The National Yoder Reunion
October 19-22 - A Report

By: Don Honeywell -

(Coordinator for the Melchior Yoder line)


Dear Ones:

Last week we were in a flurry of activity in preparation for the National Yoder Reunion at Grantsville, Garrett County, Maryland. We attempted to tie up all the loose YODERS ends before leaving, but failed in that attempt. So, there is still more to do in this regard.

As you may be aware, my maternal Grandmother is Ida Laura YODERS, M2384, 1876 - 1939, who married George Cephas GILBERT. She was a Methodist Protestant.

The Garrett County YODERs are mainly Amish and Mennonite and the attendees were largely of the Amish and Mennonite branches of the greater YODER family. About 200 attended coming from New York City to California, London, Ontario, Canada to Florida, and most parts in between.

Thursday evening was a Get Acquainted Reception at the headquarters motel which featured refreshments and country/gospel/mountain singing entertainment by the Windy Ridge Singers, a group of 4 playing banjo, violin, guitar, bass fiddle, and mandolin. They also threw in some Yoder- style yodeling and story telling. William A. Yoder, of our Melchior line, played his harmonica.

Friday morning was cold and wet. The morning program was held in a large tent near the Yoder House at the Spruce Village Artisan Center. It had good group singing and included a local trapper, an appearance by George Washington, history and dedication of the Yoder House, ending with singing of the Lord's Prayer. Here is a quotation from part of the dedication service:

"Today, we, the generations that follow, give thanks to you, O God, for your sustaining grace and providence, in ways beyond our understanding. In this moment of dedication, The Yoder House declares your faithfulness, and your goodness through generations past, and to generations yet to come. Now we stand together, with thanksgiving, as we dedicate The Yoder House to you, Oh God, to your service, and your Glory,. Amen."

The Yoder House is modeled after a Swiss house of circa 1750; it is now complete and contains over 100 tons of natural stone. From it's inception, it has taken 15 years to reach this point of completion. The house contains a huge walk-in fireplace, arched root cellar, and is furnished with items that would have been found in a typical Swiss home of the 1700s. The workmanship that went into building this house is truly wonderful.

After the dedication was over, we found ourselves very chilled and wandered directly into Penn Alps for lunch and hot drinks. It was much warmer and drier inside. After warming up at lunch, we wandered a bit among the artisan shops observing their skills and wares. In one of the little shops, we watched and heard Gary Yoder who is a world-renowned bird carver. One of his carvings was offered at the auction which was held that afternoon along with fabulous hand-sewn quilts, paintings, wood working, and photographs - all done by talented YODERs who donated items to the auction for the benefit of the Yoder House endowment.

Friday evening was the banquet at the Salisbury, PA Fire Hall. Salisbury is a small town about 8 miles north of Grantsville. The fire hall probably doubles as a community center and a center of social life, as in many small towns. The buffet meal consisted of turkey, roast beef, soup, numerous vegetables, capped by home made pies and ice cream. If anyone went hungry, it was their own fault. The program was punctuated by several religious songs and hymns by the A'Cappella Ensemble. Chris Yoder, editor of the Yoder Newsletter, presented a very interesting overview of the 8 separate YODER lines in America and their origins. This was followed by a description of the YODER DNA project which is indicating that nearly all Yoders (no matter how they spell the name) have a common heritage from Alsace, Germany and Switzerland.

The banquet tables contained this small card:

"St. Theodore (Joder) became the first bishop of what is now Switzerland. He was very successful. Miracles are attributed to him. He was later granted sainthood. Switzerland still lists August 16 and Austria 14 as Saint Joder's day. The Greek meaning of the name Theodore is "gift from God."

We began the Saturday bus tour (3 tour busses) at approximately 8:30. Our first site of interest was Little Meadows at the foot of Meadow Mountain where General George Washington encamped with his troops prior to the American Revolution. Scores of YODER sites were pointed out as we progressed. We visited a number of YODER sites including old farms, cemeteries and an Old Order Amish Church which is still in use. The bishop who greeted us was about 70 with a characteristic full Amish beard. He told about his congregation, Amish practices and, with his wife, sang a hymn in German for us. There were no electric lights in the church which made it rather dreary despite several good sized windows. Heat was by 2 coal stoves. The pews were all hand-made, very plain and relatively small. While in this vicinity we saw several Amish buggies on the roads. We also drove past a site where the Amish community was holding an auction to benefit a family who had incurred terrible health care costs due to having to have rabies shots for the entire family. There were scores of Amish families in attendance, some coming from Lancaster County, PA, and as far away as Ohio. One of the Yoder tour buses "passed the hat" and collected over $311 to contribute to the medical fund. We also drove past several Amish schools which complete education with the 8th grade. We ate lunch in Berlin, PA at the VFW Hall. We also stopped at the 9/11 United Airlines Flight 93 National Memorial at Shanksville, PA.

On Saturday evening we attended a presentation at the Maple Glen Mennonite Church given by Virgil YODER on Anabaptist Yost YODER of Steffisburg, Switzerland . This would be a very informative program for YODERs of the Anabaptist lines interested in YODER history in Switzerland. Virgil had some excellent photographs that he had taken on his several trips to the area.

On Sunday morning we attended a packed Mennonite worship service at the Yoder House. These folks are terrific singers, and it is all done in parts without accompaniment. The music sheets contained shape notes. We did several verses in German. Paul YODER moderated the meeting, David YODER directed the singing and Nate YODER delivered a fine message entitled 'Making God's History Your History,' based on Nehemiah 9.

Each event honored God for His faithfulness over many generations.
We left Grantsville around 12:00 p.m. The ride back home was beautiful with the Lord's handiwork on all the hillsides. The bright blue sky and warm sunshine added to the pleasure of the trip. We arrived home about 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

All best wishes in Christ,
Don Honeywell, Cub Hill, Baltimore County, Maryland