NEWMARKET, MD. -- Amishman Enos Hertzler's farm went on the auction block yesterday, and with it went a slice of Southern Maryland life.
Forced out by the high price of land and government fees they say make it impossible to maintain their simple and pastoral way of life, several Amish families are heading for regions as remote and sparsely settled as this once was -- to a valley almost surrounded by national forest in Southwestern Virginia, and to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York.
Their relatives came here from Pennsylvania half a century ago -- when there were few paved roads, no commuters and no suburban subdivisions and shopping strips to cramp their style in the rolling countryside along the Charles-St. Mary's county line, 40 miles southeast of Washington.
"Here to Washington: red lights, right lights, coming right down to me," said Hertzler, whose 33 acres of farmland brought $107,000 yesterday, about $3,242 an acre, from Daniel Clark, of Leonardtown. The farm is about a mile off heavily traveled Route 5, a major commuter road, and abuts Route 6, newly widened with paved shoulders.
"This was a horse trail, a crooked little road," said Hertzler, 38. "They made a highway out of it. Now, everything goes by 60-70 miles an hour. It's no place for a horse and buggy."
Nor, apparently, for many of the homespun, low-tech items auctioned here yesterday in Hertzler's front yard. Five boxes of jars were sold for a total of $1. A bush ax brought $9. A box of fabric remnants sold for $1. A kerosene lantern, box of finishing nails and old oil can went for $3.
"Don't let history pass you by," auctioner Rodney Thompson urged the 100 or so non-Amish who clustered about, but many did. "We're always sad to see our friends move away," added Thompson, who is a St. Mary's commissioner. "We feel like the community will be the loser, but we wish them well."
Many of the Amish who aren't moving from Southern Maryland also were at yesterday's auction: men with long, flowing beards, broad-brimmed straw hats and plain, dark clothes, and women in black bonnets and ankle-length dresses. Cars and pickup trucks lined Route 6, while 30-some buggies were parked behind Hertzler's barn.
Over the years, the area's Amish community, whose members speak a German dialect among themselves, has grown to about 110 families, but that number has begun to erode in the last year.
One family left last spring and two more in August. Early next year, Hertzler and three other families will move north to Cayuga County, N.Y., where he has bought a 240-acre dairy farm, and three more families are preparing to move to a 480-acre farm they are acquiring in bucolic Burkes Garden, a valley in the Appalachian mountains of Tazewell County, Va.
When they move, Hertzler said, their buggies and other belongings will be loaded onto tractor-trailers. The 25 or so people will ride in hired vans.
The Amish who are moving have chosen locales where farmland sells for $1,000 an acre, according to officials. That makes it cheap enough for them to buy tracts large enough to subdivide later, so their sons can continue the farming tradition.
In addition to high land prices, inflated by metropolitan growth pressures here, are an array of new fees designed to inhibit growth or at least make those who build pay for it.
An "impact fee" of $3,500 in Charles County, $2,000 in St. Mary's, is assessed for each house built -- a fee that must be paid by Amish farmers as well as developers.
"Then you ain't bought no building permit yet," said Hertzler, listing a variety of fees adding up to $20,000 "before building a house."
If their problems mirror those of other farmers, the Amish aren't interested in government programs that would pay them to give up their development rights.
"We don't want any government handouts," Hertzler said. "We'd rather just go to where it's peaceful and they still got rural country."
Which is what Hertzler's people did half a century ago, moving from Lancaster County, Pa., in time for the 1940 spring planting.
They came to escape the encroachments of outsiders, as well as Pennsylvania's stringent school laws requiring attendance beyond age 14.
"The trouble with St. Mary's is it's an awful nice place to live and too many people's finding it out," said Hertzler, who sells produce and pork products from a roadside stand in front of his farm.
The population of St. Mary's grew 35 percent in the 1980s, to 80,695, while Charles grew by 42 percent, to 102,000. Meanwhile, the population of Tazewell County, Va., declined 10.5 percent in the 1980s; the county has an average of 89 people per square mile, compared with 216 in St. Mary's and 225 in Charles.
The flip side of Southern Maryland's growth is that those Amish remaining are turning increasingly away from farming to shop work. There are, within this close-knit community, six cabinet shops, two sawmills, one modular home builder and two mini-barn businesses.
What growth means for David Hertzler, 41, who builds mini-barns and storage sheds for the newcomers, is not pain but "prosperity," he said. He's the first in his immediate family not to farm, and he has no plans to move.
"I see developments going up here," he said. "I guess that's what this part of the country's made for. I take a lot of sheds into the new homes."
Said Urie Yoder, 59, another Amishman who came here as a young boy and now scoffs at the new migrants, "You have to get with the changing times. You live for today, you don't want to live for tomorrow, every day."