Amish Historical Fiction – The Amish Schoolmarm Part 2


Hello, and welcome to the continuation of my story.  I pray that you have a blessed day!

You can read Part 1 here.

Hattie gasped as her heart rate quickened once more after just returning to its normal pace since losing Leah.    While she was counting on this job offer to give her Leah a buffer of protection, the thought of returning to an Amish community after many years spent away while supporting her mamm and schweschder had filled her heart with happiness.  After her mother’s death, Hattie’s inheritance was released, freeing her from the burden of working amongst the Englisch for a paycheck.  Now the simple security of room and board offered to her in Deer Springs was all Hattie was after.  

She turned, her wide eyes focused on the man whose warm correspondence had put her mind at ease about choosing to accept the teaching position at the Deer Springs Amish School.    His jaw looked grim, which besides pointing out the gravity of her predicament, indicated that this man was a bachelor.  Levi’s raven black hair poked out from under his straw hat with the slight hint of a curl, and his strong arms were a gut indication that the man wasn’t afraid of hard work She glanced at him curiously. Hattie hadn’t been around an Amish man in nearly six years, and she was surprised by the way standing next to Levi made her feel.

    “Pardon?  I thought all the details of my employment have already been decided.  I…I mean we, are counting on this position.”

“With all due respect, it’s clear that you weren’t truthful while filling out your application.  So I can’t be hiring you.”

Hattie’s eyes flashed as she thought back to the day when she had sat inside of her small rented room in downtown Bozeman, neatly answering every question which Levi had asked of her concerning her training by the light of her desk side lamp.  She had been nothing but truthful and accurate.  Hattie reached down and rubbed Leah’s back, who was currently leaning against her hip.  This surely wasn’t the way she had hoped to reunite with her schweschder after six years’ time.  “I’m sorry, but I disagree.  I need more details please.”

His eyes traveled over her body, making her toes curl.  “How can I hire a woman who isn’t Amish to teach at an Amish school haus?  The local families would be fit to be tied.”  He wrung his hands together, looking anxiously out of the window.  “If you need a place to stay for the night, you’re welcome to sleep in the small home behind this building.  But you’ll have to leave in the morning.  Now if you don’t mind, I must be on my way.”

Hattie shook her head fiercely while looking at her crimson frock.  Of course Levi had come to the conclusion that she wasn’t Amish.  What else would he think while she was wearing such clothing?  She had intended on changing into the Amish cape dress which she had carefully sewn only one week ago after finishing her last tutoring session with a troubled youth in Bozeman this afternoon.

Even after nearly one year, news of her mamm’s death was still fresh, and she needed to change into her proper Amish mourning clothing as quickly as possible.  There should have been plenty of time for her to change before catching the stage coach with Leah, but her sister’s unexpected disappearance had put a wrench in her intentions.  Hattie’s plans to make a gut first impression in Deer Springs flew out the window while searching for dear Leah.  She thought she had lost her.

“I understand your concern.”  Hattie motioned towards her dress.  “But I’m truly Amish.  Six years ago, I accepted a job in Bozeman as a teacher’s assistant after my daed passed away.  You see, he made many poor decisions, and left my mamm with a rather large debt to pay.  I saw a flyer advertising teaching assistant jobs at an ice cream shop in Lancaster, and decided that I would do whatever I could to help my family.”

She bit the inside of her lip, trying her best to fight back tears.  The debt would have been non-existent if it were not for her scoundrel of a father.  His trickery had caused her once-wealthy mamm to place the full of her dowry into a trust for her daughters which could only be payable to them upon her death.  The family had lived in near poverty due to her daed’s negligence. “My previous schoolmaster did not approve of my Amish clothing, so I was asked to dress like the local townspeople.  Otherwise, I would never be caught in such worldly attire.”

Levi rubbed his jaw, which was beginning to show a slight five o’clock shadow.  “Your story just doesn’t make sense.  Why would a girl travel across the county in order to support her family?  Besides, I thought you had real teaching experience.  A teacher’s assistant doesn’t count in my book.”

“I know my story seems odd.  And surely it is.  But I’m telling you the truth.  Shortly after arriving in Montana, I took my teacher’s exam and received my full certification.  I am more than qualified for this position.  I’ve been teaching a normal class as well as mentoring troubled youth in Bozeman for quite a while now.”  Her hands shook as she clutched them behind her back.  There was more to her story.  So much more.  But could this man be trusted?  His chocolate brown eyes shifted to the window as he impatiently tapped the toe of his work boot.  Hattie quickly decided that she didn’t know enough about Levi to tell him more of her story.  Leah’s safety depended on their whereabouts remaining unknown.

