Amish history; Jakob Amman; Holmes County, OH
Absolutely nothing about Amish history can be compared to the mammoth two volume set Leroy Beachy has compiled. Beautifully cased, these two sets feel like a treasure in your hands. But the contents are the real value. A lifelong project, this book is readable and beautifully illustrated. I have been surprised to hear from the historically un-inclined among the Amish and Amish-Mennonites how this volume drew them in and kept their attention.
What Leroy Beachy has done is set Amish history in a narrative style that is culturally informed in nuanced ways too numerous to list. For one, the history reads like a story, which is exactly the way Amish often frame ideas, whether in sermons, periodical articles, or even gossip. At another level, Amish conceive of their history as not just who did what, but in terms of lineage. As Werner Enninger (1986) has stated, with such a lapse in time since the Amish and Anabaptist movements began, “...the procreational chain has assumed the status of the predominant category in which historical continuity is perceived” (127). Fittingly, the second volume contains pages upon pages of genealogy at the time of the Atlantic crossing. As a final example, also based on Enninger’s research, Amish texts that are expressive texts do not revel in the emotions of autonomous individuals, but find voice in intersubjectivity and shared convictions and beliefs. Unser Leit is an expressive, emotional text, one that rallies readers around shared empathies and cementing conviction in Amish readers for the veracity of where they have come from and what they are upholding today.
Because this book was written for the Amish, it was fitting to invite Amish to review it. Crist Miller is a resident of Holmes County, OH, and gives tours of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center’s Behalt mural of Anabaptist history. Anna Raber is a Holmes County resident, a former teacher, and author of many short articles. Christopher Petrovich is a convert to the Amish whose training is in theology. His work appeared in JAPAS 1(1).
—Cory Anderson, JAPAS co-editor
Miller, Crist, Anna Raber, Christopher Petrovich, and Leroy Beachy. 2015. "Unser Leit Symposium." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 3(1):110-23.