Amish influx to eastern P.E.I. gets underway

Some very different — but very welcome — newcomers to a couple of Island communities have begun arriving: Amish people from Ontario.

'After a while the novelty will wear out and it'll be a normal community relationship'

This sign warns travellers in the Montague area to watch for Amish horse-drawn buggies. (CBC)

There are some very different — but very welcome — newcomers to a couple of Island communities: Amish people from Ontario.

Two groups of Amish people have begun arriving in Summerville, P.E.I., near Montague, and in the Dundas area, lured by affordable farm land. 

"It was four o'clock this morning when we arrived, and they saw the flashing temporary signs letting people know that the Amish will be on the roads with their horse and buggies, and they all had a good chuckle," said Tony Wallbank, who has worked with the Amish for years in southern Ontario and is helping them move here.

The Amish people and the Islanders are not a lot different.— Tony Wallbank

"They're most appreciative and had a lot of smiles and comments."

Wallbank, who moved to P.E.I. with his wife in November, ushered a busload of 15 Amish newcomers to P.E.I. Tuesday for a week of scoping things out. 

The first Amish newcomers settled in to their new home in Summerville last week, and their parents are expected to arrive any day. 

Others have purchased five farms in the area, as well as three farms near Dundas, and are looking for three more there.

The Amish are 'most appreciative' of efforts on P.E.I. to make them feel welcome, says Tony Wallbank. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Wallback expects there will be 12 or 13 families on P.E.I. by the end of the year. 

Islanders are trying make the newcomers feel welcome by planning to install hitching posts and shelters and designating streets for horses and buggies. 

"It's been quite positive. It has helped them decide to move to the Island," said Wallbank. "The Amish people and the Islanders are not a lot different."

In Ontario, modern life and farming methods predominate — another reason P.E.I. is a better fit, said Wallbank. 

"Here on the Island, there are still lots of older folks that remember the good old days of farming, and relate to the Amish coming here." 

Good to know

While Islanders like to know one another's business, said Wallbank, the Amish people, while friendly and peaceful, are quite shy and private.

They have requested people not take their photographs, and are unlikely to attend public events, although Wallbank said country fairs like the one at Dundas may be an exception.

"I've warned the Amish families that when they have the first 'eggs for sale' signs up, there could be 40 or 50 cars show up for a dozen eggs," he said with a smile. "But after a while the novelty will wear out and it'll be a normal community relationship." 

Their children will at first be home-schooled, Wallbank said, but when there are more, the Amish will build a one-room school house and have their own teachers.

This house in Primrose has been purchased by Amish newcomers to P.E.I. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"You'll see the young girls all prim and proper walking down the side of the road, and the boys will be dragging along behind about a quarter mile or so," Wallbank recalls of Amish children heading to school in Ontario. 

"And the nice thing too is that they wave," he smiled. 

The Amish shun the modern conveniences of automobiles and electricity. They heat their homes and cook with wood stoves. One group will use outhouses, Wallbank said. 

They light their homes with kerosene lanterns and use portable LED flashlights to get around in the dark, said Wallbank, adding they refer to all non-Amish as "English."

They're also sourcing horse-drawn farming equipment, which will be drawn by Percheron horses. 

Amish create a draw

It's typical for others to want to settle near Amish communities, said Wallbank, and it's already creating interest in nearby real estate. 

Two non-Amish families are making the move to P.E.I. from Southern Ontario, he said. 

"They tend to want to be around the Amish lifestyle," he explained. "Everything from shoo-fly pie to Amish furniture to knowing Amish neighbors."

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan


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