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Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice

Clippings, Obituary,  & Scrapbook Section

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Bradford County PA

Chemung County NY

Tioga County PA

 

 

 

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Joyce's Search Tip - February 2010 

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Do You Know that you can search just the 700 pages of Clippings and Scrapbooks on the site by using the Clippings button in the Partitioned search engine on the Current What's New Page
You'll also find obituary and other newspaper clippings using the three county-level Obits by Cemetery buttons. Additional clippings can be found in the Birth, Marriage, and some other partitions. 

 

Tri County Clippings- Page Five Hundred Five
This page includes obituaries of people with connection to our three counties but not buried in them or cemetery not identified. If local cemetery is known, see the Obituaries by Cemetery section of the site.

HOW TO SUBMIT OBITUARIES TO THIS SITE - Typed obituaries may be submitted by email to Joyce M. Tice either in the text of the email of by an attached file. PLEASE put OBITUARY SUBMISSION in the subject line of your email to help me sort the several hundred emails I receive weekly. Give your file an eight character name - do NOT call it OBITS or it will overwrite someone else's file. Make sure your full name is included so I know whom to credit. Submissions will be arranged alphabetically by SURNAME AT BIRTH, so make sure I know the correct birth name if you know it. If surname at birth is not known, married name or other alias will be indexed in parentheses. Also include the death date and newspaper if you know it..


 

In Memory of the Victims of the July 19, 2011 Accident in Yates County, NY which took the lives of five local residents

 

Jasper, N.Y. — In one wrenching second that snuffed out the lives of five people, the tight-knit Jasper-Woodhull Amish community became even closer, as friends and family flocked to provide support for bereaved family members.   Five people — and one dog — were killed in the three-car accident on Pre-Emption Road in the Town of Benton Tuesday afternoon, with nine others suffering injuries requiring treatment at area hospitals. Thirteen of those involved, including all five fatalities and eight of the injured, were from the Jasper-Woodhull Amish community.  Those families battling grief can expect tremendous support from within their community and from other Amish societies, said Professor Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College, who’s authored several books on Amish culture.  “The Amish community has an enormous amount of what I would call social capital, meaning they rally to help each other. There’s a religious sense to take care of each other,” he said.  The grieving process can last up to a year, with women wearing black and people visiting on Sunday afternoons and evenings. Amish from around the country will send letters and cards of condolence, said the professor.  Support from within the Amish community for people who lost family members in the accident will come from two social units, said Kraybill. Extended family members and those of the same church congregation, usually 20 to 35 families strong, will chip in with chores, bringing meals to the grieving families, and helping with funeral arrangements.  While there aren’t traditions or regulations for the care of children who lost their parents in situations similar to the Benton accident, children usually remain with the surviving parent. Kraybill said extended family and neighbors will also help raise children, and that surviving spouses could eventually remarry.   “There’s a bounty of care and support for children, financially and emotionally and other material ways, though there’s no particular tradition that guides it,” said Kraybill.  Taking care of their own grief-saturated family members will be the priority for the Amish community.  Bitterness aimed toward the driver allegedly at fault for the deaths and injuries will come second, and will likely be let go.  The driver facing charges is Steven Eldridge, 42, of 110 E. Main St., Penn Yan. Eldridge is charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent and failure to keep right after passing.  Eldridge allegedly attempted to pass a slow-moving tractor when he slammed into the van carrying the Amish, who then veered into and became embedded in and under a tractor driven by Tim Labarr, 44, of Dresden.  “I’ve seen Amish families writing letters of care and concern for a person in a similar situation (as Eldridge),” said Kraybill. “They have a deep and profound ability to absorb hostility and bad things that come their way.  It doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain. They are reluctant to become angry or retaliate or engage in revenge.”  Kraybill said whether the Amish would be willing to testify in court depends on the situation.  “Typically, they will talk about forgiveness. They make a distinction between letting go of bitterness and holding someone responsible,” said Kraybill. “In cases involving imprisonment or fines, they might say the state has the right to enforce regulations. But they might also say they won’t hold bitterness in their hearts.”  Support from outside the Amish community has started as well. Several businesses and locations in Jasper have started a fund to support the families grieving after the accident.  Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway, who knew several of the victims and transported three members of the Amish community to Yates County Tuesday night to help identify those involved in the accident, said the Amish are engrained in the area.  “We’ve dealt with the Amish for years. I had my barn built by the Amish, they buy wood off of me. They are a part of the community,” he said.  Efforts to identify the deceased were delayed due to the lack of identification carried by the Amish and massive injuries suffered in the accident.  A press release issued Wednesday evening from the Yates County Sheriff’s Office said the names of all five deceased have been matched with their remains, with the bodies being transported to a funeral service and taken back to the Jasper-Woodhull area.  The five deceased passengers were Melvin Hershberger, 42, Sarah Miller, 47, Melvin Hostetler, 40, Anna Mary Byler, 60, and Elizabeth Mast, 46.   by Andrew Poole in the Hornell Evening Tribune – July 21, 2011

 

Victims in Tuesday's Yates County DWI crash identified

Benton, New York (AP/WSYR-TV) - The crash that killed five people in a van carrying Amish farmers in upstate New York took hours to untangle, as rescue crews labored to free people from the wreckage that was stuck under a tractor.   They also struggled to identify victims who typically don't carry identification.   Rescuers relied on a survivor and members of the Amish community to identify the dead and injured in Tuesday's crash. Many remain hospitalized Wednesday after the collision between a car passing the slow moving tractor and the van carrying 14 people touring rural Finger Lakes farms.  Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike called it a horrific tragedy.  Steven Eldridge of Penn Yan, the car's driver, was arraigned after the crash on five counts of criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated and other offenses. Area hospitals have released the names and conditions of those treated after Tuesday’s crash. The names and ages of those who were killed have also been confirmed. The deceased were all from Steuben County in New York's Southern Tier.

 

INJURED

STRONG MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

Lyn Oles, 41, Satisfactory

Martha Hostetler, 36, Satisfactory

Enos Miller, 32, Discharged

Rose Anna Miller, 31, Guarded

Emery Miller, 47, Discharged

Andy Byler, 60, Guarded

Eyia Hershberger, 38, Guarded

 

GENEVA GENERAL HOSPITAL

John Mast, 47, in the ICU

Tim LaBarr, 44, NO INFORMATION

 

DECEASED

Melvin Hershberger, 42

Sarah Miller, 47

Melvin Hostetler, 40

Anna Mary Byler, 60

Elizabeth Mast, 46

 

TREATED AT SCENE AND RELEASED

David Miller, 51

 

UNINJURED

Steven Eldridge, 42

News Channel 9WSYR – July 19, 2011

 

Benton (13WHAM/WSYR-TV) - A 42-year-old man from Penn Yan is charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide and DWI in connection with a crash on Tuesday that killed five people.  Police say Steven Eldridge tried to pass a tractor on Pre-emption Road and crashed into a minivan carrying 14 people, all but one were Amish. The van driver - Lyn Oles, 41, of Greenwood - tried to swerve and ended up underneath the tractor.  The tractor was driven by 44-year-old Tim LaBarr of Dresden. Eldridge is also charged with reckless driving, failure to keep right, and speed not reasonable.   In addition to the five people killed, nine others were taken to area hospitals. Strong Memorial Hospital is treating the patients with the most serious injuries. A hospital spokesperson says four patients are in guarded condition.  Eldridge was not injured. He is being held on $125,000 cash bail and $250,000 bond.