“Have you been baptized?”


“Well then, my decision stands.  Your connections outside of the Amish community are too strong, and I ask for you to be on your way shortly.”

Hattie stood her ground as Leah tightened her grip around her abdomen.  Levi was right about one thing.  Her relationship with the outside world was strong.  Stronger than this man would ever realize.  Hattie’s connection to the Englisch was in fact the root of her and Leah’s problems.  But she needed this job like she needed oxygen.  She couldn’t give up so easily.

“If you are certain about this, I will need to speak to the Bishop.”

Levi raised an eyebrow, a half smile exposing a dimple on his right cheek.  “Are you intending on going over my head?”

She tilted her chin defiantly.  “That’s exactly what I plan on doing.”

He huffed underneath his breath.  “I’m afraid you’ll be wasting your time.  Since I’m the schoolmaster, Bishop Graber will likely agree with me.”

Levi’s prediction might prove to be true, but Hattie knew she must try.  While she wasn’t willing to share confidential information with him, surely the Bishop would be trustworthy.  He was her only hope if she and Leah were to remain in Deer Springs.  They most certainly could not return to Lancaster.  She put her hand inside of the hidden pocket within her pleated skirt, and ran her fingers against the thin piece of paper which she had folded neatly before placing it by her side at the beginning of this warm Montana day.  She would need to share this bit of information after all.

Truth be told, there was much that she needed to share with Bishop Graber, and Hattie would do well to pick up her forgotten suitcase from the stage coach station before meeting with the man.  “With all due respect, I ask that you take me to the Bishop.  Immediately.  I must get this sorted out.”

Levi blew out a puff of air.  “And I must get back to my flock.  They are expecting supper shortly.”

“Are you planning to forego your duties as the schoolmaster in order to feed a few sheep?  I’m sure they won’t starve.”  Hattie regretted the words as soon as they flew through her lips.  In fact, she had much respect for the farmers who had not given up and moved their herds during the severe drought.  But fear of the unknown coupled with her empty stomach was causing Hattie to become overwhelmed.  She felt like she might snap.

Levi clenched his fists by his side.  “I own more than a ‘few’ sheep.  They are my responsibility.”

“As am I.”  She pushed a stray tendril of hair behind her ear, wishing that she had at least been conscience enough to wear her head covering on this day.  The two adults locked eyes, and Hattie continued to meet his glare for all it was worth until she felt a slight tug on her skirt.

“Hattie, I’m hungry.”  Leah’s voice wavered as she clutched her stomach in demonstration.  “I haven’t eaten since the train.”

She looked down at the child sympathetically, sorry that their reunion was going so poorly.  “Of course you are, dear.  We’ll find something to eat in just a few minutes.”  Hattie returned her gaze to Levi’s face, surprised by the flicker of concern which drifted across his eyes.

“Surely there is a woman in this church district who sells baked goods from her home.  Right?  Perhaps we can purchase a snack on our way to the Bishop’s home.  That is, after we pick up my valise from the stage coach drop off location.”  Hattie sucked in her breath, surprised at her gumption.  She had learned a thing or two since moving West.  One of her lessons was that woman, and not only men, needed a certain amount of strength to survive.  This lesson along with her faith in Gott had caused her to acclimate to her surroundings over the past six years.  Living alone in the frontier wasn’t for the faint of heart.


“I won’t take no for an answer.”

Levi sighed deeply, scuffing his toe across the wooden floorboard.  “All right.  Greta Miller sells baked goods from her home.  We’ll stop by on our way to Bishop Graber’s.”  He took long strides towards the entrance of the school haus, pausing momentarily to motion the Fishers to follow.  “Schnell.  We must be on our way.  If one of my sheep falls ill, I’m planning on holding you accountable.”

Hattie hid the smile which threatened to tug on her lips.  “Fair enough.  Come Leah, let’s make our way to Levi’s buggy.”

Leah grabbed Hattie’s hand and began to pull her to the door.  “Okay.  Hey, did you see the automobiles driving around Bozeman?  Do you think we’ll ever travel that way?”

