Edward D. Gingerich: The Only Amish Man Convicted of Murder
In March of 1987, Ed's family constructed a one-story house for Katie and Ed. The home was intended to be a temporary residence until Katie would begin to bear children. This did not take long and, shortly after moving into their new home, Katie became pregnant. Ed was not exactly pleased with the news, however he did express hope that the child would be a boy.
On September 20, 1987, a neighbor transported Ed and Katie to a birthing clinic1 in the tiny village of Little Cooley. Following a brief labor, Katie gave birth to a seven-pound baby boy. The child was named Dannie E. after Ed's father. Katie remained at the clinic overnight and returned home with the child the following morning. Katie's younger sisters stayed with her for the first few weeks to help care for Ed and the child.
It did not take long for Ed to find out how much work being a father entailed. He disliked the demands that accompanied a new born and began spending less and less time at home. Even though the mill closed at five, Ed would seldom come home before 11 o'clock at night.
During the summer of 1988, Ed constructed a machine shop next to the sawmill and spent most of the summer buying motors and mechanical parts. Katie soon began to wonder if there was something wrong with her husband. Ed seldom spoke to her, ignored their child, and came and went as he pleased. Regardless of his behavior, Amish wives stick by their husbands and Katie wasn't about to give up.
By July of 1988, changes in Ed's behavior became even more apparent. He seldom ate, began losing weight, and complained of recurrent dizzy spells. Ed began coming home in the afternoons and would spend hours behind their closed bedroom door sleeping. Katie began to wonder if Ed was seriously ill and was concerned about his depressed and exhausted appearance. Many elders felt that Ed was simply faking illness to get out of work and dismissed the possibility of an illness, albeit mental or physical.
In August of 1988, Katie was nearing her wits' end with Ed, and his apparent problems. Something had to be done and Ed desperately needed help. Katie's parents suggested a medical doctor in a nearby town, however Katie was not interested1; she had already made an appointment with Dr. Merritt W. Terrell, a chiropractor located just 15 miles south in the town of Cambridge Springs.
Dr. Merritt W. Terrell's office was nothing more than a tiny one-story house, marked only with a small sign that read 'Drugless Therapy.' While Doc Terrell was deemed a fast-talking folk doctor by most English, he was considered a healer by the Amish and treated hundreds of Amish patients from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ontario. At first glance, Doc Terrell appeared to be a 'Barnum and Bailey' leftover to many that met him. The 66-year-old doctor stood 5 feet 5 inches in his cowboy boots, sported close-cropped gray hair on top of his square head, had piercing blue eyes, and often times wore a large cowboy hat. He never wore a coat or tie and was undistinguishable from his patients at first glance. The Amish appreciated Doc Terrell's simple, nonscientific methods, and were grateful that he did not subject them to x-rays, blood tests, or drugs as most English doctors do2.
Ed and Katie entered Doc Terrell's office through what had at one time been the front door to a residence. The former living room had been converted into a waiting room and a receptionist, behind a tiny desk in what used to be a hallway, greeted them as they entered. The receptionist handed Ed a slip of paper, on which he was instructed to write his name, date of birth, address, and symptoms. After a brief wait, Ed was directed down a hallway to an examination room. The only piece of furniture in the room was a large leather lounge chair, where Ed was instructed to sit. As Ed sat down in the chair, Doc Terrell appeared from behind a curtain and fed Ed's slip of paper into a small instrument the size of a fax machine. The machine was somehow supposed to determine Ed's illness by scanning his handwriting. After the paper was fed through the machine, a series of numbers and codes were displayed, which Doc Terrell interpreted for diagnosis and treatment. In Ed's case the machine revealed that he needed a toe pulling and a foot rub. Following the treatment, Ed walked back into the reception area where he paid $25 for his visit, was given a jar of blackstrap molasses for purifying his blood, and sent on his way-- supposedly cured.
1. Most Amish use either a local birthing clinic-- built and run by and for the Amish, or local hospitals. Some do however still have midwives who deliver at home.
2. While most Amish groups do not oppose modern medicine, their readiness to seek health services varies from family to family. Nothing in the Amish understanding of the Bible forbids them from using modern medical services, including surgery, hospitalization, dental work, etc. They do believe, however, that good health, both physical and mental, is a gift from God, and medical doctors are a last resort.