The Amish community continues to flourish in the region, with a recent barn-raising event at the Gingerich home on the Bangor Road in Easton and the rebuilding of the Miller home on U.S. Route 1A in Fort Fairfield just the latest construction projects to attract the attention of passersby.
“We have about 22 Amish families residing in Easton now. There’s a new house going in on Forest Avenue,” said Easton Town Manager Jim Gardner.
It’s not just locals who are in awe of the craftsmanship that goes into these structures, noted Gardner.
“Last year we had a group of Bowboin professors visit to see firsthand how the Amish work. This year we had 12 Bowdoin students — not one from Maine — who came to watch a project. There were students from California, New York, Boston,” said the town manager.
Gardner said he first was introduced to the college professors by Dr. Chunzeng Wang, an associate professor of earth and environmental science at UMPI.
“There’s a new class coming into Bowdoin. Working with the university’s Cooperative Extension office and the Maine Winter Sports Center, the group came to Easton to visit the Amish milk house. (Watching the process of milking cows) blew them away. Daniel Yoder, the Amish bishop, spoke to them during their visit,” said Gardner.
Gardner said the Amish population fits nicely with the community spirit Easton’s established over the years.
“Barn-raising and other projects are done by the Amish as a community, all working together to achieve a goal,” he said. “Everyone comes to help; the women cook, the men work on the project at hand.”
Construction last week at the Gingerich residence on the Bangor Road drew a great deal of attention.
“It’s like going to the drive-in theater. So many come to watch these events. It’s a boost to tourism wherever the Amish settle,” said Gardner.
When tragedy strikes, as was the case with the Millers’ home fire in Fort Fairfield earlier this summer, Gardner said families come together to aid one another.
“Like with the Fort fire, it doesn’t just affect one family but the whole community. They work together to help each other,” said Gardner. The Millers’ home is now almost completely rebuilt.
Like Easton, Fort Fairfield’s Amish community also serves as a tourist attraction and has resulted in an increase in the population and added businesses. Charlie Cormier, a member of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, enjoys watching crews work on new construction, snapping photographs to commemorate the occasions.
“I stopped by the Easton barn-raising to get a few photos. The one thing that fascinates me is their agility and lack of fear of heights,” said Cormier.
Some construction projects have seen Amish members from communities as far away as New York and Pennsylvania make the trip to Maine to help family members build barns and homes, but Cormier said the time of year may have factored into last week’s barn-raising having fewer participants.
“One thing I heard about this one was that there weren’t many participants outside the local community. Other barn-raisings that I’ve witnessed have been earlier in the year, not during harvest,” Cormier said.
Gardner said the town of Easton and the Amish community will continue to work together, as the Amish population grows.
“We’re two communities that need to work together. We’ve each extended a hand to the other. We have a very good working relationship,” said Gardner.
He noted that Amish residents and their businesses are an important factor to the municipality.
“They’re part of our comprehensive plan. Jonas Gingerich, from the Bangor Road, makes furniture, his wife makes home-baked goods — sells his furniture at the Aroostook Centre Mall. Their girls own the store at Easton Center. There’s stainless steel work going on and other work that only helps enhance the community of Easton,” said Gardner.
“The Amish are doing such great things. It’s a pleasure to have them call Easton home,” said Gardner.