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article number 101
article date 02-07-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
1860’s, Amish Come to Central Illinois for Fertile Soil
author not stated

From the 1973 Book, History of Arthur Illinois, 1873-1973.

Arthur is located in the midst of an Amish settlement and any history of the village would be incomplete without some mention of these people who have been so important to the economy and history of our community.

The first Amish immigrants arrived in this area on March 3, 1865, coming from Pennsylvania. They then came in pairs and family groups for several years to form the nucleus for the current settlement. The country some eight miles west of Arcola is known as the Amish Settlement.

Pre 1850 Amish Settlements. Source OSU.
Amish settlements 1850 to 1900. Arthur area is green dot in East Central Illinois. Source OSU.

These people are Amish Mennonites, deriving their name from their religious beliefs. The Amish are followers of Jacob Amman, a strict Mennonite the 17th century and Mennonites are so called from Menno Simons of Friesland, Germany, one of the leaders. Simons was formerly a Catholic priest, but renounced Catholicism and became a leader in the Anabaptist movement. His followers were then called Mennonites.

Moses Yoder, Daniel Yoder and Daniel Otto were the first Amish settlers in this community, landing in Arcola in March, 1865. They came from Summit Mills, Pennsylvania and were accompanied by a Dunkard family by the name of Hostetler.

In June 1864, Bishop Joel Beachy, of Grantsville, Maryland, and Moses Yoder of Summit Hills, Pennsylvania, started west to find a location where they could farm without liming the soil before raising a crop. They had good farms in the east, but were tired of burning limestone and applying it to the soil every year.

Roads of the mid to late 1800’s. One would think that Moses Yoder traveled the National Pike (now Interstate 70).

On their trip, Mr. Beachy thought some of locating in Wisconsin and Mr. Yoder rather preferred Missouri. They visited both of these states. On their return trip home, they stopped in Pana Illinois one Saturday evening, deciding to rest there over Sunday. On Sunday they took a walk in the country going as far as Neoga, and as the land looked promising, decided to remain for a time. Monday morning they boarded a train for Mattoon, and walked from there to Arcola. Here they met Joel Smith who offered to take them around a day or two for a look at the country. They were greatly impressed with conditions and decided to come again later in the summer. They continued their journey home without investing in any land, but returned again in September.

When they returned they were accompanied by Daniel Miller and Daniel Otto, driving across the river to what is known as the West Prairie. Here they met Allen Campbell, the Hudsons and Coslers. Mr. Miller bought the Ike Cosler farm, one mile east of Arthur on the north side of the road. Chris E. Yoder is now residing on it and it is an Illinois Centennial Farm, having been in the Yoder family for 100 years.

Moses Yoder bought 160 acres, later known as the Joe Yoder farm, but now the Petersheim farm one mile east, 3 1/2 south, 1/2 east of Arthur. This farm Moses Yoder rented to Daniel Otto and returned to his home in the east. Several months later he came back to Illinois and bought another farm from Henry Cosler, one mile east, 1/2 mile south of Arthur. His farm also is still farmed by descendants of Moses Yoder.


Jonathan Hostetler of Pennsylvania purchased a section of railroad land at $8.10 per acre and later Joel Miller traded some land in Pennsylvania for the north half of this section and he and his brother Samuel moved to this location ¼ mile west of Arthur on Route 133 in 1869.

Bishop Joe Keim was the first minister to locate here. He was a Bishop coming from Goshen, Indiana and arrived in the year 1865. He died seven years later. Jonas J. Kauffman, who with his family came here from Iowa in 1865, was ordained to the ministry in the year 1868, ordained Bishop in 1873, and in 1880 moved to Oregon.

John Kauffman and family moved here from Indiana in the year 1866 and later moved to LaGrange County, Indiana. His son, Jonas, remained here. Moses Kauffman and family arrived here from Iowa in 1868, and located on the farm now owned by Isaac Bartholomew four miles east and two miles south of Arthur on the west corner, south side of the road.

Daniel Schrock and family arrived in 1870 from Holmes County, Ohio, and located on the farm now known as the Noah B. Schrock farm 3 miles east and ¼ mile south of Arthur on the west side of the road. Daniel Schrock was ordained to the ministry in the year 1870 and died in 1890.

Harness Shop.

New immigrants kept coming in until the year 1888, when it was found necessary to divide the church into two districts. The Douglas County side was divided again in 1902 and the Moultrie County side in 1906, and the north half of the Douglas County side was divided again in the fall of 1920.

(List of ministers and Bishops omitted.)

Services are held regularly every other Sunday in each district making services in three different places each Sunday in this community and are held in the homes. A full set of ministers to a district includes one Bishop, two assisting ministers and one deacon. The services are opened by several songs, a short sermon, prayer, a sermon, prayer, and a closing song. The mode of baptism is pouring, following confession of faith.


The Amish are people of distinctive characteristics, among them being their plainness of dress, the use of hooks and eyes in-stead of buttons and plain colors in dress materials in preference to the printed varieties; their confession of faith; the intermarriage only of members of the same faith; non-resistance to violence; the use of the ban, or excommunication; the forbidding of the taking of oaths. They reject infant baptism, accept no public offices except those connected with the management of schools, and their ministry is chosen from the congregation.

All children of school age attend elementary school to receive a common school education, but do not attend high schools. Nearly all of them also attend their own German schools at different times during their teens either in the summer time or in winter, after the children have passed the school age or eighth grade. This is to give them enough education for German reading, spelling and writing.

Three private school houses have been built through the settlement. Teachers for these schools are employed from among their own people.

Though the Amish are primarily farmers, there has been some diversification into other fields such as canning, butcher shops, and carpentry. Levi E. Schrock and M.L. Stutzman do woodworking and mechanical work involved in making coffins, buggies, and other supplies for the settlement.

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