|227,000 (Old Order Amish)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (notably Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana)
Canada (notably Ontario)
|Pennsylvania German, Swiss German, English|
The various Amish (pronounced /ˈɑːmɪʃ/, AH-mish) or Amish Mennonite church fellowships are Christian religious denominations that form a very traditional subgrouping of Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt modern convenience.
The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish. In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch. There are also Old Order Amish communities, especially in the American state of Indiana, where a dialect of Swiss German predominates. Over the years, there have been numerous divisions among the Amish churches. The 'Old Order' Amish, a conservative faction that withdrew from fellowship with the wider body of Amish in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs. As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish live in Canada and the United States. A new study, produced in 2008, suggests their numbers have increased to 227,000.
Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage, and once a person has affiliated with the church, she or he may only marry within the faith. Church districts average between 20 to 40 families and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member's home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons .
The rules of the church — the Ordnung — must be observed by every member. These rules cover most aspects of day-to-day living, and include prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Many Amish church members may not buy insurance or accept government assistance such as Social Security. As Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service. Members who do not conform to these expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned — a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church. During adolescence (rumspringa or "running around" in some communities), nonconforming behavior that would result in the shunning of an adult who had made the permanent commitment of baptism may meet with a degree of forbearance.
Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world. There is generally a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They typically operate their own one-room schools and discontinue formal education at grade eight. They value rural life, manual labor and humility. Due to intermarriage among this relatively small original population, some groups have increased incidences of certain inheritable conditions.
A lack of detailed record keeping among the Old Order Amish, along with other factors, makes it difficult to estimate the total size of their population. Rough estimates from various studies have placed their numbers at 125,000 in 1992, 166,000 in 2000, and 221,000 in 2008, for a growth rate of nearly 4% per year. From 1992 to 2008, population growth among the Amish in North America was 84%. During that time they established 184 new settlements and moved into six new states. In 2000, approximately 165,620 Old Order Amish resided in the United States, of which 73,609 were church members. The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an average of 6.8 children per family.
There are Old Order communities in 27 American states and the Canadian province of Ontario; Ohio has the largest population (55,000), followed by Pennsylvania (51,000) and Indiana (38,000). The largest Amish settlements are in Holmes County in central Ohio, Lancaster County in south-central Pennsylvania, and Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northeast Indiana. The largest concentration of Amish west of the Mississippi River is in Missouri, with other settlements in eastern Iowa, and Southeast Minnesota. Because of rapid population growth in Amish communities, new settlements are formed to obtain sufficient farmland. Other reasons for new settlements include locating in isolated areas that support their lifestyle, moving to areas with cultures conducive to their way of life, maintaining proximity to family or other Amish groups, and sometimes to resolve church or leadership conflicts.
The Amish largely share a Swiss-German ancestry. They meet the criteria of an ethnic group. However, they themselves generally use the term only for members of their faith community, and not as an ethnic designation. Those who choose to affiliate with the church, or young children raised in Amish homes, but too young to yet be church members, are considered to be Amish. Certain Mennonite churches have a high number of people who were formerly from Amish congregations. Although more Amish immigrated to America in the 19th century than during the 18th century, most of today's Amish descend from 18th century immigrants. The latter tended to emphasize tradition to a greater extent, and were perhaps more likely to maintain a separate Amish identity.
There are a number of Amish Mennonite church groups that had never in their history been associated with the Old Order Amish. The former Western Ontario Mennonite Conference (WOMC) was made up almost entirely of former Amish Mennonites who reunited with the Mennonite Church in Canada. Orland Gingerich's book, The Amish of Canada, devotes the vast majority of its pages not to the Beachy or Old Order Amish, but to congregations in the former WOMC.
The Amish Mennonite movement descends from the 16th century fellowship known as the Swiss Brethren. The Swiss Brethren were Anabaptists, and are often viewed as having been a part of a Radical Reformation. Anabaptist means "one who baptizes again"; a reference to those who had been baptized as infants, but later adopted a belief in "believer's baptism", and then let themselves again be baptized as adults. These Swiss Brethren trace their origination to Felix Manz (ca. 1498–1527) and Conrad Grebel (ca. 1498–1526), who broke from reformer Huldrych Zwingli.
The Amish movement takes its name from Jakob Ammann (c. 1656 —c. 1730), a Swiss Mennonite leader. Ammann believed Mennonites — peaceful Anabaptists of the Low Countries and Germany — were drifting away from the teachings of Menno Simons and the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith. Ammann favored stronger church discipline, including a more rigid application of shunning, the social exclusion of excommunicated members. Swiss Anabaptists, who were scattered by persecution throughout the Alsace and the Palatinate, never practiced strict shunning as had some lowland Anabaptists. Ammann insisted upon this practice, even to the point of expecting spouses to refuse to eat with each other, until the banned spouse repented. This type of strict literalism, on this issue, as well as others, brought about a division among the Mennonites of Southern Germany, the Alsace and Switzerland in 1693, and led to withdrawal of those who sided with Ammann.
Swiss Anabaptism developed, from this point, in two parallel streams. Those following Ammann became known as Amish or Amish Mennonite. The others eventually formed the basis of the Swiss Mennonite Conference. Because of this common heritage, Amish and Mennonites retain many similarities. Those who leave the Amish fold tend to join conservative Mennonite congregations.
Amish Mennonites began migrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century as part of a larger migration from the Palatinate and neighboring areas. This migration was a reaction to religious wars, poverty, and religious persecution on the Continent. The first Amish immigrants went to Berks County, Pennsylvania, but later moved, motivated by land issues and by security concerns tied to the French and Indian War. Many eventually settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other groups later settled in, or spread to Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maine, and Canada.
The Amish congregations remaining in Europe slowly merged with the Mennonites. The last Amish congregation to merge with the Mennonites was the Ixheim Amish congregation, which merged with the neighboring Mennonite Church in 1937. Some Mennonite congregations, including most in the Alsace, are descended directly from former Amish congregations.
Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not ultimately retain their Amish identity. The original major split that resulted in the loss of identity occurred in the 1860s. During that decade Dienerversammlungen (ministerial conferences) were held in Wayne County, Ohio, concerning how the Amish should deal with the pressures of modern society. The meetings themselves were a progressive idea; for bishops to assemble to discuss uniformity was an unprecedented notion in the Amish church. By the first several meetings, the more traditionally minded bishops agreed to boycott the conferences. The more progressive members, comprising approximately two thirds of the group, retained the name Amish Mennonite. Many of these eventually united with the Mennonite Church, and other Mennonite denominations, especially in the early 20th century. The more traditionally minded groups became known as the Old Order Amish.
The majority of Old Order Amish congregations do not have church buildings, but hold worship services in private homes. Thus they are sometimes called "House Amish." This practice is based on a verse from the New Testament: "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands…" (Acts 17:24). In addition, the early Anabaptists, from whom the Amish are descended, were religiously persecuted, and it may have been safer to pray in the privacy of a home.
Unlike evangelical, charismatic, and Baptist style church congregations whose membership is based on whoever visits, stays, and joins, the Amish congregations are based on the physical location of their residence. Contiguous properties are encircled with a congregation's physical boundary. Each congregation is made up of 25-30 neighboring farm or related families whose membership in the congregation in which their farm is located is the only congregation available for membership. Accordingly, each member is also a neighbor. There is no "church hopping" from church to church like modern Protestant churches, and relationships are assumed to be long-term. With long-term neighbor relationships as the norm, extending over time to include multiple generations as members, the implications have major impacts on relationships. Conflict resolution, gossip, grudges, neighborliness, all work to cement relationships vastly different than the socially mobile Protestant church culture. Congregations meet every other week for the entire Sunday at a member family's farm. Each member family rotates as host so that each year each member family serves as host. This practice conforms to the Biblical teaching to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. Congregations own common property in the form of tables, chairs, and wagons to transport them from farm to farm every other week. In interleaving weeks, time is available to visit a Sunday with family, neighbors and friends in and outside the congregation of their residence and membership.
Each congregation's leadership is made up with one of the members serving as bishop, one as deacon, and one as secretary. Each congregation's leadership, over time, differs from other congregations within enjoining districts in teaching, doctrine, protocol, dress, routines. Congregation leaders meet with other congregation leaders within the same district from time to time and compare needs, problems, teachings, etc.
Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity) — often translated as "submission" or "letting-be". Gelassenheit is perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward, to be self-promoting, or to assert oneself. The Amish's willingness to submit to the "Will of God", expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture. The Amish anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. Modern innovations like electricity might spark a competition for status goods, or photographs might cultivate personal vanity.
The Amish consider the Bible a trustworthy guide for living but do not quote it excessively. To do so would be considered a sinful showing of pride. Separation from the rest of society is based on being a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people"(1 Peter 2:9), not being "conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2), avoiding the "love [of] the world or the things in the world" (1 John 2:15) and the belief that "friendship with the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4).
Both out of concern for the effect of absence from the family life, and to minimize contact with outsiders, many Old Order Amish prefer to work at home. Increased prices of farmland and decreasing revenues for low-tech farming have forced many Amish to work away from the farm, particularly in construction and manufacturing, and, in those areas where there is a significant tourist trade, to engage in shopwork and crafts for profit. The Amish are ambivalent about both the consequences of this contact and the commoditization of their culture. The decorative arts play little role in authentic Amish life (though the prized Amish quilts are a genuine cultural inheritance, unlike hex signs), and are in fact regarded with suspicion, as a field where egotism and a display of vanity can easily develop.
Amish lifestyles vary between, and sometimes within, communities. These differences range from profound to minuscule. Some of the more conservative Beachy Amish congregations, which permit automobiles, may mandate that automobiles be painted black. In some communities, various Old Order groups may vary over the type of suspenders males are required to wear, if any, or how many pleats there should be in a bonnet, or if one should wear a bonnet at all. Groups in fellowship can intermarry and have communion with one another, an important consideration for avoiding problems that may result from genetically closed populations. Thus minor disagreements within communities, or within districts, over dairy equipment or telephones in workshops may or may not splinter churches or divide multiple communities.
Some of the strictest Old Order Amish groups are the Nebraska Amish ("White-top" Amish), Troyer Amish, and the Swartzendruber Amish. Most Old Order Amish people speak Pennsylvania German in the home, with the exception of several areas in the Midwest, where a variety of Swiss German may be used. In Beachy Amish settings, the use of English in church is the norm, but with some families continuing to use Pennsylvania German, or a variety of Swiss German, at home.
Members who break church rules may be called to confess before the congregation. Those who will not correct their behavior are excommunicated. Excommunicated members are shunned to shame the individual into returning to the church. Members may interact with and even help a shunned person, but may not accept anything — like a handshake, payment or automobile ride — directly from the wayward person. Some communities have split in the last century over how they apply the practice of shunning. This form of discipline is recommended by the bishop after a long process of working with the individual and must be unanimously approved by the congregation. Excommunicated members will be accepted back into the church if they return and confess their wrongdoing.
