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Transporting back to simpler times at the Illinois Amish Heritage Center

Illinois Amish Heritage Center located east of Arthur on Route 133.

An acting “buffer” between the English and the Amish

By ARIANNA R CHERRY
Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, I received the privilege of getting a tour of the historic buildings on the present Illinois Amish Heritage Center site located outside of Arthur on Route 133. Inside these homes, I was transported back in time that day, and the warm humid weather only intensified the experience – as there was no central air or air conditioning during the years of Moses Yoder’s or Daniel Schrock’s lives when they lived in their homes.

Bruce Weiman, being an avid story-teller and one of the members who have been busy making this project come to life, was the one on site who provided the tour. IAHC (Illinois Amish Heritage Center) currently is home to the 1865 Moses Yoder House, the 1860s Moses Yoder Workshop, the 1882 Daniel Schrock House, the Miller German School and a picnic shelter. The picnic shelter is an ideal spot for school, tour groups and organizations to gather for rest, discussion and eating when they come to experience the tour and what life was like in the earlier days of the Amish.

“The Heritage Center wants to act as a “buffer” between the English and the Amish. They want to help teach others factual information about the Amish, debunk myths about the Amish and also be a place where tourists can go to learn more about the Amish without invading their privacy by driving out by the country-sides and asking them for photos, etc or stopping outside their homes and taking pictures. They (the Amish) need to be able to have their privacy so they can live their lives just as we live our lives,” explained Weiman. The mission of the IAHC is “to enhance the preservation, understanding, and appreciation of all aspects of the culture and heritage of the Amish people in Illinois from 1865 to the present.”

During the walkthrough of the 1882 Daniel Schrock House tour, you are taken to a much simpler and slowed-down time… something we as English don’t experience on a daily basis in our fast-paced lives. Inside the home, you will see many museum-like exhibits to help educate individuals of the Amish lifestyle.

As you enter into what would have been the living area, an Amish wedding table is set with simple colors of blue and white. It is an accurate replica of the table that was set for Owen and Katie Schrock on their wedding day on January 9, 1975. Owen Shrock is the grandson of Noah Schrock, who grew up in the home. The only thing missing on Owen and Katie’s special table was their home-made three-tier Amish wedding cake. The dishes also displayed are not the exact dishes that were present on that day, but it does give you a general idea of how an Amish wedding table is set. Amish weddings were often simple, complete with a dinner menu chosen by the couple and basic colors that often followed themes such as spring or fall with coordinating colors such as gray, purple and green (spring) or blue, purple and gray (fall). An Amish wedding could also consist of eight to eleven songs which the bride and groom would pick out beforehand.

Moving through the rooms of the Schrock House, Weiman went on to explain how the Amish have church in each other’s homes once a week. Once the church outgrows the homes, another district is created. A music box sits where you can listen to an Amish hymn sung acapella in German -with male voices only. Females are not to “over-shadow” the men and also were not allowed to sing during that time.

In another nearby display, you can see an Amish Bible, known as the Froschauer Bible. In 1529, it was the first Bible completely translated into the German language. It was a popular Bible because of its clear type, pictorial decoration and popular German language.

During the tour, Weiman also shares stories from some of Daniel Schrock’s childhood and how the Amish lived their lives back in those days. In the Daniel Schrock home, there are places where you can see parts of the original flooring, walls and paint colors. “It is said that the Amish are very pragmatic and reused many of the items to make updates and change their homes,” said Weiman. Upstairs, you view an Amish bedroom, a closet that holds original clothing from the Amish wardrobe. Their clothing often consists of simple designs and plain colors – as the Amish prefer not to attract attention to themselves.

A short time was spent in the Moses Yoder home, as it is still very much under reconstruction. Inside, you can see a lot of the original walls, flooring and paint colors. Although while viewing the inside of the home, you can gather a general idea of what it once was just by standing inside the literal “time-capsule.”

Towards the end of the tour, Weiman spoke about some of the future plans that the IAHC would like to carry out. Some of those plans include adding two barns and a museum for more Amish historical exhibits. “The buildings are being renovated to “before living memories,” described Weiman. There is also a plan to purchase more farmland once the center can receive enough funding to buy it – which is about $5,000. Other details to the plans include bringing livestock so that there will be a live working farm. Donations are always welcome so that the IAHC can bring their plans to life in order to provide a learning experience for everyone and carry out their mission. The Illinois Amish Heritage Center is available for tours on the weekends. Tours are $5 and $10. You can visit the website to make donations and contact the center for information about booking a tour: https://www.illinoisamish.org/.

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