The Millers are Amish, an Anabaptist group who began to leave Europe 300 years ago, to escape persecution, coming to the New World starting in the early 1700s.
Ora Miller and his wife Orpha came in 1975 to Libby in western Montana with 6 of their 8 children. Today they live on the land with grandchildren and in- laws, an extended family.
daughter in law Priscilla helps dress the hens for canning.
The Amish traditionally work together to accomplish many tasks, and often sing together.
The dream of an easy life
The Amish in the Rocky Mountains
The Millers started with a sawmill business and building log homes.
The logs are first cut precisely on the sawmill
next the home is pre assembled, then assembled onsite.
Elvie and Lloyd are running the business,
Father and company founder Ora Miller
has retired from the business.
But some days you can see him here.
When the Amish are among themselves,
they speak Pennsylvania German with each other.
It's a south German dialect that their ancestors
brought with them across the ocean.
Pre- construction before shipment,
Quality assurance is done by the boss himself.
Ora had a sawmill already
years before they moved to this location.
"We started small,
and I knew we're going to grow,
but didn't think we'd grow to this size.
In the last 30 years since
it has gotten better and better.
And most of the time it was like going uphill.
We have reached a pretty
"We pre-build about a 1000 square feet of homes per week.
We then re-assemble the homes at
the construction site
at a rate of 1000 square feet a day.
The assembly is very fast."
Here in Montana, about 8 miles
south of the town of Libby,
Ora and family moved in 1992 to
the place where they wanted
to build a future
that they could not see for themselves in
their old location.
They have a tradition primarily of farming
in their own communities.
This way they preserved their
lifestyle and religious beliefs.
In rhythm with the seasons
and in harmony with nature.
Building with their own hands that which
the community needs.
Today, those are still the virtues
of the Amish.
Lloyd has been the spiritual
leader for the Amish of Libby.
He has replaced Ora's leadership
and leads the community
of over 80 people.
In the isolation of the wilderness
and mountains he is often searching
for a conversation with his God and
often the question in which
direction the community should go,
which has been trusted upon him.
His horse, his dog and the isolation
are his allies.
In this location Lloyds feels very
close to his God.
Was the decision hard back then to come
to Libby? To start from the
beginning once again?
"When we came here, the Lord
spoke to me
And what do we do in hard times?
God answered me,
'I am your protector, I will take care of you."
even in hardships, we have
to focus our eyes on the Lord.
When to an observer, everything seems
wonderful and great here,
still every day like the Bible
says, there is war for our souls.
And that is why we need
to stand in one place."
Keeping the community together,
is Lloyd´s most important task in his
opinion. The first conflicts have risen
already. There are rips in the
once simple Amish world.
Especially the young people desire
more freedom of expression.
Ora and Orpha are living
alone in a big house and naturally,
with a big garden. Today they are
harvesting peas and raspberries. (Ora:) "There aren't many here, we got them yesterday".
The garden borders the sawmill.
On the first look a well earned
retirement after a long life of hard work
in harmony with the community
and a large family.
"We are not living in a
perfect community, but we desire to live
as the Bible has taught us. We are
working with our hands and are close
to nature. It is in our blood.
Our ancestors in Germany were
like that, so we still do the same.
In a different country with a different
culture. But we promote the same things they promoted."
In late afternoon, Lloyd returns from his time alone.
He has gained strength. The rest
was good for him. Many of the
decisions he had to make lately have not
been easy ones.
"We had many
hard situations in the family,
not only between my father and me
but also, between my wife and me and
our children, because of the transitions.
It is also hard for me to
separate from things. But I let go
of the things that are not
really important. I have to let go
of the things that do not help.
But what we have and we keep is our heritage.
Values like family, togetherness, fellowship
of which we will never separate ourselves from.
Lloyd and Mary Etta have 9 children.
Prayer and dinner
every night is part of their daily life
and same for the other families.
Mashed potatoes are almost always
served with meat. Potatoes are called
Grummbären in Pennsylvania German.
Joanna and Orpha, the two oldest daughters
already have a boyfriend.
"The purpose was to build a community
that would invite the presence of God.
A community that would include the people
around us in the neighborhood.
And create a safe place for my family,
in which the evil ways would not harm them, which are sneaking
into so many Amish communities in America."
Orpha and her brother Joseph
are passionate musicians.
Joseph plays the guitar well.
And Orpha has a great singing voice.
How are they thinking about
their future? Amish, they do not look.
Church is very important.
"I know that many have a problem
with the church. But I believe
everyone needs a community of faith to
which they belong."
In the tradition of the Amish it
has always been important how they
saw the the community outside of the world.
