In the Stevensville area, particularly east of town, readers may have noticed the increased horse-drawn vehicle traffic. That’s just one of the signs of the growing number of Amish families moving into the area.
Marcus Hostetler, who lives in the North Burnt Fork area, moved to the Bitterroot with his family in 2015 from St. Ignatius. He said that Amish communities generally try not to grow too large in one spot. He said once they get up to 20 or 25 families in a community, they usually start thinking of establishing a new community. He said his family was the first to relocate here, but they were soon followed by his wife’s parents. He said currently there are 10 families in the local Amish church. Not all of them are from St. Ignatius. They already have members from Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.
Although all Amish communities generally follow the Articles of Faith as adopted by their Anabaptist forefathers at Dordrecht, Holland in 1632 as a general expression of their faith, according to Hostetler, each Amish community forms its own set of codes and guidelines that are written into a contract. Theirs is called the “Expression of faith and guidelines for the Stevensville Montana Church.” Although all communities may agree on the basics, each community’s rules may vary in some of the details. This document is often discussed and may be changed if all the men in the community are in agreement. For instance, this community’s contract was changed from its initial strictures to allow bridal parties to wear more colorful clothing.
The community’s general dress code calls for modesty in all forms of apparel. “Not form-fitting. No bright colors such as red, orange, yellow or pink. Clothes to be of plain material. No casual dress in worship services. No hoods or coats or sweatshirts.” It goes on in some detail, resulting in a very conservative dress code.
In this particular community, men are required to have beards. “No parting of hair in front. No shingled hair, no mustache. Hats to be worn. No western, cowboy-style or ten-gallon hats.” It goes on.
For women, “clothes must be of plain material, not transparent or form-fitting. Sleeves not too short… Sleeves to be plain or elastic just at the end – no ruffles. No low necklines…. capes or bib aprons are worn.” Etc. You get the picture. No frills. No flair. Nothing ostentatious.
Farming and home businesses are encouraged. Hostetler Construction operates a small log home building company. The logs are currently obtained from another Amish businessman in Idaho. He assembles the log homes on his four-acre place along North Burnt Fork Road. Hostetler said that the Amish community is not a commune. Each family is independent, owning their own homes and businesses. Another thriving Amish business, Frontier Fencing, owned by David Kauffman, is located on the Eastside Highway just north of Stevensville.
The code is: “Boys and girls should work at home, if possible, and not be under the influence of modernism, radio, TV, etc. No computers…No auto driving or owning…”
Hostetler said that this community does allow electricity in the homes and also allows the use of word processors without an internet connection. They also allow the use of farm equipment with some restrictions and the use of a basic cell phone if required for work.
Hunting and fishing are not prohibited but too much hunting and fishing for sport is discouraged. He said the rules are applied with great “patience, humility and admonition” as it says in the contract.
There are also rules for the buggies. “Buggies are to be plain with nothing for pride. Have good lights, flashers and emblems as the law requires. No extra loops and rings on harness. Always be courteous when driving on the road. Obey traffic laws.” There is no requirement for any kind of horse, but most are using Standard Breed out of preference and there are a few in the community with Dutch Harness or Morgan horses. Simple bicycles can also be used for necessary travel.
Hostetler said that some of the rules are more important than others. You might get away with not wearing a hat a few times or talked to about some bright red suspenders, but some infractions are very serious and cannot be tolerated at all, such as divorce. You can only marry once and it’s forever. If one’s spouse should leave the faith, the remaining spouse cannot re-marry. Smoking and drinking alcohol are also prohibited.
Asked what happens if somebody breaks the rules, Hostetler said the community tries to work with them, bring it to their attention and encourage them to do what’s right. If someone pushes the infractions to the limit and is unrepentant, the ultimate community action is excommunication.
Hostetler’s Bible is a King James version with one page in English and the facing page in High German. He said they speak Pennsylvania Dutch in their homes, but it is a language that is not generally written. Although he can speak it, he said he can’t really read it himself without a great deal of trouble.
(For more general information and interesting articles on the Amish communities and Amish life, amishamerica.com is a helpful website.)
The Stevensville community currently has no official church building or school, but that is their aim. Currently they take turns hosting church on Sunday in their own homes. The school is located in a shop building.
Hostetler said they have no kindergarten. He said the children are schooled from grades first through eighth, typically by two to three teachers. The community is holding a public benefit fish fry dinner and auction as a fund raiser for the school on Friday, February 8, at St. Mary’s Family Center, 333 Charlos Street in Stevensville. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. and the auction is scheduled for 7 p.m. It’s an all-you-can-eat dinner of batter fried fish, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw, homemade dinner rolls and pie and ice cream for dessert. There is no charge. Donations only.
Some of the many auction items include a mini barn, four loads of gravel (delivered), new posts and labor to install, new chicken coop, Green Egg grill, knives, paintings, real silver, and baked goods.
If you have any questions you can call Joe at 608-293-4662 or David at 406-552-3688 or Marcus at 406-493-7484.