Farther along down U.S. 43 is the town of Ethridge, home to a community of Amish, a German-speaking religious sect usually associated with Pennsylvania and Ohio. This group moved to Tennessee in 1944 and now comprise the largest community of Old Order Amish in the South. The families farm and live in the old ways, using horses and buggies for transportation and disdaining electricity, telephones, and buttons on coats. They have no churches, meeting in one another's homes.
The Amish community hereabouts extends about 20 miles east to west and five miles north to south. Visitors can stop at Granny's Welcome Center (4001 U.S. 43, 931/829-2433, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, free) for a map, or they can just drive through the countryside on either side of U.S. 43. Travelers who have experienced the Amish in Pennsylvania Dutch country will find Tennessee's community much less commercialized. Depending on the season, visitors might see roadside stands or signs advertising peanut brittle, baskets, bread, cedar chests, and furniture.
While the residents are happy to talk to and engage in commerce with outsiders, visitors should remember that the Amish intensely dislike having their pictures taken. This objection is based on the second commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."
An enormous technological leap from the Amish, Granny's Network is the brainchild of Sarah Evetts, also known as "Granny," who runs a 10-watt television station at Granny's Welcome Center and crafts store. Here she holds forth on items of interest to her local audience and will cheerfully interview sojourners who stop by. To those who ask, she will give a videotape of the interview. (She does charge for subsequent tapes.) There is also a daily wagon tour costing $10 that leaves daily, lasting from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Amish Country Galleries (3931 U.S. 43, 931/829-2126) offers many objects made by local Amish craftspeople. Furniture, quilts, and baskets head the list of items available here.
Uncle Charlie's Old Amish Farm (931/829-4060, www.tennesseeamish.com, $6 adults, $5 for children 4-12), right behind Granny's Welcome Center on U.S. 43, gives visitors a chance to see an Amish farmhouse as it looked in the 1940s. This was the first farm occupied by the Amish when they came in 1944 in search of cheap land. The farm has several original buildings and farm animals.
Those with more time can take a horse-drawn wagon or buggy tour of the Amish settlement. The tours last 90 minutes and go past 12 Amish farms and include stops to buy sorghum or other goods. Tours cost $10 for adults and $5 for children 4-12.
copyright 2007 Jeff Bradley