The Amish of Lancaster County
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is home to the oldest Amish community in the world. William Penn (1644-1718) first established the Pennsylvania colony in 1680 to provide sanctuary for persecuted religions. Penn himself had been granted the charter to all of Pennsylvania (which means "Penn's Woods") to settle a debt that King Charles II owed to Penn's father.
The Amish took their name from Jacob Amman, who in 1693 split from the Mennonites. The Mennonites were an anabaptist goup formed in 1536 by a priest from Holland named Menno Simons. Part of the Protestant Reformation, anabaptists were persecuted in Europe, and hence eventually migrated to Penn's colony in the New World.
Visitors from all over the world come to Lancaster County to see the countryside and traditions made famous by the 1985 Harrison Ford movie "Witness". The Amish shun all modern conveniences, believing that the way to God is through a simple life. The "plain people" dress in plain style and use horses and buggies for transportation. Amish children attend one-room Amish schoolhouses through the eighth grade.
Strasburg, Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, and Paradise have vibrant Amish communities. Colorful Pennsylvania Dutch crafts and quilts can be found in shops and farmers markets. Visitors should be aware that the Amish do not believe in graven images, which include photographs. Out of respect for their beliefs, photographs of Amish people should not be taken. Postcards are available throughout the county.
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