I’m sure most of you know that Lancaster is home to a large population of the Old Order Amish. What you may not realize is that there is also a very large population of Mennonites here as well. They are both of the Protestant faith and they share other commonalities as well. They share a love for our Lord, desire a simpler way of living and are some of the most friendly, kind and sincere people that you may ever meet.
Here are a few interesting facts about the Amish……
- Led by Jakob Ammann, the Amish broke from the Mennonite faith in 1693 and settled in Lancaster County in 1740. They were strictly farmers at that time, but due to the unavailability of land, many are now carpenters, shed builders, dairy, toy makers and factory workers. The women maintain the home and are quilters and gardeners, canning their produce. Their homesteads are meticulously groomed with beautiful flower beds.
- While known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch (Duesch), the Amish are actually of German descent.
- Their mode of transportation is horse and buggy. A typical rig may cost up to $18,000! $10-13 K for the buggy, $4-5 K for the horse and $1K for the harness. Many buggy horses may once have been harness racers. Belgian horses are used in the fields and have also been cross bred with donkeys, as mules are very strong and work until they lay down!
- The Amish pay taxes but do not pay into or receive Social Security benefits – they take care of their own.
- Because their education ends after 8th grade, they use “English” professionals, such as doctors and lawyers.
- The Amish do not use electricity or have public plumbing and sewer. They believe these “tie them” to the outside world so they have found other ways to enjoy modern conveniences through generators, propane, windmills, wells, septic systems, batteries and solar panels. Electricity specifically would enable outside influence which might bring ungodliness into their homes such as computers and telephones. They are allowed to use telephones only if they run a business. Sewing machines are run by battery and clothes are washed by a generator powered wringer washing machine.
- You can tell an Amish home from an “English” home by the green shades that hang in the windows.
- The children go to one room schools through 8th grade when their education comes to an end. Lack of education may in part be the reason why 85% of the Amish youth choose to remain in the Amish faith following Rumspringa – a time when teenagers are encouraged to experience “the world” to be sure they want to remain Amish.
- The Pennsylvania Amish do not ride bicycles. Instead they ride “scooters” (see pics) which is the main means that children get to school unless they prefer to walk.
- The men are clean shaven until they marry – then they grow beards which remain even if their wife passes. By the way, the straw hats are for work days and the black felt hats are reserved for Sundays and funerals.
- The men have beards, but no mustache – the reason is historically the Prussian soldiers, who ALL had mustaches, would persecute the Amish and they do not want to have any connection to that time.
- The women wear a white overgarment (apron) for their wedding. That garment is tucked away in a cedar chest until it is worn again – at their funeral.
- The typical age for marrying is late teens to mid twenties. On average, 7 children are born to a family.
- There are no church buildings. Services are held in homes in a “gathering room”. Rotation to host is about once a year. The services are 3 hours long and a light lunch is served afterward. A typical Amish hymn can last 20 minutes and have 30+ verses.
- The Amish grow tobacco and smoke cigars.
- There are 350,000 Amish in 31 states, 40,000 in Lancaster County and 39,000 in Ohio. Their population DOUBLES every 20 years.
When it is determined that elderly parents should no longer live alone, one of the children takes them in to live with them. The parents generally sell the homestead to that child, then an addition is built for the parents. It is typical to see this addition, generally smaller than the original building, on many of the Amish homes. Usually, the addition is wood whereas the original home is brick or stone. Sometimes, the parents addition is built as a separate home. The first photo is a good example – you see the smaller home to the left. (Hope my kids are reading this!)
Here are a few other really cute homes we saw….
In particular, I love the Amish children! They are adorable in their straw hats and colorful dresses. They are both shy and outgoing all at the same time! Along with the children, you will see a couple of pictures of their one room school houses – written on the door of the last picture, “Have a Blessed Summer!
The Amish people are very talented – they respect the land and grow marvelous flowers, vegetables, grain and farm crops, mainly corn, soy beans, alfalfa and tobacco. The women make delicious food including many canned and baked goods. Another talent of the women is quilting. I’m a quilter and this area is a dream come true. I did a shop hop today, getting through 9-10 quilt shops in about 5 hours time! I only got to a portion of the shops available. Many are just a mile or two from the next and are located out on the farms. I found some fabrics that I haven’t seen in any other stores – it was quite the treasure hunt!
Gardening is another passion shared by the Amish. The large vegetable gardens are surrounded by beautiful flower beds. It is so fun to see the colors and they are always weed free and so well manicured.
You never know what you may find around the next bend in the road. It is so fun to see all the little sheds with their wares for sell! I saw signs selling produce, flowers, goats, kittens, fire wood, crafts, root beer, puppies and honey, to name a few. One thing they all had in common was ‘no sales on Sunday” written along the bottom of the sign. I bought a beautiful bouquet of fresh cut flowers for $3.50! Paying is on the honor system – you leave your money in a box. By the way….shoefly pie is a sticky concoction of brown sugar, molasses, and a little flour. It is topped with a crumble. Howie tried the pie and I tried the homemade root beer – neither one made our top 10 list! Oh, well!
Needless to say, we’ve all enjoyed some good Amish cooking while here. By far, Dienners Restaurant is our favorite. This is a buffet style restaurant and they have the best food at a reasonable cost – $14/adult plus drink. You can enjoy selections from soup, salad bar, entrees and sides as well as dessert. I LOVE browned buttered noodles and Dienners is the BEST! Make sure to make this a stop when in Lancaster County.
The countryside is dotted with Amish cemeteries – since they have no churches, a cemetery is randomly placed. You can tell an Amish cemetery from a Mennonite one because there is no church and the headstones are generally small and similar in shape and size. An interesting note is the persons name is on the stone along with their age in years, months, and days. There are no “family plots” as they bury in the back and methodically make their way forward. Families are in the same cemetery, just not in the same plot. As you can see, the further from the fence line, the more recent the graves.
Once again, Marj and I enjoyed time in multiple antique and gift shops. We went to The Green Dragon, a giant antique, produce, and flea market held every Friday. Check out this beautiful produce – Magazine worthy! Another day was spent in Adamstown, known as the “Antique Capital of the World” with more than 5,000 antique dealers. We found some “treasures” to take home – (when’s the last time you played “Cootie”??) The biggest problem is finding space in our RV’s to store our treasures!
Hopefully, you can see the beauty of this part of our country. Lancaster County is one of my all time favorite areas to visit. Being among these humble and kind people regenerates your hope for mankind. Here we are leaving Lancaster County….I love this photo!
Even though we have departed from Lancaster County, I take comfort in knowing that I have my own Amish guy to take along with me!!!
Next stop? Delaware! HAPPY TRAILS!