Glimpse of Yesteryear
The first sizable group of Amish arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pa., as a result of William Penn's holy experiment…
The first sizable group of Amish arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pa., as a result of William Penn’s holy experiment in religious tolerance.
By the end of the 20th century, the Amish had settled in as many as 24 states, Canada and Central America, though about 80 percent were still located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Today, the greatest concentration of Amish is in Holmes and adjoining counties in northeast Ohio, about 100 miles from Pittsburgh. Next in size is a group of Amish people in Elkhart and surrounding counties in northeastern Indiana. Then comes the Amish settlement in Lancaster County.
For most of the 1800s and early 1900s, Amish communities were heavily engaged in deciding how they should fit in with modernity. There was little trouble in fitting into American education back then. In the 1840s when communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere around the country established one-room public schools, Amish parents were comfortable with their children attending them. These schools were typically run through the eighth grade with one teacher for all students.
There was no problem with education at that time. But, technologys advancement caused much concern in Amish communities. Various Amish church communities debated dress code, separation from society and use of technology, such as photography. The intensifying debates culminated in the first all-church Amish ministers’ conference in Wayne County, Ohio (Diener-Versammlung), which occurred almost annually from 1862 until 1878.
In1865, the more conservative Amish departed the Diener-Versammlung dissatisfied, triggering a gradual, but major division within Amish communities in North America. For the first time, the more conservative became known as “Old Order” Amish because they cling to the Old Ordnung. The more progressive Amish were known as Amish-Mennonites, and slowly over several decades became assimilated into Mennonite churches.
The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. By the early 1900s, about 1.4 million telephones were in service across the country, including some in Amish homes. Party lines” are shared by multiple families, and several Amish groups became concerned about the dangers that home telephones presented to the community. (At this time, the Amish population in America numbered around 6,000 and over the next 30 years would more than double. While still concentrated in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, new Amish settlements are growing in Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Oklahoma and Delaware.)
In 1908, another invention with the potential to heavily impact the Amish Way occurred. Henry Ford’s Model T car debuted and rapidly gained popularity. Two years later, about 20 percent of the Old Order church in Lancaster, Pa., had broken away. The new Amish group did not agree with the Old Order’s ban on telephones in the home and the strict shunning policy. In fact, in the 1910s, Old Order Amish communities across North America decided to forbid telephones in their homes (although using a public telephone was not forbidden) and gradually began to ban the ownership of automobiles, citing the risk that car ownership would encourage urban contacts and pull their community apart. (Most Amish can still ride in a car as passengers under certain circumstances, but they may not own or drive one.)
For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geaugahistorical.org
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