The History of the Amish and Their Unique Way of Life
Amish Horse and Buggy. Source: (exploreminnesota.com)
The Amish people and their way of life may seem to be a bit too strict, particularly with modern society today; but the history and culture of the Amish is really quite fascinating. The simplicity of their ways actually leads to less stressful lives than those who live in a fast-paced society that requires so much time and attention. An example of the slow pace of the Amish is that their only means of transportation is the horse and buggy; therefore, there is no getting in a hurry to be someplace.
Origin of the Amish
The Amish go back as far as the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation. There was a group of craftsmen and students in Switzerland who grew weary of the long drawn out progress of reform. They believed that the Christian way of life was completely based on the Bible and that there should be a separation between church and state. During that time, church and state authorities considered this belief as a threat and were determined to be rid of them which is when the persecution of the Amish began. Many of them perished because of their non-violent belief system.
Around 1535, an ex-Catholic priest named Menno Simons became a leader of what was known as the Swiss Brethren church and stood for nonviolence and separation from the world. His followers became known as the Mennonites. Persecution caused them to flee into the mountains where they learned how to farm, and after the Thirty Years' War in Europe had ended in 1648, there was much devastation with very little population left. For that reason, the services of the Mennonites were sought after because of their reputation for being amazing farmers. In exchange for their services, they were promised the freedom to practice their religion. They began settling in the area called the Palatine as well as in the Alsace region of France.
Another important person in Amish history rose up named Jakob Ammann. He had some differing views from the Mennonites and believed that they were not following worldly separation or being strict enough in their punishment for non-compliance. He felt like the practice of “shunning” was not being followed properly which was where the entire community was not to speak to or have any contact with the person who was being punished. Ironically, these nonviolent people got into such a heated debate over the issues that there was a split with half of them going with the Mennonites and the other half going with Ammann who became the Old Order Amish.
Holmes County was the second most popular place the Amish began settling in after coming to America.
Arrival in America
Eventually, the Amish sought refuge in America in order to be able to freely practice their religion. The first known group to arrive in America and settle in Lancaster, Pennsylvania came in on a ship called the Charming Nancy on October 8, 1737. Then they began moving more westward toward Ohio. As more arrived in America, the farmland became more scarce so they began migrating toward other states such as Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and some even went to New York and Canada.
The Amish Traditions
The Amish beliefs do not allow them to wear modern clothing, hold public office, or own any type of modern conveniences such as electricity or technology. The main reason for this is because they are to remain humble and not allow anything in their lives that could be considered cause for pride.
Even though the strictness of this belief system would appear to be a negative aspect, there is actually a positive side. The Amish community is a close-knit community who stick together helping one another as a large family. There is no jealousy since they all have basically the same possessions. When a tragedy takes place such as a house fire, the whole community comes to help rebuild with their tools, lumber, and supplies.
The schools mainly taught the children basics like reading and writing since they were not preparing for work outside the community. Work skills were taught by the parents in the fields or shops. Religion was not even taught in the schools because that was left up to the parents at home and they abided by the separation of church and state. Religion was essentially taught through their everyday lifestyle as well as the church services that they held in homes on Sundays rather than church buildings.
Most, if not all, of their tools and supplies, are handmade and maintained themselves within the Amish community. The only time they usually interact with the non-Amish community is when they buy and sell their homemade crafts. Fathers pass down their skills to their sons whether it is farming or metalwork and mothers teach the daughters their skills beginning at an early age.
With the increase of the population and modern technology, they have had to compromise on certain things in order to maintain their Amish communities but the community members have to agree on what those are.
Taking a trip to an Amish community would be like taking a vacation back in time when there were no modern conveniences and life was more laid back than it is now.
If the lights go out and the cell towers go down, that would be the place to be since they already know how to live without those. A lot can be learned from the Amish.
Tags: 16 century, protestant reformation, the amish, history of the amish, nonviolent people, jakob ammann
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