Pike County MO


A couple of weeks ago I made a day trip to St Louis. Each such trip always leads me through Pike County, Missouri and the place of my childhood. It seems that the new, four-lane Avenue of the Saints somehow can’t bypass the flood of memories which that area of the world holds for me. One of those memories resides firmly at Peno Creek, north of Bowling Green.


Our family had been invited to join some area Pentecostals at a baptism service. It was perhaps my first non-Amish baptism service. Peno Creek, just west of highway 61, flows between a limestone cliff on the north and a farmer’s field on the south. In this setting, we gather on the banks and the minister leads the candidates into the river. Standing out there in the water the minister gives the charge: Waving his hand toward the rock face at his one hand and the corn field at his other; he admonishes those he is about to baptize to maintain a “faith as strong as a rock and as fruitful as a cornfield.”


The imagery of that day engrained itself deeply into my young mind. I think about that sermonette every time I attend a baptism service. Yes; and every time I cross Peno Creek in Pike County, Missouri.


Jonas J. Borntreger

Easter 2008

One of the blogs that I read is by “Brother Maynard.” He has a weekly feature that I like. He calls it “Hymns of my Youth,” where he gives a short statement about why a hymn is important to him and then gives the words of the hymn. I am not sure if this will also be a weekly feature for me but would at least like to share one that meant a lot to me.

Shortly after our family left the Older Order Amish, I was introduced to “Open the wells of Salvation.” It is one of more than 2000 hymns written by Elisha Hoffman; it is an earnest prayer of dedication and commitment, and is number 339 in my Church and Sunday School Hymnal that we used in the Mennonite Church in Hannibal, Missouri.

As an early adolescent, I memorized all the words and sang them lustily as I walked from place to place on our 66 acres in in Pike County Missouri. The words moved me deeply then; they still do today.

Open The Wells Of Salvation

Lord, I am fondly, earnestly longing
Into Thy holy likeness to grow;
Thirsting for more and deeper communion,
Yearning Thy love more fully to know.


Open the wells of grace and salvation,
Pour the rich streams deep into my heart;
Cleanse and refine my thought and affection,
Seal me and make me pure as Thou art.

Dead to the world would I be, O Father!
Dead unto sin, alive unto Thee;
Crucify all the earthly within me,
Emptied of sin and self may I be.


I would be Thine, and serve Thee forever,
Filled with Thy Spirit, lost in Thy love;
Come to my heart, Lord, come with anointing,
Showers of grace send down from above.


Elisha Albright Hoffman 1839-1929



Well, time marches on, and life is full of surprises. It’s now nineteen-fifty eight; ten years after we got to Missouri; and we are about to receive our biggest surprise of the decade. Pike County is about to issue us a notice of eviction. (more…)


What happens now? Where do we go from here? What is the proper thing to do for people who look very Amish, and yet aren’t? Where will we worship this Sunday? So many questions: So many new ideas: So many things to learn and consider. (more…)

The Chainsaw Story – Concluded


Just around the corner, southeast of our place, we had some non-Amish neighbors. An older couple; Earnest and Bertha Goodman: They were living on some kind of retirement income and Earnest would sometimes supplement their resources by coming around and saying “Hey Jakie, what can I do for you?” Dad would give him a little bit to help around the place and Earnest could go to town, take in a picture show, and buy a little “chewin tobakker.” (more…)



Having already mentioned the chainsaw story, the story of my past would not be complete without relating it here also.  It seems incredible to me how fast a “Land of Promise” can turn into a land of bitterness, pain and disillusionment. (more…)



The first three and a half years of my schooling were spent at an Amish school. Both of the schools I attended were more than three miles from where I lived. (more…)



Isolation and cheap land were both abundant in Pike County Missouri when the Amish established yet another community there in the late forties. We were among the first to arrive and were joined at approximately the same time by Mom’s brother Moses Schrock, Dad’s sister Anna Hochstetler, Dad’s cousin Fannie B. Borntreger, along with their families, and quite a few others of our relatives and acquaintances. (more…)