Back to the Beginning

Last weekend I had the privilege of sitting down with author and teacher Ervin Ray Stutzman to pick his brain about my vision of a historical documentation of this community in central Kansas as well as a place to store archives and artifacts of this community. 

Ervin Ray Stutzman grew up in this community and is the author of several books “Tobias of the Amish” and “Emma” which are stories of his own parents in the setting and context of this community. As a transplant to this community 25 years ago, since having read those two books I have been able to understand this place so very much better and have found an identity here as my home and have made it a part of who I am more easily. 

While the story itself is a narrative of  Ervin’s family, the thread running through the books is of an Amish community’s adjustment to modernity through the mid twentieth century. Running deeply throughout the pages is the tension of a community with a strong faith tradition confronted with the inevitable reality of a modern world putting pressure on it to conform to its progress and ideals.

So this revelation about this community and our family’s place in it has led me on a further quest to understand its beginnings. This led me to consider the life of one of the very first Amish settlers to come to this Partridge, Kansas  community, Abraham C. Nisly, the man buried beneath the grave marker pictured above.

Not very much is published about Abraham C. Nisly. In a family record book published in 1971 a short oral history, probably handed down at least two generations, is written down. 

This sketchy history says Abraham had two wives in his life time, and was the father of  12 children. It says he married in Goshen, Indiana and later moved to Shelbyville, Illinois in 1871.  His first wife, Magdalena, died at age 36 when their youngest child was 9 months old. Abraham married again less than three years later to a Dinah Yoder, who at the time of her first child’s birth was 23 years old.

The history talks about Abraham deciding to move to Nebraska in 1883, less than a year after is second wife’s death, but a flooded river in Kansas City change his decision to move to a little southwest of Hutchinson, Kansas.

It gives a few details of their situation of travel and where they bought land, as well as the inconvenience sharing a tiny house with another large family until the home they bought was vacated.

Abraham then dies less than two years after he arrives in Kansas. Only one of his children who were at home was over the age of 21 years old.

So this has been the known history since 1971 of a man most people in this community claim as an ancestor or at least has married someone who is a descendant. In fact, Gene’s grandfather and Ervin Ray’s grandfather were brothers. Their father was Abraham C. Nisly’s son. 

I, for one, believe that this brief history needs further research and should be expanded….and in fact, I have taken up the painstaking process to do so. In future posts I hope to share some the nuggets I have turned up, and maybe by making this public it will generate other small bits of information to the puzzle of the life of this pioneer.

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