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Pennsylvania Dutch: Midwestern Amish

Female speaker interviewed by J??rgen Eichhoff, 1984, Nappanee, Indiana

County: Elkhart
State: IN

While the Amish are stereotypically associated with Lancaster County, PA, most Amish in fact live in the Midwest, especially the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Though Amish everywhere share core Christian beliefs, there are cultural and linguistic differences between Lancaster and Midwestern Amish. This Amish woman from northern Indiana recalls stories from her days as a teacher in an Amish parochial school. Historically, most Amish attended public schools until consolidation and curricular changes compelled them to operate their own schools. Recognizing the importance of fluency in English, Amish require that English be the sole medium of instruction in their schools, sometimes even during recess as well. High German, the language of the Bible, prayer books, and hymnals, is commonly taught as a subject in Amish schools.
[What's it like in an Amish parochial school?] From 1977 to 1979 I was teaching school and we [teachers] tried to get to school no later than 7:30, that was when we wanted to be there so that we could study the lessons and stuff for that day and have everything ready by the time the kids came at 8 o'clock, they weren't supposed to come before 8. Then they usually played until 8:30 when school started and we would ring the bell. It was a one-room schoolhouse and we had all eight grades [in there]. There were two of us teachers, I had five through eight [grades]. And the first thing in the morning we had our devotions and we had a prayer and read a Bible story or then we would sing. Usually we sang in English, sometimes we sang in German. Then we usually started with arithmetic, then reading. At 10 o'clock we had recess, then at 11:30 we'd have lunch, then they were allowed to play for an hour. And we had arithmetic and reading and writing and spelling, history, seventh and eighth had history, fifth and sixth had geography. Then every Friday we had German and Monday morning we'd try to write a Bible verse on the board that the kids were supposed to memorize by Friday, then they were supposed to know it by heart. And when we had classes they were supposed to speak only English, it was in English, and in recess they were supposed to speak English too. Sometimes they got sort of carried away and would speak German, then we [teachers] had to sort of play a game with them, to give them, oh, so many kernels of corn, so if we caught them speaking German, that person would have a kernel taken away from them, and at the end of the week we would see who had the most kernels. But for a treat sometime, for about the last six weeks of the school year we would let them speak German.

The speaker is a 55-year-old White woman with a college education from Corydon, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Harrison
State: IN

The site of the only Civil War battle fought in Indiana, a former state capital, and the current county seat of Harrison County, Corydon is a small town with a present-day population of around 3,000. Located south of Indianapolis and west of Louisville, Kentucky, the town was once a hub of commerce, with industries such as dairy, wagon works, and glass factories. The town square, referenced in the following segment, remains a historic marker that is well known regionally. In this segment the speaker talks about one of the town???s Christmas traditions.
Inf: Well yes, uh, just before time for Christmas, the uh, parents and children all get excited, especially the children who drag their parents in to the county seat. And Santa Claus comes in, uh, well not with reindeer, but uh, in a jeep or some uh, modern way that a Santa Claus would come. And there???s a little house built on the uh, public square for him to stay in for a, a week before Christmas. He has a collection of um, peppermint sticks and uh, various things to give to children. They come around to him and sit on his knee and tell him, tell him what they want for Christmas. And then he???ll give ???em some candy, send ???em off to their parents. The big problem around town always is uh, who is this Santa Claus anyway? It???s some local person and we???d just like to know who it is. So the little kids will tug a little bit on his beard and, and he???ll hold it on tight so it won???t come off. And then um, uh, they???ll go back to their parents and say, ???No, Mommy. That was real Santa Claus.??? And the mom will say, ???Yes, I expect it was.??? But uh, it???s always a great time for the kids, even in this day of millions of Santa Claus all over the United States. But when he first comes in however, the crowd is usually just uh, overflowing around the public square. It???s a great day.