The Old Order Amish typically have worship services every second Sunday in private homes. A minority of Old Order congregations may have 'Sunday School' on the alternate Sundays. The typical district has 80 adults and 90 children under age 19. Worship begins with a short sermon by one of several preachers or the bishop of the church district, followed by scripture reading and prayer (this prayer is silent in some communities), then another, longer sermon. The service is interspersed with hymns sung without instrumental accompaniment or harmony. Many communities use an ancient hymnal known as the Ausbund. The hymns contained in the Ausbund were generally written in what is referred to as Early New High German, a predecessor to modern Standard German. Singing is usually very slow, and a single hymn may take 15 minutes or longer to finish. In Old Order Amish services, scripture is either read or recited from the German translation of Martin Luther. Worship is followed by lunch and socializing. Church services are conducted in a mixture of Standard German (or 'Bible Dutch') and Pennsylvania German. Amish ministers and deacons are selected by lot out of a group of men nominated by the congregation. They serve for life and have no formal training. Amish bishops are similarly chosen by lot from those selected as preachers.
The Old Order Amish do not work on Sunday, except to care for animals. Some congregations may forbid making purchases or exchanging money on Sundays. Also, within some congregations a motor vehicle and driver may not be hired on Sunday, except in an emergency.
Generally, the Amish hold communion in the spring and the autumn, and not necessarily during regular church services. Communion is only held open to those who have been baptized. As with regular services, the men and women sit separately. The ritual ends with members washing and drying each other's feet.
The practice of believer's baptism is the Amish's admission into the church. They and other Anabaptists do not accept that a child can be meaningfully baptized. Their children are expected to follow the will of their parents in all issues, but when they come of age, they must choose to make an adult, permanent commitment to God and the community. Those who come to be baptized sit with one hand over their face, representing humility and submission to the church. The candidates are asked three questions:
Typically, a deacon ladles water from a bucket into the bishop's cupped hands, which drips over the candidate's head. Then the bishop blesses the young men and greets them into the fellowship of the church with a holy kiss. The bishop's wife similarly blesses and greets the young women.
Baptism is a permanent vow to follow the church and the Ordnung. Since the church leaders only perform weddings for members, baptism is an incentive for young couples with romantic ties, funneling them toward the church. Girls tend to join at an earlier age than boys. About five or six months before the ceremony, classes are held to instruct the candidates, teaching them the strict implications of what they are about to profess. The Saturday before baptism, they are given their last chance to withdraw. The difficulty of walking the narrow path is emphasized, and the applicants are instructed it is better not to vow than to make the vow and break it later on.
Membership is taken seriously. Those who join the church, and then later leave, may be shunned by their former congregation and their families. Those who choose to not join can continue to relate freely with their friends and family. Church growth occurs through having large families and by retaining those children as part of the community. The Old Order Amish do not proselytize, as a rule. Conversion to the Amish faith is rare, but does occasionally occur as in the case of historian David Luthy.
Funeral customs appear to vary more from community to community than other religious services. The Amish hold funeral services in the home rather than using the funeral parlor. Instead of referring to the deceased with stories of his life, and eulogizing him, services tend to focus on the creation story and biblical accounts of resurrection. In Adams County, Indiana, and Allen County, Indiana, the Old Order Amish use only wooden grave markers that eventually decay and disappear. The same is true of other, smaller communities that have their roots in these two counties.
After the funeral, the hearse carries the casket to the cemetery for a reading from the Bible; perhaps a hymn is read (rather than sung) and the Lord's Prayer is recited. The Amish usually, but not always, choose Amish cemeteries, and purchase gravestones that are uniform, modest, and plain; in recent years, these have been inscribed in English. The bodies of both men and women are dressed in white clothing by family members of the same sex, with women in the white cape and apron of their wedding outfit. After a funeral, the community gathers together to share a meal.
Having children, raising them, and socialization with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. Amish believe large families are a blessing from God. The main purposes of "family" can be illustrated within the Amish culture in a variety of ways. The family has authority over the individual, not only during infancy and in youth, but throughout life. Loyalties to parents, grandparents, and other relatives may change over time but they will never cease. A church district is measured by the number of families (households), rather than by the number of baptized persons. Families take turns hosting the bi-weekly preaching service. Parents stress their responsibilities and obligations for the correct nurture of their children. They consider themselves accountable to the Lord for the spiritual welfare of their children.
The "family" provides the member with a status within the home and within the community. A person is more of a member of the family, rather than an individual. Each member has a job, a position, a responsibility, and a status. Chores within the home are normally divided by gender. The Amish traditional family provides much of the education for the child. Although the formal education ends after they finish eighth grade, the boy or girl is trained for their adult tasks. The boys will work with the father in the fields, in the barn, and around the out buildings. The girls work inside the home and garden, alongside the mother. The home and family become the school for "on the job" training. Amish youth, by and large, see their parents working hard, and they want to help. They want to learn and to be a productive part of the family.
"Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. One of the greatest needs of our time is men who will assume the responsibility that God has placed on their shoulders. Not to accept that responsibility is to lie down on the job, to fail God’s will." Family Life, Amish monthly magazine.
Sports and recreation are shared by all members of the family. There are church outings and family get-togethers where activities are entered into and shared by all.
The Amish stress strict obedience in their children, and this is taught and enforced by parents and preachers. Several passages in the Bible are used to support this view. Their children, as do all children, may pout or resist a parent's request. However, things such as tantrums, making faces, calling another bad names, and general disobedience are rare because the child knows that those actions will result in corporal punishment. Any youthful dissatisfactions are usually verbally expressed, but profanity is never allowed because the guilty child can expect swift punishment.
Rumspringa (Pennsylvania German lit. "running around") is the period of adolescence that begins the time of serious courtship, and, during which, church rules may be relaxed. As in non-Amish families, it is understood that there will likely be a certain amount of misbehavior, but it is neither encouraged nor overlooked. At the end of this period, Amish young adults are baptized into the church, and usually marry, with marriage permitted only among church members. A small percentage of the young people choose not to join the church, deciding to live the rest of their lives in wider society and marry someone outside the community.
The age for courting begins at sixteen (in some communities, the girl could be as young as fourteen). The most common event for boy-girl association is the bi-weekly Sunday evening sing, however the youth use sewing-bees, frolics, and weddings for other opportunities. The sing is often at the same house or barn as the Sunday morning service. Teens may arrive from several close-by districts, thus providing socialization on a wider scale than from a single church.
On the day of the sing, and after the chores are over, the young man dresses in his for-gut clothes, makes his appearance neat, and ensures his buggy and horse are clean. A sister, or sister's friend may ride with him, but usually not his girlfriend. At the sing, boys are on one side of a long table, the girls on the other side. Each person is able to announce their choice of a hymn, and only the faster ones are chosen. Conversation takes place between songs. The formal end of the sing is about ten o'clock, after which there is a great deal of talking, joking, and visiting. The boys who don't have a girlfriend may pair up with a Maidel (girl). Following this, the boy takes the girl home in his open topped courting buggy.
Marrying a first-cousin is not allowed among the Amish, and second-cousin relationships are frowned upon, though they may occur. Marriage to a "Schwartz" cousin (first cousin once removed) is not permitted in Lancaster County.
The onset of courtship is usually not openly discussed within the family or among friends. Excessive teasing by siblings or friends at the wrong time is considered invasive. Respecting privacy, or at least pretending not to know, is a prevailing mode of behavior, even among parents.
Weddings are typically held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in November to early December, after the harvest is in. The bride wears a new blue linen dress that will be worn again on other formal occasions. She wears no makeup, and will not receive an engagement or wedding ring because the Ordnung prohibits personal jewelry. The marriage ceremony itself may take several hours, followed by a community reception that includes a banquet, singing, and storytelling. Newlyweds spend the wedding night at the home of the bride's parents. Celery is one of the symbolic foods served at Amish weddings. Celery is also placed in vases and used to decorate the house instead of flowers. Rather than immediately taking up housekeeping, the newlywed couple will spend several weekends visiting the homes of friends and relatives who attended the wedding.
When the Amish choose to retire is neither a set nor fixed time. Considerations of the person's health, the family's needs, and personal desires all play an important part in determining when retirement may occur, usually between the ages of fifty to seventy. The elderly do not go to a retirement facility; they remain at home. If the family house is large enough they continue living with everyone else. Oftentimes there is an adjacent dwelling, called the Grossdaadi Haus, where grandparents take up residence. Retired people continue to help with work on the farm and within the home, working at their own pace as they are able. This allows them independence but does not strip them of family involvement.
The Amish method of retirement ensures that the elderly maintain contact with family and relatives. Loneliness is not a problem because they keep meaningful social contacts through various community events, such as frolics, auctions, weddings, holiday, and other community activities.
If the aged become ill or infirm, then the other family members take up caring for them. The elderly parents once helped raise the younger members, therefore the younger family care for them in their old age.
Amish lifestyle is dictated by the Ordnung (German, meaning: order), which differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. No summary of Amish lifestyle and culture can be totally adequate, because there are few generalities that are true for all Amish. Groups may separate over matters such as the width of a hat-brim, the color of buggies, or various other issues. The use of tobacco (excluding cigarettes, which are considered "worldly") and moderate use of alcohol are generally permitted, particularly among older and more conservative groups.
The Older Order Amish are known for their avoidance of certain modern technologies. Amish do not view technology as evil, and individuals may petition for acceptance of a particular technology in the local community. In Pennsylvania, bishops meet in the spring and fall to discuss common concerns, including the appropriate response to new technology, and then pass this information on to ministers and deacons in a subsequent meeting. Because of this flat governing structure, variations of practice develop in each community.
High voltage electricity was rejected by 1920 through the actions of a strict bishop, as a reaction against more liberal Amish and to avoid a physical connection to the outside world. Because of the early prohibition of electricity, individual decisions about the use of new inventions such as the television would not be necessary. Electricity is used in some situations when it can be produced without access to outside power lines. Batteries, with their limited applications, are sometimes acceptable. Electric generators may be used for welding, recharging batteries, and powering milk stirrers in many communities. Outdoor electrical appliances such as riding and hand-pushed lawn mowers and string trimmers are used in some communities. Some Amish families have non-electric versions of appliances, such as kerosene-powered refrigerators. Some Old Order Amish districts may allow the use of thermal solar panels.
Amish communities adopt compromise solutions involving technology that seem strange to outsiders. Petrol-powered farm equipment, such as tillers or mowers, may be pushed by a human or pulled by a horse. The reasoning is that Amish farmers will not be tempted to purchase more land to out-compete other farmers in their community, if they have to move the equipment manually. Amish farmers employ chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and artificial insemination of cows.
The Ordnung is the guide to community standards, rather than doctrine that defines sin. For example, the four Old Order Amish communities of Allen County, Indiana, are more conservative than most; they use open buggies, even during the winter, and they wear black leather shoes even in the hot summer.
