Phily Trip Day 9 – Amish culture – Amish country

June 9, 2008

We drove to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area today to experience a little of the Amish, Mennonite,  and Amish-Mennonite cultures. This is one topic on this excursion for which I have some first-hand experience from the years I lived in Ohio not too far from Geauga County where there is a large Amish community around Middlefield.

The countryside was beautiful and serene. It was easy to tell the difference between the Amish and the “English” houses. Amish houses do not have telephone or electric lines running to them; they have a long clothes line system strung out through the yards; there are green shades in the windows; and no automobiles. The children go barefoot just as soon as the weather is warm enough. Mennonite families will have vehicles and electricity.

These two pictures are the buggies the Amish use for transportation and the harness room in a barn at a farm where we stopped to look around.

I couldn’t find a date on the age of this clock. It is double-faced, but not functional. It was about 11 a.m. when I took the picture.

We stopped in a town called Intercourse for lunch, sightseeing, and tourist shopping in Kettle Village. I tried a local dessert called Shoo Fly Pie.  Click here for history and a recipe.

Our tour guide was a delightful lady named Ada Fisher. She was about ninety years old, still driving, and spry as could be. She was Amish-Mennonite, but had been raised Amish. She and her husband left the strict Amish faith and were consequently excommunicated and shunned. The Amish faith is built around two concepts: community and unity. They don’t own vehicles, but they will ride in them. They don’t use electricity, but they will use gas-powered machines in some cases. They believe machines separate people from each other rather than bring them together. I’ve been contemplating her comment about Amish beliefs and customs:

It doesn’t have to be that way, it happens to be that way.

At the visitors center in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, where we made our lunch stop, we gyatched two videos that explained the history of the Amish and Mennonite cultures. Of the many new things I learned, I learned the Amish were originally (in Switzerland) called “Anabaptists” which means re-baptizers.One possible way I might use this in my classroom is in Colorado history.  I used James Michener’s book (and the movie) Centennial as a tool for learning about Colorado, the settling of the west, and the troubles faced by the Native Americans. One of the main characters, Levi Zendt, was a Mennonite. I touched on the Amish and Mennonite cultures, but not in great detail. I could spend more time with the students on the Amish and Mennonites and certainly have them research into the history. Then there could be discussion related to religious intolerance in Europe and how that prompted so many people to come to America to worship as they chose. From there, a logical step is discussion of the First Amendment to the Constitution and how important it was and still is.

Mrs. Fisher later added more details as we drove to the house where Katie and Abner Allgyer, and their six children, had prepared supper for us.  Preparing Amish meals for people, particularly tour groups, is how the Allgyer family supports themselves. Mrs. Fisher explained that there often isn’t enough farm land, or buying land is very expensive, for children to “stay on the farm” when they’re grown and with their own families – just as it is where I live in Baca County, Colorado – so people supplement their farming with outside income. There are many carpenters in the area. The meal was a “stick to your ribs/meat and potatoes” fare and absolutely great. For me, the best part was doing dishes to help them clean up. I felt useful and helpful.

  This picture is just for the “ahhhhh” factor.

No questions today.

The next item on the itinerary is the American Philosophical Society and Atwater Kent Museum.

Until then…










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