The first Amish settlements were in Berks County Pennsylvania. The land there was highly suited to farming. During the French and Indian wars their homes were disturbed by raiders and many Amish found safe haven in Lancaster County, PA.
Disputes among the people on the interpretation of the Ordnung caused many families to leave the PA communities and settle in places like Iowa and Missouri. The Ordnung is the oral code on how an Amish person was to live and conduct themselves. Further Amish settlements would crop up around the heartland from European immigrants. Today Holmes County Ohio, Lancaster County Pa and Lagrange Indiana host the largest populations of Amish.
Population, land shortage and Ordnung issues have resulted in Amish settlements spreading into 25 states and Canada. The most recognized Amish are the Old Order Amish who have compromised the least with the world at large.
Many people refer to the Amish as Pennsylvania Dutch but they are actually of Swiss-German descent. Dutch came about by the misspelling of Deutsch, which is a word for the German language. This language is still spoken in many Old Order Amish communities. Amish communities in Pennsylvania are largest in Lancaster County with the oldest settlement in the United States being in the southeast. This is a beautiful county filled with covered bridges and old German architecture. The gorgeous Susquehanna River meanders through the landscape and under the many covered bridges. As far as the eye can see there are lush farmlands and quiet back roads beckoning the visitor with promises of peace and tranquility.
Visit the area’s many museums and historical sites like the oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in the country, as well as the farm and hardware store in Witness, a Harrison Ford movie. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the local lore by traveling by bus, car, horse-drawn buggy or even a hot air balloon. The food is amazing and there are antiques, furniture, quilts and dozens of other Amish made articles to choose from.
Elkhart and Lagrange County are home to the Indiana Amish communities. You can learn a great deal about the Amish and Mennonite religion and culture by visiting the Menno-Hof, an information center.
Better yet, take a trip to Amish Acres Historic Farm and Heritage Resort. When you finally get to town, there are farmers markets and village shops for your shopping pleasure. Flea markets, auctions, theaters and restaurants are all a great part of any trip to Amish country. Here you can also take horse and buggy trips that will take you to Amish style inns and farmstead shops. No matter how you experience this extraordinary life, do not miss a backcountry tour that will absolutely enthrall you.
In central Ohio, you will find several thriving Amish communities around Holmes County. Get off the main interstate and enjoy a trip to the historic towns of Millersburg, Berlin and Walnut Creek. There are shops where you can find all kinds of Amish fare. Things like handmade quilts, cheese, furniture, antiques and the best food on the planet. Get back to the old way of life by touring scenic farms and quaint homes of the Amish people. Three great places to visit are The Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, Schrock’s Amish Farm and Village or Yoder’s Amish Home. The last is an Amish farmstead restored by a couple with close Amish ties. The farm was set up as an educational avenue for outsiders. All this can be seen by buggy, balloon or on a horse.
By: Leon Tuberman