Where Time stands still ~ The Swartzentruber Group

Posted on April 11, 2016 by LaVonne Debois
Where Time stands still ~ The Swartzentruber Group

Swartzentruber Amish ~ Where time stands still

Holmes County, Ohio has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 50 years with regard to identifying the various groups of Amish.  To the locals, it is easy to identify New Order as well as the various groups of the Old Order.  Many visitors have asked, "How can you tell the difference"?   The best way to explain is the Amish Culture has definite key factors that are maintained across the board which the "outsiders" can usually identify.  Example ~ All Amish have to agree to live separate from the world.  That is the core Biblical belief based on Romans 12:2,  "Do not conform to the patterns of the world".   All Amish agree to maintain an 8th grade education, use horse and buggy as their main mode of transportation, dress in plain clothes, married men maintain a beard, women do not cut their hair for vain reasons, no wearing of jewelry or wedding rings, belong to a church district and resist fighting in war.  Other decisions regarding use of gas lights, stuffed furniture, hot and cold running water, livelihoods, travel limitations, etc all come down to the individual church districts and rules (Ordnung).

These homes are representative of a Swartzentruber homestead in Wayne and Holmes County, Ohio

The Swartzentruber group has maintained the original core definition of separating themselves from the world.   If we look back 300 years ago in Europe when Jacob Auman split from the Mennonites, he set a standard that was meant to literally be separate from the world.  The group name Swartzentruber has an interesting definition.  Swartz in German means black.  Black is a conservative color and represents the most conservative group of Amish.  Truber means to refrain or hold back. Yes, indeed!  The Swartzentruber Group has indeed refrained from the temptations and changes we see compared to other Amish groups.

It is easy to see that the Swartzentruber buggy avoids having any colored reflectors.  In addition, they do not place a slow moving vehicle sign, head lights, rear view mirror, brake lights, turn signals or front windshield on their buggy.  All buggies in Holmes and Wayne County, Ohio are black.

The most common surnames of the Swartzentruber Group in Holmes and Wayne County include Miller, Hershberger,  Zook, Gingerich, Shetler and Petersheim. 

Interiors of the homes reflect traditions and simplicity.  The Kitchen boasts a dry sink with common used utensils hanging from a board with nails. The wood burning oven can heat water on one side and produce heat in the winter as well as a hot meal. The kerosene lanterns give a glimmer of light as they are not allowed to use gas lights. The tables are long enough to sit 10 or more family members with long wooden benches to use as seats. Family rooms offer hickory rockers, wooden benches and chairs to sit and fellowship, read the paper and rock the baby to sleep.  A treadle sewing machine is always by the window.  All the curtains are dark in color and hung without curtain rods, but rather with a string and pulled to the side of the window.  Walls are plain white without pictures or décor except for a local business calendar hanging.


Battleship gray paint outlines the window frames and doors.  The outside of the homes keep an unambiguous appearance.  Seldom will you see big flower beds and manicured landscaping.  Lawns are mowed with hand-pushed mowers.

Swartzentrubers have strictly maintained the early teachings.  They are not seen operating a business in a building, but you will see many basket makers setting up a make-shift business in a parking lot of a busy tourist attraction or near a busy intersection.  They do not advertise their wares or join local chambers of commerce.  Other progressed groups of Amish have built large buildings to sell their wares as well as hire local English to set up websites and operate email accounts.

The owner of this home business operates from a small shed that sits next to her home. 

The Swartzenturber are not allowed to own a battery calculator.  I have always noticed when selling baskets, that they will have their own bookkeeping system on a tablet and use a small box to keep the change.

Swartzentrubers marry Swartzentrubers.  The Bible says to be equally yoked, to be of likeness.  Therefore, they believe it would not be a sound Biblical teaching to marry outside of their own group.

This is called a "horse".  It is handmade by the Swartzentruber in order to weave their baskets.

Swartzentruber groups are usually very welcoming to a visitor.  To them, it is like having company.  They get to meet people from "the world", yet offer them a taste of their culture by allowing them to come to their home business.  Handmade signs at the end of their driveways are a sign of welcome.  Sometimes you will see young children at the end of the lane holding up handmade signs of what they have for sale.

Colorful handmade rugs as shown below are also made and sold by the young girls as a source of income.

 Don't hesitate to visit the Swartzentruber, especially if they have a sign at the end of their driveway.  It isn't fancy.....its just where time stands still.