Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, home for a short while before my next big adventure …
In last month’s post I mentioned that I was going on a trip to Amish country on a work trip. Well, I can report that I had an outstanding time…and my wonderful employer paid for it, LOL! I met a lot of friendly, engaging people on the tour, both the tourists and the Amish people we encountered. I would go back again, anytime.
This tour started in Cleveland, and we traveled around the countryside of Holmes County, Ohio for several days. There are villages, of course, but the majority of
Holmes County is farmland, still green at the beginning of October, with rolling hills and livestock grazing and big red or white barns. Holmes County is home to the second-largest Amish population in the country (after Lancaster in Pennsylvania). If you get the chance, I highly recommend Amish Heartland Tours. You will not be sorry. Shelly, the owner, is a wealth of knowledge, and she has relationships with many Amish people who will invite you into their businesses, as well as into their homes–and some of them will even feed you!
But rather than give you a travelogue, I thought I’d give you some facts and myths about the Amish. So here goes:
The Amish are Protestant Christians, technically part of the Anabaptist movement which began in Switzerland in the seventeenth century. They were highly persecuted, and moved to Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn. The underlying tenet of their faith is the belief in adult baptism. Babies and children are not baptized, but wait until they are ready to join the church of their own free will, usually around the age of 20 or so. At that time they may marry an Amish spouse.
Today, there are no Amish in Europe. They all live in the United States and Canada in communities from Maine to Florida and even in Colorado and Montana. There’s even an Amish community called Pinecraft, a suburb of Sarasota, Florida, where Amish snowbirds congregate in the winter. The Amish population is doubling every 20 years, so communities are expanding where there is farmland to be had.
The Holmes County Amish serve peanut butter spread (sometimes called church spread) at many meals, including their after-church meals. This is a mixture of equal parts creamy peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and light corn syrup (although an even more delicious version I tasted at one home used part maple syrup, part corn syrup). It will keep at room temperature indefinitely, and can be stored in a squeeze bottle. Delicious on anything you’d put peanut butter on–homemade bread, crackers, apple slices, or a banana. Seriously, make some and try it.
Amish women wear prayer Kapps and pin up their hair underneath them. These are white or black and shaped differently depending on which community the woman is in. A traveling bonnet (a big, black, very stiff headpiece) goes over the Kapp when a woman leaves the home–although I saw plenty of women not wearing them too. Amish women’s clothing is fastened with straight pins–children and men wear buttons, though.
Amish men grow beards after they marry, and do not cut them. They shave their mustaches though. The reason is that the Amish are pacifists and mustaches are historically associated with the military. (Additional, non-Amish fact: my grandfather, a farmer, always grew a mustacheless beard starting in October and wore it through the cold winters of New York State. He said the beard kept his face warm while he was hunting or doing chores, but his nose breath caused ice to form in his mustache, and that’s why he shaved it off)
Have you ever been to Amish Country? Which area? Do you have any questions about the Amish? I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thank you for the information on the Amish. Enjoyed reading it. I’ve been to Shipshewana Indiana twice. Loved seeing the Amish there. Can’t wait to go back!
I’ve never been to Shipshewana (although I love to say that word), but I have been to Berne, Indiana, which also has a Swiss Amish population. They are known for their yodeling–but I didn’t get to hear any!
Great facts, Jane. Thank you! People often lump Quakers in with the Amish, and I love that William Penn, one of the most famous early converts to the faith, invited the Anabaptists to Pennsylvania.
I learned so much at the Amish-Mennonite Heritage Center on my tour about the tenets of the faith and how terribly the Anabaptists were treated. I know the Quakers had a dreadful time of it too, but I’m glad they all survived.
Many years ago I toured an Amish house and ate at an Amish restaurant in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. The Amish lifestyle fascinates me but I don’t think I could live that way myself.
The food is so yummy, isn’t it? So. Many. Carbs. I don’t think I could live permanently as Amish, but I think I could do it for a few days, as long as I was staying with people in a more progressive order–the ones who have flush toilets, LOL!
Straight pins to hold clothes together? a prickly subject.
Right? They were so neatly placed, too. Perfectly parallel to each other. One lady I saw even had her Kapp fastened to her hair with straight pins!
My father lived in the Lancaster area for the last decade or so of his life, mainly because the company he worked for had a plant that made industrial mixing systems out that way. He was not a great fan of the Amish culture–he hated getting stuck in his car behind a horse-drawn buggy. There were also quite a few Amish food-sellers at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.
I lived side-by-side with the Amish in northern New York. Now when I visit, there are so many buggies (the population there is growing because of inexpensive farmland)–I even seen buggies at McDonald’s!
Oh, and I’ve been to Reading Terminal Market several times–I think I could live there, never having to cook again!
I absolutely adore visiting Lancaster County – I have a list of my favorite Amish farmstands that I always stop by. I go to the Amish farmer’s markets around NJ, where I live – I love the food! We had dinner with an Amish family in PA once – they were so nice and they told us about the Amish in Florida. I’d love to go to Holmes County in the future!
Oh, Alison, if you do go, look up Shelly at Amish Heartland Tours. She’s great!
