STURKIE, AR (KAIT) – Residents in the town of Sturkie, located in Fulton County, may have to travel to Salem to get their mail. This may cause problems for the Amish population in the area.
Sturkie's post office is on the list of post office closings. Representative Lori Benedict who is a Sturkie resident, says traveling by buggy to Salem will be dangerous for both the buggy occupants and drivers over the narrow twisting roads.
Over the past two years, the Amish have been moving into the area and steadily developing a small community.
The post office is about 3 miles from the new community which is located in a valley.
The small community is the only Amish community in the state of Arkansas.
Vernon Borntreger a resident of the Amish community said the closing of post offices and new technology will be hard on the Amish.
"E-mails, internets, electronic like that. We don't do that so these post offices start closing it's going to hurt our way of communicating with our family and friends."
Borntreger says the only government agency they use is the post office and he says other rural Amish communities in the country are facing the same issues. Borntreger says one of the primary ways the Amish keep connected is through the use of circle letters.
Borntreger, "This letter comes around every three or four months.Well everybody writes a little letter, takes out their sheet, puts in a new one and sends it on. That's how they keep in touch with each other. " Borntreger went on with a low chuckle, "Our communication keeps getting slower and slower and slower you know. So looks like we'll be back to pony express riders before long."
The Sturkie Post office began around 1894. Originally it was in a store, now closed, right next to the present building built in 1992. The building serves around 40 boxes with another 40 on a route that goes from the town.
There is no direct rural delivery to the community itself. A box on the road near the Benedicts serves or if someone going to town, they bring back the mail for the community. If residents had to go to Salem it would take them about 40 minutes each way and force them to use a buggy on 62/412 a very busy highway.
The small store by the river in the community does a brisk mail out business. In fact to save owner Leroy Borntrager a trip, we took a load of packages into town. Borntrager says they sometimes get a UPS delivery but the road is so rough back into the area the trucks have a hard time making it. Borntrager says he makes a run into Sturkie a couple of times a week to get mail and packages and to ship out products.
Not only a breach of communication is at risk , but safety also could be an issue with Amish residents.
The buggies could be a hazard to driver and passengers and motorists on the narrow and curvy roads.
Benedict. "There's still a lot of people who don't realize that buggies travel the roads and are surprised when they see one."
Borntreger, "We run an orange flashing light and a strobe light. We do run lights and we run a SMV sign on the back."
Just last week an Amish teen was killed in Kentucky when his buggy was struck from behind. His buggy did not have lights being a smaller pony cart style similar to what the children drive to school each day.
Borntreger says he feels pretty secure on the roads around Sturkie.
"If you go back and look at all the buggy accidents that's happened over the years, probably 90 percent of them happen on a straight flat stretch of road. On a curvy hilly road like this people pay more attention driving on a road like this than they would on a flat stretch of road."
Borntreger says that the residents do go into Salem but not on a daily basis. They generally go in about once a month for bulk item supplies.
It's an unusual problem with no easy solution for this growing community.