The speaker is a 61-year-old White woman with a high school education from Hanover, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Jefferson
State: IN

Located near the Kentucky border and on the Ohio River, Hanover is a small town with a current population of 3,000. It is the home of Hanover College, the oldest private college in Indiana, which was founded by Presbyterians in 1827 and originally served as a manual labor academy. In this segment the speaker talks about her fondness for quilt making.
Inf: Well, I really enjoy making quilts. I guess I???ve been piecing ???em since I was ten or twelve years old. And I still am. And um, I have uh, six granddaughters and three grand-, two grandsons. I make uh, I???m making um, necktie quilts for the grandsons, the two grandsons, and I have one great-grandson now. And uh, I hope that all my grandchildren will enjoy the quilts I???ve made. I???ve already given my two daughters several. And um, I do do some quilting, and hope to again this winter. I do enjoy going visiting ladies that are interested in quilting. Take my cut pieces and piece blocks for ???em, visiting with them.

The speaker is a 58-year-old White woman with a college education from Vevay, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Switzerland
State: IN

Vevay was founded in 1801 by a group of Swiss immigrants who settled with a vested interest in cultivating vineyards and producing wine. They established the first commercial winery in the United States and made wine that was highly regarded within the region. Located on the Kentucky border and the Ohio River, the small town with a population of less than 2,000 still holds an annual Swiss Wine Festival every August. In this segment the speaker talks about her family???s process for making homemade wine.
Inf: We were discussing wine making and the process that was used many years ago. My parents used to make wine with grapes that they had grown themselves in their own garden. And they would take the grapes and put ???em in a large jar, stone jar, that approximately held about a gallon or a gallon and a half, I assume. And they would fill it almost full. And they would put three cups of water and three cups of sugar. I can remember that distinctly. And then they would put, on top of that a plate that fitted exactly, this, the stone jar. And a stone. And they would leave it there for six weeks, in a cool place. Then after six weeks they would take the stone off and uh, take the wine and drain it through uh, a strainer, and then later through a gau-, piece of gauze. And, by that time they would put it back again, in jars, to set, until it settled. And then they would pour the wine off, and there were settlements [sic] in the bottom, and after that it was put in bottles, and it was really a delicious drink. It really was. I don???t know the contents of alcohol that was in it, but it was very delicious. And we made various kinds. There were wine made from uh, there was wine made, rather, from uh, uh, dandelion, grape, cherry, and uh, one time we tried a potato wine my father had heard about, and really and truly it was really good. It doesn???t sound that way, but it really was very good.

The speaker is an 82-year-old White man with a college education from Rockport, Indiana; he was recorded in 1968.

County: Spencer
State: IN

Located in southwestern Indiana on the Kentucky border, Rockport is a town with a present-day population of around 2,000 people and is the county seat of Spencer County. Around 1939, there was an increase in oil drilling and prospecting activity in the area. In this segment the speaker talks about two friends and their foray into oil drilling.
Inf: Buster _____ and Boyd _____, uh, the owner of the rig, and he says, ???That door fastens.??? I got up out in there and there was a fence running down in there, and it wasn???t latched and I saw it opened outside. And I just got set down, and it didn???t make any noise but it made the awfulest explosion you ever saw. It threw oil all over creation and they had gas, you know, did it in the fire in that stove. We all took out of this house and I happened to be out first and I outran all of ???em. And I want to tell you everybody???s doing his best, too. [Laughter] ???Cause that gas had got afire, you know. Well I (warned) it burned us up like (helly). And uh, I was amused. And then they put a, a, to plug it off, they put on a rubber thing on there. Put it down there a valve, like, to fasten it. And when they put that, it uh, when that, that s-, stream oil as big as a stovepipe and just gush out of there.

Aux Inf #1: Oil. Wasn???t it?

Aux Inf #2: Oil? Yeah.

Inf: Oil.

Aux Inf #1: No water?

Inf: No water. Just pure, black oil. They had a run a stream as big as a stovepipe and just rushed into that pit. And when they put that uh valve down in there, why it ran, oh, it must???ve been, ah he estimated around fifty, sixty barrels of oil they lost right there. And they, and I think I was really delighted for, since, I never saw one come in like that before. I, used to be kind of a hobby, I???d try to make all the drillings around here. And uh, it really was amazing [Aux Inf #1: Ma-] to see that oil.

Aux Inf #1: Mary said that when they struck oil the first time, they all, um, rubbed it, all laid down and rubbed it all over ???em.

Aux Inf #2: You didn???t see. You weren???t down there during???

Inf: No, I, I wasn???t there.

Aux Inf #2: ???the first one.