 

Benton (13WHAM/WSYR-TV) – Five people were killed and seven sent to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester with serious injuries Tuesday as a result of a three vehicle accident involving a tractor.  According to the Yates County Sheriff's Office, a slow moving tractor loaded with spray equipment used to spread pesticides was traveling near the intersection of Pre-emption Road and Loree Road in the Penn Yan area when a driver in a car tried to pass it but collided with an oncoming van traveling in the opposite lane. The van then passed into the path of the tractor, with part of it going underneath the large farm vehicle. The passengers in the van - most of whom were Amish - had to be cut out using the Jaws of Life equipment and other devices.  The group of Amish was on a farm tour in Yates County sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension.  A survivor in the van is helping the Sheriff's Investigators identify the victims.  The tractor driver is being treated at Geneva General Hospital.  The car driver is being questioned at the Sheriff's Office in Penn Yan.  The Sheriff's Office did not release the driver's name.  Emergency personnel fashioned a makeshift morgue out of a refrigerated trailer truck at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital to hold four of those killed in the accident. The fifth is being held in a conventional morgue.   News Channel 9WSYR – July 19, 2011

HERSHBERGER Melvin M. Jr.   

Remembering Melvin M. Hershberger, Jr.: ‘It shall be my spirit passing by’. 

He was a good man.  Journalists of a long-ago era seldom used praise in conversation and never in newspaper articles. This story is about a man who was killed this week and deserves admiration.  Melvin M. Hershberger, Jr. lighted this writer’s home with hard work, stead-fast faith, intellectual curiosity, elfish humor and an artist’s soul. Fellowship started when Melvin Jr. began carpentry to help repair our 1860 Canisteo dwelling. He brought heavy toolkit and remarkable skills to transform the former rooming house into the home of my wife’s dreams. Local handymen had bumbled through smoking breaks and long lunches. Melvin Jr. started planning, planing and sawing when he stepped into the house each morning. He seldom took breaks and frequently kept house owners busy bringing materials to his tasks.  His sternest criticism: “I wonder what he was thinking” as he reworked an errant built-in cupboard or kitchen seat.  Melvin Jr. established a herd of milking goats as a family project. He researched and showed complex insights into marketing goat milk to processors. Local producers who sold milk to cooperatives named him to the group’s board.  He was proud of how adept his daughters were at milking: “Their hands seem to be made for milking goats,” he smiled.  Children eagerly met their father as he descended from a pickup that brought him from carpentry to his family and almost two hours tending the herd. Two hours before and after five workdays in an arduous weekly schedule, even for someone who had been working since he was five years old. That idyllic life ended two years ago when the cooperative ended their contract with regional suppliers and started buying cheaper milk from Quebec. The family sold the herd but continued living simple joyful lives. They sometimes assembled reed baskets and typically kept ahead of those selling the hand-crafted products.  Most discussions of religion were about practical issues such as honoring the Sabbath or an explanation of how church services were held in Amish homes.  The English couple asked Melvin Jr. and his wife, Alvah, whether providing chocolate Easter eggs would be appropriate for their children. They thanked us for the at-best tangentially-religious bounty. Apparent rationale: Young scholars should celebrate Easter before completely understanding crucifixion and resurrection. Conversational flights into theology included remarkably sophisticated discussions about Amish faith versus the writer’s Anglican communion. We were each surprised as thoughtful exchanges revealed similar Christian understanding but different day-to-day practices.  Melvin’s intellectual curiosity extended to American history, especially Abraham Lincoln. The writer’s wife and he shared weighty tomes that revealed new insights into the sixteenth president’s intellect and political strategy. His humor was puckish: When he, my wife, and I sought lunch at a local restaurant he once playfully hunted for virtually-absent meat from a chicken-biscuit-and-gravy special with almost theatrical detective work, grinning during the search.  During a winter storm, Hershberger father and son pushed my pickup from a ditch near their hilltop aerie. Although they eschewed such modern trappings as home electricity and internal combustion engines for transportation, each felt confident enough to comment that the truck needed four new tires. The two men who were proud of lives little-changed since the mid-nineteenth century were right about faulty twenty-first century tires.  The youngest of 16 children frequently commented about the beauty of a day if snow or sunshine or rain or lush green covered Jasper hills.  My memory of the man will be his congregation of 13 children greeting him on the lawn as he prepared to hang up his tool belt, greet his wife, Alvah , and head to evening chores. The children eagerly worshiped their parents, even in the presence of non-Amish adults.  A day after his youngest son’s death Tuesday, father and writer stood on a rise in the Hershberger complex on that hot airless noon hour looking over a timeless scene of horse-drawn buggies and green hills. An unexpected northeast gust cooled our brows.  The elder Hershberger commented about welcomed air movement.  The breeze reminded me of U.S. Army Major Sullivan Ballou who was killed at the first Battle of Bull Run a week after he sent this letter to his wife Sarah: “I shall always be with you ... always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by ... do not mourn me dead ... for we shall meet again.”  Almost 24 hours to the minute after his death in a tragic Yates County accident, gentle wind reminded his father and friend of Melvin M. Hershberger Jr., joyful parent and faithful practitioner of a pacifist religion.  He was a good man.  By Al Bruce of Hornell Evening Tribune – July 22, 2011

 

