Almost anyone who lives along the east coast has of heard of the famed Amish, people who lead extremely simple lives without media, cars, fancy clothes, jewelry or electric. To many people, it seems strange and weird, but to the Amish people living in these communities it is a simple way of living without most of the world’s distractions.
Every year hundreds of tourist visit Lancaster to enjoy the beautiful farmlands, ride a buggy, buy homemade crafts & fresh grown food and lots more, but few know the story of how this close-knit community came to be.
The Amish legacy dates back to the Reformation in Europe during the 16th century, when the Anabaptist movement help found 2 “plain” communities; The Amish, The Mennonites, these 2 groups started out as one group but then later split apart.
The Anabaptists believed, contrary to most traditional beliefs, that baptism should occur when an adult makes a personal decision to follow their faith, instead of when a child is born as was the tradition of most churches of the time. As you can imagine this did not set very nicely with major religious groups, who at the time basically ran the government. Because of their beliefs, many Anabaptists were charged as heretics and put to death, others fled to the farmlands of Switzerland and southern Germany, it was there were the Amish tradition of farming and craftsmanship began, as well as holding worship services in homes instead of a church building, those traditions still stand in the Amish community to this day.
Up until the late 16oo’s the Amish were a part of the Mennonite church, until 1693 when a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the church over some disputes over “shunning”, those who followed him were nicknamed the “Amish.”
In the early 1700’s many Amish and Mennonites came to Pennsylvania, partly because of William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” which involved religious tolerance and freedom to worship God without the restrictions of the government. The first mentionable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County sometime around the 1720’s and 1730’s.
Today there are Amish communities in over 23 states and even some of Canada. The 2nd largest Amish settlement is in and around Lancaster County, the largest is in Ohio.
And that is a brief history of the Amish of Lancaster County, we will be posting more about the Amish way of life and their beliefs in the future, so check back to our blog often to learn more.
- Marilyn Stoltzfus,
Daughter of R&G Services founder