The farmlands of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country are among the most productive in the nation. But many of the farmers here are different from most Americans; different by choice. For these are the Old Order Amish and Mennonites, also known as the "Plain People".Our Amish neighbors have been employing horse-drawn power since the days when horsepower had a whole different meaning! In comparison to our fast-paced society, the simpler, family-centered Amish way of life holds a special fascination.
These people trace their heritage back hundreds of years, and yet, despite all the time that has passed and the many changes that have taken place in society, they still live and work much as their forefathers did. Their families and their farms are their top priorities, second only to God.
The Amish are very devout in their faith. They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God. They take seriously the Biblical commands to separate themselves from the things of the world. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and can introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life.
Today there are over 25 different Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church groups in Lancaster County, all holding to slightly different traditions and their own interpretations of the Bible. The more traditional groups are called 'old order'. They do not permit electricity or telephones in their homes. By restricting access to television, radio, and telephones, the Amish are better able to keep the modern world from intruding into their home life.
The Amish have long preferred farming as a way of life. They feel their lifestyle and their families can best be maintained in a rural environment. While they do not permit the use of tractors in their fields, these old order Amish groups do use modern farm equipment pulled by teams of horses or mules.
These old order groups do not own or operate automobiles, believing that cars would provide easier access to the ways of the world. You will often see their horses and buggies on our local roads.
These traditional groups wear plain clothing styles, which has earned them the name "Plain People". It is the simple, peaceful lifestyle of these plain people that attracts such a curiosity today. Many wonder how these people can survive in their supposedly backward ways. Well, they're not only surviving - they're thriving. Since 1960, the Amish population in Lancaster County has almost tripled.
Their separation from the rest of society actually helps to strengthen their community. Amish children attend Amish one-room schoolhouses through the eighth grade. Amish worship services are held every other week in one of the member's homes. Socializing is an important part of Amish life.