JASPER, N.Y. — For several golden years, Melvin Hershberger lived the Amish dream. He rose early with his wife and brood of children, who now number a dozen, to tend to the family’s goat herd, twice a day milking 70 goats by hand.   This is an Amish ideal: to earn a living off one’s land, surrounded and helped by kin.  But when a dairy abruptly stopped buying his goat milk a few years ago, Mr. Hershberger sold the herd and planted strawberries. He taught at a local Amish school. And he resolved to learn new ways for growing produce, which is how he and his wife ended up on an agricultural excursion this week that ended with a crash, killing Mr. Hershberger and four other Amish farmers, to the heartbreak of the community here.  To many outsiders, the Amish seem like a people frozen in a centuries-old past, with their use of horse-drawn buggies, their old-fashioned manner of dress and their widespread rejection of modern comforts like electricity and indoor plumbing.  But many Amish like the Hershbergers have proven nimble in their ability to supplement their livelihoods, adapting to mercurial external demands in order to preserve their fiercely insular worlds.  When dairy farming alone became too expensive and financially unrewarding, many Amish took on sawmill work, home and barn building, and woodcrafts. When the recession stilled home building, there was a shift to raising goats for milk and rabbits for meat. When those markets teetered, some Amish began growing produce to sell, embracing organic farming and setting up stalls at farmers’ markets.   “The Amish have not tried to keep things the way they were 300 years ago,” said Stephen Scott, a research associate at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. “All along they have made small adjustments.”  The shifts, he hastened to add, happened gradually. “The Amish don’t make quick changes,” he said.  On Tuesday, Mr. Hershberger, who was 42, and his fellow Amish farmers were traveling in a van to a nearby county to learn about unheated greenhouses that can extend growing seasons and increase crop yields.   In Benton, about 75 miles from here in driving distance, a car trying to pass a tractor on a curve sideswiped their van. Along with the deaths, 10 people were injured, including Mr. Hershberger’s wife, Elva. The car’s driver was charged with criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated and other lesser offenses.   The communities of Jasper, about 90 miles south of Rochester near the Pennsylvania border, and neighboring Woodhull and Troupsburg, where the crash victims lived, have responded with an outpouring of support, donating money, food, water and ice. Plans are in the works to set up hundreds of cots and turn the local school into a shelter to accommodate the many hundreds of mourners from far-flung Amish communities who are expected to journey here.  New York’s Amish population has nearly tripled in the last decade, to 13,000, according to research by the Young Center, and in the towns where the crash victims lived, the Amish have burnished a reputation for being, in many ways, jacks of all trades. They sell homemade wooden furniture, homemade quilts, plants, plant holders and tarps that they advertise with hand-painted wooden signs along the winding roads.    “They’re well known for picking up a trade, and when that starts to fade, picking up another,” said Elliot Baker, who owns Woodhull Feed Supply. “They will do everything they can do to survive.”   Before buying the goats, Mr. Hershberger had worked with his father and brothers building roofs, decks and cabinets, said Bruce Thomson, a retired veterinarian who befriended Mr. Hershberger during his goat-owning years. In Amish parlance, the construction jobs meant “working out,” or often leaving home, perhaps finding someone to drive them to a work site, and missing the noontime meal and prayers with the family.   For Mr. Hershberger, owning the goat herd was “kind of a lifelong dream,” Mr. Thomson said, because it allowed daylong work with his family. Among the Amish, work is seen as an important means of transmitting values to children.   Mr. Hershberger, widely known as Shorty (he stood 5 feet 4 inches), had been duped into buying a sickly herd, Mr. Thomson said, but he nursed them back to health and commercial viability. After milking the goats, Mr. Hershberger and his family carried the tins of milk to holding tanks off their property, where the milk was kept cool until pickup, as Amish customs here do not allow electrical refrigeration.   “That was what Shorty was happiest about,” Mr. Thomson said. “It was the whole family working together.”   When Mr. Hershberger’s buyer canceled the contract, Mr. Thomson said, Mr. Hershberger was crestfallen but did not let it show. “He was heartbroken, but I never saw him express anger,” Mr. Thomson said. “He didn’t throw anything. He didn’t curse. He didn’t feel sorry for himself.”   Instead, Mr. Thomson said, Mr. Hershberger and his wife put their heads down and carried on.  Cara Buckley in the NY Times – July 21, 2011

 

Deceased: 

Anna Mary Byler

 

Melvin Hershberger Jr

 

Alvah Hostetler

 

Melvin Hostetler

 

Elizabeth Mast

 

Sarah Miller

 

Jasper, N.Y. — Clouds of sorrow covered Jasper and Woodhull Wednesday as Amish community members mourned their dead and non-Amish neighbors attempted to provide sensitive support.  Amish and non-Amish, whom the Amish sometimes call English, grieved for five local Amish killed in a Yates County collision Tuesday afternoon. The victims were Anna Mary Byler of Olds Road, Jasper; Melvin M. Hershberger Jr., Highup Road, Jasper; Melvin Hostetler, Highup Road, Jasper; Elizabeth Mast, Wheaton Road, Cameron Mills, and Sarah Miller, Church Hill Road, Woodhull.  Injured in the accident were Andrew Byler, husband of Anna Mary Byler; Alvah Hershberger, wife of Melvin Hershberger Jr., Martha Hostetler, Melvin Hostetler’s wife; John Mast, husband of Elizabeth; Emory Miller, husband of Sarah, and Enos and Rose Anna Miller, husband and wife from Woodhull.  Alvah Hershberger was listed in critical condition in Strong Memorial Hospital early this morning with injuries so severe her father was unable to recognize his daughter after the accident, several Amish said.  Also injured was Lyn Oles of Greenwood, driver of the van in which the Amish were riding. Steven Eldridge of Penn Yan, driver of the truck that hit the van head-on, was charged with five felony counts of criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated, several news outlets reported. Eldridge is in the Yates County jail in lieu of $125,000 cash bail, news sources said. He was uninjured. The group was touring Yates County farms to learn improved farming techniques that are compatible with Amish culture. Glen Bullock, owner of Bullock’s Hardware, Jasper, said store customers of all religions have “more than a business relation.” He displayed sheets labeled “In memory of our Amish friends and neighbors;” The Jasper Post Office and Jasper Junction convenience store have identical sheets. “People sign the sheets and donate money and food” for families who have lost loved ones, he said. “That’s another way (all area residents) help each other.”  Donald Whitehead of Jasper asked Bullock where and how he could help the families; the hardware store owner showed him the sheet.  The losses are felt “like any loss in a small town,” Bullock explained, noting an almost symbiotic relation among families. Bullock noted that the Amish and English distinction is at least blurred and frequently “doesn’t exist. We all work together to help another” in an economic climate where hard work is frequently currency.  Bullock is the third generation owner of the store, which his grandfather founded in 1925.  Many Amish and English were reluctant to participate in interviews with news media. The grandson of the driver of the van the Amish were riding in answered two questions and then told this reporter “I don’t want to do this any more.” The reporter demurred as a caravan of three vans left for Strong Memorial Hospital almost 90-minutes away around 10 a.m.  Reporters from a regional television station and the New York Times joined The Tribune reporter interviewing area residents during the day.  Mid-afternoon, an Amish businessman requested that this reporter ask a television crew parked more than a tenth of a mile away from the Hershberger farm complex to cease filming a gathering on that lawn. The reporter and cameraman immediately stopped and the reporter apologized to the business owner.  Bullock and others donated a large tent to protect from hot sunlight those assembled on the lawn of Melvin Jr. and Alvah Hershberger‘s home. Dozens of Amish in their distinctive garb offered bereaved families and each other sympathy and food throughout the afternoon until after the sun set over the Jasper hills. Many were among the 16 children Marvin Jr.’s mother and father raised.  Others were Melvin Jr. and Alvah’s 13 children. The Hershberger family moved to Jasper from Wisconsin in 1982.  Families started to arrive before lunch to pay respects. Most of the men wore dark vests, a more formal version of the traditional dark pants and lighter work shirts. Women wore dark dresses and white or black bonnets. Buggies, vans and pickup trucks started appearing before noon and continued throughout the afternoon and at least until after sunset. Dozens of black buggies were parked near the barn where horses were stabled and fed. Pickups and vans parked off highway shoulders.  Some non-Amish who attended discussed vandals who threw rocks at the home of a Jasper Amish family Tuesday night only hours after the tragedy. The Steuben County Sheriff’s department is investigating that and other acts of vandalism, including recent fires started during daylight.  About four miles away, at the Andrew Byler home, at least eight adults and two children returning from Strong Memorial Hospital reported that Byler was able to talk despite serious injuries, an Amishman said.  Melvin M. Hershberger Sr. seemed to speak with everyone, including this reporter, thanking each person for sympathetic remarks. State Trooper Joseph Livingston expressed sympathy and told Hershberger he had met Melvin Jr. when touring Rock and Roar motorcycles last Saturday spooked the Hershberger’s horse. A son of Melvin Jr. and Alvah Hershberger was bruised when the buggy the horse was pulling turned over, he told the family patriarch.   Melvin Jr. and a brother two years ago built a shop for a younger cousin who wanted to start a cabinet-making business.  The cabinetmaker, his father and a brother crafted Melvin Jr.’s coffin yesterday afternoon in the shop.    By Al Bruce - Hornell Evening Tribune – July 23, 2011

