Pennsylvania is known for many things, expansive and lush forests, Steel City, the great Appalachians, and its booming Amish population. Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, also known as Amish Country, is home to more than 33,000 Amish people.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is located about 71 miles from Philadelphia in the Southeastern corner of the state. The Amish community in Lancaster County is the oldest in the nation, and therefore rich in Amish culture and traditions. The first significant group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720s after fleeing persecution for their Anabaptist views in Europe. and quickly established a strong community with a strict belief system all riding on the idea that community harmony is threatened by secular values. The strong beliefs held by Pennsylvania Amish lead them to reject the conveniences and flash of the modern world. Pennsylvania Amish wear “plain” clothes which consists of dark colored suits, straight-cut coats, solid colored shirts, suspenders, and black socks or shoes for men, and solid, modest-colored dresses, a cape and apron, and a head covering for women. The purpose of the conformity to “plain” clothes is to demonstrate group allegiance.
The Pennsylvania Amish community does not conform to the traditional education standards practiced in the United States. Consisting of one-bedroom school houses, the Amish education only lasts through the eighth grade with no opportunity for secondary, or post-secondary education. With the community believing secondary, or post-secondary education will just serve to pull an individual away from the Amish community, the focus after eighth grade lays on home-making, and other trade skills to ensure a successful life in the community.
Since first establishing Lancaster County as home, the Amish have built an impressive reputation for themselves within the state of Pennsylvania, and the rest of the country. Pennsylvania Amish are known for their impressive agriculture practices, construction skills, and farming practices. With the Pennsylvania Amish community denying the technology that is available in the modern world, their farming and agriculture practice depends on the use of horses to plow, cultivate, and harvest crops. Though agriculture is not a tenet of Anabaptist beliefs, it has become a representation of the Amish people’s self-sufficiency, determination, and hard-work.
The Pennsylvania Amish way of life has not changed in 300 years, and is not predicted to change anytime soon. With family being at the heart of importance for the Amish community, the culture that surrounds those in Lancaster County will be alive and well for years to come. With an average of seven to ten children per Amish household, the high birth rate will continue to feed into this community. Though children are presented with the option to leave the Amish community before being baptized into the church, it is found that on average 4 out of 5 children choose to stay in the Amish community. In fact, the Pennsylvania Amish community has grown by nearly 200% in the past century.
The Pennsylvania Amish community is rooted in faith, family, and tradition. This community will continue to set an example for all Amish communities within the United States, while shaping the culture of Lancaster County.