Restrictions are not meant to impose suffering. Disabled people are allowed to use motorized wheelchairs; electricity is allowed in the home for medical equipment. Those who break the rules may be given many months to resolve the problem so that they can use a computer to complete a business project or remove electric wiring from a new house.
Although most Amish will not drive cars, they will hire drivers and vans, for example, for visiting family, monthly grocery shopping, or commuting to the workplace off the farm — though this too is subject to local regulation and variation. The practice increases the geographic reach of the Amish, and decreases isolation: a horse can travel only about 25 miles (40 km), and it must rest for a considerable period, restricting the Amish to a radius of 12.5 miles (20.1 km) from home. Moreover, a horse and buggy can only sustain 10 mph (16 km/h) over an extended distance, and thus is impractical for emergencies. Regular bus service between Amish communities has been established in some areas, and train travel is accepted.
The Old Order Amish tend to restrict telephone use, as it is viewed by some as interfering with separation from the world. By bringing the outside world into the home, it is an intrusion into the privacy and sanctity of the family, and interferes with social community by eliminating face-to-face communication. Amish of Lancaster County use the telephone primarily for outgoing calls, with the added restriction that the telephone not be inside the house, but rather in a phone "booth" or small out-building placed far enough from the house as to make its use inconvenient. These private phones may be shared by more than one family. This allows the Amish to control their communication, and not have telephone calls invade their homes, but also to conduct business, as needed. In the past, the use of public pay phones in town for such calls was more common; today, with dwindling availability of pay phones because of increased cell phone use by the non-Amish population, Amish communities are seeing an increase in the private phone shanties. Many Amish, particularly those who run businesses, use voicemail service. The Amish will also use trusted "English" neighbors as contact points for passing on family emergency messages. Some New Order Amish will use cellphones and pagers, but most Old Order Amish will not.
In addition to English, most Old Order Amish speak a distinctive German dialect called Pennsylvania German or, much more commonly, Pennsylvania Dutch. Pennsylvania German is related to the Palatinate German of the eighteenth century. It has also been strongly influenced by American English. The English term "Dutch" originally referred to all forms of German and Netherlandic languages. Pennsylvania German is distinct from Mennonite Low German and Hutterite German dialects spoken by other Anabaptist groups.
Now spoken primarily by the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites, Pennsylvania German was originally spoken by many German-American immigrants in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, especially those who came prior to 1800. There are also several sizable Old Order Amish communities where a variety of Swiss German is spoken, rather than Pennsylvania German. The Beachy Amish, especially those who were born roughly after 1960, tend to speak predominantly in English at home. All other Amish groups use either Pennsylvania German or a variety of Swiss German as their in-group language of discourse. There are small dialectal variations between communities, such as Lancaster County and Indiana speech varieties. The Amish are aware of regional variation, and occasionally experience difficulty in understanding speakers from outside their own area.
The common theme amongst all Amish clothing is plainness; clothing should not call attention to the wearer by cut, color, or any other feature. Hook-and-eye closures or straight pins are used as fasteners on dress clothing rather than buttons, zippers, or velcro. Snaps are used on everyday clothes, and plain buttons for work shirts and trousers. The historic restriction on buttons is attributed to tradition and their potential for ostentation. In all things, the aesthetic value is plainness. Some groups tend to limit color to black (trousers, dresses) and white (shirts), while others allow muted colors. Dark blue denim work clothing is common within some groups as well. The Old Order Amish often sew their own clothing, and work clothing can become quite worn and patched with use.
Women wear calf-length plain-cut dresses in a solid color. Aprons are often worn at home, usually in white or black, and are always worn when attending church. A cape, which consists of a triangular piece of cloth, is usually worn, beginning around the teenage years, and pinned into the apron. In the colder months, a long woolen cloak may be worn. Heavy bonnets are worn over the prayer coverings when Amish women are out and about in cold weather, with the exception of the Nebraska Amish, who do not wear bonnets. Girls in some areas may wear colored bonnets until age nine; older girls and women wear black bonnets. Girls begin wearing a cape for church and dress up occasions at about age eight. Single women wear a white cape to church until about the age of thirty. Everyday capes are colored, matching the dress, until about age forty when only black is used.
During the warmer months, many children will go barefoot, even while attending school.
Men typically wear dark-colored trousers, some with a dark vest or coat, suspenders (in some communities), broad-rimmed straw hats in the warmer months, and black felt hats in the colder months. Married men and those over forty grow a beard. Mustaches are forbidden, because they are associated with European military officers and militarism in general. A beard may serve the same symbolic function, in some Old Order Amish settings, as a wedding ring, and marks the passage into manhood.
Amish furniture is celebrated for its durability, simple elegance, and use of deciduous woods. Amish craftsmen utilize many of the same methods as their early-American ancestors in building furniture. There is still a demand for classic designs such as Mission, Shaker, Cottage and Queen Anne while some Amish furniture is more modern in design. Furniture construction is an expression of the Amish ethos of self-sufficiency, simplicity and functionality.
A subgroup of the Old Order Amish, known as the Swiss Amish, speak a dialect of German known as Swiss German amongst themselves instead of the more common Pennsylvania Dutch. They are found primarily in Allen and Adams County in Indiana. The Swiss Amish only use open top buggies and are more conservative than most other Old Order Amish districts. They also are the only Amish group to practice yodeling.
Amish populations have higher incidences of particular genetic disorders, including dwarfism (Ellis-van Creveld syndrome), various metabolic disorders, and unusual distribution of blood-types. Amish represent a collection of different demes or genetically-closed communities. Since almost all Amish descend from about 200 18th century founders, genetic disorders from inbreeding exist in more isolated districts (an example of the founder effect). Some of these disorders are quite rare, or unique, and are serious enough to increase the mortality rate among Amish children. The majority of Amish accept these as "Gottes Wille" (God's will); they reject use of preventive genetic tests prior to marriage and genetic testing of unborn children to discover genetic disorder. Amish are willing to participate in studies of genetic diseases. Their extensive family histories are useful to researchers investigating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and macular degeneration.
While the Amish are at an increased risk for a number of genetic disorders, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James) have found their tendencies for clean living can lead to a healthier life. Overall cancer rates in the Amish population are 60 percent of the age-adjusted rate for Ohio and 56 percent of the national rate. The incidence of tobacco-related cancers in the Amish adults is 37 percent of the rate for Ohio adults, and the incidence of non-tobacco-related cancer is 72 percent. The Amish have protection against many types of cancer both through their lifestyle – there is very little tobacco or alcohol use and limited sexual partners – and through genes that may reduce their susceptibility to cancer. Dr. Judith Westman, director of human genetics at OSUCCC- James, conducted the study. The findings were reported in a recent issue of the journal Cancer Causes & Control. Even skin cancer rates are lower for Amish, despite the fact many Amish make their living working outdoors where they are exposed to sunlight and UV rays. They are typically covered and dressed to work in the sun by wearing wide-brimmed hats and generally wearing long sleeves to protect their arms.
The Amish are conscious of the advantages of exogamy. A common bloodline in one community will often be absent in another, and genetic disorders can be avoided by choosing spouses from unrelated communities. For example, the founding families of the Lancaster County Amish are unrelated to the founders of the Perth County, Ontario Amish community.
The Old Order Amish do not typically carry private commercial health insurance. About two-thirds of the Amish in Lancaster County participate in Church Aid, an informal self-insurance plan for helping members with catastrophic medical expenses. A handful of American hospitals, starting in the mid-1990s, created special outreach programs to assist the Amish. The first of these programs was instituted at the Susquehanna Health System in central Pennsylvania by James Huebert. This program has earned national media attention in the United States, and has spread to several surrounding hospitals. Treating genetic problems is the mission of Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, which has developed effective treatments for such problems as maple syrup urine disease, a previously fatal disease. The clinic is embraced by most Amish, ending the need for parents to leave the community to receive proper care for their children, an action that might result in shunning.
DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, located in Middlefield, Ohio, has been treating special-needs children with inherited or metabolic disorders since May 2002. The DDC Clinic provides treatment, research, and educational services to Amish and non-Amish children and their families.
Although not forbidden or thought of as immoral, most Amish do not practice any form of birth control, hence their large families. They are against abortion and also find "artificial insemination, genetics, eugenics, and stem cell research" to be "inconsistent with Amish values and beliefs".
People's Helpers is an Amish-organized network of mental health caregivers who help families dealing with mental illness and recommend professional counselors. Suicide rates for the Amish of Lancaster County were 5.5 per 100,000 in 1980, about half that of the general population and a third the rate of the non-religious population.
The Amish do not educate their children past the eighth grade, believing that the basic knowledge offered up to that point is sufficient to prepare one for the Amish lifestyle. Almost no Amish go to high school, much less to college. In many communities, the Amish operate their own schools, which are typically one-room schoolhouses with teachers (young unmarried women) from the Amish community. These schools provide education in many crafts, and are therefore eligible as vocational education, fulfilling the nationwide requirement of education through the 10th grade or its equivalent. There are Amish children who go to non-Amish public schools, even schools that are far away and that include a very small Amish population. For instance, there have been some Amish children who have attended Leesburg Elementary School in Leesburg, Indiana (about 12 miles (19 km) from Nappanee, Indiana), because their families lived on the edge of the school district. In the past, there have been major conflicts between the Amish and outsiders over these matters of local schooling. But for the most part, they have been resolved, and the educational authorities allow the Amish to educate their children in their own ways. Sometimes, there are conflicts between the state-mandated minimum age for discontinuing schooling, and the younger age of children who have completed the eighth grade. This is often handled by having the children repeat the eighth grade until they are old enough to leave school. In the past, when comparing standardized test scores of Amish students, the Amish have performed above the national average for rural public school pupils in spelling, word usage, and arithmetic. They performed below the national average, however, in vocabulary.
On May 19, 1972, Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller of the Old Order Amish, and Adin Yutzy of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were each fined $5 for refusing to send their children, aged 14 and 15, to high school. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this, finding the benefits of universal education do not justify a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court quoted sociology professor John A. Hostetler (1918—2001), who was born into an Amish family, wrote several books about the Amish, Hutterites, and Old Order Mennonites, and was then considered the foremost academic authority on the Amish. Donald Kraybill, Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, is one of the most active scholars studying the Amish today.
As time has passed, the Amish have felt the pressures of the modern world. Child labor laws, for example, are threatening their long-established ways of life, and bringing question to the treatment of children in a Amish household, in emotional support, medical support, and labor. To a modern society, there seems to be little emphasis put on emotional bond in a Amish household, and some medical conditions are simply looked at as 'The Will of God', or may not receive the proper treatment found at hospitals and medical clinics. Amish children are also taught at an early age to work extensive and physically demanding jobs at the household plantation, and often do not have a choice in this matter. Although viewed as a respectful and enduring group, the Amish have sparked controversy in what is now accepted as the proper methods of raising young children.
Contrary to popular belief, some of the Amish vote, and they have been courted by national parties as potential swing voters: their pacifism and social conscience cause some of them to be drawn to left-of-center politics, while their generally conservative outlook causes others to favor the right wing.
