by Kathy Kuderer

Plan a trip to Cashton~ Wisconsin’s largest Amish Community!
Some things you should know before heading out…
Hi!  This is Kathy Kuderer from The Village Shops at Down A Country Road and today I will share with you some things you may want to know about the Old Order Amish before visiting Wisconsin’s largest Amish Community.
The Old Order Amish are a group of people who shun the ways of the modern world.  They do not use electricity, do not have telephones in their homes, have very limited indoor plumbing, use the horse and buggy as their primary source of transportation and use horse drawn field equipment.  Although these are just some of the things which set the Amish apart, it is so much more which I have seen that make these people who they are.  It is their very strong conviction of this way of life that they have held onto for many generations which has drawn my interest and respect.
Beyond the images of the horse and buggy and plain clothing lies a rich and complex way of life.  The Amish have established a way of life based on their concept of Christian humility.  Their communities are both prosperous and lively, rooted in faith in God, family, tradition and hard work.  One room schools, barn raisings, quilting bees andSunday services in the home are just a few of the ways the Amish keep the family unit strong.
While you may not get inside of an Amish home while visiting the community, I will share a chapter from my book “Down A Country Road with the Amish” which will give you some insight as to what their homes are like.

Amish Homes

 Down A Country RoadThe Amish home is as simplistic as can be and yet functional enough to raise a large family.  A typical Amish family includes 8 to 10 children and sometimes many more.
The home is usually a farm house, painted white or sided with white vinyl siding, with no outside adornment.  No decorative elements are used on the exterior of the house, such as colorfully painted trim or shutters.  The Amish home often has a large front porch where the family can sit and visit, read and play games in the evening hours of summer. Many times you will see an Amish Mama and her girls shucking peas, peeling corn husks, or doing other pre-canning chores, while sitting on the porch on a beautiful summer day.
The inside of the Amish home is very plain and simple as well.  The floors are made of varnished hardwood.  The walls, usually sheet rock, are painted white, light blue or light green.  There are no decorations on the wall, except maybe a calendar or a lamp bracket or something depicting the family tree.  Possibly a letter holder or some other functional item would be used, but no pictures or other decorative artwork is displayed.  The furniture in an Amish home is consistent with the rest of the home.  There is simple wooden furniture with very little decorative elements.
You will usually find that the Amish homes are large, not only to accommodate a large family, but also large enough to hold the members of the church district for Sunday services.  That could be as many as one hundred or more people.  The kitchen and living room are often times very large and open to each other, or with a partial dividing wall.
The home is heated with a wood stove, which also is used to cook the family meals and provides the hot water that will be used for washing dishes, cleaning, bathing, washing clothes and any other needs for hot water.
Indoor plumbing is limited.  Most families have cold running water which comes into the home via gravity flow and drains out through a drain system.  Most, if not all, Amish families in this area have an outhouse detached from the home which houses the toilet.  Usually there is a room that is set aside for a wash up sink and a place to take baths.  The bathroom is not equipped with a bathtub or shower, but rather a tin or fiberglass bath tub would be brought in and set up at bath time.
The water for the home is usually generated from using a windmill on the farm.  The water is pumped into a cistern, or holding tank and then set up to run by gravity flow to the house and the barn.  This allows the family to have cold running water from a tap, or a pump, inside the home.  The kitchen is set up with a dry sink, in which dish pans are set in to do dishes.
Most Amish families in the Cashton Community have an “Ice House” on the farm.  Since there is no electricity, refrigerators and freezers, as we know them, are not used. Instead, ice is cut from area ponds and stacked into a structure on the farm, usually attached to the house.  The “Ice House” would be very well insulated and in most cases the ice will last for many months, providing the family with a way to refrigerate food products.
Lighting for the home is typically with a gas or kerosene lamp.  The gas lamp uses a white or clear gas.  This provides the brightest, cleanest light and also gives off a bit of heat. 
The curtains in the home are dark blue and are usually pulled to one side to allow as much light as possible into the home, often eliminating the need to light the lantern.
Amish homes are built very inexpensively.  There is no electrical wiring and plumbing pipes are limited.  There is no heating or air conditioning system to install beyond the wood stove.  If a new Amish home is being built, or an addition is being completed, a “work frolic” will be set up where neighbors and friends come to help with the building project.  There is little, if any, labor costs associated with building a home.
The bedrooms are furnished with a bed, a dresser and possibly a night stand.  The beds are topped with a quilt, made of dark solid colors, perhaps in star or log cabin pattern.  The Amish are known for the beautiful floral and patterned quilts they make, but these colorful quilts are only sold to tourists, not used in their own homes.  Only something in the dark solid colors would be used.  Beds and dressers are often used pieces of furniture that are obtained at an auction or as a hand-me-down.  Nothing is fancy or decorative, just functional.
One of the most important things I can share with you about visiting the Amish is that they really do not want to be photographed, because of the very literal interpretation of the Bible Verse in Exodus;

The View of the Amish about Photographs

The Amish believe that the Bible teaches them to not make a graven image. In Exodus 20:4 (5) it reads; “Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”  The Amish take that very literally and choose not to pose for photographs or to be photographed without their permission.  Many Amish believe that a photograph in which they can be recognized violates the second commandment.
There have been many myths and misunderstandings about this issue over the years.  The Amish are against photographs of themselves and yet they are probably one of the most photographed cultures in the world.  Although they do not want to pose for a photograph or look into the camera to make that graven image, most are not opposed to the occasional photograph of them at a distance, perhaps as they are working in the field.  That image is not so much about them as a person, but rather the scene of which the photograph is taken.
Down a country road2Tourists often try to take pictures of the Amish and I find in most cases it is not that they are trying to be disrespectful, but because they do not understand the beliefs of the Amish about photographs.  The Amish are a very interesting and unique culture and it is fascinating for many people to get a glimpse of their way of life.  If you travel through Amish Country, a scenery picture or two may be okay, but please make sure that you respect their desire not to be photographed up close or extensively.
Amish children play with dolls which are faceless.  It is a way for the children to learn they are not to make a graven image, or to take pride or vanity in the appearance of themselves or their dolly.  This way no one has a dolly that is prettier than anyone else’s. 
Mirrors are used in the home, but not necessarily for the sake of vanity.  Mirrors are used for the men to shave and for someone to make sure they have all the chocolate wiped off their face after eating a delicious cream filled double chocolate cake!  The intent is not, however, to be used to admire one’s self, or to take vanity or pride in appearance.
That’s it for this time folks…but check back, as I will be sharing more in a future blog!

We invite you to stop in at The Village Shops at Down A Country Road” which is located 2 miles east of Cashton along State Hwy 33.  From there you can begin your day exploring this unique culture. You may want to pick up a copy of my book, or a map to guide you.  Check out our website at Have fun as you explore!

Kathy Kuderer

Kathy Kuderer


Kathy Kuderer grew up on a rural Wisconsin farm and has worked with the Amish for over 20 years. She has published three books about the Amish community and continues her work at Down A Country Road.