Published On: Thu, Oct 19th, 2017

Knox County tour group learns about Amish life

Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a series on Knox County history.

Deanna Anderson
Wausa Gazette
VERDIGRE —  A Knox County Heritage and History Tour was held on Sept. 22 The tour was sponsored by the Northeast Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Dick Haskin, from the RC&D, and historian Judy Carlson welcomed people aboard the tour bus and provided history lessons to the group throughout the day.
The bus with the Knox County Historic tour group headed west as it left Verdigre.
Road signs making drivers aware of the possibility of a “horse and buggy” on the road were posted along the side of the highway at various locations. The tour group would be stopping for lunch at the Amish Sunny View School.
Dick Haskin provided information about the lunch and the Amish community as the bus traveled to the site.
“We will be visiting the Amish community,” Haskin said. “Jonas and Lydian Zook will be providing our meal at the Amish School. Amish crafts and other items will be for sale. “
Haskin reminded the group to not take any photos and to leave their cellphone/smart phones in their pockets or purse out of respect for the Amish culture and traditions.
Knox County has a mixture of heritage culture and religious denominations according to Haskin. The most recent culture and religion to migrate to Knox County is the Amish. The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christians with Swiss Anabaptist origins. Anabaptists are Christians who believe that baptism is valid only when the candidate confesses his or her faith in Christ and wants to be baptized.
The history of the Amish church began in 1693 in Switzerland when Jakob Ammon and his followers split away from the Swiss Brethren Church. Those who followed Ammon became known as Amish.
The Amish began migrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century as part of a larger migration, which was a reaction to religious wars, poverty, and religious persecution in Europe. The first Amish immigrants went to Berks County, Pennsylvania, but later moved, because of land issues and security concerns tied to the French and Indian War. Many eventually settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups later settled elsewhere in North America.
Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of pride/arrogance and the high value they place on humility, calmness and composure The Amish’s willingness to submit to the “will of Jesus” is at odds with the individualism that is central to the wider American culture. The Amish anti- individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. Modern innovations like electricity might spark a competition for status goods, and photographs might cultivate personal vanity. Electric lines would be going against the Bible. The Amish look at Romans 12:2, which says that you shall not be “Conformed to the world”.
Amish lifestyle is regulated by a set of rules called the Ordnung, that has the German meaning of order, which can be different from community to community. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another.
Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. Amish typically believe large families are a blessing from God.
Modern technology is used selectively by the Amish for fear that it may weaken the family structure. Anything which could promote sloth, luxury or vanity is strictly prohibited. Because 120-volt electricity connects to the outside world, it violates the Amish idea of separation from society. Owning an automobile could be a sign of status and it would promote vanity and competition between the church members. A telephone in the house would be a temptation to stay at home speaking to a friend rather than walking or taking a buggy ride to visit a neighbor.
Although Amish home and social life has remained mostly unaltered, a new technology can be adopted once it has passed a rigorous examination.
The Ordnung is used to examining any new proposed use of technology. A proposal may be accepted for business reasons, but not for personal wishes, entertainment, or for self-indulgences.
A few of the more liberal districts have allowed the telephone.
Any technology seen to be corrupting spiritual or family life is rejected out of hand. Television would never be considered because it brings unbiblical values into the home.
In farming, horses are used to pull wagons, buggies, and agricultural equipment.
Gasoline engines may be allowed to run the machinery but horses are required for locomotion. The Old Order Amish are permitted to use modern transportation as long as they don’t own or operate the equipment. All of these guidelines are set out in the Ordnung, creating a balance between tradition and change.
The first Amish family to move to northeast Nebraska was the Eddie and Maddie Petersheim family, who moved to Knox County in the 1990’s. Other Amish families soon followed. Although the Petersheims and their community moved away from the area over a year ago, there are still three communities or churches of Amish in the area of Orchard, by Center, and one near Verdigre.
In the home Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch – a dialect of German. In worship they speak standard or high German. When they are around “English” people, they speak English. Amish children don’t start learning English until they start school at the age of 5 or 6. The Amish do not usually educate their children past the eighth grade, believing that the basic knowledge offered up to that point is sufficient to prepare one for the Amish lifestyle. Almost no Amish go to high school and college. In many communities, the Amish operate their own schools, which are typically one-room schoolhouses with teachers, who are usually young, unmarried women from the Amish community.
The Amish pay sales tax, property tax, and income tax. However, in 1965 a law was passed exempting them from Social Security tax since they refuse to accept Social Security benefits.
The Historic Tour of Knox County included several stops during the afternoon.
The tour bus traveled a couple miles northwest of the Amish School and went past the Marvin Soucek farm, which is where the community of Ruth had been located at one time. The Ruth Post Office, which had been located in a General Store, was established in 1902 and discontinued in 1913. When the post master quit, the post office was moved into what is now part of the Marvin Soucek farm.
The usual small community businesses including a general store and a blacksmith shop were located in Ruth. The school and cemetery were about a mile west of this location.
The tour bus continued north on the gravel road about eight miles and made a stop at Pischelville.


