes in Lancaster County, and they have come to Hampshire County in search of lower taxes and less regulation, though they have found building codes more restrictive than they had expected.

They live simply, dress plainly and avoid modern technology of any kind, and they hope to fit quietly into Hampshire County.

“We usually like to stay by ourselves,” one said, while saying what nice people her new neighbors seem to be.

The Amish talking with the Review asked not to be identified by name. Modest and self-effacing, they do not wish to call attention to themselves.

They had another request to make of us all: no pictures, please — at least not ones where people are identifiable. To them, photographs may be included in the Biblical prohibition against graven images, and the modernity of cameras is also alien to their way of life.

The group is still discussing building a one-room schoolhouse for their children. They plan a building without bathrooms or electricity.

The county planning commission has asked them to consult with the state fire marshal, since a schoolhouse is a public gathering place. If the schoolhouse is not allowed, homeschooling is also a possibility.

Two problems concern them so far.

One is the speed of the traffic on Jersey Mountain Road, where there is little room for pedestrians or bicyclists to get off to the side.

Speeding cars may also pose a danger to the horses and buggies they will use for transportation.

When members of their group met with the county planning commission in May, they suggested putting strobe lights on buggy tops, plus red flasher lights on the sides, to make their vehicles more readily seen. They will turn the strobe lights off after dark, so as not to blind drivers.

A second problem is the county building code requirement that housing have electricity — completely alien to their way of life. They are not sure how they will deal with this.

It was a surprise, since they were aware that Amish settlers in neighboring Mineral County have not been required to install electric and discovered only after making plans to settle here that it is a Hampshire County requirement.

At the county planning commission meeting, county code and compliance officer Mike Ketterman explained that Hampshire County has accepted the state building code (as Mineral County has not), and once a county has accepted it, it is required to enforce it.

Older houses may be grandfathered in, so long as they conform to such regulations as may have been in existence when they were built, but any remodelling to requiring a building permit will require the home to be brought up to code.

The building code only requires electricity to be installed in homes, the planning commission assured them, and does not require it be turned on. Still, just the idea of having it installed is troubling, given their beliefs.

Ketterman told them electric is needed because an automatic heating source is required — and this too conflicts with the traditional Amish way of life. They are still investigating what will be needed to satisfy this requirement.

One family is so new here that an “English” friend who drives a truck is still transporting their things from Lancaster County — “English” being the Amish term for all non-Amish people.

They ask for little.

One family finds itself owners of an old apple orchard, but has no plans to plant new fruit trees. They may eventually clear much of the land, but for now they will be grateful for such apples as the trees still produce.

They also brought pigs and goats and cows with them and a flock of free-range chickens. Amish settlers plan to live here quietly, farming the land and keeping to themselves.

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