Old Order Mennonites of Scottsville, KY, A Blacksmith’s Story, Buggy Wheels and The Charm of the “Plain People” and its Countryside
“I travel a dusty and buggy worn path with the overhanging boughs of locust, oak and maple above me...the scent of a deep and wild damp raises cool from the spring creek. The wind sends a soft honeysuckle fragrance as my eye catches a sturdy Mennonite man. He is walking with solemn purpose in a tall field along a fencerow…he bends down to pull on something from the earth. He looks at the approaching storm that is foreseen…”
I must begin this story by expressing my graciousness to the Mennonite community and their sweet, smiling eyed children that helped make my experience and journey into something very precious to experience…a wonderful moment in time.
I have written about Scottsville, KY history and The Noah Hoover Mennonites in the past. This time my experience was more personal and intriguing. From the first moment that I saw Ruben Glick in his buggy I knew his amiable demeanor and gentlemen’s way would help me on my quest to find Sam Stoner, the local blacksmith and Buggy Wheel maker, Raymond Hoover.
After speaking with Ruben and getting directions for my journey I kindly told him that I was working on my book “The Abandoned Story” the Kentucky Volume that deals in the “forgotten stories, ways, folklore and history of communities He smiled at me as if he knew I was going to inquire about capturing a photograph if he was not looking. He told me in a kind gentle but direct way that he could not pose for a photograph. He did subtlety suggest that if he was turning away, well then…you get the picture; and so I did….
The Mennonites of Scottsville, KY are Noah Hoover Mennonite and can be referred to as “Old Order Mennonites”. They are a group of plain “Old Order” that came from the Stauffer Mennonites that would merge with other groups. This group tends to be more restrictive on modern technology than the other Old Order Mennonite people.
The history of this particular group is somewhat complicated for it arose from several mergers and “coming together” from different Order groups of Mennonites. During 1944 bishop Phares O. Stauffer departed from the main group of the Stauffer Mennonites in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. It is told that Phares was very opposed to the use of food ration stamps during World War II. It is their tradition to oppose everything that has to do with war.
Many changes would come about with the Order and by 1949, when Aaron Martin was bishop they would soon see Titus B. Hoover (1925-2016) replace him as bishop with a growing order.
During 1952 many new people would join the Titus Hoover group such as the group from Tennessee that had been associated with the reformed “Amish Christian Church”. This group was established nearby Berne, Indiana in 1895 by David Schwartz. It would dissolve in the year of 1952.
The Titus Hoover group had many that would split and merge to form the Noah Hoover Mennonites around 1963. By 1987 there were groups of Noah Hoover Mennonites in Allen County, KY, Snyder County, Pennsylvania and Upper Barton Creek in Belize, Central America. During 1988 they would shift and create their main settlement in Scottsville, KY from Snyder County, PA.
The Mennonites in Scottsville, KY are of similar belief systems of the other Old Orders except they are the strictest about not using engine power at all. The men and women are plainly dressed and very neat. The men wear beards and unlike the Amish the Mennonite men also have mustaches. They use a standard German for church and bible studies. They also use English in church service, too.
I was helped much and given a few hand drawn maps by two kind young Mennonite men that worked a fine organic vegetable and strawberry market. They both were very inquiring of my name and book and of course helped me pick out the firmest squash and tomatoes to take back home. The one man was busy drawing for me a fine map that had a few turns and T’s in the road but he left out the names of the roads and lanes. His friend kindly smiled and turned to the other joking to him that “maybe he should put some names to those markings” he was making. I laughed and thought that was probably wise considering my experience and knowledge of the twisting country lanes out here in Kentucky. Well, unfortunately the map took me to a general store run by a man named Matthew who was very solemn but kind and quick. He listened to my story about my quest to find Sam Stoner, the blacksmith who makes fine knives and tomahawks. He then neatly took to drawing a map with two small bridges on it that would finally lead to Sam. It did and I was thankful to be here for the day was getting late.
I slowly walk up the lovely country drive to the scent of coal fire burning. I was excited for I knew he must be working on forging something special.
Sam was talking knife business with another local man and he smiled and seemed like he didn’t have a care in the world. I thought that here was a man who is very content and joyful at his craft.
When my turn came to speak I was eager to see and learn as much as I could. I explained my reason for coming to see him and about my book. Sam was more than happy to show me around and answer my questions. He even made a knife out of a railroad spike for me to see. I was thrilled to watch his process. Sam, unbeknownst to me, had just been interviewed for KET. He said I could capture some photographs as I watched him stoke and wind up the coal fire. The incredible show began…I was amazed and listened to him describe the bone and woods he liked to use, such as tiger maple, burled walnut, rosewood, ash and other hardwoods from the area. He would often use deer and elk antler. He would speak about the interesting and beautiful craft of jewelling the blade. His work was as beautiful to watch as his fine craftsmanship and artistic ability was displayed by each unique knife that was finished.
He had two Belgian horses running on a track to move the pulley system that operated the automated hammer machine for flattening the hot metal to be made into the knife blade. This was the “Old Way”. I really enjoyed my journey into Sam Stoner’s blacksmith workshop and can only extend a gracious wish for his extended art, prosperity and joy of life. Thank you for giving some of your time to me.
The next stop was to find Raymond Hoover, a fine craftsman who assembles and paints buggy wheels and buggies. The journey to him was on a very rough and small road. There was plenty of time for reflective thought on this road…I started to think that if many of them took this road to see Raymond and his family they were going to need buggy wheel work or replacement by the time they got there. It was a lovely and scenic route, just my kind of road, but the small road had its share of bumps. I finally made it and saw two men talking to one another as many young children and a couple of friendly loving dogs played among the grassland. Raymond was one of the men and I told him I was interested in seeing his craft. He was a tall and obliging young man with his young boys all around him playing with hammers and climbing on buggy chassis. They were very curious and hung on my every word. They were very sweet and good natured young children. Raymond’s work was very fine and he had a very nice workshop. I enjoyed my time here looking at the fine and shiny black painted buggies. I am very gracious to Raymond for letting me see a part of his world and craft.
I can only say that I was treated with much kindness and help by many. My journey was a success and I learned so much from this wonderful Mennonite community. I hope my story can enlighten or bring a smile to others like you all did for me.
The following photographic captures are "my story" from that special day. I hope you all enjoy!
Copyright (c.) 2016 in the month of May