, another early town that has almost disappeared. The
location is on the south side of the Niobrara River, about eight miles south of Verdel. A residence and the ZCBJ Hall are the only buildings left at the site of Pischelville.
The tour group was able to get off the bus for 25 minutes and tour the inside of the Zapadni Cesko Bratrska Jednota building, used by the Czeck families.
Anton Pischel left his home in Czechoslovakia and filed a homestead at the location in 1869. Pischel was the postmaster for the post office that was established in August of 1872. The first store, built in 1879, tailored
clothing for the soldiers at Fort Randall. The Anton Pischel family included five children. Four of the five children died within three months of one another from diphtheria in 1882.  The children were buried in a family cemetery behind the
ZCBJ Hall.
Another tragic event happened at Pischelville when Caroline Brabanec, 14 years old, and Johnny Brabanec, eight, were supposedly murdered by Indians in 1870. A fort was built and added to the array of buildings at Pischelville which included a school, store, mill, post office and the ZCBJ Lodge that was constructed in the early 1880’s and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The population of Pischelville reached its peak in 1920 with 42 residents. The post
office closed January 15, 1927.
In 1904 the first bridge was built across the Niobrara River. Legend says there is buried treasure along river bank. Many have searched for it, but no one has found the treasure.
Just before 2:30 pm the tour bus made a stop in Monowi, which has a population of one. The group toured Rudy’s Library and Monowi Tavern. Monowi came into existence in 1901 when the railroad came through. Monowi is the Indian name for the “Snow on the Mountain” wild flowers that grew in abundance in the area.
At one time, Monowi was thickly populated and was a very up and coming town with business places lining both sides of Main Street. At least four passenger trains plus numerous freights ran through Monowi enroute from Norfolk to Winner, SD. A bus route, from 1938 to 1956, that ran from Norfolk to Bonesteel, S.D. stopped in Monowi during the trip.
Now, the only business left in town is the Monowi Tavern owned and operated by Mrs. Rudy Eiler, who is also the only resident. Her husband, Rudy had a book collection. Several years ago, some friends built the building that now houses Rudy’s Library.

The tour group was able to learn some unique historical information as the bus traveled through Verdel.
The Verdel Post office was established in August 5, 1895 at the first site for the town which was southwest of the cemetery. The land for the original town was donated by Joseph H. Barker, grandfather of Bob Barker of TV’s “Truth or Consequences”.
Verdel was moved to a new location in 1902 to have easier access for the railroad to come through and partially because of flooding.
At one time, a hotel, newspaper, stores, saloons, bank, a school, lumber yard and elevator were located in Verdel. In 1920 the population of Verdel was 162, the town now has less than 50 people.

The tour group was provided information on the town of Niobrara as the bus headed for the Niobrara State Park which would be the last stop for the day.

Niobrara was founded in 1856 as a fur trading station because of the location near the Missouri River. The first location was where the new Standing Bear Bridge is located east of Niobrara and was primarily a Norwegian settlement. When a big flood happened in 1881, a decision was made to move the town. The second location was north of the present site.
The town was moved again in 1976 because the river was causing constant flooding. This land was actually the stock car race track. The Niobrara State Park is also in its second location. The first site is now under water. The second site is a golf course but does occasionally flood.

Niobrara went through several changes when the town was first established.
Niobrara had originally been named L’Eau Qui Court although the name was changed in 1873.
Niobrara was the county seat in 1886. When the town made the first move to a new location, a 40-year battle began over where the county seat should be. The decision ended up going to a vote between Niobrara, Bloomfield or Creighton. After a vote was taken in 1900, a decision was made to have the county seat moved to the geographical center of the county. In 1901, the town of Center was formed and the courthouse was moved in 1902.

The tour group took a guided tour through the Niobrara State Park. A stop was also made at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center where the group could view the site of the location of the old Niobrara State Park and the site of the first and second locations of the Village of Niobrara.

Rita Isom and Jenny Gubbels, from the Randolph area, enjoyed the historical tour in Knox County.
“There is a lot of history here that I didn’t know about. It is very interesting,” Isom said.

Carolyn Hall, Wausa, gave credit to the Northeast Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development for all of the work that went into the tour.
“This is a really nice tour,” Hall said. “The RC&D does an awesome job.”