They are nonresistant, and rarely defend themselves physically or even in court; in wartime, they take conscientious objector status. Their own folk-history contains tales of heroic nonresistance, such as the insistence of Jacob Hochstetler (1704-1775) that his sons stop shooting at hostile Indians, who proceeded to kill some of the family and take others captive. During World War I two young men held at Fort Leavenworth refused to wear prison uniforms because of the buttons. They were tortured by the guards — held under cold showers until completely chilled, knocked down to the concrete floor and dragged by their hair and ears — until they relented and put on the uniforms. During World War II the Amish entered Civilian Public Service.
Amish rely on their church and community for support, and thus reject the concept of insurance. An example of such support is barn raising, in which the entire community gathers together to build a barn in a single day. It means coming together to celebrate with family and friends.
In 1961, the United States Internal Revenue Service announced that since the Amish refuse Social Security benefits and have a religious objection to insurance, they need not pay these taxes. In 1965, this policy was codified into law. Self-employed individuals in certain sects do not pay into, nor receive benefits from, United States Social Security, nor do their similarly-exempt employees. Internal Revenue Service form 4029 grants this exemption to members of a religious group that is conscientiously opposed to accepting benefits of any private or public insurance, provides a reasonable level of living for its dependent members and has existed continuously since December 31, 1950. A visible sign of the care Amish provide for the elderly is the smaller Grossdaadi Heiser or Daadiheiser ("grandfather house"), often built near the main dwelling. Amish employees of non-Amish employers are taxed, but they do not apply for benefits. Aside from Social Security and workers' compensation, American Amish pay all required taxes.
The Amish have, on occasion, encountered discrimination and hostility from their neighbors. During the two 20th century World Wars, Amish nonresistance sparked many incidents of harassment, and young Amish men forcibly inducted into the services were subjected to various forms of ill treatment. In the present day, anti-Amish sentiment has taken the form of pelting the horse-drawn carriages used by the Amish with stones or similar objects as the carriages pass along a road, most commonly at night. A 1988, made-for-TV film, A Stoning In Fulham County, is based on a true story involving one such incident, in which a six-month-old Amish girl was struck in the head by a rock and died from her injuries. In 1997, Mary Kuepfer, a young Amish woman in Milverton, Ontario, Canada, was struck in the face by a beer bottle believed to have been thrown from a passing car; she required thousands of dollars' worth of surgery to her face (which was paid for by an outpouring of donations from the public).
Peter Weir's 1985 drama Witness is set and filmed in the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Harvest of Fire is a 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie about an FBI agent's investigation of cases of suspected arson in an Amish farming community. The 2002 documentary Devil's Playground follows a group of Amish teenagers during rumspringa, and it portrays their personal dilemma with both the 'English' world and the decision on whether or not to be baptized as adult members of the church. Michael Landon Jr's 2007 film Saving Sarah Cain shows the removing of young Amish children to the big city and realizing the life they can have with both the Amish and English world.
Some comic movie portrayals of the Amish include Randy Quaid’s Amish character "Ishmael Boorg" in Kingpin, directed by the Farrelly brothers in 1996, and the 1997 For Richer or Poorer, starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley, also about city folk hiding among the Amish.
Paul Levinson's 1999 Locus Award-winning novel, The Silk Code portrays Amish farmers involved in a science-fiction mystery about biotechnology and mysterious deaths. Jodi Picoult's 2000 novel (and 2004 TV movie) Plain Truth, deals with a crime concerning the death of a newborn infant on an Amish farm. Other novels dealing with the Amish are Lurlene McDaniel's 2002 The Angels Trilogy, Beverly Lewis's extensive series of Amish romantic fiction, and Paul Gaus's Ohio Amish Mystery series, set among the Amish community in Holmes County, Ohio.
The trilogy of Karen Harper, Dark Road Home, Dark Harvest, and Dark Angel, discuss how the Amish people forgive their tormentors and those who have done wrong to them.
Helen Reimensnyder Martin's 1905 novel Sabina, a Story of the Amish, similar to her 1904 novel Tillie, a Mennonite Maid, so harshly depicted its subjects as to provoke cries of misrepresentation. Anna Balmer Myers' 1920 novel Patchwork: a Story of "the Plain People," like her 1921 novel Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites, are generally regarded as gentle correctives to the work of Martin. Ruth Lininger Dobson's 1937 novel Straw in the Wind, written while a student at the University of Michigan and receiving the school's Hopwood Award, so negatively depicted the Amish of Indiana that Joseph Yoder was motivated to correct the severe stereotypes with a more accurate book about the Amish way of life. In 1940, he wrote the gentler Rosanna of the Amish, a story of his mother's life (and his own). He later wrote a sequel, Rosanna's Boys (1948), as well as other books presenting and recording what he regarded as a truer picture of Amish culture.
Marguerite de Angeli's 1936 children's story Henner's Lydia portrays a tender Amish family. The author sketched many of the illustrations at the site of the little red schoolhouse still standing at the intersection of PA route 23 and Red Schoolhouse Road, just west of Morgantown, Pennsylvania. Today the building is the Amish Mennonite Information Center. The Lancaster County landscape, portrayed in the end papers of the book, can be recognized throughout the area. De Angeli's illustrations of a nearby bank barn were sketched just hours before the barn was destroyed by fire. She incorporated the incident in her 1944 Caldecott Honor book Yonie Wondernose, a story about a curious Amish boy, younger brother to the Lydia of Henner's Lydia.
The 1955 Broadway musical show, Plain and Fancy, is an early stage-play portrayal of the Amish people. Set in Lancaster County, it tells of a couple from New York who encounter the quaint Amish lifestyle when they arrive to sell off some property. This show depicted "shunning" and "barn-raising" to the American audience for the first time. Another play featuring the Amish is Quiet in the Land, a Canadian play concerning Amish struggles during World War I (1917–1918).
NBC aired, in 1988, a family drama called Aaron's Way about an Amish family who moved to California and had to adjust to a non-Amish lifestyle. Numerous other TV shows have presented episodes with Amish characters or storylines. Some of them include Pinky and the Brain, Arthur, The Simpsons, Dexter's Laboratory, Picket Fences, Murder She Wrote, MacGyver, Grey's Anatomy, Tales of the Gold Monkey and Cold Case. In the summer of 2004, a controversial reality-television program called Amish in the City aired on UPN. Amish teenagers were exposed to non-Amish culture by living together with "English" teens, and at the time of the show, had yet to decide, if they wanted to be baptized into the Amish church. On Wednesday 18 February 2009, BBC2 aired 'Trouble in Amish Paradise', a one-hour documentary on Ephraim and Jesse Stoltzfus and their desire to adhere to Biblical Christianity whilst remaining Amish in culture.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's 1996 parody "Amish Paradise" and the accompanying music video was an affectionate send-up of Coolio's earlier soul song "Gangsta's Paradise", with Yankovic and former Brady Bunch actress Florence Henderson in Amish garb, and lyrics reflecting Amish themes.
Old Order Mennonites, Hutterites, and Old German Baptist Brethren are distinct from the Amish. They all emigrated from Europe, but they arrived with different dialects, separate cultures, and diverse religious traditions. Particularly, the Hutterites live communally and are generally accepting of modern technology.
Plain Quakers are similar in manner and lifestyle, but unrelated to the Amish. Early Quakers were influenced, to some degree, by the Anabaptists. Most modern Quakers have since abandoned their traditional dress.
Some high-profile cases have focused attention on the sexual abuse perpetrated upon Amish children. In a few isolated areas it has been called "almost a plague in some communities." Because Amish Bishops mete out punishment for sins, (generally in the form of shunning), they keep discipline within the authority of the church, thus sexual abuse may be less-often reported to law enforcement. Since men dominate their society, women and children who have been mistreated have little recourse. They themselves may be shunned for seeking outside help. Mary Byler was allegedly raped more than a hundred times between the ages of 8 and 14 by her brothers, and then she was excommunicated and shunned for reporting her abusers. Another young woman claimed to have been raped repeatedly by her brother-in-law, who was eventually punished by being shunned for two-and-a-half months. Some groups have also been accused of tolerating severe physical abuse of children. Although the rate of physical or sexual abuse does not appear to be higher in the Amish community than in the general public, their physical and social isolation from the outside world make it more difficult for victims to seek help.
The Lancaster, Pennsylvania newspaper Intelligencer Journal published a four-part series on domestic abuse, child abuse, and child sexual abuse inside Amish (and Mennonite) families within the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. These articles suggested that abuse may be systematically silenced inside Amish (and Mennonite) churches, because of the emphasis on Gelassenheit and male authority in the church. The series, published on August 4, 2004, began with an article entitled "Silenced by Shame: Hidden in Plain Sight," and ended with an article entitled "The Ties That Bind Can Form the Noose." As the article "Beliefs, Culture Can Perpetuate Abuse in Families, Churches" makes clear, child and spousal abuse may be concealed or denied. One reaction from an Old Order woman was the following: "They made Plain women look too stupid and ignorant to know how to get help."
The Amish community recently started to address the issue of abuse awareness. The Amish publisher Pathway Publishers ran several series in the magazine Family Life that touch upon the subjects of sexual and physical abuse. They have also distributed, free-of-charge, resources for abused persons, and for their families. Some Amish have objected to the articles, preferring that the subject not be raised, claiming these problems exist only among the "English".
|←Wikisource:Mennonites||Little Known Facts About the Amish and the
(The author is pleased to print a letter which he received from one of the best informed and best known members of the Amish sect in America. His letter was unsolicited, and since it bears on a subject which we discussed in our writings, we thought the reader would like to sense what our Amish friend has to say after reading the pamphlet. We are glad to make the note he suggested. If the rest of us lived within our means as do the Amish, we would appreciate the old song: "Every Little Bit Added to What You Got, Makes Just a Little Bit More." In other words we'd always have "tobacco in our old tobacco box."--The Author).
Ephrata, R. D., Pa.,
August 15, 1939.
Ammon Monroe Aurand, Jr.,
Dear Friend: I received your book, "Little Known Facts About the Amish," and note you know a lot about the plain people that may benefit them when published.
. . .
First, I want to tell you, there are no daily baths, where there is no bathroom equipment. It is being done more in the manner as our veterinarian expressed himself at one time, thus: "Here we have these scientific methods of medical treatment, daily baths, etc." He said, "I know of a man who said he wants to get to be 100 years old; he took a cold water bath every morning and at the age of 65 he died of cancer in the stomach. And here we have people who wouldn't take a bath unless they get caught in a thunderstorm, and not change clothing until they rot from their backs and they grow up to an old stone age." I don't mean this latter statement about changing clothing, that our people are doing same, only the bathing, and I want to say our people are doing a mite better than the Dr.'s expression. Baths are just taken whenever one feels they need one, with a common tub or any other convenient article. And our health is not so much affected as some people might think. . .
Always at your service to promote better understanding between our people and others.