Aux Inf #2: Well, you know, you know they had had, I think she said forty-six dry holes in a row [Inf: Mm]. Without any oil. And they were, they were getting pretty discouraged, you know. And they hit it dow-, that was the one was down in the field down there.

Aux Inf #1: First ones.

Inf: First ones to drill down there. Aux Inf #2: And those boys g-, just laid down on the ground and rolled and they???d get that oil and they???d go ???ooh??? and just rubbed it all over. [Laughter] It was the funniest thing I ever saw.

The speaker is a 78-year-old White woman with a grade school education from Delphi, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Carroll
State: IN

Located in north central Indiana, with a current population of around 3,000, Delphi is the county seat of Carroll County. The town was once an important port on the now-defunct Wabash and Erie Canal, a partially man-made canal that served as a link between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, giving traders of the region access to the Gulf of Mexico. In this segment the speaker details early memories of helping her father take their cane sorghum crop to the mill.
Inf: I r-, I, I like to tell about uh, when uh, we used to have uh, my father uh, used to have cane patch, sorghum, for sorghum molasses [FW: Hmm]. And we used to uh, it was a great big patch, and he???d make us long paddles, so we???d strip the uh, blades off of the uh, stalks, of cane, and we???d strip all of that off, and ???course on above would be the uh, seed, brown seed would, would bloom, you know, and then when that was brown like that, why the cane was ready to strip and get ready to take the sorghum mill to (xx), have sorghum molasses made. And we would strip that cane and uh, and uh, then my father would take a corn knife and he???d chop all that cane down and he???d lay it in a pile. And uh, uh, pile it up, and then he would load it in the big wagon, up as high as the boards would be, you know, up high. And then uh, it was ready to be taken to the sorghum mill where they made uh, oh gallons and gallons of sorghum molasses.

And be maybe four, five of us children would go along and set up on top of the wagon, uh, on top of the cane, and we???d go to the cane mill with him, and watch him grind up this cane stalks and then they???d make it into juice, and then it was ready to put into big vats and to be made into molasses [FW: Huh]. And I remember one time there was my uncle and his three children went uh, to the mill with their load of cane and my father had a load of cane, and they was uh, three of us girls went along. They was six of us children.

Well, when we got to the cane mill, why, of course we got out and moseyed around in the barn lot. And they, the people that had the cane mill, why a lady, she brought out a dish, a great big dish with sorghum molasses in it. There was a big stump in the, m-, b-barn lot, and she brought out that dish of uh, sorghum. It was already made, you know. And she put six spoons in it. Six spoons in it for each one of us children, and she told us now to help ourselves and, and we could eat all the molasses we wanted. Well, we were kind of bashful a little bit, and we didn???t go and uh, uh, eat any of it for a good little bit, ???til uh, we finally took a notion in uh, we didn???t have no bread or anything to eat with it. We just went and took the spoons and eat uh, sorghum molasses.

The speaker is a 56-year-old White woman with a grade school education from Nashville, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Brown
State: IN

Nashville is located in south central Indiana and is the county seat of Brown County. At the time of the interview, it had a population of around 500. The rural area, known for its beautiful scenery of rolling hills, is an attraction for tourists and artists. In this segment the speaker talks about the farm where she grew up, located near Belmont (a town 10 miles from Nashville; its population numbered about 25 at the time of the interview).
Inf: Well, the farm I was brought up on was uh, oh it was just a small farm and it was back about three miles from Belmont. And, well, Dad done had a grist mill. There at Belmont. And of course we done just general farm work. So it???s just taking care of the cows and the chickens and things like that.

FW: Dairy?

Inf: No, it wasn???t big enough farm for that. Uh, he just had a small farm. And he run this grist mill over at Belmont, Fridays and Saturdays. People all around would bring their, you know, their corn in for him to cr-, uh, grind into cornmeal. And that was the biggest part of his income, was that.

FW: You showed me a picture of the, of the house. Would you like to describe that?

