No Amish In Jury Wheel

One of my favorite tools to use when researching for genealogical or historical information is the online collection Newspapers.com.   Their website advertises that they have 200+ million pages of historical newspapers from 4,900+ newspapers - At Newspapers.com it's easy and convenient to search or browse the collection to find news, notices of births, marriages and deaths, sports, comics and much more.

Searching the site for names, locations and terms relevant to the history of the Casselman River Valley Amish and Mennonites can uncover large volumes of historical items and notes of interest.

The below short article appeared in a 1919 edition of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania's The Republic and is about Old Order Amish participation in their local Somerset County jury pools.

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NO AMISH IN JURY WHEEL

Perhaps the first time in the history of Somerset county members of a church organization have formally presented a request to the Court and the Jury Commissioners not to place their names in the jury wheel for service in court on the ground that such service is in violation of the tenets of their church.

 Jury Commissioners John S. Shafer and Chan M. Fisher began several days ago the work of selecting persons from each district of Somerset county for jury duty next year.  When they came to the consideration of persons residing in Elk Lick township, they were presented with a written request from an officer of the Old Order of the Amish Church not to place the names of any of the members of that denomination in the jury wheel, for the reason that they would have to be excused from duty, as such service is contrary to their teachings and faith. 

The names of nearly half a hundred persons were on the paper.  Judge Kooser has instructed the Jury Commissioners to omit the names of all persons included on the list.  – Somerset Standard. [1]

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It is not clear to me what the common practice of the Amish of the Casselman River Valley was with regard to participation in juries prior to this time.  The Amish disciplines of 1809 and 1837 included prohibitions against serving on juries. [2]  Whether or not the Casselman River Valley churches strictly complied with this prohibition, their members were called for jury duty.  For example, in 1906, future Amish minister and bishop Moses M. Beachy is listed as being called for jury duty. [3]

There is no mention that Moses declined jury service.  It would appear that by 1919 the Old Order Amish of Elk Lick Township had decided that such decisions were no longer going to be a matter of personal choice.

Reader comments are welcome.

END NOTES

[1] The Republic (Meyersdale, Pennsylvania) 11 Dec 1919, Thu  • Page 4

[2] Yoder, Paton, Tradition & Transition: Amish Mennonites and Old Order Amish 1800-1900, Herald Press, Scottsdale, Pennsylvania, 1991, p. 94.

From the 1809 Pennsylvania Discipline: Article 8: Concerning jury service, it is decided that it shall not be tolerated or permitted for brethren of the church.

From the 1837 Pennsylvania Discipline: Article 4: Decided that worldly politics are not to be served, namely jury serving or voting for the election of officials.

[3]  The Republic  (Meyersdale, Pennsylvania) 01 Feb 1906, Thu  • Page 5

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