(In preparing this study of the "plain people" the author has had opportunity to draw heavily from a general knowledge of them, by intimate contact and otherwise, as well as from a rich store of information to be found in numerous books and magazines, and such as issue from the pens of various contributors to the German folk societies. These would be too numerous to mention here, though it is deemed fitting to give general credit to them in this way, since they justify many of our findings, and in turn they authenticate their own).
ISN'T IT TRUE that the average person likes to know something odd or curious about the "other fellow," while assuming that there is little or nothing odd about himself?
Isn't it true that neither the Red Man, nor the Black, nor any other in America, present social studies as interesting or entertaining as the Germans settled in Pennsylvania--so-called Pennsylvania "Dutch?" Of these types there are many communities where the peculiarities of these people are strange and interesting enough to furnish constant material for the magazines, newspapers, novels, plays, etc.
There are perhaps none so quaint or odd, as the so-called "plain people" of the southern counties of the State. Lancaster is especially rich in this lore, but other counties are plentifully populated with these "sects" which make Pennsylvania more or less out-standing in America.
To understand the background of these people, one should read a great deal of history, particularly religious history. The Mennonites and the Amish, and many others of similar persuasion, are what they are because of their religion hardly for any other reason.
But, like you and I, they must live twenty-four hours every day, and it is in these twenty-four hours that they live in such a way as to provide for the non-sectarian a curiosity to know more about the people with the broad hats and old-fashioned bonnets.
We generalize somewhat in the inclusion of several of the plain sects in this account, although specifically we ought to say that "the Amish do so and so;" or, "the Mennonites," or whatever they may be. Generally it must be taken to mean that the extremists in this account are the Amish.
It is a comprehensive social study of them that we give you now--in a brief, condensed version!
General Appearance.--The Amish garb is peculiar to him and his kind. It is dictated in style by their old leaders and deviations are rare.
Jews, Catholics and the plain people alike prefer not to let any other faith get a hold on their off-spring until after they have lived through formative years.
The plain people garb themselves not in the manner of the Jew, (whom they unconsciously imitate in many ways--as do all Christians), but after the priests and nuns. The older leaders of the plain people imitated the Catholic clergyman in dress and in discipline, representative of a section of Europe following the Reformation.
Hooks and Eyes instead of buttons are used by Old Order Amish as a church regulation. Their clothes are plainer than those of the plainest Quaker, but the severity of regulations is somewhat modified among the Meeting House Amish.
The men's hats are a distinctive, broad, stiff-brimmed type--one looking just like another--dust and all!
It is the usual thing for Old Order Amish boys to wear their hats nearly all of the time, except while in school. At recess they cannot be persuaded to doff them while at play.
The trousers of an Amishman do not open in the middle by means of a fly, as do those of most every other male American. The plain man's pants open toward the sides, almost at the side seams, with a resultant wide flap in the front. They are called "broad fall."
Men may shine their shoes (if they wish), and the women may buy and wear polished machine-made footwear.
If one could get into a friendly and understanding discourse with men of this faith, as has been done occasionally, one would learn that buttons on the backs of coats, or on coat sleeves, were actually places for the "devil to hang 'somesing' on." Buttons are made from the bones of animals, and this is one reason for their declining to use them.
Belts, neckties, sweaters and caps are taboo. Their coats are without the usual well-known collar. Some wear capes in cold weather, or perhaps great overcoats; at any rate they are monstrous garments--covering all like the top of a buggy covers the individual.
Women's Garb.--Women may be seen dressed in bright purple apron, orange neckerchief, or (on Sunday) white caps without ruffle; or borders and white neckerchiefs with gowns of sober woolen stuff, and all wearing aprons. Even a dark-eyed maiden of three years might have her sweet face encircled by the plain muslin cap, the little figure dressed in plain gown.
It is not compulsory for the young girls to wear their bonnets constantly, either at home, at school, or away from home.
Necessary jewelry, even gold eye-glasses, is allowed. The young girls are expected not to want to own or wear gold watches. Should they use them, discipline would follow.
Dress peculiarities grew out of an effort to follow Divine injunction, "Be not conformed to this world."
The drawers of the conservative plain women are very long, and quite tight. Seldom seen by non-Amish, at first glance they look like relics from the middle ages, rather than a convenience or need for the present.
The youngsters are dressed exactly after the pattern of their grandfathers and grandmothers, and it does seem strange to see such "little ladies" out and at play with a vigor found in boys--and in children of the care-free-world. But they wear dresses reaching to their shoe-tops, as soon as they are able to walk; a white cap, and white shoulder kerchief and a white apron add their unique touch.
Any children, neatly groomed to look like their parents at their hest, have a chance of looking "cute."
There is only one style of wearing the hair among the Amish women, and that bears very little improvement. It is parted exactly in the middle and combed smoothly down toward the temples, where two plaits are started, carried around and gathered into a knot just under the edge of the white mull cap above the nape of the neck.
Hair and Whiskers.--One or two Amish countrymen, when seen in Lewistown, Lancaster or Ephrata, create little excitement, but when fifty or a hundred get together in a world outside their own, that's news.
Young men, as well as old, have their hair and whiskers neatly trimmed, and it seems always about the same color for all ages. Sandy, reddish, may we call it, and ruddy cheeks predominate. The hair is cut very neatly in a bang in front, or parted in the middle and slicked over the side to cover the ears.
The moustache is shaved off for the purpose of cleanliness in eating. Two verses from Leviticus settle the question: "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of they beard." (Lev. xix, 27; xxi, 5).
The Amish of the Mifflin County Area are severely plain in "back-sections;" often without any modern conveniences; no blinds at windows or doors; no rugs; simple wearing apparel, home-made, or perhaps ordered through a specialist in the making thereof.
An informant says that these people have no pictures on the walls--only mottoes and gaudy calendars.
A woman of mature years, having a new home erected, on entering it one day discovered modern plumbing devices had been installed, and she forthwith ordered removal of same.
They eat enough, and of good variety, and their complexions appear quite superior to the "healthy appearances" obtained from boxes and jars which may be purchased in drug stores.
Church rules are not a matter of printed or written record, but of oral delivery or tradition among the Old Amish. It is not impossible that this condition may lead to unpleasant and unlooked-for results some day, if perhaps such has not been the case in more instances than have generally come to light.
If any of the young of the Old Amish marry outside the "faith," expulsion from membership will, and loss of inheritance may follow, unless the non-member also adopts the faith and garb. This applies only to the Meeting House Amish in cases where marriage takes place into families which are not non-resistant.
Five "Varieties."--Among the Amish in Mifflin county, Pennsylvania, there are five "varieties." They include the very conservative, known as the "Nebraskas," their women still wearing the old Shaker hats and avoiding bonnets, and whose men are not permitted to wear suspenders--to the branch that worships in regular meeting houses, and who have discarded nearly all restrictions, except the bonnet.
Then there are the "Peacheyites" (named for one of their number), who may wear a single suspender, if home-made. A group organized by Abe Zook. Another group is permitted to wear store suspenders to hold up their trousers, but few other so-called "sinful pleasures of life."
These distinctions, they say, do not apply to Lancaster county Amish in this day and generation.
We are, however, familiar with the "one suspender" type.
Children Sometimes Backward.--Conditions among these people sometimes really require sympathy, especially among the young who sometimes hide themselves from the sight of "English" persons, making use of corn-shocks, or whatever they find handy.
This practice is not unusual among children of some other persuasions, where the parents have too much stunted their natural mental developments; but then, too, we do know it to be a too-common-practice of our "English" people to ridicule people of other origins. Persons, not of the Amish order, are English.
The Amish and Mennonites are generally agriculturalists, which include grain, vegetables and that "horrible weed" tobacco! They are adepts at all they undertake and when drying season for tobacco is on their barns are testimony in this direction, at least.
Plow Deep.--If God has not been entirely responsible for the success of these people, the answer must lie in the fact that when they plowed, they plowed deeper, to keep the soil mellow; and when they cleared away forest land they went to work on the hardiest of the trees as well as the smaller growth.
They didn't merely scratch the surface like the "despised Yankee," or "scotch" the larger trees like the Scotch-Irish and wait a few years for the tree to die!
Hard work and little play has made them at least some "jack," and working mostly in the soil they can more easily commune with their Creator.
They spurn hired help, perhaps for two or more reasons. One, they do not like to be masters of men; they would rather serve; two, servants are likely to lag and loaf, and not keep up with men interested in life and salvation--hence, no laborers, no labor difficulties.
Their Barns.--The barn is one of the most important spots on a plain man's property, if he be a farmer. Here he must store all his crops, and if the latter be bountiful as they usually are, the barns may be too small.
Depending as to what sect he adheres to, the barn may be the "meeting place" for all of his neighbors of the same "meeting." This may well be crowded, for the loads brought by fifty to sixty buggies would naturally make some con-course of people--and they generally are regular attendants.
The barn may be kept even better than the house, for the latter is only a place in which to eat and sleep, say the usual daily prayers, and occasionally have the meeting there instead of the barn.
The Moon plays a great part in the planting of the crops, placing of fence-posts, shingling of barns and houses, etc. It is a recognized fact among scientists that there may be more to the lore relative to the moon, than they have yet found out. Certainly the crops and general results of moon observance among these and other Pennsylvania Germans is too well-known to get worked-up over.
The almanac, with all the signs of the zodiac, and all the special days of the year, has an important place in the home.
Buggies.--One visitor tells about a meeting at one of the Amish homes. In the barn-yard stood some sixty-five yellow canvas-covered wagons or buggies, as nearly alike as two peas in a pod. The sight was suggestive of a wagon-factory--all models of the same pattern.
On inquiring from several of the owners, just how they distinguished one from another so nearly alike, one fellow replied: "Oh, we joost look at ’em; we know ’em!"
One said he could tell his wagon because the back of it was peppered full of shot-holes, a souvenir of a shooting-match his boys had one day at home--too near the barn. Another had a block nailed to the floor of his wagon for the comfort of his short-legged wife.
And so on and on, until the whole sixty-five were distinctly different one from the other. They carried no whips, other than hickory switches which were kept more or less hidden from sight.
Freeholders.--There is probably more property owned outright, among the plain peoples in the southern and sect-populated counties per capita, than perhaps among any others of like character in the State.
They generally do not borrow money, or, if they do, it is loaned without interest, for among them they have no desire to obtain interest thereon. It is rare that money is withheld if one needs it, and inquires from one who has it to spare.
Plain people have numerous notions in common. It appears that they have little time for either Negroes, lawyers or rum. They also believe that bad fences (poorly kept) cause trouble between neighbors.
Meeting Places are very plain; if it is an elaborate structure, it is an exception; plainness in everything being the general rule. They often are erected in the midst of, or what once was a grove of great trees; long rows of sheds being filled to over-flowing with teams; special stalls are reserved for the preachers.
On entering a meeting house one would see across a sea of bobinet-capped heads to the front, where sat the several ministers, generally among the older members, grey-bearded; their long hair parted in the middle and combed down quite smoothly, ending in curls over the ears. Hats hung on pegs driven into the walls.
