Come with me to Wisconsin Amish Country
When I started writing Amish romances, I decided to set my books in beautiful Wisconsin Amish country. Wisconsin has the fourth largest Amish population in the United States. The Amish in Wisconsin are not concentrated in one area, and Amish country is not as “touristy” as other popular Amish destinations like Ohio and Pennsylvania, but if you’re willing to wander off the beaten path, you’ll find some truly wunderbarr people and places.
Thirty miles east of La Crosse, Cashton is the largest Amish community in Wisconsin. If you want to know anything about the Cashton Amish, Kathy Kuderer is the person to see. She runs “Down a Country Road,” an adorable group of shops in the heart of Cashton.
In her shops, Kathy sells many handicrafts and goodies made by the local Amish. She also knows about all the Amish shops and bakeries in the Cashton area. She took us to a bakery run by a single Amish woman. Her father built the bakery attached to the family house just for her. The woman had just pulled a peach pie out of the oven when we arrived, so we bought the whole thing, took it to our car, and ate it right out of the pan. Kathy also took us to a cheese factory with cheese curd to die for, a wood shop, and some quilt shops.
The Amish in Cashton are very conservative. Windmills pump water into their homes, but the running water often comes out in a trickle, and it’s not heated. Like most Amish, they don’t use electricity or phones. They don’t believe in being photographed, so it’s best not to ask. Sometimes it’s okay to take pictures of their children if you get permission.
Another tiny Amish community in Wisconsin is just east of Wautoma. We almost missed it, but if you watch closely, you will see a sign for Yoder’s Quilt Shop right on Highway 21. The quilt shop is a very small room in the Yoders’ house. Mary and Freddie Yoder have a beautiful wood floor in their home along with a huge cookstove. Their home smells heavily of goats because they have a goat farm out behind the house. I couldn’t resist buying a quilt from Mary. My sister bought one too.
Mary also gave us a hand-drawn map of the area, with directions to the other businesses. As you can see, they were a little hard to find. We spent half an hour looking for the greenhouse. We found it, but it had been closed and moved to another location.
We followed the directions down a country lane to an Amish candy shop. The shop was attached to a house and a sign on the front door of the shop a sign said, “Please honk. If no one answers, knock on the front door.” The shop was open, so we went in and looked at the candy. We ended up knocking on the front door to get someone to come out. We bought several tubs of absolutely delicious homemade candies. My favorite were the peanut butter chocolate drops and the coconut haystacks.
Most of my books are set in or around Bonduel, which is an Amish community in northeastern Wisconsin about an hour from Green Bay. It is beautiful country, with several lush Amish farms and many Amish businesses. The Amish in Bonduel hold an auction every year usually at the end of August. There are usually dozens of beautiful quilts that sell for very cheap as well as farm tools, baked goods, and furniture. My parents went to the auction and took some photos for me.
There are so many fun things to see in Bonduel:
You will never meet nicer people than the Amish. Some like to keep to themselves, others are happy to visit with you and answer your questions.
I think readers love Amish romance because of the simple Amish lifestyle and the deep faith the Amish have in God. That faith permeates every aspect of Amish life. My books have been called “Amish romantic comedy.” I love helping two people fall in love—even if they are fictional.
Here are some interesting facts about the Amish.
- There are nearly 250,000 Amish people living in the United States.
- There are many different sects of Amish. New Order Amish are allowed to ride in planes, while the Swartzentrubers are ultra-conservative, eschewing such things as indoor plumbing and bicycles.
- Amish children attend school until eighth grade.
- When teenagers turn 16, they begin rumschpringe, which means “running around.” They are allowed certain freedoms until they choose baptism, usually between ages 18 and 25.
- Most Amish do not use electricity, own cell phones, drive cars, or fly in airplanes.
- The Amish believe in dressing plainly. Women often wear conservative-colored dresses with no patterned fabric and no buttons. They cover their heads with prayer The men wear plain shirts and pants with suspenders instead of belts.
- Married men grow beards without mustaches.
- Amish people do not believe in having their pictures taken. To them, photos are graven images.
- The Amish take a strict vow of non-violence. They refuse to serve in the military.
- They do not vote or collect Social Security.
In my next book, The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unconventional Niece, Mattie Zook decides to run for town council. She hasn’t been baptized yet so running for office is allowed, even though her community and her family are against her running. Since the Amish don’t vote, Mattie’s decision sets the district in an uproar. But when Mattie sees an injustice, she has to fix it. Will Freeman Sensenig help her or leave her to fend for herself? The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unconventional Niece comes out in October.