The Amish Community is a fascinating sector that has settled mainly in the United States. These traditional people have Swiss Anabaptist origins. Sometimes they are referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch, given their first settlement was in the states was in Pennsylvania. The Amish shun technology, and they choose to live a life of simplicity. They refer to themselves as “plain people.”
The Amish Population Continues To Grow
As of 2015, there are more than 225,000 Amish living in this country. The four most populated areas are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin. They are known for their devout faith, great work ethics, and fascinating woodwork and crafts. They sell their goods at local shops to make a living. Though Amish cannot have cell phones, cars, electricity, or technology, they can use these items for their businesses.
The Difference Between Mennonite and Amish
The Mennonite faith is a bit more lenient. They often have cars and electricity in their homes. Common last names throughout Amish are Yoder, Miller, Schmitt, Hershberger, Hochstetler, Troyer, and Schrock. One fascinating thing about the Amish is that they don’t pay taxes. Many don’t have bank accounts or use any “English” conveniences. They have their businesses and take care of themselves. They don’t use medical or any other type of assistance from the state; they take care of each other. They have many children, and it is not uncommon to see a large home accommodate grandparents and extended family members. Because of their strict beliefs and dedicated lifestyles, the crime rates are relatively low in Amish communities. They also garden, farm, and build for income.
Holmes County, Ohio
Ohio’s vast farmland is the perfect setting for a community of naturalists. Located in the northwestern part of the state, this area has a large settlement of both the Amish and Mennonite populations. In total, more than 59,000 people of the Amish faith make Holmes County their home. The county seat is Millersburg, but areas like Sugarcreek, Berlin, Charm, New Philadelphia, Dover, and Canton, are also populated with their ancestors. They are spread out across Holmes, Tuscarawas, and Coshocton counties.
The Amish community in Holmes County is the largest in the world. People come from all over the globe to see, taste, and mingle with these “plain people.” Statistics show that 42 percent of the Amish population in the US live in Ohio’s Northwestern parts. Most of the settlers here are from the “old order.” There is an “old order” and “new order” segregation of beliefs among the Amish. The older saints take simply living a bit further than those in the newer orders. They don’t allow buttons on clothes, women must always have their heads covered, and no deodorant or makeup is permitted.
The Amish are glad to see tourists come and visit their region but never ask to take a picture. The old order won’t allow any pictures, which is a graven image. In Ohio, you can have dinner with the Troyer family, ride a train around the region, or visit an Amish schoolhouse and a working farm. There is plenty to do here, and you will need a few days to see all the sites.
Lancaster is home to America’s oldest Amish order in the country. Though they are the oldest, they are also the most commercialized. A visit to Holmes County and Lancaster will give visitors two different experiences. The people of Lancaster are accustomed to more modern conveniences, and they have been commercialized. However, in Homes County, one would have to drive a half-hour or so to get to any big-name retail stores.
Strasburg, a neighboring town of Lancaster, also has a large concentration of Amish. This area is widely known for its cornfields, potato, and cabbage farms. There are about 68,000 people in this area of the Amish and Mennonite faith. Though the public school system is readily available to them, they choose to homeschool or send their children to Amish-run facilities. Their schools allow accommodations for children to help on the farms and in their businesses. Some people of this area will pose for a picture, and they may even stop and chat. Don’t look for men to be too friendly to women. It is frowned upon in their faith.
Indiana’s Northern Trail/Elkhart County
The Northern Trail of Indiana is home to more than 50,955 Amish. It includes Bristol, Elkhart, Middlebury, Shipshewana, Goshen, Wakarusa, and Nappanee; This area is known for its scenic back roads and great sites. The Amish settled here in 1841. The community in this area is known for its quilts, homemade rolls and cakes, fried chicken, and other baked goodies. The winters are harsh here, so the best time to visit this area is in the spring and fall seasons. Make sure to visit or drive-thru each city along the Northern Trail. There are many shops, restaurants, and unique things to see and do. You can take a ride in an Amish buggy or even have dinner with an Amish family.
Located just 15 miles south of South Bend, Eckert is a lively city in the center of Amish Country. While visiting the area, be sure to stop and see a production at the Amish Acres Round Barn Theater. While exploring the Heritage Trail, be sure to listen to the audio feed through your car’s stereo system. Take a stroll through the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, and make sure to see all the breathtaking botanical gardens in the area.
Vernon County, Wisconsin
The fourth-largest Amish country on our list is relatively small. Vernon County in Wisconsin has about 17,000 Amish that calls this area home. That is one of the newer settlements that started around the 1970s. The Amish settled between the areas of Ontario, Cashton, and Hillsboro. Both Viroqua and Ferryville have markets full of homemade Amish treats. You will need to do your exploration Monday through Saturday. Like most Amish orders, they are closed for business on Sundays.
The Kickapoo River Valley provides ample opportunity to get outside and discover nature. There are many places to canoe, fish, and take a horse and buggy ride. Wisconsin has often been called “America’s Breadbasket.” However, growing wheat is difficult in the soils of this state. Now, more Amish and other locals are switching their focus to wine. There are 32 vineyards in this region. Dairy production is also a reliable source of income—the Amish run over 13,000 dairy farms throughout the communities. Much of the country’s organic agriculture come from this area. They are the second largest provider behind California. Many of the people here have an appetite for locally-grown foods. Because of the abundance of farmer’s markets, many scarcely darken the door of a grocery store.
A Trip To Amish Country
Whether you choose to see Ohio’s massive Amish population or Wisconsin’s small one, many adventures are waiting. It is often nice to escape the cares of life and mingle among those who choose a more simplistic lifestyle free of technology and modern conveniences.
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