Line-Out Hymns.--The preacher would line-out a hymn from a book most generally "Die Kleine Harfe"--a favorite with the Mennonites. The members would respond with vim and vigor--without the aid of any musical instrument. Organs or anything of a musical nature were strictly forbid-den; suggestions that a musical aid of some kind be obtained, have been known to split congregations wide open. Scripture forbade the use of the organ. Of course these singing methods were familiar from childhood, and frequent use made all of them adepts at singing praises.
After hymns they had readings of selections from the German Bible. The sermons would follow in a language suitable to the majority present--German, or dialect--rarely English. Not every outsider can forthwith apply himself to, or comprehend their "hymn-sings."
Ministers and Bishops are selected by placing a piece of paper in one of a number of Bibles; members are directed to select, and God determines through the Bible containing the slip with the words "This is the lot," who is to be minister among them--called from the plow, or whatever vocation he might have chosen to follow.
These preachers were presumed to have Divine inspiration and to be able to deliver forceful sermons without any preparation!
Each family among the plain people support themselves generally on their own efforts of farming the earth. They pay no salaries for their preachers, for they all are potential ministers among them, hence need to pay, nor titheing for such purposes.
The Mennonites, however, have broadened out to such an extent that they have missionaries throughout the world, with some churches and ministers in India and South America.
Children five weeks old, and up, are old enough to attend meeting, and thus are allowed to mingle with others until attaining an age in life when they are able to determine for themselves that they can accept all teachings of His people, and declare that they are fit for baptism.
Married men sit in a separate section to the right, reserved exclusively for them; their male off-spring sitting at their right side. On the other side of the men, with an aisle generally between them, are the wives and to their sides the younger girls and children of tender years. The older persons, separate as to sex, you will see usually sitting about the center of the meeting, and apart, as is the custom of the Jews.
Sermons over, men reach for their hats, and women place their black bonnets over their white "prayer-caps," and thus out again into a more or less worldly atmosphere, having just been in the presence of God.
Communions are Celebrated twice a year, following a previous meeting at which it is ascertained that there are no differences existing between any of the members, which would prevent their attending this solemn service. They have preaching in the forenoon followed by the Supper, which is a fully prepared meal. Then in the afternoon they have the feet-washing. Only on such occasions do they have two services in a day, with lunch between the two.
Baptism is Administered four weeks before communion, by trine pouring in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They are not baptized by immersion, as some would have you to believe.
Ex-Communication.--One of the take-offs of the Amish from the Catholic church, was its right to ex-communicate any of its members for infractions of conduct or church discipline. This was a special point of divergence between the followers of Jacob Ammon, and the other Mennonites, and concerned disobedient members, as taught in I Corinthians v. 9-11; II Thes. iii, 14; Titus iii, 10, and incorporated into their confession of faith.
The Amish applied these to their daily life, while others held these injunctions to apply merely to the communion table. The separation was accomplished about 1698.
Thus, if a husband or wife committed any breach, they were barred from having further social intercourse, such as is natural in life, and it went so far as to prohibit eating together at the same table, and of course, sleeping in the same bed.
These prohibitions are hard for any one to bear, and while it kept many straight, it caused some of them to go over to some other branch that did not suffer them to be quite so circumspect.
Leaders or elders of the Old Order Amish are very strict about the ex-communication ban, and it is very "unhealthy" for the member in good standing to bid the time to any one who is under the ban. Among some of these people, it is a rule for them not to bid the time, nor to note the presence of another, should they be passing on a road, no matter who they are, or where they happen to be at the time. This naturally avoids errors in judgment.
One poor fellow in the middle West went amuck and killed his whole family because the operation of the ban prohibiting him from having anything at all to do with them, finally got the better of his mind, and his rash act resulted.
Holidays.--In the main their holidays are Christmas and Easter, but the Amish observe two days for the celebration, which idea they must get from the Jews, who sometimes are doubtful which day of two is meant to be celebrated, hence they celebrate both.
The two-day observance holds good in Germany and Switzerland today.
Shrove Tuesday before Lent means special attention must be given that day to preparation of "Fasnachts"--doughnuts to you. These may he round, and with the usual hole; square, oblong and quite narrow, or even triangular, some say.
At Christmas they do not give gifts like the rest of the Christian world. It would necessitate laying out money for things not necessary, aside from other reasons which they advance.
Religious Education.--Just about the first care of the plain people is that their children get a good religious education, therefore a place to worship, either private or public; then a school-house, and perhaps later among some of them, a place for higher education. (This does not apply to the Amish sect).
Examples for Peace.--These people certainly set a great example to those who would have peace among men--throughout the world. Their philosophy of refusing to fight for or against others, might set a good example for others to study.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should leave these people entirely to their own devices to work out their own salvation. They might solve a question on "Utopia" without costing the Commonwealth or the Federal government a single cent--besides both would be receiving revenue and no State or Federal expense during the experiment. They certainly appear a good risk from every angle.
The World is Flat.--This is a difference of opinion among some of these people as to the shape of the earth--whether it is round or flat. You will recall that conditions like this confronted even the most learned men up until the time of Columbus. Even since then there are men who will declare that the world, or earth, is flat.
Most maps are drawn in a way to indicate the surface as being flat, and when we have looked at our Bible maps and others, not globularly arranged, most any person would take it to be flat, because it was that way in the Bible!
Many people outside the Amish and Mennonite beliefs, are ready to believe that "everything" in the Bible, from cover to cover, is true--and you may be sure that one who is firmly convinced will interpret all passages according to his understanding.
Dinners.--At the dinners served at "meeting time" at the homes of members, when as many as two hundred gather at one time, it requires food and plenty of it. Naturally no one is prepared to serve food on two hundred different dinner plates, and when many extra settings are necessary those awaiting the finishing of the previous table are already pretty hungry.
"Moon Pies."--Those attending these meetings are fed on "moon pies." The lower crust is rolled out to the usual pie-plate size, and the uncovered part of the crust laid up over the "contents." This forms a secure "pocket" for this type of content and is called a "moon" or "half-moon" pie. Hundreds of these are prepared on the Saturday before meeting.
To save time, as soon as the men are called they will pile into the kitchen, dropping hats one after another, more alike than two peas, on a window sill, and approach the table.
When they have been served the next table is accommodated, with the same plates and utensils, and cups and saucers as the first, most times without the formality of washing, and so on until the several tables have been served. In many homes today among non-Amish the common drinking-cup and perhaps other utensils are used time and again by different members of the family, without washing for days at a time.
Silent prayer is offered before any diner begins his meal, and again at the end.
 Births.--Upon the birth of a son they make much ado, because he may be a plowman or a wagoner; if it is a girl there will be another one to milk the cows, or a lass who will get herself a husband who will be a good Amish or Mennonite amongst them. "To fear God and to love work" is the first lesson they teach their children.
When a man marries he asks not of the girl: "How much dowry can you bring with you?" but "Are you fit to be a good, industrious housewife and mother?"
Bundling, or Courting in Bed. *--The late Thaddeus Stevens once remarked that for every case of "bundling" in Lancaster county there were twenty cases in Vermont. Perhaps Thad. was qualified to make the statement, having lived a full and complete life of his own. But we wonder whether his statistics are reliable. Perhaps he just wanted to be quoted.
Bundling was condoned in the Old Testament, if one takes the time to look up the Book of Ruth to prove it; and if it was the custom then among the Jews for "men and women to lie on the same bed, as lovers, without undressing," then we have little doubt but that our plain friends used the same methods for getting couples into a convivial mood and a convenient embrace.
Our New England friends said that "bundling" was an "economic necessity" we prefer to believe that their prudishness made them say that, when in their hearts they knew that bundling was economically "convenient."
The plain people could have safely used several methods prescribed for bundling boys and girls in bed
together before they were married, because these young boys do not start out in their love affairs with worldly ideas of getting "special favors from girls" before they are married.
Hence, when we have it on good authority from the Amish direct that they bundle, and from Mennonites that they bundle, then we suppose it is fair to presume that they do so.
Bundling in Mifflin County.--Referring to the author's pamphlet "Bundling Prohibited," (The Aurand Press, 1929), we note briefly that "Bundling existed in Mifflin county, Pa., in 1928." The girl sleeps under the covers; the boy on top of the covers. In the same neighborhood, should illegitimate births occur, not necessarily the result of any bundling episodes, the mother is required to go before the church body, and there confess to the various incidents of her past--with whom, when and where. (This compares with legal processes in courts today when the issue is without "benefit of the law and clergy"). Such confessions are made freely, no persuasion being necessary; it is said that marriages readily take place just after such confessions. There seems to be less of the "sinfulness" thus attached to an honest confession, than would be the case among non-Amish.
These people are human; they know the emotions and passions of life and the method of reproduction, and are they to be censored for an occasional misstep in nature, when others constantly are enjoying the conjugal bed without the benefit of "license?"
The authorities governing the church naturally attend to all these cases, and numerous others falling within the scope of their "meeting." The civil law is within reach of all of them, but the wise ones avoid the law as long as they can.
A Mennonite college professor told the author some years ago that bundling is practiced among his people, not only in the States, but also in Canada, and that they bundle in the "good old-fashioned way"--the manner of which we shall leave to the imagination of the reader.
What is true of Canada, goes for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and other states. Bundling in the old manner is more difficult to locate nowadays than formerly, because the "professional bundlers," or the travelling salesmen are not visiting the sections where it may be found--hence the "news" is harder to "get out."
Blue Gates.--With reference to the "blue painted gates" in Lancaster county, there is a word to he said. Many persons speak of the "blue gate" as though they were speaking of a house of ill-fame, when they tell you that "where the blue gate is, there is a marriageable (virgin) daughter." Perhaps there is, but it just wouldn't necessarily follow that every blue gate told the same thing.
The Mennonites and some of the Amish just cannot help having their homes, their yards and front fences looking spic and span. What else would keep the latter in better condition than fresh paint? Blue is a favorite color and it has religious significance. So where there is a blue gate there may be a girl eligible for marriage.
Bundling is a convenient way to court--not necessarily the "last straw" to get rid of a daughter. It is an honorable custom, and has been practiced in all countries and in all ages.
The custom at one time was to place the girls in bags and to allow their "fellows," or beaux, to crawl into bed with them. Certainly it must have been a lot more comfortable to "court a girl in bed" than on an old sofa or an old, hard, wood-box!
Marriages usually take place on Tuesday or Thursday, at the home of the bride. It is customary, although not obligatory, to announce a contemplated marriage usually two weeks before-hand, probably to afford her more time for removing "hope chests" and such other items as a plain girl would have collected, to her new home, and to allow her the extra preparations for the wedding dinner.
A wedding means, besides the marriage ceremony, a day of feasting and good times lasting into the night. This practice seems to conform to practices among the Jews. A sermon also is delivered at the wedding, at which time certain knowledge and information is imparted to the newly-weds. Now this is not an "invention" of these people!
