History of the Amish

Amish facts/history, Amish fiction
Picture taken by Rebecca Haarer. Shipshewana, IN.

Picture taken by Rebecca Haarer. Shipshewana, IN.

Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites–A Shared History

Today we’re going to talk about the history of the Amish. Some of you know these things already, and I imagine that some of you know more on the subject than I do. Sometimes living in an area where the Amish reside helps you understand a community very well. Feel free to add your perspective to the comments section.

The Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites are groups that formed out of the Anabaptist movement. You can read in detail about this on the Menno-Hoff site, which is an excellent hands-on museum. The Anabaptists were persecuted for their beliefs, which differed from that of Catholics and Protestants. This was in the 1500s. One of the main differences was the Anabaptists believed in adult baptism versus infant baptism. Also they called for a separation of church and state.

The Anabaptists came to America in the 1600s. There was a break among them in 1693, mainly over the practice of shunning, and the Amish and Mennonite divisions were the result. You can see a helpful timeline of these events here. The Hutterites are another group that have a basis in the Anabaptist faith and share many Amish beliefs; however, Hutterites live in closed communities, sharing all their possessions. You can read more about them here.

As to whether the Amish are “saved,” I think this article addresses that topic very well. Basically, as with any religion, that is going to depend on the individual rather than the group of believers. But yes – the Amish use the same Bible you and I do, though often their Bible is in German, or a parallel German/Englisch text.

The Amish are one of the fastest growing religious groups in the U.S. Their population now totals a quarter of a million, and they are expected to pass a million by 2050. They have been in the news regularly in the last few years, perhaps because there is such a strong distinction between our technological society and their plain one. Their communities have also become major tourist destinations as we seek to find places to slow down and appreciate the simple life. You can see a map by clicking here which shows the number of Amish communities by state.

Questions? Feel free to post them in the COMMENTS section. I can’t claim to know all the answers, but someone might.



ps – next week we’ll talk about Amish and their children, including the role of formal education in their community.


45 thoughts on “History of the Amish

  1. Judith A Fritz

    I dearly loved this article. I didn’t realize that the hutterites (sp) were a part of the Anabaptist in the beginning. We had a community of them in N. Dakota and they would come into the store and steal us blind!!! We had caught many of them.

    1. vannettachapman Post author

      Hi Judith. Isn’t it interesting how you have all kinds in all groups? Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Carol Bradford

    I very much enjoyed reading of this history. I had heard some of it before as I am from Kansas and lived near a settlement of both Amish and Mennonite. Love visiting these areas and their “quiet” lives!

  3. Alice Boor

    That was very interesting. I had seen some of that when I was able to visit Shipshewana last year. I was able to visit Menno-Hoff. It was very fascinating! It was fun going around the town after reading the series you wrote with the setting in Shipshewana.

    1. vannettachapman Post author

      Thank you, Alice. I visited the Menno-Hoff with my husband, and was amazed. It’s a wonderful museum.

  4. Nancee Marchinowski

    Great blog post today again, Vannetta. The Menno-Hoff Museum in Shipshewana has a wealthy of information, and is very interesting. I haven’t been there recently, but I’d like to take a tour through the museum again soon. I see Rebecca Haarer is sharing photos with you! She is one of the sweetest people I know, very generous with her information and a very generous heart. I first met her over 25 years ago when her mamm and dat were running their shop in Shipshe. I miss seeing them in the store.

    1. vannettachapman Post author

      Isn’t Rebecca lovely? I had the pleasure of meeting her mamma as well. I’ve been purchasing Amish made items from Rebecca’s store, to sell at quilt shows I attend. She has been a wonderful help to me.

      1. Nancee Marchinowski

        I belong to a quilting group, and have attended their twice yearly retreats in Shipshe off and on over the years, and Rebecca has been involved also. Numerous times she has shared her quilts and Amish quilt history with us. I admire her so much. She’s one of those people who is always there with a ready smile and hug!

  5. sonja1971

    Another good site is the “gameo” website. I referred to website this while working on an online curriculum assignment about Mennonite history. Very informative.

      1. Don Burke

        Forgive a double-reply, but a question comes to mind: Since the Amish worship and community are so build upon the “PA Dutch” (German dialect), how common is it for someone to convert to the Amish lifestyle? (I do understand that there can be evangelism without changing to be Amish.)

        1. vannettachapman Post author

          It’s rare, Don. Everything I’ve read says it’s very rare – there’s such a large difference in cultures. I heard one man say, “Anyone who thinks they want to be Amish needs to come and travel in a buggy during one of our cold spells.”

  6. Melissa L.

    Love learning about the Amish. They have many practices that I am trying to understand. I didn’t know that I had one close. May have to take a road trip one day. Thank you!

    1. vannettachapman Post author

      Be sure and let us know if you do visit, Melissa. I would love to hear what you think.

  7. Carole

    What a lot of information packed in a short post, Vannetta! I hadn’t heard of the Hutterites and found your thoughts very interesting. I’m glad they’re growing as a group.

    The Amish have also been in the news because of a reality TV show, which I haven’t watched because I figured it would exploit the Amish and cast an unfavorable light on religion in general.

  8. Dali Castillo

    Enjoyed the post, as always. As often as I go to Shipshe I have yet to visit Menno-Hoff, but it’s on my To Do list for sure and for certain.

    1. vannettachapman Post author

      Dali, do stop by and see the Menno-Hoff. Even an hour there can be eye-opening.

  9. Teresa Sheroke

    Very interesting reading! Gonna have to look at that map! Love your books and look forward to reading your newest one too!

  10. Pingback: History of the Amish, part 2 | Vannetta Chapman

  11. projbyp

    Great post, Vanetta! Another church that originated from the Anabaptists is the Church of the Brethren. I love the simple life of Amish / Mennonite people and am especially interested in their traditions and beliefs. We live in central PA where both Amish and Mennonite families live. I love spending time with my Mennonite friends. They are just like us when it comes to day to day living, i.e., they laugh, make jokes, tease, etc., if you get a chance to really know them. I like to ask them a lot of questions to get an idea of their world view and faith.

  12. Karen Smith

    I have read all your books that are out and keep looking for
    the next one that will come out. I like going on your blog and checking every thing that you have. thank you for the great books that you have written. will you be sendng out any more postcards or book marks so that they can be shared with others, well keep the books coming and anything else yo want to write and share I for one will read.

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