Inf: Oh, that was my grandfather???s house [FW: Oh, yeah]. Well, it had, let???s see, one, two, thr-, it had three rooms. Had a ni-, a wonderful porch on it. It had puncheon floors in it. And uh, one of the nicest fireplaces that ever was built around here. And had one large room upstairs. And of course the children all slept upstairs. And, that just been all there was to that f-, house. Just a nice big old-fashioned kitchen and living room. That fireplace was so big that he???d bring in logs, oh, they was a good foot thick. And about six feet long. Stack one on top of the other until he had three high. Then he???d build his fire in front of it. Sure was fun sitting in front of that.

The speaker is a 65-year-old White woman with a high school education from Waveland, Indiana; she was recorded in 1968.

County: Montgomery
State: IN

Located in west central Indiana, Waveland is a town with a current population of less than 500. In this segment the speaker talks about the historical background of Montgomery County, in which Waveland is located.
Inf: Those of you who are interested in folklore or in American heritage would probably like to know about Montgomery County, Indiana. It is located about fifty mile uh, straight west of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Crawfordsville is the county seat. The northern portion of this county is more of a hilly nature, while the southern portion is practically level. Montgomery County was entered by William Offield in the year 1820. And it was not until about a year or two later that Crawfordsville was located where it is located.

The settlers who came here were from Ohio and Kentucky and Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The land in this county was sold in tiers of townships, beginning at the southern part. And it was sold off until the north boundary of the county was reached. The settlers who did not hold land grants, they earned these land grants for having served in one of the wars, Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. The others paid one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre for the land. If you had served in the wars, you received your land free and your land grant was signed by the President of the United States of America. Our family still has our old land grant which has the signature of the president on it.

The speaker is a 53-year-old White man with a high school education from Marshall, Indiana; he was recorded in 1968.

County: Parke
State: IN

Located in a rural area of west central Indiana known for its covered bridges, Marshall is a small town near the Illinois border whose current population is less than 400. In this segment the speaker talks about his friends??? cows and the shift in the local dairy industry.
Inf: Well Gold _____, he used to milk Holsteins and Walt _____, he, he had a herd of Jerseys. Little Tennessee Jerseys. And they???s over at a big dinner and they???s talking about how, it was Gold telling about how much milk his Holsteins???d give, you know. By golly, they???d give about four gallon a, a milking, some of ???em, he tell ???em about, you know. Well, Walt says that???s all right but he says you could throw a dime in all that milk and read the date on it. [Laughter] He???d bragging off his Jersey, tell him I said you could flip a dime on a gallon crock of his and the dime???d never go through the cream, you know. Yeah, Gold says heck, he wouldn???t get a quart from one of ???em, but all cream, you know.

And one time we go and make ice cream and this bunch of us, I don???t know, just had a gallon freezer. Only made that full to couple times and run out of milk. And Walt says, ???Go over to my place and get some of that Jersey milk, get some good milk and make some ice cream.??? All right, over they went, and I was just a little boy. And, by golly they took a knife and run around them there gallon crocks, they setting in a milk trough, in a springhouse, and cut that there cream loose from them there gallon crocks and they just picked her up there with a big spoon and plopped her in there and then they got about a gallon of that cream and come back and made a batch of ice cream out of that. And it was so rich, it???d stick on your teeth. It just about churned into butter when they stir that with a freezer, you know. Man that was the richest ice cream I ever eat in my life. [Laughter] That???s been a long time ago, since we made that ice cream. They hain???t nobody milks cows much around here. No.

When I moved here, I moved a hundred head of hogs and thirty head of cattle on this place. And I ain???t got a hoof of nothing now. Don???t want none. Too much trouble to monkey with ???em.

The speaker is a 57-year-old White woman with a grade school education from Mount Vernon, Indiana. She was recorded in 1968.

County: Posey
State: IN

The southernmost city in Indiana, Mount Vernon is located on the Ohio River and is the county seat of Posey County. The town was originally named McFadden???s Landing after its founder, an Irish trader. The surrounding areas were largely agricultural, and Mount Vernon served as a trading center for area growers. In this segment the speaker talks about the tractors that she and her husband used on their farm.
Inf: Well, when I left there, married and came to this place, I still, we were living on the farm, and helped my husband work in the field, drove, when we farmed with teams, till he, uh, and, he had tractor, had Fordson tractor, that was something you haven???t heard of, or (xx).

FW: Mister, uh, _____ had told me that was the first one he had, too. When did you get your first one?

