Old Order Amish in Nappanee, Indiana: Sometimes Plain and Simple

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Old Order Amish in Nappanee, Indiana: Sometimes Plain and Simple

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish Horse and Buggy

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish Horse and Buggy

In Nappanee, Indiana and beyond, each Amish settlement is broken up into districts. The bishop in each district decides on the rules for the Amish people that live there.

For instance, the Old Order Amish in Nappanee, Indiana would have different rules to follow than the Amish communities in Ohio or Pennsylvania–even differing from the town right next door.

Old Order Amish Life

Interestingly enough, the Bishop isn’t voted in. When a new Bishop is needed, after the death of the previous Bishop, eight Amish men will each choose one Bible. Whomever takes the one with a slip of paper inside of it is the new Bishop…for life.

All Old Order Amish do have a few things in common: No cars, no posing for photos after you have been baptized, and no ornamentation or buttons.

The Amish in this small Indiana town ride bikes everywhere–unless they are heading into town, in which case they hook up the horse and buggy. Apparently the Amish treat their buggy like many non-Amish men, or “English” as they call it, like to treat their cars: With pride! The insides might have plush velvet and are very comfortable (not to mention expensive).

Once upon a time, the Old Order Amish in Nappanee weren’t allowed to have rugs, pictures, or even curtains. But judging from the whisper of fabric peeking out of many windows, the current Bishop has allowed curtains. He will decide what color curtains are allowed.

The Times They Are a Changin’

Our guide let us in on the fact that the Bishop here had also allowed photos of the kids. While grandparents don’t have entire walls covered in them, they do have one or two images of their grandchildren. Children are allowed to have their photos taken because they have not yet been baptized.

As you can see from the photo, the Amish here have their own schools. Much like their homes, Amish schools don’t even possess shutters, which is considered “too fancy.” You can see they do have playground equipment like swings, teeter-totters, and slides. I was kind of surprised by that. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.

The schools are usually run by two teachers. Amish students attend up to 8th grade but when they turn 16 their education is considered complete. Even if they want to, they are not allowed to continue on in their education. Old Order Amish do not believe in higher education.

Old Order Indiana Amish and Church

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish School

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish School

Every other weekend, one Amish family will have church and furnish lunch for the members of the district (here, in Nappanee, there are 33 Amish families).

They sing a cappella, conduct the service in High German, and after the three hour service–they share lunch. No work is done on Sunday except for feeding the animals. All meal preparation for the Sunday church service is done the day before.

At the end of the lunch, whomever is going to host church the next time will take the white supply wagon back with them.

Even Amish cemeteries stick to the “less is best” ideal. Located every few miles, no one headstone stands out over the rest. Names and dates are the only things on the tombstone. No flowers, wreaths, or anything of that sort. It is uniform and very, very tidy.

Farms of the Old Order Amish

Old Order Amish AttractionsAll the farmers have giant workhorses. These massive animals have shaggy patches near their hooves and are quite tall. They work in groups of eight, making  two trips up and down the field. Then that team will rest while the farmer switches the large animals out for a fresh team.

You can imagine how long it would take to get a field completed without using a tractor! It isn’t something that the farmers of today would particularly care for. Who can blame them?

As much as it may seem like they try to live without modern amenities, even the Amish have given in to a few creature comforts. Bad things can happen to anyone and the Amish do take advantage of a few modern conveniences when it comes to protecting their own–or their business.

When you toodle around Elkhart County, you may notice little buildings at the bottom of every driveway.  These are actually phone booths. No, they aren’t for chatty Amish teens–the phone inside is used only in case of an emergency. Some Amish men will also use computers in order to grow their businesses.

What Do Indiana Amish Like to Do?

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish Cemetery

Nappanee, Indiana: Amish Cemetery. Note the plain graves. No flowers, no grand or extravagant headstones. Plain and Simple.

It can be quite a culture shock the first time you see someone so plainly dressed. So, what do Indiana Amish like to do? The answer might just surprise you.

They like to hit yard sales on Thursdays and Fridays, eat out at the local pizza joint, get groceries, and use the Laundromat!

Sounds a lot like you and me, don’t you think? It was such an unexpected yet so very pleasant tour. Only in a small town would someone offer to drive me around and show me the sights. Am I right or am I right?

Small Towns: Destinations, not Drive-Thrus! I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is Little Indiana.

Just don’t forget to tell them that Little Indiana sent you.

Nappanee, Indiana in Elkhart County

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About the Author:

Jessica Nunemaker is the Owner of Little Indiana.com. More than a website, Little Indiana is a book, "Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations" (IU Press) awarded first place in the "Best in Indiana Journalism for a Nonfiction Book" by the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Little Indiana is also a bi-monthly newspaper column in a local paper and a PBS segment on the former Emmy award-winning program, "The Weekly Special."


  1. Jessica April 29, 2010 at 12:31 am

    How interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from SITS . . .
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Long Overdue Thank You =-.

  2. Young Wife April 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

    How interesting that they use the Laundromat!

