Although the Amish live in over 20 US states, Indiana is a good place to learn about them as it has several attractions focused on them. The Amish themselves do not. of course, run these attractions but most are reasonably authentic. The history of the Amish starts in the early 16th century with the Protestant Reformation in Europe which resulted in the Anabaptists, who rejected the concept of infant baptism, splitting away from the Catholic Church. In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement and his writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups. Those that followed him later became known as ‘Mennonites’. The Amish broke away from the Mennonites in 1693 under the leadership of a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman from whom they derived their name. From the 1730s Amish began to emigrate to Pennsylvania in order to escape persecution in Europe. Later they began to settle in other areas including Indiana. The Amish are a very conservative sect, emphasising humility, family, community and separation from the non-Amish world. The most conservative Amish, known as Old Order Amish still live as they would have done in the 1800s. Their houses have no electricity, phones or televisions, they travel only in horse drawn buggies and they use horses instead of tractors to farm the land. Some Amish are less conservative, for example the Beachy Amish can drive tractors provided that they have steel wheels and cars as long as they are black in colour.
Amish Buggy on road, Shepshewana
The sight of the buggies of the Old Order Amish is the first sign that you are in an Amish area. They live without electricity in their homes and travel in use the horse drawn buggies in place of cars. They also forbid photography of their people. Even though there are only small windows in the front we respected their beliefs by photographing the buggy from the rear.
Amish Farmhouse, Amish Acres, Napanee
The Amish Acres web site describes it as ‘The only Old Order Amish farmstead listed in the National Register of Historic Places educates and entertains through historic interpretation, live musical theatre, country dining, quaint shops, and country inns’. Much of this is far removed from the simple life of the Amish and Amish Acres is little too much of a theme park for our liking. However, the Amish way of life is buildt around agriculture and we found that the farm buildings at Amish Acres gave a good insight into the lives and ways of the Amish.
Amish Farm, Amish Acres, Napanee
We’ve been to many open air museums showing how people used to live. The difference here is that people still live in the manner shown at Amish Acres. This scene may look idyllic, but few farmers would relish farming the way the Amish do using no modern machinery. However the quality of Amish produce is excellent as can be seen at the places where they sell it such as Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.
Schweitzerbankbarn, Amish Acres, Napanee
The strong commercial theme at Amish Acres in the form of Shops, Restaurants and Musical Theatre can be a distraction, but the Amish buildings are genuine and well presented. The Schwietzerbankbarn was built in 1876 using hand hewn timber.
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