I love reading and learning about the Amish way of life. I’ve been to Lancaster County twice…once when visiting Pennsylvania as a child and once when visiting as an adult.
There is SO much Amish fiction out there now, whether you like romance, women’s fiction, cozy mysteries or grittier police-type stories.
I have not been to Amish Country, but keep saying I want to go, I need to make plans, maybe in the spring. We have an area here in Ontario called St. Jacob’s that has an Amish Community and Market that I already have plans to visit next summer. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures, that quilt is amazing.
Oh, you should definitely go! I’m glad you have something to look forward to over the long Ontario winter.
When I visited my great aunt, who lived near State College PA, we would visit the Amish. I fell in love with the quilts, but never could afford one. I took my daughter when she was younger and we visited an Amish farm. She got to learn to milk a cow – and the Amish woman said my girl did pretty well for a first timer.
And I love Amish-made furniture. But I still can’t afford it.
Oh, that’s awesome. I’ve never hand-milked a cow and I don’t think I want to learn. But I’m with you on the quilts and furniture (which are worth every penny). There’s always a second mortgage …
Ohio has a lot of Amish communities, as well as Mennonite. We often go to Adams County for an annual birders symposium, which is hosted by the Amish of that area, in one of their community workshops. It’s a huge space, powered, heated, and lit by non-electric means, and the local women cook and serve the lunch midday.
About 30 years ago my husband was hired to make a promo film for the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which encompasses part of Holmes County. He was asked to include scenes of Amish farm life, and was allowed to film a lovely young woman, too young still to be forbidden from having her image taken electronically. She and her little brother drove the family buggy back and forth, obligingly, so Steve could get the right shot.
We interviewed an Amish man about working on the house we’re building. He told us their children, including him, all leave school at the eighth grade, having learned “all they need to” in order to make a living. His 14-year old son works with him full-time as a carpenter. He was reluctant to do the work for us, since we live in town, because of the scrutiny his son would get as a minor, not going to school, but working in sometimes dangerous spots. It was eye-opening, in many ways.
Yes, that is true. Amish children are not officially Amish until they are grown and join the church. Therefore they are sometimes dressed in Englisch-style clothing. Some adult Amish, depending on the order they belong to (some are more progressive than others), especially if they rely heavily on tourists for their income, will allow their picture to be taken in a candid way, but won’t pose. Others don’t want their photos taken at all. It all depends on their local Ordnung (rules) and personal preference. It is also true that Amish children (who are called scholars) only go to school to the 8th grade. Even their teachers only have an 8th grade education.
I grew up in Iowa and my grandparents lived in Missouri. We’d see Amish and Mennonites on some of the roads we traveled on between the two places. I’ve also been to the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The food is delicious and many restaurants serve it family style. I’ve also went to Pennsylvania Amish country a few years ago. But I learned more than this than I ever knew! Thanks, Jane.
Well–I had to pick and choose a few facts to highlight here. My day job is working with Amish fiction, so what I know (or pretend to know) could go on for pages 🙂
Some interesting facts in there, like the reason for the mutacheless beard.
I’ve never been to Amish country, although I am a huge fan of Laura Bradford’s Amish mysteries.
Aren’t we all Laura Bradford fans? I am lucky to count her among my very dear friends.
I grew up in northern Indiana so I was used to seeing Amish and Mennonites around,but knew very little of them. I now live in Lancaster, PA, and have learned so much. I buy a lot of fruit and veggies, and all my fall decorating items and flowers from Amish farms. I generally hate shopping, but whenever I need a gift I go the The Country Store in Intercourse. All of their craft items are made by the Amish and all are super high quality. And then there are the quilts …. I love them, but they are way outside what my pocketbook can handle, too.
Maybe we could all pool our money and share joint custody of an Amish quilt?
They last forever so it sounds like a good idea to me!
Spending part of my youth in Pennsylvania, I have been to Lancaster several times, but not in years.
Wickeds and Accomplices retreat in Lancaster? I’ll make peanut butter spread …
Y’all can come and retreat here! We’ll go drool over the Amish quilts together.
I’ve been to Lancaster when Rod worked on car racing in the Poconos. Also, his sister lives in southern Illinois where most of her neighbors are Amish families. We hear the buggies passing her house.
Oh, Rhonda, I got to ride in a buggy on this trip! It was so much fun. The driver was an adorable older Amish man. I can’t remember his name, but the beautiful Standardbred horse’s name was Freddie.
I live close to Lancaster, PA so have visited it often in the past. I just finished Amanda Flower’s Premeditated Peppermint set in Holmes County. I’ve also read Laura Bradford’s series.
My parents and I drove through the Penn Dutch area in Pennsylvania when I was a child in the 1960s. It may have been Lancaster County, I don’t know. We were traveling from NJ to Indiana. I was fascinated and at an age to be jealous of all those horses. My parents stopped and bought me books about the culture and history as well as lots of farmers market goods. Interestingly enough, as a German speaker, I found I could chat with the children not word for word, but definitely in gist. I always promised myself a return trip but never made it.
Here in Florida, we do have Amish snowbirds. I didn’t know about the Sarasota area, but there is one that I used to visit in the Redlands area of South Miami-Dade County. It’s a fascinating culture.
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