“I suppose not.  We much prefer the simple life, ja?  There’s no need to travel around town any faster than a horse and buggy can carry us, right?”

“Right.  They did look exciting though, didn’t they?”

“That they did.”  Hattie patted her schweschder’s head, thankful that she seemed comfortable with her after a six year absence.  Why, she had just turned four when Hattie had traveled to Montana as a frightened sixteen-year-old, desperate to find a way to provide for her mamm and schweschder after her daed’s death.

Hattie didn’t realize she would never see her dear mother again after stepping on the train headed West.  Her absence shadowed her days.  Thankfully, Leah was fortunate enough to have never felt her father’s strong hand.  After his passing, Hattie thought that Leah would be safe forever.  Unfortunately, it appeared like the frail girl had taken after her mother.  And she had no idea that an even greater threat would someday loom over the horizon.

Hattie stifled a cough as she stepped outside, a hot wind blowing a puff of dust to her nostrils.  Instinctively, she covered Leah’s face while stepping towards the waiting buggy.  Hattie glanced across the parched valley, which was once covered with lush greenery.  The drought that began last year had changed things.  When she had first arrived in Montana, the promise of beginning a new life with a large tract of land was evident.  Now only the strong remained.

She looked curiously at Levi, who was propped up against his rig.  He was obviously very physically strong, while his simply being there held testament to the strength of his spirit.  He could surely be an ally if only he would believe her…

“Don’t forget your bag.”  Levi motioned towards the porch, pointing out what Hattie assumed was Leah’s belongings.

“I’ll be back in just a minute.”  Leah’s voice was soft as she quickly bounded back up the porch steps to retrieve her things.

Hattie continued towards Levi, while praying that her impromptu meeting with Bishop Graber would go well.  When she reached his side she gasped in surprise as he hoisted her into the buggy as if she weighed next to nothing.  Her heart rate quickened slightly as she felt a warm blush rise to her cheeks.

Danke for the help.”

His lips twitched.  “Don’t thank me.  You’ve given me no choice in the matter, remember?”

Hattie bit back the childish urge to stick out her tongue, and instead, tightened her lips in exasperation.  He had her there.  She breathed a quick prayer under her breath, asking the Lord for a measure of patience, kindness, and grace.  She scooted over, allowing Leah room once she returned to the buggy, carpet bag in hand.  While Hattie normally tried to exhibit the meekness that she was painstakingly taught as a kind, desperate times called for desperate measures.  She gazed at the faraway mountains, their tall peaks offering a welcome change to the otherwise bleak landscape.  Her heart began to pound when she began to think about what was really at stake if the Bishop turned them away as well.  Returning to Lancaster County would be disastrous to her Leah.

…to be continued.

Amish Historical Fiction – The Amish Schoolmarm Part 1

Hello, friends!  About one year ago I was a finalist in a Love Inspired writing contest.  My story didn’t make it to publication, but I thought I would begin sharing it here, piece by piece.  I had such fun writing it.  It is a Historical Amish Romance novel titled The Amish Schoolmarm.  The Amish way of life has always intrigued me.  I love their simple way of life and strong ties to home.  I’m sharing the first half of chapter one below.  I hope that you enjoy!

The Sovereign Lord is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19

Chapter 1

Deer Springs, Montana

August, 1920

An involuntary cough coursed through Levi Hilty’s lungs as dust from the forgotten bed sheet wafted through the small Amish school haus.  Giving it a final shake before folding it in two, his gaze resting momentarily on the solid, wooden desk which the cotton fabric had been protecting during the too-hot summer.  His guarded heart flinched.  Levi could almost envision Rhoda, his previously betrothed, sitting primly behind the piece of furniture, her smiling face tanned a golden bronze from the unforgiving Montana sun.  He felt his expression sour as he ran his fingers across the brim of his hat before crossing to the chalkboard which graced the full-length of the adjacent wall.

His worn hands reached down into a galvanized bucket brimming with suds, and he removed a cloth in order to begin washing the board clean.  After it had been thoroughly scrubbed, he turned to the window to check the time based on the sun’s position in the sparkling blue sky.  Levi winced once realizing the sun not only streamed through the thick panes of glass dotting the cabin, but through glaring cracks in the structure as well.  A deep sigh blew through his lips.  He would need to apply fresh chinking to the joints shortly, but it would have to wait for another day.  As the schoolmaster, he was expected to introduce the new schoolmarm to her classroom this very afternoon.

