Amish in Lancaster, PA
Visiting Amish country in Lancaster County, PA, you will find a large community of peace-loving, plain-dressed people that stand out as different from the rest of the world. The Amish in Lancaster seems to live a laid-back lifestyle without all the modern conveniences of today's world. Their homes are without electricity, and they drive around in a horse-drawn buggy instead of automobiles.
Lancaster County is a beautiful area with rolling hills and fertile farmland. Home to thousands of America's Amish population, it is the oldest Amish settlement.
Lancaster County, PA Amish
There are several different kinds of Amish all across North America, and there are many differences in their communities. But the Amish in Lancaster are all a part of the Old Order group. Because of their large number, there are many small church groups. They meet in their homes for church services, so they can't have more than about twenty-five families in one district.
The Lancaster Amish church groups are all very similar. They do not vary much in rules and dress.
And you may have noticed that they have a different style of dress than most other Amish people. The Lancaster Amish women wear a heart-shaped head covering, unlike most flat-sided ones worn in other communities.
A few communities in other states have branched off from the Amish in Lancaster and decided to keep their dress style. But they are only a few in number.
Lancaster County is a huge tourist attraction. It's a lovely place for city folk to retreat to for a getaway vacation. The quiet countryside with its beautiful landscape and quaint people beckons many to come and enjoy what it has to offer. And it does offer many tourist attractions if you are interested in learning more about the Amish way of life.
The Amish people are used to being an attraction to the outside world and having curious onlookers taking their photographs. They live their life much as their forefathers did and follow the rules (Ordnung) of the church. Many of them don't question why they live the way they do. They are living the way they were taught is right. So they let the world go by and continue living their simple lifestyle.
Growing up Amish in Pennsylvania
I grew up Amish in Lancaster County (just outside of Lancaster County in Chester County). But we were still considered the Lancaster Amish. And I grew up New Order Amish.
My parents left the Old Order Amish and helped to start a new church, which they named New Order Amish. We had electricity and phones, and we farmed with tractors. Our church believed and preached salvation by faith instead of works. And our young people did not do the Rumspringa. So there were some big differences between us and the Old Order.
There were two New Order church districts in Lancaster, and one church in Lewisburg, PA. But over the years they have died out, with almost everyone eventually joining the conservative Beachy Amish/Mennonite church. So there are no New Order Amish in Lancaster anymore. Although there are still many New Order churches in Holmes County, Ohio, and a few groups in other states.
Is There Peer Pressure Among the Amish?
One thing I did not like about growing up Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was the peer pressure. Driving through different Amish communities, you will soon notice that there is a big difference in the appearance of their farms/homesteads.
Among the Amish of Lancaster, it is very important to have a neat and well-kept farm. If your home is not spotless and your farm is not well-kept, you may be judged and considered sloppy, lazy, or a bad manager.
There are many wealthy Amish business owners in that area, and sometimes it feels like there's a competition to see who can have the nicest-looking homestead.
My family was not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and my dad had a hard time always keeping our buildings, etc. looking neat (nicely painted, etc.) because a farm takes a lot of maintenance. Therefore, I always felt like we did not measure up to the standards of most of our peers, and it bothered me a lot.
So this is definitely one thing that I do not miss about living in Lancaster. I still like having a neat-looking place, but I don't feel the pressure that everything needs to be perfect.
Although, other New Order communities I have visited were usually very well-kept as well. And I have discovered recently that the Old Order Amish in Indiana tend to be very clean and neat. So I believe this is typical of most of the New Order and Old Order Amish all across the country.
But this is not the case with many of the stricter Amish, and it may be one way that you can identify the Swartzentruber and other stricter Amish groups. Their farms/homesteads are not as well-kept, and they may let their animals keep the yard trimmed for them.
Amish Country in PA
According to some studies, the population of Amish people in Lancaster County is nearing nearly forty thousand. But I also read on one site that their population is closer to 70,000. So, I'm not sure which number is correct. But Lancaster holds, by far, the largest Amish community in Pennsylvania.
There are smaller communities of Amish scattered all across PA. Some of them are Old Order, but there are also some Nebraskan Amish.
I had an Old Order Amish aunt and uncle living in Nittany Valley, PA (they later moved to Indiana to help start a new community there). But I never knew anything about the Nebraskan Amish until I saw the yellow buggies in what they called "The Big Valley".
So there are many different kinds of Amish scattered all over Pennsylvania, the United States, and even Canada.
Amish are not all the Same
People ask many questions about the Amish, and some seem to assume that all Amish are the same or do things the same way. This is absolutely not true!
The Amish all have a few things in common, and they all have a lot of rules, etc. But in many things, they are very diverse. So don't ever assume that because the Amish in your area do things a certain way that all Amish do it like that. It's simply not true. Even if they are in the same kind of group (Swartzentruber, for example), they do not all have the same rules.
The Amish stand out as different in our society, and many outsiders (whom they refer to as English people) are fascinated by them. But honestly, their life is not easy. There is no freedom in feeling like you have to do certain things to please God. And then, after doing all these things, you're still wondering if you will make it to heaven?
Photo credits in this post all go to Keith J Fisher. He is an amazing landscape photographer who recently visited Lancaster County and added some Amish photos to his collection. He also wrote an article about his visit. You can find all of this on his page at facebook.com/keith.fisher.75491. With his permission, I am using a few of his photos. Thank you, Keith! Everybody, go check out his page.
Visit Lancaster County
If you want to get a first-hand look at what the Amish live like, plan a vacation to Lancaster County, PA. There are plenty of tourist attractions in that area.
Amish Farm and House offers a guided tour, in case you're interested in spending time at an Amish farm.
And Dienner's Country Restaurant offers a lovely buffet of home-cooked Amish food.
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Links to books about the Amish that you might enjoy...