"We have dressed for a long time like other
Amish. But now we have more flexibility and freedom.
We do not believe God cares so much about outside
appearances. He looks into
the heart. To have this kind of freedom
is really great. Music interests me
and I would like to do more with it.
I always wanted to do something with
music, maybe even some kind of training.
My big dream would be to sing someday.
In the faith the children are as
rooted as the parents and grandparents.
But recently more Amish young people
dress more modern.
For older people the vanishing of old
traditions become a bigger challenge.
"The young folks
today want something different.
They see the world, they are looking
at Hollywood. They are interested in
fashion and things
which are a big distraction.
Basically, the following is happening:
In a community that gives up, there
will be always people from the outside
with thoughts. I am talking about
popular preachers, they come and want to
influence people in a certain direction.
They talk with a sharp tongue and
charm the people.
They deceive the people.
This kind of deceiving has
existed since the beginning of mankind.
Even Eve was deceived. Today people are still being deceived."
In the nearby wooded mountain, Elvie and Lloyd own a parcel of land, about 400 acres.
"Up here we would like to build a village of
log homes. We are in the mountains, pretty high up.
The land surveyors
and my brother Lloyd are here.
We would like to look at the land before
we start with a building plan on paper."
On the search for the ideal location
for the log homes, they are inspecting
the area. Elvie has suggestions
where the houses could be built.
For the log home company,
this project is perfect.
"You can see the mountain from here. What do you think Lloyd?"
"The hill drops away here and a number of houses can be built in a row, with lots of room from below to higher up, so you can see over the tops of the other homes."
More people living here someday
will influence the life of the Amish with their influx.
Because every influence from the outside means change.
Lloyd and Mary Etta are
living in this big log home with their 9 children.
For the Amish, children are considered like wealth to the family
and a blessing from God.
Boys and girls play together. When they get
older they will have their own tasks.
In the houses of the community, rule
number one is: God comes first.
This is accepted by everyone without question
In the Amish the mothers stay home
and take care of the children and the
household. Of course, the story which
Mary Etta is reading to the children is
about Jesus and the children are
listening curiously. Even the older girls
which have tasks in the household like to
listen while they work. And when the children
grow up and leave the house, is it hard?
"I don't know if it is a problem but it is
an adjustment. You have to get used to it
It is letting go. In my heart I have to
let go. So they can be their own people
which they are meant to be, so they are
allowed to live their own lives."
To open a grocery store was also an idea
of Ora. The customers come from the
Orpha and Joanna work in the bakery.
Orpha is proud of the freedoms in her
community. "We never had any specific
rules how we should do something,
how we dress, we had a lot of freedom.
We do not drive in horse and buggy
anymore. We also have connections
outside. We are not locked in here.
We are free to talk about God.
As much as we want without being weird".
Besides her tasks in the bakery, it is
also, Orpha's job to restock the shelves
with new goods. Ora also helps wherever he can.
If there is one thing
that is hard for a retired
Amish, then that would be doing nothing.
Ora's wife Orpha is on cashier duty.
She is happy about every customer
coming in to the store. Orpha enjoys
being around people. She has worked her
whole life. And this is how it should
remain for a while longer, this is
what she wishes for.
Lloyd is the boss
here as well. A few times a day he checks
in to make sure everything is going well.
He takes care of the finances, orders the
goods and regulates the sale prices.
Ora and Orpha are on the way to a special
event. They expect something bad.
The whole community is running around
today. Elvie has come with his bicycle
and took his girls in the bike trailer.
For a few years now they allow something
that is forbidden in many Amish
communities: driving a car.
Ora got his license when has was
64 years old. In this tent there will be
a worship meeting today. For Ora and
Orpha this is a part of the world that
they do not like.
Did Lloyd knew what he
was doing when he allowed this event?
Everybody came, the children, the grandchildren
and some visitors. With the Amish
world that Ora and Orpha grew up in and
lived their whole life in, this
has nothing to do with that. But for
most people, that what is said on stage is
foreign and fascinating. Ora and Orpha
are not believing their ears or eyes
anymore. Their grandchildren are going
enthusiastically along. And Lloyd, what is
he thinking about? Is this the change he
meant? The quiet world of the Amish
is all of a sudden bright and loud.
And the traditional values of the Amish;
humbleness, modesty, isolation from the
world, seem to be upside down.
Both grandparents feel insecure.
The grandchildren generation seems to enjoy
this totally new feeling for life.
Mary Etta seems to like it too.
Lloyd is deep in thought.