Inf: Well, uh, Arnold had a Fordson tractor before we were married, but then, then they, um, oh, it was along in the thirties? La-, late thirties he got a John Deere tractor, and, uh, drove that, and, we used that one, it was on steel wheels, steel lugs on the wheels, until uh, he finally had to put on, had rubber tires put on it. We used that one ???til it wore out. We traded it in on uh, uh, Massey Ferguson, or Massey-Harris, it was at that time. I didn???t drive that one very much. ???Cause that, we got that one just a few years before we quit farming. But the old John Deere, I, I drove that in the field a lot, wobbled around over some of the clods, where we plowed it, plowed the ground with.

The first speaker is an 85-year-old White woman with a grade school education from Muncie, Indiana; she was recorded in 1969. The second speaker, also from Muncie, is an 83-year-old White woman with a high school education.

County: Delaware
State: IN

Located in east central Indiana, with a current population of around 70,000, Muncie is the county seat of Delaware County and the birthplace of the Ball Brothers Company, which made glass products, most notably jars. The five Ball brothers eventually purchased the closed Eastern Indiana Normal University and donated it to the state; it was reopened as Ball State Teachers College, now Ball State University. The city of Muncie was also known to some as Middletown, due to a widely published sociological study done in the 1920s and 1930s. In this segment the speakers talk about being the first family outside the city to get telephone service.
Inf #1: So, well, we all had experience. [Laughter] Uh, we got electricity in 1926. Then we put in a bathroom and, and water system. That???s for, it was 1926 when we put???

Inf #2: An-

Inf #1: We had the first telephone out of Muncie, too. That was in 19-, 18- uh, 98.

FW: Really?

Inf #1: Mm-hmm. [Inf #2: And tell him???] First telephone outside the city.

Inf #2: And uh, tell uh, about the, it was the first one outside the city, and to get it we had to g-, we had to furnish the pi-, the uh, poles, and my father went to the woods and cut down trees and, and they, and they planted the trees on the-, all the way uh, to town and then they, then the company, the telephone company, put the wires on and we were limited to ten cors-, ten calls a month. Anytime more than ten calls, we had to pay ten cents for each time we called, but there were so few people had car-, had telephones that??? So we had people, our business people in town would call us every morning to see what we would uh [FW: What?], they could call us without any charges. But if we called back, we had to pay ten cents [FW: Mm]. And that, uh, I think that was about two, two miles of those crooked uh, trees planted that they cut down in the woods and my father hired men, planted them along the road for the wires for the, for our first [FW: Well, uh, do you???] telephone poles, 1898.

The speaker is a 73-year-old White man with a college education from LaGrange, Indiana. He was recorded in 1969.

County: LaGrange
State: IN

Founded by French settlers, LaGrange is located in northeastern Indiana, with a current population of around 3,000. Named appropriately by its founders, the area is a dairy and agricultural center, with many farms now located on what was previously swampland. LaGrange County is home to one of the largest concentrations of Amish in the United States. In this segment the speaker talks about the roots of the Amish faith, referencing the man some refer to as the founder of the faith, Menno Simons, who lived from 1496 to 1561.
Inf: Priest. I think it is Menno Simon [sic], Menno Simon [sic] was the first, Menno Simon [sic] was, uh, contemporary with even Martin Luther. And he withdrew from the church something the way Luther did, but, of course, where Protestant organizations flourished, the Mennonite group has always remained a very minor group. And the reason they???ve remained a minor group is because of their idea of noncombatancy. They have three ideas: non-infant baptism, noncombatancy, and non-taking votes, which made ???em very unpopular with governments, and, uh, they???ve suffered persecution through the years. Under different governments and different regimes. That was a long time, it???s so funny why they waited so long ???til well up into the eighteenth century, before they came over to Pennsylvania. With intent to come where there would be freedom of religion. And, of course, from there the group has spread out, over the United States. Now the Amish faith is an offshoot of the Mennonite faith, they wanted to be more conservative again. They???re awfully extremely conservative, in which they use no cars, use no automobiles, use no electric lights and, dress very plainly and have very strong, strict to the rules of which kind of dress they must use. And they have persisted here for, four hundred years, you might say. But, there are places in Europe where they have disappeared as an Amish faith, just been absorbed into the population, I understand.

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