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Amish Trail in New York- Photo George Bailey

The Amish Trail Of Southwestern New York

Traveling the Amish Trail is like traveling back to a more peaceful place. You’ll feel like you’re in a different era. It’s a refuge in the noisy confusion of life.
Once in a while I travel to a place that’s really different. This is such a place.

When I arrived in Randolph, New York the charm of the area was easy to feel. The village of 7,000 and outlying countryside was deliciously peaceful. Time, as it does in most small villages, flowed like a stream of molasses.

I was told about this area by Tonia McAllister, Economic Development Officer of Randolph. Tonia said, “We’re really trying hard to let folks know about our Amish and we’ve done so with their blessing”. What a find it turned out to be.

The first person she introduced me to was Paul Fisher, who along with his wife Susan operates Amish Country Store and Guided Tours (where you can get a wide variety of genuine Amish made items) on the main street of this cozy village. Paul joined me in my car and I started to explore a world I didn’t know existed.

The Amish Community

Amish Trail - George Bailey
Cattaraugus County of Western New York (Randolph is part of the county) is where ten Old Order Amish families in 1949 traveled to set up the first Amish District.

This community has grown to include 14 districts (a district consists of 10-12 families) of about 2,500.

I learned immediately to lose my camera when around the Amish. These “plain people” as they refer to themselves, believe taking photographs of themselves violate the biblical teachings against making graven images of them. As you drive these back roads you’ll pass numerous styles of Amish horse and buggies and lots of Amish walking. Be sure to wave, they return the wave, if you don’t have a camera in your hand.

Shopping

The Amish community is thriving one. They specialize in cabinet and toy making, farming, cheese making, blacksmithing, buggy and harness making, quilting, rugging and baking. These businesses are open to the “English” as they call us, almost every day except Sunday. Forget the debit or credit card they accept only cash.

There are approximately 130 Amish Shops along the 25 mile trail found here.

Some of my favorites were Axeville Furniture in Conewango Valley where I was amazed at the quality workmanship of Levi Miller. I didn’t have room in my car for the solid hard-wood child’s rocker for $75.00 (worth twice as much) but it’s on my list to return and pick up.

It was at the Toy Shop in Randolph where I purchased a trotting wooden horse for my 2 year old granddaughter. They have dozens of other small inexpensive wooden children’s toys and games.

Mattie Hostetler, operates The Quilt and Gift Shop in Cherry Creek, and has a business card that reads, When life gives you scraps, MAKE QUILTS. Boy, did she make use of those scraps.

Raymond and Linda Raber own Fairview Lawn Furniture in Randolph. You’ll see lovely picnic tables, porches, and patio furniture. It requires something bigger than a compact car to take these beauties home.

Don’t pass up a visit to Andy Raber’s Place on Rte 241 in Conewango Valley. He specializes in making Oak Rockers and Gliders, Lazy Susans, and kids’ rockers. If you like cheese plan to stop at The Valley View Cheese Factory on Hwy 2 in Conewango. Amish products are reasonably priced. My guide explained, The Amish are not out for a great profit they just want a fair price to make a living.

The Road

Traveling the rolling roads of the Amish Trail in Cattaraugus County is part of the enjoyment of a visit to this part of the world. The roads are all well marked and in most places almost all paved. But look out for the Horse and Buggy’s. Give them lots of space and lay off the horn. Don’t forget to wave. Check out the hand-written plain black and white signs that indicate the names of their businesses. No neon here. You’ll pass Amish Cemeteries, small white school houses and an occasional “Community Phone” set beside the roadway that call out to be photographed. This countryside scenery is right out a Norman Rockwell painting.

It was some of the most pleasant days I’ve ever spent, meandering the countryside and speaking with kind, polite, humble people who were fun to be with.

Where to Eat

To get the feel of the village have a home cooked meal at Oregano’s at 143 Main Street (GPS”ers take note).Servers, Kimmy and Helen will even introduce you to locals characters like Rodger Rublee and Howard Milks who have been eating there for years. The conversation is as good as the food.

Travel for another meal to the Mustard Seed Restaurant in nearby South Dayton. This restaurant grew from a Bible study group after someone suggested they bring food to the sessions. I bet you can’t finish the Rajun Cajun Stuffed Fish. It opens 11 am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Get there early before they run out of the fish.

Where to Stay

Sharon Howe has traveled and lived all over the world but it was her beloved Cherry Creek N.Y., where she grew up, that the retired librarian returned to in 2005 to operate the Cherry Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast. This restored 1860s Italianate Villa mansion is set on 60 acres of country landscape surrounded by corn fields and the foothills of the Allegany Mountain. It’s the perfect spot to spend the evening. Check out her library of 3500 books. Sharon’s delicious home-cooked breakfast of Stuffed French toast and local sausage with Maple Syrup will spoil you.
For More Information
NYAmishTrail.com or call 1-800-331-0543.
Fisher’s Amish Tours 716-358-9730
About the Amish
Old Order Amish use no electricity, no running water and dress in plain clothes of grays and blues.
Their cooking stoves are powered by propane, kerosene or wood. They use kerosene lamps.
They never work on Sundays and rotate church meetings at various homes within their districts.
Their children traditionally speak German until they start school at about 6 years of age where they are taught English.
They go only until grade 8 then they go to work with their family.
They do not have health insurance but will go to a doctor and pay for there visit with cash.
They pay school and property taxes.
They are permitted to use a public phone; they call it a “community phone”.
They have strong family work ethics and there is little or no divorce or crime.
14 to 15 people live in the same large home. When the youngest son marries the parents move into a small “Dotty House’ found behind the larger home.
They use no credit or debit cards.
They rise early and work hard without complaining.
When a neighbour is unable to work due to an accident or poor health the community pitches in to help.

George Bailey is a professional photographer and writer. He is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and writes a regular column for Canadian CAA Magazine. He can be contacted at Wonderful.life@sympatico.ca. Photos courtesy of George Bailey.

© 2010