The marriage feast should be a big one, and on occasion there have been prepared for a repast, as many as 10 turkeys, 10 chickens, 50 lbs. of beef, 100 pies, 10 cakes, besides the "extras" without number.
Sometimes games of several sorts are played in the house, or outside, preferably in the barn where the accommodations were sufficient for such large numbers. Since it is usually the younger element that likes its fun, and particularly in the barn, it was extremely fortunate that a wedding ceremony in Mifflin county involved an older couple, instead of a young one. Smallpox unfortunately came to this wedding, and had it been that younger folks would have attended in goodly numbers, and had they gone afterwards to the barn to play their exciting games, one can sec an epidemic among them of telling effect. A number of people in the vicinity and elsewhere in the State and nearby states were affected.
An Amish Wedding in Mifflin county just a few years ago must have been interesting to behold, and we tell it as nearly as we can, as told to us.
Two weeks prior to the wedding the bride and the groom are "published" (wedding announced). From that time until the wedding the groom drives from farm to farm in his buggy, inviting those whom he wishes to have attend.
The marriage ceremony was held in a neighbor's home of the bride. The parents of neither the bride or groom attended the ceremony, according to ritual. The bride and groom were taken by the main preacher (who unites them in marriage), to a room by themselves and asked them questions--(would these have to deal with sex as we note to be the case with Jews?)--then in about fifteen minutes he returned with them to the room (singing taking place during the instruction period). Then following them were two bridesmaids and two best men.
The services lasted about three-and-a-half hours, and three or four preachers spoke, then called on different others. After that the big meal!
The meal, or dinner, is always at the bride's home; everything you want to eat or look at. The bride's table, of course, always has the nicest food, and more of a variety. They have what they call the corner table; after they are through with most of the eating (they sit and eat until 3, or 3.30 o'clock), the bride cuts her cake and sends pieces to her best friends at different tables.
For dinner they had roast turkey, chicken and duck.
They sing a lot from noon until 3.30. Then they go to the barn and play party games, similar to English games. After exercises of this kind they are ready for supper at 5 o'clock, when each of the "Dutch" boys leads a girl by the hand, to the supper. This meal is prepared with leftovers from dinner, but warmed; plus lemon pie and baked oysters (in season).
They sang during and after supper, which may last, as it did at this wedding, until 9 o'clock, then they went to the barn again! Here they played games and sang until the wee hours of the morning.
The older folks do the work; men and women both wait on tables. They have committees, and each has its appointed work to do. In this case the father of the bride tended to the roast chickens.
Divorces Are Forbidden; but if one of a couple dies, the survivor may remarry.
Burials.--If the plain people are as brief with the preparation of the bodies of deceased members, as are the Jews, then funerals, or at least the preparation of the body is not difficult, nor long delayed.
Jews are known to keep their hats on in their synagogue, and when they marry; even the writer remembers just a few years ago, of a fairly advanced community, among the Reformed and Lutheran persuasions, wherein it formerly was the custom for the men to keep their hat on in church during funeral services, so long as they were one of the relatives, or chief mourners--others removed their's.
If this was a custom in the average German-settled community, it is pretty safe to assume that it is still more or less universal with the plain people.
The Amish do not hang crepes at the doors of the deceased; no flowers surround the coffin although the corpse may, on occasion, he seen in a coffin sparingly lined, or with head resting on pillow. The more progressive may allow handles on the coffins.
Services for the deceased may last for two or three hours, and be attended by one to three preachers.
The coffin may be taken to the grave-yard in a rough two-horse wagon, braced and held up some-times by bags of grain.
In Amish grave-yards are found small markers, at each grave, possibly 12x3x3--all nearly alike, severely plain, containing usually only the name, date of birth, and date of death--no eulogies, and apologies!
Pow-Wowing or Faith-Healing.--There are those who profess to know, and who stoutly declare that there are no "Pow Wowers" among the Amish and the Mennonites. We do not know definitely that there are any of the so-called "hex doctors," or the "quack doctor" variety. Appearances are deceptive, and we can only readily suspect that necessity is the mother of invention among them, as with other people.
Their heritage is such that, coming from the Old World with all the ideas they possessed, and with frugality and economy as their watchword, they would supply the same mental and physical corrective measures that other peoples do throughout the world--they would "lay on hands, anoint with oil, and pray;" they would sympathize with the sick, and that, dear reader, is the trite spirit, if not the manner, for "pow-wowing." There are other methods for curing the sick, but the one mentioned will "take" as quickly as will the prayers by any priest or clergyman; and with these people as quickly as through the use of sugar-coated pills.
Superstitions. We naturally want to feel that there is superstition among these people--although they might deny it. Theoretically they are right, for they reason all things from the Old Testament--and if they find any authority there, or in the New, for what they do--can there be any "superstition?"
But on the other hand, we do lots of things which are founded likewise on the same sources, and to say that we are not superstitious would really make us look like "liars." The whole structure is based on what we mean by "superstition."
Drunkenness.--Christianity has taken such hold on these people that drunkenness is an unheard-of condition among them. None are idle; none profane the name of their Lord and Saviour; none will bear arms against his neighbor, nor any other; none are on relief. Drunkenness breeds all of these-to-be-deplored conditions and vices--even in the face of Christianity.
Banned Articles.--Among some things generally banned to use to some of the more orthodox may be noted the telephone and top-buggies; although once married, top buggies generally are permissible, as a covering for the wife perhaps it is more a sign of marriage than a protection for the wife.
Dash-boards are taboo, although manure-deflectors are in use by common consent; bicycles, furnaces (few homes have any other stove or heating method, than the kitchen-stove); window curtains are "out;" rugs are not to be found, unless perhaps one in the spare room or "parlor;" musical instruments, "note books," and "store suspenders" are too worldly.
Carpets and other comforts and conveniences, involving extravagance, are not allowed. Anything of a nature that savours of "vanity" or pride are discarded and avoided.
The taking and exchanging of photographs, engravings, statuary, etc., are not allowed by the Old Amish families, although the Meeting House Amish are inclined to overlook it.
Buying for Cash is the common rule among them, and unless they can see some real and quick return they will not buy anything. Certainly they are not the kind to waste. Their women never "own" their husband's property!
Never Hurry.--These people take their time with nearly all things--they rarely show impatience, except that they are impatient to be always at work--at doing something. They know that life may reproduce itself in nine months, and that time goes on. Their place and mission on earth is a preparatory one, and they must be "about the Father's business," whatever it be, to be in a happy mood.
It is pretty generally admitted a fact that when these people, or the average Pennsylvania German does something, it need not be done over again.
Home-Folk.--Not many of the Amish get far from home. At least they arrange once in a while to get to the county seat, wherever that may be, if necessary; certainly not just for the trip.
While railroad trains, steam and electric, and the ever-present automobiles go daily by their door, many of them have the first time to ride on any of these worldly contraptions.
In a recent trip into the Amish country of the Blue Ball-Morgantown district, it was noted that all occupants of buggies had their legs covered up, over their knees, by wool blankets, on one of the hottest days of the year. Since they had no dash-boards we supposed the blankets to act as manure deflectors.
In this same section, at the one-room school house east of Churchtown, there were thirty-two pupils--of which number twenty-eight were "Stultzfoos" children. In this locality one must know exactly which "Henry" Stoltzfoos he wants to see, for there are about forty such "Henrys" in the neighborhood!
Here the author spent some time in checking statements made in this account. Speaking for nearly an hour in Pennsylvania German with one of the "pillars" in his district, we were pleased to note that few revisions were necessary in any part of our thesis.
Faithful Wives and Workers.--The plain women have their hands full looking after the general work in the house, preparing meals for hungry men and children; tending the garden and cattle; it is nothing strange to see them work in the fields alongside the men and render a good account of themselves at whatever they put a hand to do.
Naturally hands exposed to toil such as makes up their lives every day in the year, do not come out soft and lovely. They have lots of mending to do, and somehow these families get along through life with few of the things which the rest of the world calls "necessary modern conveniences and appliances."
The outdoors of the farmer and his family give them that close communion with the ground that we hear many mothers speak of when children in the city are unhealthy, or unruly, or want to get out to play--"if they could only get into the ground--it's healthy for them--it's what they need."
There is a large amount of housework to be done, aside from cooking and sewing, etc. a lot of cleaning, since the large kitchen is the place where the family gathers when work gives way to rest.
There are generally no such things as linen on their kitchen tables which is where the family always dines, but their tables are scrubbed daily until the wood finally becomes quite smooth. Heavy coarse dishes serve their purpose.
Some of the finest-looking and best-kept farms to be seen in many days' driving can be found in the section northeast, ’round-about New Holland. Try it.
Furniture is always of the plainest sort; occasional guests are entertained in the parlor--especially the minister. Bed rooms are furnished with such pieces of furniture considered as being absolutely necessary. The beds may be of the old-fashioned rope variety. Plainness is used severely in most everything they have or use. Even closet space is in the rough--clothing merely being covered with a cloth.
They light the homes with oil; they can find no excuse in the Bible for electricity, or for many other modern day conveniences in the house or barn.
In the old log-cabin days among our early settlers, when they had but one or two rooms in the house, it was the custom for one and all to bathe in the common washtub. Even today this can easily be the rule among the folk living along the back-woods sections of the country, not of the Amish persuasion, necessarily--and in many sections of this vast country. We cannot imagine the backwoodsman walking, driving, or hiking to towns, or cities, just for the pleasure of taking a bath--privately!
We have heard of more than just one or two instances in which man, wife, children; uncles and aunts together observe the rule of cleanliness without the single thought that their nakedness might stimulate sex excitement in each other. A working knowledge of impoverished conditions among the poor in the coal regions, in the city slums, and in the mountain and southern "squatter" sections might reveal a great number of instances of "bathing in the raw" with all the family present.
Few Vices.--If one goes to the trouble to visit these plain people in Lancaster, or any county where they may be found, one is startled at the sweet innocence of their children, to whom vices rarely come, because these are avoided through a constant religious pressure. Their parents are not addicted, and they do not allow the children to associate with, if at all avoidable, other children whose parents are known to dissipate.
The Library of the plain people during the past few generations might have consisted of the Bible, a hymn-book, prayer-hook, catechism, a sermon-book, and perhaps a few other books on devotion.
In later years a book of "pow wows" conforming to authority given by Jesus to the Elders of the Church, and evidencing some use and nurture among their forbears, was to become a household book, at least with others of German extraction. Known as a "ga-brauch buch," it had a wide circulation, and is still in demand by the descendants of orthodox families and many non-Amish who have heard of its virtue.
Are They "Dumb Dutch?"--These people are not ignorant--that is they are well able to read and write, either in German or English. But they are not generally educated to what we call "our modern ideas." They shun these and learn what they want to, and keep on searching after the information relative to the teachings of their kind.
