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German One Room Schoolhouse

Welcome to the relocated and restored German School at Amish Acres. This 20 by 36 foot building was constructed in the late 19th century one half mile west of Amish Acres on the old Bremen-Nappanee road. It was enlarged twice, first with a 10 foot addition at the front and later, with an 8 foot entry hall with cloak rooms. Like all Amish buildings it has no electricity, running water, or plumbing. The building was designed for the purpose of teaching German to Amish students. Up until the 1940’s Amish children attended public one-room schools—Best, Borkholder, Burlington, and Weldy; therefore, Amish students came here several days a week after school to study how to read and write High German. The scholar’s families would hold spelling bees one night a week complete with a carry in supper. Up until the advent of Amish parochial schools at mid-century, because the Amish have no church buildings, the German school was the only institutional building owned by the Old Order Amish community.

So why a German school? Now this gets very confusing, so pay attention; there will be a written exam at the end of this lesson.

The Amish are a tri-lingual society. Pennsylvania Dutch—that comes from Deutsch, the German word for German, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Dutch—is spoken in Amish homes. Dutch is a Low German dialect. It is not a written language. English is learned in the first eight grades of school because it is necessary for day to day interaction with the outside world—who the Amish refer to as English. Are you with me so far? (Illustrate on the black board using a pointer) German in a sense represents all that the Amish have for centuries been trying to hold—their heritage as a non-conformed people, pilgrims in an alien land. It represents the old, the tried, and proven, the sacred way. For the Amish German is the language of the Bible since the Amish division in Switzerland in 1693; German is spoken during sermons by the clergy in church.

The linguistic diversity of the German language is immensely greater than the variants of American English. That's when High German (Hochdeutsch) comes to the rescue, the "standard language"--equivalent of the "Queen's English"--the principal vehicle of the media, of literature, religion, education and commerce. Most German-speakers grow up "bilingually" -- with the dialect of their region and High German.

The German school was closed when Amish schools began to replace the public schools for Amish children. Amish schools began teaching German one day a week, making the purpose of the German school obsolete.

As Amish parochial schools became more prevalent, and the student population grew, pressure for space forced the German school to be reopened for those students who had finished the eighth grade but not yet turned 16 years old, the Indiana state compulsory age requirement. In the 1960’s Indiana law changed to completion of the eighth grade without regard to age. The German school was then closed for good in 1970. The building reverted to the owner of the land and became a horse stable for nearly three decades. The floor was removed, feed bunks built, and an overhead door installed in one side. It remained in use as a stable until Amish Acres purchased it for preservation and restoration in 2001. Detailed plans were drawn to insure accuracy; the building was dismantled and reconstructed here. All of the siding inside and out is new lumber; however, the structural native timer remains from the original building.