 

JASPER -- The green and parched-brown hills of Jasper were dotted with the mourning colors of black and white Friday as hundreds of Amish people attended funerals for three of their community killed this week in a horrific crash.  Amish from as far away as Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan came for the funerals for Melvin Hershberger Jr., 42, Melvin Hostetler, 40, and Anna Mary Byler, 60.  Those three, along with Sarah Miller, 47, and Elizabeth Mast, 46, were killed in a motor vehicle crash Tuesday in the Town of Benton in Yates County. Funerals for Miller and Mast are scheduled Saturday morning.  Steven A. Eldridge, 42, is charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide and a count of driving while intoxicated in the crash. Authorities said he passed a tractor and farm equipment in a no passing zone, struck a van carrying the Amish farmers and sent it crashing into the farm equipment.  The mourners mostly wore black on Friday under a scorching sun. Most of the men wore black pants, white, long-sleeved shirts, black vests and black pants. Women wore black dresses, though their hats alternated between white and black.  In a sad scene that began before 9 a.m. and continued through early afternoon, they walked to funeral services, then to a building on Waight Road where the caskets of Hershberger, Hostetler and Byler were on display.  Many walked from there to burials at an Amish homestead. Others drove or rode in buggies, or rode in buses and vans.  Jerald Norvell, 65, of Abingdon, Ill., took in the sight from uphill on Highup Road, just off of state Route 36 near the Hershberger farm.  Norvell, who brought 13 Hershberger family members from Illinois and Iowa to attend the funerals, said he attended a viewing for Melvin Hershberger Jr. Thursday night.  Norvell said he got to know the Hershberger family when he started driving one of Melvin Hershberger Sr.'s daughters 12 years ago. Other Amish in his community also began asking him for rides, and he's been doing it ever since, he said.  The trip from Illinois to Jasper is common for Norvell -- about once a year -- but this trip was his fourth in 2011. Last month, he was in Jasper to help the late Hershberger rebuild a hay loader.  At least 300 people attended the viewing Thursday night, Norvell said.  Karen Johnson-Weiner, professor of linguistic anthropology at SUNY Potsdam, who has written about New York Amish history, said that generally Amish funerals are preached in homes or in larger places if more space is needed.  "Everybody will be able to view the body one last time," said Johnson-Weiner. "They will walk past, with the family taking time to be able to say goodbye."  Johnson-Weiner said the Amish community traditionally helps families at a funeral time, but said the community would likely end up doing more for the families in the recent tragedy.  "Since these are heads of households that were killed, the community will be pitching in a lot to help the family do other choring and things as it's necessary," she said. "The community will be taking care of the family."  In addition to the Amish community, non-Amish have continued to show their support.  At least 100 people have volunteered to sort, prepare and deliver donated food to the Amish at Jasper fire hall, said Eva Zaleski, 41, of Jasper.  "We've been just taking food donations, monetary donations all day long," said Zaleski, who had been at the fire hall since about 8 a.m.  Phone calls have been coming from as far away as California from people who wanted to donate money to help, Zaleski said.  Trucks have made their way down the winding, two-lane state Route 417, which runs through downtown Jasper, to bring food, water and other supplies. "It's just been amazing," she said.  Down the street at Jasper-Troupsburg High School, the American Red Cross set up cots in the gymnasium and auditorium.  About 100 people, most of them Amish, spent the night on Thursday, said Chad Groff, superintendent of the school district.  Groff said the school has enjoyed hosting the Amish.  "We had a good time with them last night, and I think they were very appreciative," he said.  Norvell said he is staying in town until Monday morning, and sleeping on one of the cots at the school. He was thankful for the hospitality.  "The locale around here have been doing a wonderful job," he said.    By Jason Whong Gannett in the Star Gazette – July 22, 2011

 

Penn Yan — Five members of a Jasper-Woodhull Amish community are dead and several others seriously injured after a vicious three-vehicle accident Tuesday afternoon in the Town of Benton.  The driver facing charges — which include driving while intoxicated — resulting from the accident was uninjured.  The carnage required fire personnel to cut off the top of the passenger van carrying the Amish and use the Jaws of Life to extract the passengers. Medivac helicopters and ALS services also responded, while EMS personnel set up a triage and treatment station in a nearby bean field.  “I’ve seen that kind of damage to a vehicle, but never that many people killed or injured in the same vehicle under those circumstances,” said Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike.  The accident was reported to Yates County 911 Center at 12:41 p.m., with deputies, state police, and area fire departments responding.   A passenger van with 14 occupants, 13 of whom have been identified as members of Amish farm families in the Jasper-Woodhull area, was northbound on Pre-Emption Road Tuesday afternoon. According to a press release from the Yates County Sheriff’s Office, the Amish, all of whom are adults, were visiting farms to see new technology. The program is run by Cornell Cooperative Extension Service.  Earlier Tuesday morning, the van, driven by Lyn Oles, 41, of Greenwood, visited a farm south of Penn Yan, and was then heading to another farm location.  As the van headed north, it was struck first in the northbound lane by a passenger vehicle driven by Steven Eldridge, 42, of 110 E. Main St., Penn Yan.  After the collision, the passenger van then veered into the southbound lane and struck a tractor carrying spray equipment head-on, with most of the van becoming embedded under the tractor, leaving many of the passengers trapped in the vehicle.  “You have to understand, it was a 15-person van, with 13 passengers and a driver. It literally went into the large tractor, which had tires as tall as a person. It then went under and embedded itself within it. It completely squashed the whole front end and top and right side. It almost became part of the front of the tractor,” said Spike. “Most of the people killed were in the right front side.”  The tractor was driven by Tim Labarr, 44, of Dresden.  The release said Eldridge was attempting to pass Labarr’s slow-moving tractor at the intersection of Pre-Emption Road and Loree Road, despite it being a no-passing zone at a curve. The speed of all vehicles at the time of the accident is still under investigation.  Five passengers in the van were pronounced dead at the scene, while Oles and six van occupants were taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester with multiple injuries. Labarr and John Mast, 47, were taken to Geneva General Hospital with internal injuries. This morning Mast was still in ICU, while information on Labarr wasn’t available by press time.  The passengers transported to Strong Memorial were Martha Hostetler, 36, Enos Miller, 32, Rose Anna Miller, 31, Emery Miller, 47, Andy Byler, 60, and Elva Hershberger, 38.  Oles and Hostetler were listed in satisfactory condition as of this morning, while Enos Miller and Emery Miller were discharged. Byler is in guarded condition. Information on Rose Anna Miller and Elva Hershberger wasn’t available by press time.  The deceased’s names were given as Melvin Hershberger, 42, Sarah Miller, 47, Melvin Hostetler, 40, Anna Mary Byler, 60, and Elizabeth Mast, 46. The bodies were taken to Soldiers & Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan.  Spike said identifying people in the passenger van was difficult because of massive injuries and that the victims didn’t carry identification.  Deputies transported several members of the Jasper-Woodhull community to Strong Memorial to help with identification.  A follow-up press release issued Wednesday morning stated the Amish involved in the accident were from the State Route 36 and Highup Road area.   Jasper Supervisor Lucille Kernan said she didn’t know any of the victims personally, but that members of the Amish community are known throughout the town.  “The Amish community are just wonderful people who add a lot to the town. I’m really sorry to hear that they passed,” she said.  David Miller, 51, a passenger in the van, was treated and released, while Eldridge was uninjured.  Eldridge was charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent and failure to keep right after passing. Sheriff’s investigators said Eldridge could face more charges as the investigation continues.  He was arraigned Tuesday night in Benton Town court and remanded to Yates County jail in lieu of $125,000 cash bail or $250,000 bond. He will reappear Friday at 9:30 a.m.   The sheriff’s reconstruction unit responded to the accident and a state police helicopter assisted the investigation with aerial photos. Coroners on the scene were Brian Murphy and Doug Marchionda, Jr.    by Andrew Poole in the Hornell Evening Tribune – July 19, 2011

