South eastern Pennsylvania is Amish country. 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. We visited the town of Intercourse in Lancaster County which is as famous for its quirky name as it is for the Amish.
Amish Buggy, Main Street, Intercourse
Where there no turning lane, the buggies just have to mix in with the heavy traffic. The Amish in Lancaster County are a little less conservative than in many other areas, they will use some farming machinery but will not use tractors for working their fields. The Amish generally prohibit photographs of their people, in this photograph the driver of the buggy is sufficiently obscured by the buggy to comply with this.
Amish Buggy outside Village Harness Shop, Intercourse
The Amish lifestyle means that Intercourse has shops that have long since disappeared in most other places. The blackboard outside the Village Harness Shop advertises ‘used harnesses and collars for sale’ as well as ‘bug check feed supplement that enhances coat and helps control flys (sic)’. If you need an equine supplement, this is the place to come!
Amish Buggy in heavy traffic, Intercourse
The town of Cross Keys was founded in 1754, taking it name from a local tavern. In 1814 the name of the town was changed to Intercourse, but the reason for the choice of name is unknown. In the 19th century, the word was more associated with social interaction and friendship than its modern meaning and this might have been the reason, but there are other theories. The name and the many Amish people who come in to the town brings many tourists to Intercourse. Route 340 running through the town carries incredibly heavy traffic and it must be quite scary driving a horse drawn buggy though town. This picture shows an Amish buggy using the turning lane to keep clear of the heavy traffic.
Old Country Store, Main St, Intercourse
Selling Amish goods and local crafts to tourists is big business in Intercourse. This three storey brick building was built by Jacob Wenger in 1833 as a store selling clothing, housewares, appliances, and fabric. Just a year later Moses Eaby took over the store and his family ran it until 1926. The original timber building was destroyed by fire in 1881, and was replaced by this brick building. Nowadays the building houses the Old Country Store which sells fabric, quilts and local crafts. When we visited in 2102 there was a quilt museum on the upper floor, but this closed when the store changed hands in 2013.
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