"These people come along and proclaim
to do big things. That they could heal
and bring on miracles. That all sounds
so great and fantastic, what these
people can do. But it is not about the big
things. It is about being humble and
modest. When Christ came into the world
he was not an important person. The
Pharisees did big things, they built
synagogues and converted Gentiles.
Christ was very different. He always
made a humble appearance. This is how it
is still today.
People give speeches about awakening
which is a deception.
Ora on his way to his old home,
the Amish settlement at Rexford,
one hour away from Libby and along
the Canadian border. From time to time
he gets a longing for the place he spent
such a long time of his life and where
his oldest children grew up. The Amish
of Rexford are still very traditional.
Only a few influences of the outside world
have found them because the village is
far off from main roads at a dead end.
Financially speaking these people
are not doing well. That is the most
important reason why Ora and Orpha left
the village of Rexford and
started a new life in Libby.
When Ora visits Rexford,
he also visits his old home, which he
built with his own hands. The old
buggy, how long he had driven with
"We grew up with horses.
We always had horses. We plowed our
fields with them. They were our way of
getting around. We rode them and they
pulled our buggies. Working with
horses was our way of farming."
By accident he meets his nephew Samuel from
Wisconsin, who is also visiting.
They have not seen each other in 4 years
and there is a lot to talk about. Ora
invites Samuel to a visit to Libby. In a
week he wants to come.
For the young
people of Libby volleyball is not only
a sport but also networking. Because on
Sunday's youth from other areas come.
On one hand the young
people are open to the world
but on the other hand they keep to themselves.
How often does Orpha's friend Steve come to Libby?
He also comes from an Amish
family. "Every weekend I come here to
church and to see Orpha. I live in a small
community 60 miles from here. So I have to
drive 60 miles to get to church on Sundays.
And if you get married one day? Where will you live? Is there a set rule for this?
"Normally the woman will move to where the man lives.
"Yes you could say that, it depends. We do not know exactly." Is this a tradition?
Since he is not working in the sawmill anymore, Ora
is helping around the house. That is
not common. With the Amish men and
women duties are normally separated.
Part of that is also that men lead,
especially towards the outside
world. But everything is threatened
"The generation living now is
looking for different things. They do
not look at things that we deem important
as important anymore. My sons helped
me because it was necessary. They
felt that. The next generation did not
feel that because they already have
everything. For them this is all normal.
We are just trying to live what we
believe. And we hope that the next
generation also sees this. But this
normally happens later, but we will
not experience it in our lifetime."
In Montana fall arrives sometimes
in September. The first frosts during the nights have already ocurred.
For the Amish in Libby it is time for
harvest. Potatoes (Grummbären),
are being dug out of the garden. And
pumpkins are being harvested,
and huge zucchinis. The summers in
Montana get very hot. Now in the
the fall, the temperatures are much better
for the physical hard work of the
carpenters. The sawmill and the
log house building is booming. The order
books are full for the year.
Was business great from the start? How was it in the first years?
"In the village where we
lived back then, that was not Libby,
they did not believe in our product. And
for different reasons they were against
my father. But one of the reasons was
that we started to employ people to work
for us." By now log cabins from Libby are
even exported overseas.
The apple crop was good this year.
It is common for families to produce their own apple butter in the fall.
Ora and Orpha are processing large amounts of apples.
because in the store the apple butter is a good seller.
"First the apples have to be chopped and then cooked.
We cook the apples and make apple sauce out of it.
Then we put it back in the kettle, water and apple cider is added to it.
And then it is cooked for 4 to 5 hours until it is apple butter.
Once it is full and this is the last load, we start with the press, which squeezes the juice out of the apple sauce.
We get roughly 70 liters out of one press."
The finished apple butter is a creamy, tasty spread that will be filled in the prepared jars.
The Amish love apple butter especially
as a spread for bread but also as a dessert.
In the school, there is only one room.
where the children between the ages of 5
and 13 years are being taught. After
the 8th grade they are done. A visit
to a higher school is not an option.
Ora likes to visit the children during
school. "What is our responsibility
towards children? I believe we parents
and grandparents have to teach you the
most important things in life. The Bible
says to teach your children the way to walk
while they are young and when they are
old they will not stray."
Reading, calculating, writing are skills the children must learn.
Part of the morning's time is taken in Bible learning.
Like all other places, recess is the best thing about school.
Finally they go outside to play. When they are
13 or 14 years old the school ends for
the Amish. After that they take
responsibilities in their community.
At home, in the store, in the bakery or
in the sawmill. A path of life that is
Lloyd´s house is surrounded by fall beauty.
The meat of an elk is
being processed. Jerry the fiancée of
Joanna, Lloyd's oldest daughter, has killed
the animal in an unusual way.
"Jerry has shot it with the bow."