 

WOODHULL — They came by the dozens in horse-drawn wagons, sedans and pickup trucks, traversing highways and dirt roads unknown to global positioning systems, to gather at the homesteads of the dead and mourn.  As their numbers grew throughout the day Wednesday in the Amish country of Jasper and Woodhull in southern Steuben County, where a day earlier families learned that five of their own had been killed and seven others injured in a grisly traffic accident, everyday labor was put on hold to prepare for as many as 1,000 more mourners expected to journey from Amish communities across the state, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Young boys mucked stalls, women tended to children, young girls prepared food and men made funeral arrangements, built coffins and dug graves.  "Nobody's working today," said Raymond Miller, 19, walking west along Route 417 in a straw hat and pants supported by suspenders. "Everybody's cleaning up, bringing dishes, getting ready for the funerals."  There is no obvious barometer to gauge the impact of the tragedy on the Amish community here, which is thought to number as many as 150 families, or about 10 percent of all households in the tiny towns of Jasper and Woodhull. Considering that Amish households are much larger than average, area residents estimated the Amish, who settled here in earnest about 30 years ago, make up as much as a quarter of the 3,100 people living in the two towns.  Amish elders, all of whom spoke on the condition that their names not be published, and townsfolk who live and work closely with the community, said that dozens of children lost at least one parent in the tragedy.  One of the deceased, Sarah Miller, 47, left behind 14 children, five boys and nine girls, some of whom are adults but most of whom were living with her and her husband, Emery Miller, who was hurt in the crash and has been released from the hospital.  "They're all in shock," said Leon Acker, 72, an "Amish hauler," the designation for "English" people who chauffeur the Amish long distances by automobile.  A steady stream of haulers dropped off passengers throughout the day at the Miller home in Woodhull, where a modest sign advertising hand-woven baskets for sale sat at the end of a long gravel driveway.  On the grounds, women in black dresses and bonnets cradled children in their laps under the shade of a porch roof. Young men in slacks and long sleeves arranged benches for a funeral service and barefooted boys baled hay for the horses that are sure to come.  "They're all pulling together, helping the families and doing what needs to be done," said Misty Draper, who closed her hair salon in nearby Addison to lend a hand to the community with her husband, including driving overnight Tuesday to pick up an Amish boy in New Berlin, Chenango County. "I'm making phone calls, driving, doing whatever is necessary."  More than 20 black carriages lined the perimeter at the Jasper home of Melvin Hershberger Sr., a cabinet maker whose son, Melvin, 42, was killed in the crash. Scores of women and girls convened on the front lawn and men talked of digging graves at a hilltop burial ground off High Up Road.  At least two of the dead were expected to be transferred Wednesday from Penn Yan in Yates County, near where the accident occurred and the bodies have been held in a hospital and makeshift morgue, to a Woodhull funeral home. In Amish tradition, funerals are held at homes and presided over by elders.  Funeral arrangements were unclear, but haulers and others familiar with the proceedings said as many as three funerals could be held Friday.   Written by David Andreatta Gannett in the Ithaca Journal – July 20, 2011

 

WOODHULL, N.Y. (AP) - Hundreds of mourners gathered in southwestern New York Friday to remember three of five Amish farmers killed in a traffic accident on a rural road.  Mourners from across New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio began arriving Wednesday in horse-drawn wagons, cars and pickups for the funerals in Woodhull and Jasper, where hundreds of Amish have settled in recent decades.  Melvin Hershberger, 42, and Melvin Hostetler, 40, were buried Friday at the Hershberger farm in Jasper. A funeral also was held in Jasper for 60-year-old Anna Mary Byler.  Funerals will be held Saturday for Sarah Miller, 47, and Elizabeth Mast, 46.  The victims, who ranged in age from 40 to 60, were touring farms in New York's Finger Lakes region Tuesday when a car passing a slow-moving tractor on a bend sent their van careening into the tractor.  Ten other people were injured, eight of them Amish.  The car driver, Steven Eldridge, is being held on charges of criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated.  The Associated Press – July 22, 2011

  

Jasper, N.Y. — In one wrenching second that snuffed out the lives of five people, the tight-knit Jasper-Woodhull Amish community became even closer, as friends and family flocked to provide support for bereaved family members.   Five people — and one dog — were killed in the three-car accident on Pre-Emption Road in the Town of Benton Tuesday afternoon, with nine others suffering injuries requiring treatment at area hospitals. Thirteen of those involved, including all five fatalities and eight of the injured, were from the Jasper-Woodhull Amish community.  Those families battling grief can expect tremendous support from within their community and from other Amish societies, said Professor Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College, who’s authored several books on Amish culture.  “The Amish community has an enormous amount of what I would call social capital, meaning they rally to help each other. There’s a religious sense to take care of each other,” he said.  The grieving process can last up to a year, with women wearing black and people visiting on Sunday afternoons and evenings. Amish from around the country will send letters and cards of condolence, said the professor.  Support from within the Amish community for people who lost family members in the accident will come from two social units, said Kraybill. Extended family members and those of the same church congregation, usually 20 to 35 families strong, will chip in with chores, bringing meals to the grieving families, and helping with funeral arrangements.  While there aren’t traditions or regulations for the care of children who lost their parents in situations similar to the Benton accident, children usually remain with the surviving parent. Kraybill said extended family and neighbors will also help raise children, and that surviving spouses could eventually remarry.   “There’s a bounty of care and support for children, financially and emotionally and other material ways, though there’s no particular tradition that guides it,” said Kraybill.  Taking care of their own grief-saturated family members will be the priority for the Amish community.  Bitterness aimed toward the driver allegedly at fault for the deaths and injuries will come second, and will likely be let go.  The driver facing charges is Steven Eldridge, 42, of 110 E. Main St., Penn Yan. Eldridge is charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent and failure to keep right after passing.  Eldridge allegedly attempted to pass a slow-moving tractor when he slammed into the van carrying the Amish, who then veered into and became embedded in and under a tractor driven by Tim Labarr, 44, of Dresden.  “I’ve seen Amish families writing letters of care and concern for a person in a similar situation (as Eldridge),” said Kraybill. “They have a deep and profound ability to absorb hostility and bad things that come their way.  It doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain. They are reluctant to become angry or retaliate or engage in revenge.”  Kraybill said whether the Amish would be willing to testify in court depends on the situation.  “Typically, they will talk about forgiveness. They make a distinction between letting go of bitterness and holding someone responsible,” said Kraybill. “In cases involving imprisonment or fines, they might say the state has the right to enforce regulations. But they might also say they won’t hold bitterness in their hearts.”  Support from outside the Amish community has started as well. Several businesses and locations in Jasper have started a fund to support the families grieving after the accident.  Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway, who knew several of the victims and transported three members of the Amish community to Yates County Tuesday night to help identify those involved in the accident, said the Amish are engrained in the area.  “We’ve dealt with the Amish for years. I had my barn built by the Amish, they buy wood off of me. They are a part of the community,” he said.  Efforts to identify the deceased were delayed due to the lack of identification carried by the Amish and massive injuries suffered in the accident.  A press release issued Wednesday evening from the Yates County Sheriff’s Office said the names of all five deceased have been matched with their remains, with the bodies being transported to a funeral service and taken back to the Jasper-Woodhull area.  The five deceased passengers were Melvin Hershberger, 42, Sarah Miller, 47, Melvin Hostetler, 40, Anna Mary Byler, 60, and Elizabeth Mast, 46.   by Andrew Poole in the Hornell Evening Tribune – July 21, 2011

