May 24, 2024

Questions raised about Amish couple

CORINNA – A story featured on the front page of Wednesday’s Bangor Daily News about an Amish couple’s cross-country trip to Maine has raised some questions and concerns among readers.

Since the article appeared, the BDN received calls not only from people wanting to help the middle-aged couple, but also from some who claimed to have been taken advantage of. And a Tennessee sheriff reported that Danl and Ruanna Yoder had used several aliases along their journey.

“They aren’t any more Amish than I am,” Ginger Heath of Sherman said Wednesday. “They’re more like gypsies.”

Heath said a handful of families in that area of Aroostook County had helped the couple until they began to get suspicious. She does not believe the couple lost money on a land transaction as they reported in Wednesday’s article.

When asked about the calls and the suspicions that had been raised, Danl Yoder said Wednesday evening, “We haven’t scammed anyone.”

Provided with a copy of the BDN story at his campsite, Yoder said he stood by the story. “I’m not asking people for anything, not charity, not pity, only the understanding of a vision,” he said.

Heath said the couple had her convinced at first that they were Scots Amish of the Old World order and she and others in the area took pity on them. When she discovered them walking one day, she picked them up, listened to their story and provided them a vacant house in which to live. But they did not work to feed themselves, Heath said, and she found herself cooking for them because they were always out of food. She said she also ended up buying things for them, such as hay for their horses.

Yoder said Wednesday that when offered, he and Ruanna graciously accepted housing and food, but expected it was out of the kindness of the giver’s heart. They both added that they did work inside the vacant house for Heath, including staining the cupboards.

Heath said the story the Yoders related to the BDN was very different from the one she and others were told by the couple.

According to the Yoders’ account to the BDN of their trip, they lost one of their horses as they traveled by horse and buggy from the Midwest to Aroostook County, where they hoped to build an Amish community. They also said they had forwarded the money from the sale of their house to an unnamed real estate agent in The County to buy land they hoped to farm. The Yoders said that when they arrived in Aroostook County, however, they could not locate the real estate agent and realized they had been scammed out of all their money.

But Heath said she learned from a friend of the Yoders in Ohio that he had been taken advantage of and was owed money for transporting them and their four horses. Heath also said she does not believe there are any Amish who plan to join the couple in Maine to farm.

Not true, according to Yoder. He said there are many displaced Amish who would come to Maine to work the land.

“I’ve got nothing to hide, I’ve got something to protect and that is the mass of nameless people who have been trampled by a tyrannical order,” Yoder said referring to an Amish community he once lived in.

Sheriff E.O. Shelton Jr. of Ethridge, Tenn., said Wednesday he had been contacted by a Maine resident who asked for some information about the couple. Ethridge is a small city which is surrounded by the Amish, he said. Shelton said in checking the Yoders out further, he discovered they had used several aliases on their journey – Yoder, Sinclair, Zcook and MacRuairigh. “My first inclination is what are they hiding or what are they trying to hide,” Shelton said. He also noted that the couple had homesteaded on Amish property in Ethridge and had been asked to leave.

According to Yoder, the couple was asked to leave the Amish community in Tennessee because of an issue over beliefs. As for names he used, Yoder said there was nothing wrong with using the names of his Scottish heritage.

Shelton also forwarded to the BDN a copy of an Amish newsletter from Hestand, Ky., where the couple had stayed after moving from Tennessee. It mentioned the MacRuairigh’s arrival.

“We had some unusual visitors in the community for 12 days,” the newsletter says. “Daniel and Ruanna MacRuairigh arrived by vehicle on June 5 intent on traveling on to Maine with their horses and wagon which they have hauled so far. As we understand, their vision is to live as pilgrims and strangers on this earth traveling from community to community depending largely on others witnessing to what they understand is the righteousness of God.”

“I haven’t hurt anyone,” Yoder said Wednesday.

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