Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts after tragedy strikes Minnesota’s Amish community January 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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Driving Fillmore County Road 21 north of Canton toward Henrytown then west to Dennis and Mary Hershberger's farm. This is deep in Minnesota Amish country.

Driving Fillmore County Road 21 north of Canton toward Henrytown then west to Dennis and Mary Hershberger’s farm. This is deep in Minnesota Amish country. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

THREE SUMMERS AGO, my husband and I explored the extreme southeastern portion of Minnesota that is home to pockets of Amish. During that tour, just north of Canton, we followed back roads to the home of Dennis Hershberger, a gifted carpenter who crafts raw wood into stunning pieces of furniture at his Countryside Furniture business.

An overview of Canton's historic area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

An overview of Canton’s historic area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Today I am thinking of Dennis and other Canton area Amish suffering the loss of two community members who died in an early Monday morning house fire. The victims have been tentatively identified as a local bishop, Yost Hershberger, 58, and his son, Ben, 18. Three other family members went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

My final shot on the Hershberger farm: the barn, the buggies, the stack of wood.

A snapshot of Dennis Hershberger’s farm yard. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

I don’t know whether Dennis the carpenter is related to the two men who died. Hershberger is a common name among the Amish. But Dennis and his family live near the scene of Monday’s fatal house fire along Fillmore County Road 21. Whether connected by blood or by community, the commonality of grief now unites this Amish settlement.

Just last May, 23-year-old Yost J. Hershberger of Decorah, Iowa, died after being trapped between a logging truck and a trailer in nearby rural Mabel. Another tragedy within this tight-knit community of Amish.

On this day, I feel a deep sense of sadness for the Hershberger family, for these Amish of southeastern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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27 Responses to “Thoughts after tragedy strikes Minnesota’s Amish community”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I read the news reports with sadness because I have felt a connection to the Amish communities for years for some reason. Maybe because there were many living close to my grandma or because we had so many in areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania when we lived in those states. Or maybe because our recent trip to Florida reminded me of their close familial ties. For whatever reason the news made me pause and reflect a bit on how the community would be affected. I suspect they will band together and support one another during this time of sadness and loss.

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    What a tragedy, our hearts out to them.

  3. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and the community.

  4. Wow, I hadn’t heard anything about this. How terrible.

  5. Gunny Says:

    My sincere condolences to the families of these people. We are born and we die, with only our creator knowing the dates of our birth and death before we come into this world. We are blessed, or should be, with the presence of each other in this world. Each of us with something to help each other at various times in our lives to leave a positive impact. These people will be missed, their loss to the community severely felt.

  6. ljhlaura Says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. I have visited this region a couple of times and was just looking at a picture I took of an Amish buggy … from a far distance … and then I saw your post. What a striking coincidence. My sincere condolences to the community.

  7. Don Says:

    Mere words can never seem to adequately express our feels during such a tragedy. Condolences to the family and friends.

  8. How horrible especially to a community that works so closely together.

  9. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    Sad story. We used to visit an Amish cheese factory when we visited family in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The cheese was so fresh and yummy. There weren’t many tourists in that area (this was almost 40 years ago), and the young Amish women, who were shy, always looked a little askance at my jeans. After a time, the Amish sold the cheese place, and the cheese never was as good after that.

  10. Jackie Says:

    This fire was very close to the Henry Town Church that burned down last year. A friend of mine that live down there says the funeral is Friday with about 400 expected to be in attendance. So sad!

  11. Dell Lutz Says:

    Such a sad thing to happen to such nice people. And Audrey, the young man that died in the logging accident was another son of Yost. This family certainly has had their share of sorrow lately. Offering up prayers for this family and all involved in this tragedy.


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