  

JASPER, N.Y. — Horse-drawn buggies have become commonplace on the roadways winding through the lush hills in this town, evidence of the striking growth in the Amish population in upstate New York in recent years. But on Wednesday, many of the buggies were sitting empty in the summer heat outside the home of an elder. The community was gathering to mourn the death of five Amish people who were killed in a traffic accident on Tuesday.  Bearded men in broad-brimmed hats spoke in low tones. Women sat silently on long benches, their white-bonneted heads bent, dabbing handkerchiefs to swollen eyes.  They did not want to speak to outsiders, but the non-Amish society around them was grieving, too.  “Our prayers to our Amish,” the sign at the local firehouse read, underscoring how much the Amish have become an integral part of the agricultural fabric of this region.   “When I heard it was people from our community, it tore my heart right out,” said Robert Mattison, captain of the volunteer ambulance corps in Jasper, which is about 250 miles northwest of New York City.   Upstate New York has been weathering tough economic times and sharp population declines, but the unexpected influx of the Amish has provided a glimmer of hope. Their population in New York has doubled over the past decade, as they migrate from their longstanding population centers in Ohio and Pennsylvania in search of affordable farmland.  Amish farmers and craftsmen have quietly changed the landscape across western and upstate New York, reviving some farming towns and causing moderate conflicts in others, often over building and zoning requirements that are counter to austere Amish customs.  In 2000, the Amish population in New York was estimated at 35 church districts, or independent communities, with 4,725 residents. Now there are 96 districts with about 13,000 residents, according to the latest estimates by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.   Nationwide, the total Amish population is 261,150 in 28 states. In Jasper, where the population was around 1,370 in 2009, the Amish and their non-Amish neighbors have become partners, each needing the other to survive.  When a busload of schoolchildren visited Jasper the other day, an Amish furniture maker gave them buggy rides and let them pet his horse. Amish and non-Amish children play together. Their parents have forged tentative friendships, sometimes hunting together, sharing self-deprecating jokes and attending funerals, residents say.   Rare is the townsperson who denies an Amish neighbor’s request to use the telephone or get a car ride. The non-Amish recognize that the Amish have helped to keep this farming town alive: the Amish began arriving in the early 1980s, buying vacant land, fixing up decrepit houses and bringing much needed commerce to town.   Glen Bullock, whose family has owned a hardware shop here for three generations, estimated that 60 percent of his sales were to the Amish. He said that the Amish were not fully integrated with the rest of village, but that there were pleasant daily interactions. When his father died in 1986, he said, “the Amish were the first at my door.”  “They’re just regular folks,” he added. “Great folks.”   The accident on Tuesday occurred in Benton, about 50 miles away, when a car trying to pass a tractor on a curve sideswiped a van carrying 13 Amish farmers. They and about 20 other Amish farmers, in separate vehicles, were on an educational excursion sponsored by Cornell University Cooperative Extension. They had planned to visit farms to learn about the use of high tunnels — low-tech greenhouses with curved frames, covered by a plastic sheet.   Amish generally do not drive, but they do ride in vehicles.    Those killed in the crash were from Jasper, and the nearby Woodhull and Troupsburg areas. They were identified on Wednesday as Anna Mary Byler, 60; Melvin Hershberger, 42; Melvin Hostetler, 40; Elizabeth Mast, 46; and Sarah Miller, 47.   The driver of the car, Steven A. Eldridge, 42, of Penn Yan, N.Y., has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated and lesser offenses. The crash, in a no-passing zone, also hurt 10 other people, the police said. New Amish communities in the United States are usually formed by groups breaking off from existing communities in search of land, said Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, author of a history, “New York Amish.” ,  She said that as recently as 1949, there were no Amish settlements in the state. The first began in the Conewango Valley in western New York.   Donald B. Kraybill, professor of Amish studies at Elizabethtown College, said the Amish population in New York jumped by 31 percent in the last two years, to around 13,000. Regions like this one, part of Steuben County, south of Rochester near the Pennsylvania border, have proved attractive to families seeking “rural isolation and good, cheap farmland,” he said.   In moments like these, Dr. Kraybill said, victims’ families can expect an outpouring of support — emotional and logistical — from Amish neighbors.   “In Steuben County, all the nearby families and relatives will come in, provide food, take over the chores, take care of the children, set up arrangements for the funerals,” Dr. Kraybill said. “These families will receive hundreds of cards and letters from other Amish, many of whom they don’t know.”   On Wednesday, they were also receiving support from non-Amish neighbors, who hauled bags of ice and food to the homes of the grieving, and drove long distances to bring far-flung Amish into town.  Gary Wright, a horse-farm owner from Caro, Mich., drove 11 hours to bring six Amish men and women to the hilltop home of the elder, a cabinetmaker named Melvin Hershberger Sr., whose son, Melvin Jr., died in the crash. Mr. Wright said he had befriended one of the Amish men he drove, when, about five years ago, his barn burned down. The man, Mr. Wright recalled, showed up at his door, saying, “I’d like to help you build your barn.”   In Jasper, townspeople formed a protective line between the press-averse Amish and members of the news media. One non-Amish woman spent much of Wednesday shooing reporters away from the Hershberger home. “We don’t want any more reporters,” an Amish man said. “If you are sorry, you will leave us alone.”   Tonya Tyler, from Cameron Mills, N.Y. — home to Elizabeth Mast — said she looked up to Ms. Mast, a mother of many children whose kitchen produced “the best lemon meringue pie you’ve ever tasted.”   Ms. Mast’s husband, John, who was injured in the crash, often came to the Tyler home to use the phone, though not without an offering of bread. The Masts even worked on their neighbors’ deck, free, Ms. Tyler said.   “They’ll give you anything,” she said. “They’re just caring, giving, forgiving people.”     Matt Flegenheimer contributed reporting.  By CARA BUCKLEY and PETER APPLEBOME in the New York Times - July 20, 2011

 