A frown filled Levi’s jaw when a soft rap sounded at the door.  While meeting the new schoolmarm was the last thing he wanted to do, it would be best to get the task behind him.  He plopped the rag into the bucket hastily, sending a spray of lukewarm water across the plank flooring.  Sighing, he wiped his hands across his plain gray pants before quickly striding to the door and swinging it open a bit too forcefully.

To his surprise, a waif of a girl stood meekly on the porch, gazing at him shyly with hollow eyes the color of spun caramel.  Her black mourning dress had seen better days, and the kapp perched on top of her head was darkened with soot.  He spied the worn carpet bag resting by her side in concern, wondering who this young girl might belong to.  She was surely new to the small Amish community of Deer Springs.

Levi cleared his throat while sinking down to the girl’s level.  She was small and lanky, and his heart went out to the young stranger who reminded him so much of himself at that age.  His brown eyes caught on hers.  “What can I help you with?”

The girl’s eyes widened in a mixture of fear and concern.  “I…I am looking for Hattie Fisher.  She’s the new schoolmarm.  The kind man that drove the stage coach told me I could find her here.”

Levi tried his best to keep his composure as he rose to his feet.  The new schoolmarm didn’t say anything about bringing an extra mouth to feed.  While the runt of a child surely wouldn’t eat a large supply of food, any amount was scarce in these parts.  “Ja, I’m planning on meeting Hattie any minute now.  Feel free to take a seat until she arrives.”

The girl didn’t hesitate, and after looking over the school room, she slid into a desk on the first row of the cabin.  Unsure of what to do next, Levi decided to get back to work cleaning the area.  While many questions swirled through his mind concerning the young girls’ identity, the disgruntled schoolmaster figured it would be best to ask Hattie Fisher for the facts herself.

As Levi wiped the desks clean of the dust which had accumulated over the dry summer, the young girl’s eyes began to droop.  In five seconds flat, her head and arms were draped across the desk, and a loud snore erupted from her mouth.  Raising an eyebrow, he continued tidying the room while wondering where the schoolmarm could be.  She wasn’t putting her best foot forward, and he couldn’t help but think that the young girl who was currently drooling across the hand-hewn wooden desk top had put quite a wrench in his plans for the day.

Levi’s stomach began to growl as he quietly stepped outside near dinnertime, while a sense of alarm began to fill his chest with worry for the new schoolmarm’s safety.  What could be keeping her?  His ears perked as a soft bleat sounded from his nearby pasture.  As a sheep farmer, he knew that his time at the school haus must draw to an end.  His flock would need to be tended to shortly, and he wasn’t one to leave them waiting.

He took his job seriously, never taking for granted how the passage of the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 had allowed him to purchase quite a large spread for near to nothing.  But what was he to do with the girl?  He removed his straw hat to scratch his head full of dark hair as a patch of red fabric caught his eye around the side of the school haus.

“Have you…have you seen a young Amish girl?  She’s ten years of age, and her hair is brown, much like my own.  She’s been traveling for days, and is liable to be quite the sight.”  A young woman of medium height dashed to the front of the school building before clutching her abdomen and leaning downward to catch her breath.  Perplexed, Levi studied the woman’s garment carefully.  The crimson frock was bunched and pleated, which stood in stark contrast to the Amish’s standard cape dresses he was used to.   The beige lace trim which accented the high neckline and sleeves mirrored the fashion of the modern world perfectly.

His gaze traveled to the woman’s face, which displayed piercing caramel eyes when she raised her chin after catching her breath.  Small tendrils of chestnut hair which had escaped from her loose bun curled around her face, drawing attention to the lift of her chin and rosy cheeks.  Levi’s chest clenched when her eyes met his, pressing on his sense of both uncertainty and compassion.

“Answer my question, please!  Have you seen my schweschder?”

With that, Levi quickly made the connection between the woman standing before him and the girl snoozing inside of the school room.  The surname and caramel eyes were a dead giveaway.  But why was the young Amish girl related to the very worldly woman standing before him?  Was this the new schoolmarm he had hired?  Instead of asking any of the questions at the front of his mind, Levi stepped aside and motioned for the woman to enter the school haus.  “Ja, I have.  A girl matching your description is waiting for you just inside.”