Amish have been named after their spiritual leader Jakob Amman.
Around 1720 they first came to America.
"In 2005 in Pennsylvania, we visited the historic location, where the first Anabaptists lived, when they first came to America.
A man named William Penn invited them.
He was an English man and he owned a lot of land that he sold to them, big areas.
With the ship they came to Philadelphia.
With wagons and horses they traveled inland.
They came to Lancaster County, being
craftsmen, they brought their tools. They
started gardens. And to get meat they
went hunting. And they began
keeping cows and sheep. They were not
rich. They did not have a lot of money.
But they had a big heart. They worked
hard. They did not forget
how things were, where they came from.
It was not good. It was better here."
More often than in their own home
you can meet Ora and Orpha in the store.
There is always something to do.
Here in the store the two old people
feel comfortable. And often they help
out. The location by the window
is their favorite spot. How did the idea
for the store come up?
"We always wanted
to do something that would employ people
so they would have something to do.
Most people only want to have a roof over
their head and want to be full, but how
to run a store they do not know. And
exactly for the people who cannot do
things for themselves I wanted to take
care of. And that is why I wanted this
store, so people would have something
These gentlemen are regulars.
Ora's granddaughters are working in the
bakery and also his daughter Leona.
During work or at home, there is
always lots of singing but only Christian songs.
Lloyd is on his way to the barn
to feed the goats. Matthew, his youngest
son is going with him. The Millers keep a
few goats just for the milk.
The closeness to the animals is very
important to Lloyd. And has something to
do with being down-to-earth.
When the goat comes into
the barn they find the way to the milking
stand by themselves. Lloyd's daughter Grace has the task of milking the goats every day.
She prefers to do this rather than helping her mother with house chores.
Every goat gives a little more than 2
liters every day. That is enough for
personal needs. The Millers also keep 30 chickens.
Most days Lloyd and his father
meet and discuss matters to deal with in the community.
Of course faith and church services are part
of that. But the main thing between
them is how much the community is allowed to open up.
"For many the world of the Amish is kind of a mystery.
After moving to Libby we began to share our faith with others.
God's gift is not just about us, but is to benefit all people, to bless everyone.
To let everyone receive of God's grace and love."
And since the Amish of Libby have decided
to share their faith with others,
strangers have been attending their church
services for a while now. Young people take their coffee cups into church
service, next to older Amish, who want to hold on to their old traditions.
In the church service they sing the old Amish songs from the Ausband, the songbook from the 1500s Anabaptists.
It is the world's oldest Christian songbook that has been in use nonstop since its publication.
For Ora and Orpha their world is good today.
Fall fog is surrounding the mountains. The green fields of summer are now brown.
For the children the hay bales are a fun playground.
Ora enjoys spending time here and watches his grandchildren play.
His biggest wish is, that the children will carry on his values.
He hopes the grandchildren will keep the traditions of their ancestors.
That they will lead a godly live after the rules of the community.
"My clothes do not make me a better person. Why should I change?
I grew up like this and do not see the need to become different. Freedom is in Christ. It has nothing to do with what you like.
Once Christ redeems you, you are really free. That is the freedom I am looking for. To live our life like we want, that is not freedom."
In the fall when the days grow shorter
the clocks become slower here.
In the winter the people
get more often together than in other seasons.
Ora and Orpha have invited
their children and grandchildren for dinner.
Ora is taking care of the mashed potatoes
which of course cannot be missing.
And his wife is making the coleslaw salad
which everyone in the family loves to eat
"This is coleslaw salad, the cabbage is from my garden.
And I also make my own salad sauce.
The daughters and daughter-in-laws
help to prepare the dinner. Cooking is normally a woman's job for the Amish.
Ora is comfortable surrounded by his family.
Elvie is of course also here. Everybody
brought something for the big dinner.
The children are seated at an extra table.
They are allowed to start dinner earlier.
For the adults Ora is saying the grace in Pennsylvania German.
And then everybody takes from the buffet and enjoys their dinner.
The highlight is not eating together, but the highlight is singing together!
Ora's and Orpha's children grew up in an intact family.
Singing together is a part of life even today.
Especially the grandparents had to
compromise in the last few years.
There were conflicts with each other.
But the family stayed together.
In their daily life the Amish of Libby do
not use the buggy to get around anymore
but sometimes on a Sunday afternoon they go for a ride.
Then he takes his children through the community.
And he remembers the times when what is now a Sunday treat,
used to be part of the daily life of many Amish generations.
Yesterday and today are close to each other for the Amish of Libby.
Lloyd says, "Whatever will remain, is our heritage.
We don't want to lose our values of family and community. "