Between hashing out funeral arrangements in a hushed Pennsylvania German dialect and relaying messages hundreds of miles away to family in Ohio through "English" couriers, eight elders of the Jasper-Woodhull Amish settlement paused to ponder a question from an outsider:  Is there anger or resentment in the community over the traffic accident that killed five of its members and injured seven others?  Standing in long sleeves and slacks, their broad-brimmed hats providing the only respite from the blazing sun, the men folded their arms and tugged their beards as they contemplated an answer. Then the oldest among them spoke up.  "That's not the way we were brought up," said the man, who, like the others, asked that his name not be published. "God's ways are not our ways."  The Amish, descendants of German and Swiss immigrants dating back to the 18th century, accept tragedy with a stoic resignation uncommon in modern times.  Ten days after a gunman killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., in 2006, community leaders demolished the building. For the Amish, according to religious scholars, God's ways are too complex to be understood, so they must be accepted. Acceptance, however, does not mean they don't mourn.  Their response to tragedy is rooted in an approach to their Christian faith known as gelassenheit or uffgewwes, loosely translated as yielding or surrendering to the will of God.  "To the Amish, things happen not by accident, but as part of a larger divine plan for a person's life or the life of the community," said Stephen M. Scott, a research associate at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, who has studied the Amish for 40 years. The insight helps explain why a son of Sarah Miller, a 47-year-old mother of 14 children who was among those who were killed, answered matter-of-factly when asked how his family was coping. That, "If it wouldn't have happened that way, something else would have happened," he said as he held his own newborn boy in his arms. God's will His response is typical, said Paul Stillman, 65, a resident of Cameron Mills -- northeast of the Jasper-Woodhull area -- who has worked closely with the Amish community for decades and is known affectionately among them as "The Indian" for his Seneca Nation heritage.  "There won't be any anger," Stillman said after visiting relatives of Enos and Rose Anna Miller, a couple hurt in the accident. "Basically, for them, what happened was God's will."  An estimated 1,500 Amish people converged on the settlement last week, many from far-flung communities, to pay their respects. As is tradition, they brought food and attended funeral services on Friday and Saturday.  Funerals were held Friday for Melvin Hershberger, 42, Melvin Hostetler, 40, and Anna Mary Byler, 60. Funerals were held Saturday for Sarah Miller and Elizabeth Mast, 46.  There is no central church in Amish communities, although there is typically a bishop, two ministers and a deacon who lead services.  "The church is not a service or a place, it is the community," said Karen Johnson-Weiner, whose new book, "New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State," is thought to be the first to examine Amish settlements in the state, where the Amish population has nearly tripled in the past decade to 13,000, according to scholarly research.   "In a sense," said Johnson-Weiner, a professor of anthropology at SUNY Potsdam, "the Amish person is really always in church, living life a particular way, acting a particular way, dressing in a particular way, always showing faith and fellowship."  The Amish consider emphasis on the individual to be boastful, which explains why most of them usually decline to speak to reporters alone and be identified by name. They ask not to be photographed because they believe doing so violates the Second Commandment that forbids graven images.  Amish dolls typically do not have faces, and those in more conservative Amish communities will be nothing more than a fabric tube with a dress. No arms or legs.

Recent harassment

Given their reclusive rural lifestyle and rejection of most modern technology, the Amish are no strangers to tragedy. Farmers are maimed in accidents. Livestock fall ill. Crops spoil. Cars collide with buggies.  More recently, in Steuben County, vandals have broken windows and burned crops at Amish homes.  Many non-Amish residents have labeled the acts hate crimes and last week assumed a protective role, shielding their neighbors from the glare of the media and other outsiders for whom the deadly crash sparked curiosity about the Amish.   "This accident has really devastated the Amish community, which is like a cherry on top because they're also being harassed," said Corey Brewer, 26, an excavator from Jasper who works often for Amish families and devoted days to driving them around and helping them prepare for funerals.  The Amish do not drive automobiles, but most settlements permit members to use public transportation or hire non-Amish "haulers" to drive the long distances for business. The farmers involved in the crash were traveling by van in Yates County to learn about growing produce in a new type of greenhouse.  "People have a love and unique interest in the Amish," Brewer continued. "They've always helped us; now they need our help."  Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway confirmed that Amish homes have been vandalized, but said that non-Amish homes have also been targeted and that one of the suspects was an Amish teenager.  Nevertheless, the Amish have shown no malice toward their tormentors, said Robert Mattison, captain of the Jasper Volunteer Ambulance Corps. He added that he expected the community would confront the latest tragedy with the same resilience."They won't be out for revenge," said Mattison, who organized a donation drive for the community. "Their view toward this tragedy is that it was their time and their place and that there is a reason for what happened."

Population growing

There were 155 Amish families living in the settlement in southern Steuben County last year, according to a January 2010 edition of The Diary, a monthly newsletter about Amish life published out of Lancaster County, Pa.  Drawn by inexpensive and abundant farmland, the Amish began migrating to Jasper and Woodhull from Ohio and western Pennsylvania in 1983 and today constitute about a quarter of the 3,100 people who live in the towns. They co-exist peacefully with non-Amish neighbors, who credit them with resurrecting fallow farmland and propping up the economy.  The Amish pay taxes, although they have been exempted on religious grounds from paying into Social Security, which they view as a form of commercial insurance.  Elliot Baker, 30, is the owner of Woodhull Feed Supply, which sells everything from animal feed to infant car seats to $5 and $8 doses of penicillin. He interacts with Amish farmers daily and said their faith makes the Amish unusually well equipped to cope with tragedy without harboring resentment.  "You'd be hard-pressed to find anger in the Amish because they're so driven by scripture and live by it," Baker said. "When the Bible says, 'turn the other cheek,' they take it to heart."  'Meant to be'  The fatal accident occurred about 80 miles north of the Jasper-Woodhull Amish settlement in the town of Benton, where a car trying to pass a tractor on a curve in a no-passing zone clipped the van carrying 13 Amish farmers, sending it into and under the tractor. The driver of the car, Steven Eldridge of Penn Yan, has been charged with driving while intoxicated and criminally negligent homicide.  The charges were meaningless to 19-year-old Raymond Miller, an Amish man who spoke of how his community has already forgiven the driver.  "We don't hold no grudges, we would never do that," said Miller, who is not related to victim Sarah Miller. "I guess it was just supposed to happen, like it was intended." Tom Shachtman, whose book, "Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish" explores the period when Amish adolescents reflect on whether they want to remain in the community and be baptized, said Amish stoicism amid tragedy is not indifference, but rather acceptance.  "They mourn and mourn very deeply," Shachtman said. "But they submit, they say it was meant to happen and that they will be able to understand it and deal with it because it is God's plan. If that's your attitude, then anger toward the driver has to go away."  At the home of Sarah Miller, where the elders considered questions about anger and forgiveness, one of them summed up their outlook on the event like this: "It was meant to be. That's the way we have to see it."   Written by David Andreatta of Democrat and Chronicle in the Star Gazette – July 23. 2011

 

WOODHULL, N.Y. -- The final two funerals were held Saturday for the five members of the Amish community who were killed in a crash in Yates County on Tuesday.  The funeral processions made their way through the Town of Woodhull for Sarah Miller, 47, and Elizabeth Mast, 46.   New York State Police, the Steuben County Sheriff's Office and local fire departments controlled traffic throughout the procession. Services for the other three victims were held on Friday.   The five victims were killed Tuesday when the passenger van they were riding in collided with a farm tractor, killing them and injuring seven others.    YNN – July 23, 2011