Generally the German of three hundred years ago is the language of their religious meetings and sermons. Their services may last several hours and usually are largely attended by every one belonging thereto resident in their community. Either English, or Pennsylvania-"Dutch," so-called by the English in lieu of "Deutsch" is the language of the home and for general purposes, if desired.
Reasoning Powers.--One advantage the average plain man has over others of his worldly neighbors is that he knows both English and German tongues. This gives him opportunity to reason in both and when his thoughts are put into words the grammatical construction leaves much to be desired at times. He is not at a disadvantage due to these "handicaps."
Dialect Advantages.--It has been the writer's personal experience to carry on a conversation at length in our plain, simple, Pennsylvania "Dutch," not only with members of the plain "sects," but with Germans from any and every section of this or any other State, settled by those who originally came from Germany or adjacent countries, and whose children and their children blazed trails to all points of the compass.
The writer has also used successfully enough, our simple "dialect" to speak to, and to be understood by, German-born students, scholars and professors; Jews born in Germany, Roumania, Latvia and elsewhere; Austrians, whether of the pre-war, or post-war period. There is still enough of the original German flavor in our dialect after more than two hundred years' use and abuse, to satisfy the daily needs of many plain people and others of German extraction.
Our Sects.--The "plain people" of Pennsylvania are the satisfied religious manifestations of dissatisfied Catholic priests in topsy-turvy Europe of the Reformation period.
The Mennonites and their kind were "born" advantageously after the Reformation, when the Bible had been translated from the Hebrew into German, and not from the Latin Vulgate, which up until that time was the only evidence of religion, scarcely available--and then through an approach to self-expression which did not appeal to the masses.
Men like Martin Luther and Menno Simon, as well as other "pro-test-ants," differed greatly even with one another, as to how men and women ought to worship, after breaking away from the Catholic church of that day.
Menno Simon, himself an ordained priest, differed with his superiors on church policies, and renounced his church and obligations. Others, believing substantially as he did, joined him in establishing a "new order" of worship, and in setting forth a set of rules or "Book of Discipline" for the conduct of those who joined in the movement.
This movement was intended as one wherein those who had been oppressed heretofore, could worship according to the then "new light" with respect to God: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Many phases in their lives are the direct outcome of their interpretation of portions of the Bible--including their hats, bonnets, hooks and eyes, their whiskers, and the cut of their clothing.
In directing the reader's attention to the Mennonites, we want to state that they were a distinct group of followers of Menno Simon, from the middle of the 1500's. Simon (or Simons) was horn in Friesland in 1492, or 1495 (authorities differing); (lied 1559.)
He was educated for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic church and must have been well liked, for when he renounced his church and priesthood, he had no trouble in extending his ideas and finding others who expressed the same feeling.
His starting of a new sect was typical of many others today where interpretations are based on passages of the Bible; or, on acts of General Assemblies of States, where men hold different points of view.
Simon's followers, popularly called Mennonites, were largely persons of conviction to be found in Switzerland, Germany and along the Rhine down into Holland. Most of them were German-spoken; some were Holland Dutch.
The Amish, another branch of the Mennonites, are followers of one Jacob Ammann, or Amen, or perhaps Ammon (variously spelled), who about the close of the seventeenth century, urged a much stricter obedience to the rules and regulations originally adopted.
Some of the membership had become indifferent to the matter of washing of feet, avoidance of those ex-communicated, and perhaps a tendency to adopt an occasional new idea or convenience, which were termed too worldly.
Therefore, today we have the Amish, and the Mennonites, and we have them in America to the number of more than a hundred and twenty different meetings, or conferences, in as many different communities.
The Amish take the cake, however, for picturesqueness among the plain people, and Lancaster county is one of the ideal spots in which to find them "at home." But we would not have you overlook those in the "Big Valley" of Mifflin county, where there are five distinct branches, at least, out of a membership of but several hundred.
In speaking of the Amish and Mennonites, one must take into the picture others who show by their wearing apparel and performance as to church and home "ritual," that they are "plain," too. Of these we may speak of the "German Baptist Brethren," or "Dunkers." There are thousands in the latter sect, a potential force for good in America.
This then, is a more or less brief summary of the origin of their faith. A few came to America before Penn, but the first numbers of them were families who settled in what is now Germantown, Philadelphia, in 1683, coming here from Crefeld, Germany. The first known Mennonite meeting-house in America was built in Germantown in 1708.
People of this persuasion were largely instrumental in setting Pennsylvania out on her right foot on her march through time. Religious and educational, as well as agricultural and industrial leaders among them were among the out-standing men of early Colonial times.
Lancaster county, and others in this State, are rich in history, lore and commerce, because these people farmed their lands in those parts--living close to the soil--and to God. Lancaster is noted as the richest agricultural county in the United States, and the plain people deserve most of the credit for this honor.
They are really a successful transplanting of a race, a creed and a color, from their native soil into a new soil--and they have changed their ways but little from the time Menno Simon and Jacob Ammon gave them the torch to carry on.
If one wanted to travel to any extent throughout Europe, undoubtedly one would plan to see Switzerland. Why travel to Europe when you can see the Swiss in their odd trappings and glory, right here in Pennsylvania, lacking only the snow-capped Alps? Here are the best farms, and the finest cheese "mills" to be found in America.
The account of "Bell don't make--bump!" is one that has been told time and again, and "Tillie, the Mennonite Maid" has been the source of most of the misinformation obtained by outsiders about the Mennonite people. Stories of all shades and proportions have been told by persons who have never seen any of them, and given as "gospel truth."
From birth to death their lives are ordered by "ritual" to methods which others think unnecessary, or even foolish. But these people do it and like it--and prefer it to anything the rest of the Protestant world has to offer--avoiding everything outside their own circle as they would a plague.
If the Commonwealth gives these people a free rein in their religious expressions, there will be Mennonites for-ever-and-a-day, for they will hold their own in a world where around then there is much strife and discord; while amongst them there is peace, pleasure and plenty.
The Mennonites are by far the larger in number of the plain sects; then follow the Amish and the Brethren, or bunkers--not, however in church membership. Some pronounce it "Awmish;" others "A-mish;" some even indicate it should be "Ommish." They followed the lead of Jacob Am-man, or Amen, or Ammon--so you take your choice.
The Earliest Amish Congregation in the United States was established along North Kill Creek, Berks county, Pa., in 1735. The Indians subsequently crowded them southward, where today they are firmly rooted.
Their church membership is as follows, according to the "Familien-kalendar fuer das Jahr unseres Herrn 1937," edited by Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite Church (membership in U.S.A., 47,253); Amish Mennonites (Conservatives), 1608; Amish Mennonites (Old Order), 8,600; Church of God in Christ Mennonites, 2,700; Defenceless Mennonites, 1,500; Central Conference of Mennonites, 3,273; Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 12,500; Krimmer M. Bruedergemeinde, 1,850.
"Plain People."--A very large sect known as the German Baptist Brethren or "Dunkers" goes a long way toward making up the plain people population of Pennsylvania. Other states have respectable numbers of them, and find them among the best of their citizenry.
Their church ritual is practicable. It requires discipline among its members, among other things. The membership finds it no hardship to practice what they preach and it is a splendid example of a peaceable and industrious God-fearing Christian people that we have among us.
Their origin is based on substantially the general ideals for living so common among the plain people, or "sects," as they are sometimes called. However, they have off-shoots like the several others, and we find them sometimes believing that they are more than right, no matter how trivial the matter may be. But are we not all that way about little things?
While their lives are well-ordered they have not gone to the extremes noticeable among some of the other sects. Even the general run of Mennonites conform generally to habits not at all unusual. It is the extremists that our foregoing account covers.
The following brief references have been taken from a pamphlet on "The Brethren," descriptive of their "Faith and Practice," edited by one of their prominent members, Elder D. L. Miller:
Introduction.--The Brethren are a large body of Christians, whose faith and practice are not generally known outside of their immediate localities. The errors in, the books that attempt to describe the Brethren have been both numerous and lamentable . .
Faith and Practice.--The Brethren hold the Bible to be the inspired and infallible Word of God, and accept the New Testament as their rule of faith and practice . in the Trinity, divinity of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and in future rewards and punishments . .
Baptism . . . is administered by trine immersion . . . the applicant is taken down into the water, and, kneeling, reaffirms his faith in Christ . . follow closely the practice of the apostolic church, and admit none into fellowship until they have been baptized . . . Infants can neither believe nor repent, hence they are not proper subjects for baptism . . . Changes were gradually made from trine immersion to sprinkling, but the church that made the change, the Roman Catholic, still retains the three actions in applying water to the candidate . . . nearly all Protestant churches that practice sprinkling retain the same form . . .
Love Feast and Communion . . . of bread and wine . . . A full meal is prepared and placed upon tables, used for that purpose, in the church, and all the members partake of the supper .
Feet-Washing . . . Before eating supper, the religious rite of washing feet is observed . . following very closely the examples of the Master . water is poured into a basin, a brother girds himself with a towel and washes and wipes his brother's bared feet, and in turn has his feet washed . . . the sisters wash their sisters' feet and all the proprieties of the sexes are most rigidly observed . . .
The Supper . . . (following the feet-washing) is eaten with solemnity . . . at the conclusion of the meal thanks are returned . . . the right hand of fellowship and the kiss of charity are given . . . The salutation of the kiss of love in worship and in customary greetings, as enjoined by the apostles, is never observed between the sexes .
Communion . . . is then administered . . . Love-feasts are held in each congregation usually once or twice each year.
Plainness . . . The Brethren claim to be, and are in many respects, a peculiar people . Plain dressing is taught and required and a general uniformity is observed, but this is regarded as a means to an end . . .
Non-Litigant . . . not allowed to go to law with one of their own number, nor with others, without first asking the counsel of the church . . .
Non-Resistant and Non-Swearing . . . take no active part in politics, and "swear not at all." If called upon to testify in the courts, they simply affirm . . . Yea, yea; Nay, nay.
Secretism . . . No brother may become a member of any secret or oath-bound society . .
The Anointing . . . (James v, 14, 15), annoint the sick with oil . . . only by request of the sick . . . officiating elder applies the oil to the head three times, two elders then lay their hands on the head of the sick, and offer a prayer for the anointed one.
Marriage . . . bonds can be dissolved only by death . . .
There is another sect known as the "River Brethren," in the section south of Harrisburg. One of their schools is the Messiah Bible School, at Grantham.
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From the name of the Swiss preacher Jakob Amman (1645-1730).
Amish (not comparable)
The Amish, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch, are a group of people who prefer simple lifestyles. They are usually farmers, and they do not use electricity or automobiles. The ancestors of the Amish came from Germany in the 18th century, and now most of the Amish live in Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) and Ohio, in the United States. They are related to the Mennonites. They speak an old dialect of German, known as Pennsylvania German.
Generally, they are friendly people in that they will wave to someone passing by. However, it is against their religion to pose for photographs. Often they will turn their head down and to the side if someone aims a camera in their direction.
Married men are not allowed to shave their beards, but they are also not allowed to have moustaches. Only unmarried men shave their faces.