Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Ed at 95

Well, Ed Swartzendruber really isn't older than dirt, but having been born in 1916, he is older than a lot of things in today's world, some of which are in a PowerPoint at the end of this post.  Not too many folks are 65, have a sibling who is 5 years older, and have two active parents who are 93 and 95 - so I am quite privileged to be such a person.  I am in Indiana at my parents home in Goshen, and today we had a lunchtime birthday celebration at EDDS Supplies in Shipshewana; EDDS is an agricultural fertilizer company that Ed founded along with a couple of other of his friends, most notably the late Ellsworth Fanning.  

After lunch, I asked Ed some questions about his younger years - here are some of the highlights:

Grandparents:  Solomon and Katie Swartzendruber Swartzendruber
                         Daniel and Lydia Hostetler Shetler

Parents:            Joseph and Emma Shetler Swartzendruber

Siblings:           Walter [deceased]
                        Omar [deceased]
                       {Edward Glen}
                        Bill [deceased]
                        Paul [deceased]

Ed was born at home on the farm near Bayport, Michigan.  One of his early memories of Grandma Swartzendruber was going up to her to find the mints that she would wrap up in her apron.  Most of the mints were white and it was very special to get pink one.  Another early memory is of Dan's barn - it had a funnel mounted in the corner with a drain through the wall to the outside - for peeing!  Ed attended Snell school for grades one through eight, and the Kilmanagh school for grades 9 and 10.  He walked to Snell and got a bike to ride to Kilmanagh.  Both schools were two rooms with 'outdoor plumbing.'  He likes to say that he was the top student in his class, and then adds that there were only four in his class.  He took grades 4 and 5 during one year, and thus when he had to quit school after the 10th grade, he was only 14.  The reason for quitting - Joe said "You need to be a farmer."  Ed has a real talent in mathematics and had dreams of perhaps being a physician, but a farmer he became.

Joe and Emma moved from Iowa to the Michigan Thumb as did Dan and Lydia and Solomon and Katie Sol was a Bishop and Dan was a Deacon at the Pigeon River Conservative Mennonite Church, but Ed and the family left that church when Ed was about 9 and joined the more 'liberal' Berne Mennonite Church.  One of the reasons was probably the tent revival meetings of S.G. Shetler who drew up a blackboard chart for the children to show who would be going to heaven and who would be going to hell.  And for the boys, the hell-bound were those who wore neckties, wore white socks, and had long hair, and for the girls it was short hair and sleeves that didn't cover your elbows that would buy you a ticket to eternal damnation.  At the urging of Joe, Ed joined the Berne church at 13, which he still believes is too young to make such a decision - a good Anabaptist perspective!

Ed and his brother worked mightily to make their 125 acre farm productive.  They raised wheat, oats, corn, beans, sugar beets and hay, and they had a pasture for the milk cows and steers, plus space for their hogs and chickens.  The garden would also produce potatoes, beans, and many other vittles.  After working hard on the farm, Ed went to work at the Maust Market as a butcher.  In 1939, Ed married Mary Aschliman, and they started the marriage journey that now is in its 73rd year.  Due to the onset of WWII, Ed left the butcher shop and returned to farming.

In 1943, Joe decided to leave the Thumb for Goshen.  He bought the Byler farm south of Goshen and a home north of Goshen, and Ed, Mary and 3-year-old Kay followed in 1944.  They drove a car and pulled a 4-wheeled farm wagon loaded with all of their belongings - slow going!  Eds bought a farm on US 33 southeast of Goshen, which is where I spent my first few years.  In 1950, they sold the farm, and Ed and some colleagues started EZ Gas.  We moved into New Paris, to a home that was owned by my mother's parents, Sam and Anna Plank Aschliman.  Soon thereafter, Ed bought Joe's Byler farm at CR 27 and 40, and would farm there for over 50 years.  

There are many more stories to tell, but they will have to wait for another time.  Here are some of the things that Ed is Older Than [a document prepared by Ed's grandson Douglas Aaron Swartzendruber - sorry DA - a lot of the graphics/text did not make the conversion].  An intact version can be found here.


Sick Sigma Sez said...

I always wondered what the funnel was for that I saw attached in the corner of the garage when I was at Edwamar's last year.

JDM said...


Phil L. said...

Guess the funnel in the garage proves you can take the farmer out of the barn, but you can't take the barn out of the farmer.

Steve Heller said...

I thought Ed was a butcher at one time.

Dr S said...

Cousin Steve - yes, Ed worked as a butcher for several years, and I added a sentence about it in the blog. Thanks.

Jaime said...

Happy b-day to Ed :) Noelle would be envious to hear that you're at the fair with her new love for mutton bustin'!

DT said...


This is terrific, I really enjoy reading life stories. You mentioned the names of Ed's siblings who are deceased, but didn't mention his parents or grandparents as having passed - are they still alive??? It is a real special blessing to have your parents with you this long and for them to be good people in good health.


Bizzy Brain said...

Wonder if Emma Shetler is any relation to Bishop Shetler and Katie Shetler of Pennsylvannia? Bishop Shetler's niece, Katie, was murdered by husband Ed Gingrich in 1993, the only Amish murder on record. He was insane at the time.

Dr S said...

Dennis - Ed's mom died in 1942 and I am not sure of the exact year of Joe's passing, but it was sometime during the late 70's.

BB - probably not a close relative. I remember the incident.

Steve Heller said...

I also remember Ed's stint as one of the Menno Singers, I guess Goshen's answer to the Four Freshman. If memory serves me correctly, they put out a 78 rpm record or album with the group's picture on the cover. In fact, I may have that record stored away somewhere.

Dr S said...

Primo - yes Ed was Menno Singer once upon a time. I may write another segment about Ed, post arrival in Indiana in the 40's. Ed and Aunt Carolyn recently told a story about the Menno Singers - Walt Stutzman was a long-time Director, and he was a very precise and in-control leader. He was also fond of playing practical jokes. Aunt Carolyn was the accompanist for many concerts, and at one performances, the choir and Carolyn decided to get some pay-back on Walt. They decided that at the opening number, when Walt wound up and hit the command to begin, they would all just remain silent. Then, he vigorously counted out a second time, with a more emphatic "hit-it" and again nothing. At that time he realized that he had been had, and the laughter went on for some time.