  3. Becky April 28, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I can honestly say that I probably would never survive in a community like that. But for those raised in that community from birth it’s nothing new and we look like the weird ones. I think it would be an amazing learning experience to try it for a week. I bet if teenagers today tried to live that way for a week that would definitely be more grateful for what they have.
    Thanks for really explaining it…
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..The Way We Spend Our Saturdays =-.

  4. Sarah April 28, 2010 at 11:12 am

    That’s so interesting that they use phones for emergencies! It’s a good exception to make 🙂
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Pee happens =-.

  5. Tiffany April 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

    We love visiting “Amish country”. My husband should have been born Amish…he loves the simple life!!! I’d be ok as long as I could have my computer. 😉
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Sundays in My City — Lazy Sunday in Suburbia Ohio =-.

  6. Kerri April 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Hmmm….I didn’t realize Old Order Amish went ro restaurants or laundromats! Very cool! Love this post! Thanks for representing small town USA!
    .-= Kerri´s last blog ..Oh What A Day! =-.

  7. Marie Cole April 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Wow, was that was really interesting to read…I had no idea….Thank you for enlightening me. 🙂
    .-= Marie Cole´s last blog ..Gummi Love =-.

  8. Laura April 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

    The Amish way of life has always been interesting to me. The simple way of life…sometimes I wish that is how all America lived.

    Happy SITS Day!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..WORDLESS WEDNESDAY =-.

  9. Lorri Jeanne April 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Interesting facts. There were quite a few Amish in Upstate NY when I lived there and we would see them riding through town on their buggy.
    .-= Lorri Jeanne´s last blog ..Angel And Apostle =-.

  10. Mommie Daze April 28, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Growing up in LaGrange and living near Shipshewana we got to know several Amish families. It’s such a fascinating way of life.
    .-= Mommie Daze´s last blog ..Did You Think Kids Need to Go to Pre-school? =-.

  11. Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) April 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I’ve visited the Amish country here in PA – but some of the things you’ve learned I hadn’t yet…thanks for sharing! 🙂
    .-= Stacy (the Random Cool Chick)´s last blog ..Wordless/Wordful Wednesday: Signs of Spring =-.

  12. Samm April 28, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Wow what an eye opening blog. I found you via SITS 🙂 Just joined the SITS band wagon and glad I did. Found this to be a really interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner April 28, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Never been to an amish community. Heard they make some good eats! I’ll have to check it out one day. Thanks Jessica!

    Alex aka Ma, What’s For Dinner
    .-= Alex aka Ma What’s For Dinner´s last blog ..Supreme Upside Down Pizza =-.

  14. Karen & Gerard Zemek April 28, 2010 at 3:46 am

    What an easy way to choose the next Bishop! I like that–takes al the politics out of it. I’m sure they pray for God’s will first before they choose the Bible. This was interesting about the Amish.

    Congrats on your SITS day!
    .-= Karen & Gerard Zemek´s last blog ..Whoa! Where Am I (Part 2-Gerard) =-.

  15. Mary at Deep South Dish April 28, 2010 at 1:27 am

    How interesting! Stopping by from SITS for your feature day.
    .-= Mary at Deep South Dish´s last blog ..Step by Step Homemade Mississippi Roast Beef Po’Boy with Gravy =-.

  16. greedygrace April 28, 2010 at 12:42 am

    There’s a little Amish community near where I live– or maybe Pennsylvania Dutch?? Anyway, I always like seeing it, it’s a nice change from the city.

  17. Jessica Nunemaker January 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    You just can’t go wrong with Amish made, um, anything!

  18. Shelley December 19, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Visiting from SITS! We live close to PA, and have taken tours of the Amish Country. I love visiting their markets, and we’ve purchased a few furniture pieces!

  19. Diva (in Demand) December 19, 2009 at 11:37 am

    “Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest”

    This is some interesting information…especially about the selection process for a new Bishop. I’m assuming that all 8 of the men really truly want to be Bishop and it’s not just a list of some of the best men in the town…right?

    When I worked out in Annapolis, I would visit the Amish market for groceries and lunch and loved it. Now that I live in Chicago, my husband drives through Indiana (he’s a truck driver) and we see this sign for an Amish furniture market that we always say we’re going to visit.

    Loved the post!

  20. Salt December 19, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I have spent some time in Amish country in PA, so I knew some of these things, but I had no idea that each Amish community had a different Bishop and different laws! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Amish graveyard either…that’s so interesting.

    I really enjoyed reading this. So informative!
    .-= Salt´s last blog ..Oh dear… =-.

  21. Elizabeth December 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Stopping by from SITS!

    I grew up in Ohio, just a short drive from Amish country. In fact, as a girl, I went to a farm camp run by an Amish Menonite family. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and so much fun. I loved your historiography and pictures– totally took me back to a summer of great memories!

    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (I see a giveaway!) =-.

  22. Katherine Anne December 16, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Stopping by from SITS :). My family and I went to PA a few years ago to attend a wedding and while we were there, we got to visit some of the Amish there and it was a wonderful experience. I hope you are having a good Wednesday! xo, KA

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