 

Upwards of 1,500 -- that's how many Amish people officials in Steuben County believe came out Friday for the funerals of three victims of a deadly crash.  Five people were killed and nine were injured on Tuesday, after the van they were riding in got pinned under a farm tractor in Benton, Yates County.  News crews watched in silence from a distance as Amish people on foot and horse-and-buggy proceeded to the site where three of their own were buried Friday.  Melvin Hershberger, Jr., Melvin Hostetler, and Anna Mary Blyer died on Tuesday. They were taking a tour of the Finger Lakes region to learn about new technologies. The van they were riding in got pinned under a tractor, after 42-year-old Steven Eldridge tried to pass the tractor on Pre-Emption Road in Benton, Yates County.  Rusty Cornwell woke up before dawn to drive 42 Amish people from northwest Pennsylvania to Steuben County for the funerals. We're told the Amish have also come from Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  "They're well respected and hard-working people, very hard-working," said Cornwell.  Cornwell says the Amish he drove were talkative, but didn't speak about the tragedy. They just knew they had to be there.  "There are certain things you just don't ask. You know what I mean. I don't get personal," said Cornwell.  The day started with funeral services at five locations to accommodate all the visitors. Then, all the Amish are required to walk past the caskets of the dead to pay their respects before heading to the burial site.  Noel Terwilliger is the Chief Deputy of the Steuben County Sheriff's Office. He says he's been getting calls for monetary donations to help the Amish and there's more.   "There's been free ice cream. I'd estimate there've been hundreds of pounds of ice and water that have been brought in over the last 48 hours to provide for these folks," said Noel Terwilliger.  "I am very impressed with upstate New York right now."  On Saturday, Terwilliger and his deputies are set to do it all again in Woodhull, which is southeast of Jasper. That's where funeral services for the other victims -- Sarah Mills and Elizabeth Mast are scheduled to be held.  We checked with Strong Hospital. Two of the people injured in the crash are still in guarded condition, two are in satisfactory condition, and two have been discharged.   WHEC.com July 22, 2011

 

The sign outside the Jasper fire hall says it best.

“Our prayers to our Amish.”

Our Amish. Not the Amish. Our Amish.

Jasper residents have lived side by side with these families seemingly transported from a distant time. The Amish base their existence on their faith in God and do so in simple terms. That they use horses and buggies, and not tractors and cars, and dress in subdued colors, and not in the latest fashions of the day, only begins to explain their ways.   They are not recluses by any means. Amish men build structures all over the Southern Tier. Amish women sell baked goods along well-traveled roads. They’ll come to your home if you have work, although it’s likely they will also ask for the ride there.  We see Amish families in our stores, and we slow down as we encounter their buggies. We may think they are quaint, or we may think it all a little odd. From their standpoint, what we think really doesn’t matter, as long as we leave them to their ways.  It is not always an easy co-existence, however. Ignorance has led to harassment and in some instances, vandalism. Some fool, or perhaps fools, threw rocks at one Amish farm Tuesday night as the family inside grieved the loss of their loved ones. It is hard to comprehend such despicable behavior.  Moronic actions of the few do not define us, in this matter nor in any other. Nearly all in the area were horrified to hear details of the accident in Yates County. Particularly terrifying was that the crash was at the hands of a man allegedly drunk and speeding past a tractor. Any one of us, and our families, could have been at that spot on Pre-Emption Road. Fate determined a van filled with Amish touring farms in the area would be there at that moment. A simple cross now marks that place.  It is no surprise to me that ways to help immediately surfaced at businesses in the Jasper area. We do not have much when it comes to economic health, but we are unfailingly generous when others are down.  Family and friends from Amish communities in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are on the way to join in mourning, and burying, the dead. They will be greeted by an outpouring of donated food and drink from Jasper residents hoping to, in some way, show how much they care.  The sign says it all, and it is my hope that the Amish coming this way see those words and understand the level of acceptance that truly exists in this area. If there is any good to come out of this tragedy, it is this.  By Andy Thompson - The Evening Tribune – July 22, 2011

 

The Penn Yan man at fault in a July 19 crash that killed six Amish farmers, and brought hundreds of mourners to the town of Jasper, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and other charges Wednesday in Yates County Court.  Steven A. Eldridge, 42, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, a class B felony; aggravated vehicular assault, a class C felony; reckless driving and driving while ability impaired by drugs.  Eldridge will be sentenced to 12 to 24 years in state prison on the homicide charge as part of the plea.  In addition, Eldridge will receive 7.5 to 15 years in prison on the aggravated vehicular assault charge and a year each on the driving while ability impaired by drugs and reckless driving charges.  Those sentences will run at the same time as the longer homicide sentence. Eldridge admitted to taking cocaine and prescription drugs on the day of the crash on Pre-Emption Road in Benton.  Eldridge said he was southbound and passed a slow-moving large farm tractor in a no-passing zone and struck an oncoming passenger van carrying the Amish farmers.  The van spun directly into the path of the tractor and was crushed.  "Due to his reckless criminal conduct and his use of drugs, this defendant caused the death of six innocent people," said Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook.  "Many people and families, including this community, will be forever scarred by his crimes."  Eldridge, who has been in the Yates County Jail since his arrest in July, withdrew his defense of having a mental disease or defect. He also waived his right to appeal.  Those who were killed in the crash ranged in age from 39 to 60 and lived in Woodhull and Jasper, in Steuben County.  Killed instantly were Melvin Hershberger Jr., 42; Sarah Miller, 47; Melvin Hostetler, 40; Anna Mary Byler, 60; and Elizabeth Mast, 46.  Hershberger's wife, Elva, 39, died several days later. Eight others were injured, three of them seriously.  As Amish mourned the loss, the towns of Jasper and Troupsburg rallied to support their neighbors, collecting money for medical bills and food for hundreds of Amish who traveled long distances for the funerals.  Bob Manley of Jasper, who spoke to this newspaper in July about an Amish relief fund set up by community members, said he still occasionally receives calls from people who want to contribute money.  Many non-Amish people turned out to help with the July funerals by driving or delivering food to Amish people from distant settlements and their drivers.  So many people came to mourn that the American Red Cross set up cots inside Jasper-Troupsburg High School's gym and auditorium to house them.  Things have settled down since the funerals, said Manley, though he didn't want to speak for the Amish community about the mood in the town.  "I still think it strengthened the two communities together as a result of it all," Manley said.  The Amish settlement in the Woodhull and Jasper areas began in 1983, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies of Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa.  After the deadly crash, one of the Amish community's elders told this newspaper that the community would not harbor resentment because of the crash.   "That's not how we were brought up," said the man, who asked that his name not be published. "God's ways are not our ways."  The Amish tend to believe that God's ways are too complex to be understood, so they must be accepted, according to scholars.  Eldridge, who was returned to Yates County Jail after pleading guilty, is scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. March 20 in Yates County Court for sentencing.  "Clearly, no amount of prison time is enough punishment for what he did," said Cook, the district attorney.  "But the victims' families agreed to these terms, and now they will not have to relive the horror of this case in a trial."    Corning Leader – February 24, 2012   

 

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 30 April  2011
By Joyce M. Tice
Email Joyce M  Tice

 

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