BELSANO - Amish families quietly packed their buggies to leave Monday, while Cambria County sheriff's deputies carried out a judge's order to lock up their homes.
At country homes in Blacklick and Barr townships, members of two Amish families - the Swartzentrubers and Millers - watched as deputies arrived to padlock their houses, storage areas and outhouses.
The order came down Friday when Judge Norman A. Krumenacker found both in contempt for failing to bring their homes and privy sewage systems into compliance.
Mirror photo by David Hurst
Members of the Amish Swartzentruber family leave their Barr Township property Monday as deputies secured locks on buildings on their property. Cambria County Judge Norman A. Krumenacker found the Swartzentruber and Miller families in contempt for failing to bring their homes and privy sewage systems into compliance, resulting in county deputies installing padlocks on their houses, storage areas and outhouses Monday.
Mirror photo by David Hurst
Cambria County deputies John Packer (left) and Jake Kehn install padlocks on a building Monday on the Swartzentruber property in Barr Township.
"We can't understand how anyone has the right to do this to us," said one Amish man, one of dozens at the Joely A. Swartzentruber's Barr Township home.
On both properties, many fellow Amish stood quietly while their small children - some of them teary-eyed - looked on as deputies got to work.
"We're following an order," Deputy Jake Kehn told the crowd, holding the court order. "We're doing what we're told."
Kehn told crowds at both homes that the barns would remain open until 1 p.m. today to allow the group to remove livestock. After making a phone call to the courthouse, he said the Amish also would be allowed to put their animals on fields and pasture behind them.
Still, as locks were secured, Swartzentruber said he didn't know where his family would go Monday.
His wife and three small children likely would try to find room with other Amish, he said.
"Where do they expect us to go?" asked Susan Miller, suggesting her family would try to do the same after deputies arrived at her family's Blacklick Township home about noon.
Krumenacker ordered the lockouts Friday after the families didn't follow an order to bring their outhouses into compliance, among other issues, saying the locks will come off if the families make necessary changes.
With sewage violations outstanding, the decision came after earlier attempts to work out a compromise using simple, acceptable sewage storage and treatment methods fizzled.
The judge cited public health concerns many times, urging the Amish to fix the issues. The families said such changes conflicted with their religious beliefs and the ways their ancestors followed.
Friends who arrived to show support indicated they were trying to find the families legal aid, something they have not obtained since another case - the school outhouse issue - ended with sect elder Andy Swartzentruber jailed for failing to make upgrades.
"It's just a sad situation," said Ted Figura of East Taylor Township, who said he knew many of the sect's members for 12 years.
He and an Amish man pointed to 2008 county building permits for the barns, wondering how they could ever be locked up if they are legal.
"You don't own anything in this world these days," he added.
Wilbur Kelly, another longtime friend of the sect, was even more upset, saying the group keeps to itself.
"There's not even enough of them around to affect anything," said Kelly, a Northern Cambria councilman, after arriving at Miller's Blacklick Township home.
Behind him, the Amish stood quietly, making small talk with the deputies while they finished their work.
Miller offered cookies to them and surrounding onlookers.
Others kept to themselves or kept busy with their tasks, sweeping porches and moving belongings.
They also appeared to continue making use of their makeshift outhouses until deputies locked them up.
"We're not angry," one Amish man told deputies outside Swartzentruber's home. "We understand [they] have a job to do. We just can't understand why."
Mirror Staff Writer David Hurst is at 946-7457.