Ach, danke ever so much!” A faint citrus scent drifted to Levi’s nose as she rushed past him quickly, her skirt brushing against his pant leg in her haste.

Curiously, Levi turned away from the choking heat and rested his gaze back inside of the schoolroom.  With trepidation, the young woman approached the girl and gently touched her shoulder, shaking it slightly.  She awoke with a start, her back suddenly ridged while staring wide-eyed at the woman.

“Hattie?  Is that you?”

Ja dear girl, it surely is.”

With that, Leah squealed with delight and rushed into Hattie’s outstretched arms.  The two began to cry as the woman rocked her slightly while stroking the hair which had escaped from the girl’s kapp.  She brushed a stray piece behind her ear before pulling away and holding her at arm’s length.

“You gave me quite a fright.  We were supposed to meet at the Train Station in Bozeman hours ago.  What caused you to ride on the stage coach to Deer Springs without me?”

Leah shrugged slightly, her light brown eyes clouding over.  “I…I don’t know.  After so many days of traveling after Mamm’s death, I was confused, I guess.  I’m sorry.”

Hattie scooped the girl back into a hug, sighing deeply while her eyes squeezed shut in relief.  “That’s understandable, Leah.  The important thing is that we are together now.  I don’t believe that I’ve ever been as scared as I was this afternoon.”  She shuddered violently.  “My mind began to run away with imaginations of what might have happened to you.  After searching for hours the stage coach returned to the depot after its run to Missoula, and the kind driver let me know that he had just dropped off a young Amish girl in Deer Springs.”

“Jonathan Philpot?”  Leah’s eyes brightened at the thought.  “He sure was nice.  Much nicer than the people running the train.”

Hattie smiled.  “Ja, Jonathan Philpot.  I jumped on the coach and came here myself as quick as he could carry me.  I hope you weren’t too frightened.”

Levi leaned against the door frame, trying his best to understand the scenario unfolding before him.  He had obviously made a grave mistake hiring this woman sight unseen.  He had hoped a woman who fit the definition of an aging spinster would be gracing his presence this afternoon, and instead, a fancy young woman arrived in her place.

While the sisterly reunion was touching and he felt sorry for the young orphan, Levi couldn’t allow a woman who had most assuredly left the Amish faith teach the local kinder.  The school year was due to start in mere days, and he wasn’t sure what step to take next.  The families of Deer Springs were counting on him…and Hattie…to teach their children after Rhoda abruptly left before the school year officially ended six months ago.

The other girls in the community were either too young, or simply not interested in the position given the disproportionate amount of men to woman.  As soon as a girl reached courting age, she had her pick of at least a dozen suitors and was usually betrothed within one year’s time.   He had made a promise to the community that a qualified teacher was on her way, which was enough cause for several families skeptical of the harsh Montana climate to stay put.  But now?  He had no desire to repeat his folly by hiring a worldly teacher who was destined to leave when the going got tough.

Levi shook his head in embarrassment, ridged as his fence next door.  The few families which held the small Amish settlement together were likely to be on the first train heading East as soon as they caught sight of her.  Hattie’s letter stating that she was of Amish decent and had taught for six years had been quite convincing.  She had fooled him but gut.

Hattie and Leah jumped when Levi took a few tentative steps into the schoolroom.  Hattie stood to her full height and quickly wiped her eyes dry with an embroidered handkerchief.  After tucking it into a fold of her skirt, she pulled Leah to her side.  She smiled brightly at Levi, giving him her full attention.  He sucked in his breath as her face shined with a sense of gratitude.  Turning Hattie and Leah Fisher away wasn’t going to be easy.

“I take it that you are Levi Hilty, and that this is the Deer Springs School Haus?”  She looked around the room, drinking in her surroundings.  “Why, I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to starting my job here as the schoolmarm.  My Leah and I are ever so grateful to Gott for the opportunity.”

Levi frowned, confused at her use of the Deitsch along with a tone that he wasn’t used to hearing. She sounded…highly educated.  Her words were soft and delicate, in a very intriguing kind of way.  He licked his parched lips and took a step backwards.

“And I’m guessing you’re Hattie Fisher?”

Ja.  I surely am.”

Levi sucked in his breath, while noticing the pure kindness which radiated from Hattie’s smile.  “Well then, I’m afraid that we have a problem.  I can’t hire you to be the teacher in this school haus.”

   …to be continued next week.

Read Part 2 Here