Photograph © by Pat Crowe
Faced with the inevitable pressures of modern life and land development,
Lyndon Byler laughs as he recounts a fracas between two Amish men after a buggy accident outside his Byler’s Country Store in
is the day I move out.”
“That’s the mentality,” Byler says. “They don’t like the expansion.”
Roving west through the unincorporated farming environs of
is bare of pavement and telephone polls. But there are also a few modern landmarks nearby: a Dairy Queen, a Blockbuster video store and a Valero station.
The two cultures—Amish and “English”—have coexisted for the better part of a century. But in recent months, as developers have bought Amish-owned land at exorbitant prices, residents have been squeezed out or cashed out. Either way, they are leaving the
“It’s getting to the point now where a horse and buggy on the road is getting more and more hazardous with all the growth. And it is stressful,” says Daniel Beachy, who lives on
. “It’s making it hard for us to raise families in the manner we like. People and their children are moving all over the country, and it’s splitting up families, putting a lot of distance between them.”
The so-called “plain people” have been on the move for the better part of 40 years, but now their numbers—believed to be 300 families around Dover—are starting to dwindle. “The situation is getting worse,” says an Amish resident, who, for cultural reasons, wished to remain anonymous. “There may be 10 or 15 more families moving out. It’s going to worsen.”
The Amish like to live and raise their families in privacy. They prefer not to have links to the corruptions of the dominant society. But some Amish families have lived in
“It makes it harder for us to raise our family,” says Daniel Beachy’s daughter-in-law, Betty Beachy. She lives at Pearson’s Corner, about two miles outside
The Amish live an Anabaptist lifestyle committed to peace, discipleship and holy living, separate from modern bonds. They view cars and electricity as connections to the outside world. They typically shun bright colors. The men wear black hats, which indicate the orthodoxy of the group and individual wearer. Men also keep beards because of their depiction in the Bible, but shun mustaches because of their association with the military.
Amish families first landed in
“Costs are so high because big developers have built out everything else around us,” she says. “Up in
Residential developers such as
“I’ve seen as much development in the past 18 months as I have the previous 16 years,” she says. “We’ve had a big influx of people moving in from
The anonymous Amish landowner found this out firsthand. He’s received offers from private developers ranging from $2 million to $3 million for his 80-acre farm.
“The dollar amount is what’s really staggering,” he says. “That hasn’t been the main reason for the move, but I can go buy 10 farms somewhere else versus what I can get here.”
He hoped to have left
More development naturally leads to more traffic, another source of ire for the Amish, who travel in carriages.
“There was a time when I drove my horse and buggy into
Byler says migration is a common practice among Amish families. Because of their typically large size and limited land, Amish people tend to branch out and strengthen communities elsewhere. The difference in
Change, as Byler puts it, is going to happen. There’s nothing he can do to stop it. “But it would be a sad day for me to see
So does anyone else in
As farmland disappeared or became too expensive in places like
“Cottage industries like furniture making and gazebos, many of which are sold wholesale or retail to tourists, have allowed the Amish to stay and grow,” says Brad Igou, editor of the Amish Country News in
And it appears
“We’ve made accommodations in our zoning code in our agricultural district for a variety of businesses that the Amish have traditionally been involved in,” says Mike Petit de Mange, director for
“We do everything we can to enable the Amish to remain in
With subdivisions going up near Amish land, Petit de Mange says, planners have tried to direct growth into areas that are better suited for it. Still, development in areas such as Wild Quail and Rockland West, which are very close to the Amish community, has put irreversible pressure on the roads, which is the main reason for the Amish exodus, according to Petit de Mange.
Betty Beachy, whose husband runs a woodcraft shop, says
All things being equal, the one untouchable economic reality is what people are offering for land. It’s a huge enticement to anybody who owns land in
When the Amish took root in
officially opened, bustling traffic wasn’t an issue.
Stretches of land similar to
, without telephone wires or electric transformers were the rule, not the exception. “In this area,” Byler says, “I look at that stretch of road and think it’d be a shame to lose that.”