The Amish, by A.M. Aurand, , at sacred-texts.com
Our Sects.—The "plain people" of Pennsylvania are the satisfied religious manifestations of dissatisfied Catholic priests in topsy-turvy Europe of the Reformation period.
The Mennonites and their kind were "born" advantageously after the Reformation, when the Bible had been translated from the Hebrew into German, and not from the Latin Vulgate, which up until that time was the only evidence of religion, scarcely available—and then through an approach to self-expression which did not appeal to the masses.
Men like Martin Luther and Menno Simon, as well as other "pro-test-ants," differed greatly even with one another, as to how men and women ought to worship, after breaking away from the Catholic church of that day.
Menno Simon, himself an ordained priest, differed with his superiors on church policies, and renounced his church and obligations. Others, believing substantially as he did, joined him in establishing a "new order" of worship, and in setting forth a set of rules or "Book of Discipline" for the conduct of those who joined in the movement.
This movement was intended as one wherein those who had been oppressed heretofore, could worship according to the then "new light" with respect to God: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Many phases in their lives are the direct outcome of their interpretation of portions of the Bible—including their hats, bonnets, hooks and eyes, their whiskers, and the cut of their clothing.
In directing the reader's attention to the Mennonites, we want to state that they were a distinct group of followers of Menno Simon, from the middle of the 1500's. Simon (or Simons) was horn in Friesland in 1492, or 1495 (authorities differing); (lied 1559.
He was educated for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic church and must have been well liked, for when he renounced his church and priesthood, he had no trouble in extending his ideas and finding others who expressed the same feeling.
His starting of a new sect was typical of many others today where interpretations are based on passages of the Bible; or, on acts of General Assemblies of States, where men hold different points of view.
Simon's followers, popularly called Mennonites, were largely persons of conviction to be found in Switzerland, Germany and along the Rhine down into Holland. Most of them were German-spoken; some were Holland Dutch.
The Amish, another branch of the Mennonites, are followers of one Jacob Ammann, or Amen, or perhaps Ammon (variously spelled), who about the close of the seventeenth century, urged a much stricter obedience to the rules and regulations originally adopted.
Some of the membership had become indifferent to the matter of washing of feet, avoidance of those ex-communicated, and perhaps a tendency to adopt an occasional new idea or convenience, which were termed too worldly.
Therefore, today we have the Amish, and the Mennonites, and we have them in America to the number of more than a hundred and twenty different meetings, or conferences, in as many different communities.
The Amish take the cake, however, for picturesqueness among the plain people, and Lancaster county is one of the ideal spots in which to find them "at home." But we would not have you overlook those in the "Big Valley" of Mifflin county, where there are five distinct branches, at least, out of a membership of but several hundred.
In speaking of the Amish and Mennonites, one must take into the picture others who show by their wearing apparel and performance as to church and home "ritual," that they are "plain," too. Of these we may speak of the "German Baptist Brethren," or "Dunkers." There are thousands in the latter sect, a potential force for good in America.
This then, is a more or less brief summary of the origin of their faith. A few came to America before Penn, but the first numbers of them were families who settled in what is now Germantown, Philadelphia, in 1683, coming here from Crefeld, Germany. The first known Mennonite meeting-house in America was built in Germantown in 1708.
People of this persuasion were largely instrumental in setting Pennsylvania out on her right foot on her march through time. Religious and educational, as well as agricultural and industrial leaders among them were among the out-standing men of early Colonial times.
Lancaster county, and others in this State, are rich in history, lore and commerce, because these people farmed their lands in those parts—living close to the soil—and to God. Lancaster is noted as the richest agricultural county
in the United States, and the plain people deserve most of the credit for this honor.
They are really a successful transplanting of a race, a creed and a color, from their native soil into a new soil—and they have changed their ways but little from the time Menno Simon and Jacob Ammon gave them the torch to carry on.
If one wanted to travel to any extent throughout Europe, undoubtedly one would plan to see Switzerland. Why travel to Europe when you can see the Swiss in their odd trappings and glory, right here in Pennsylvania, lacking only the snow-capped Alps? Here are the best farms, and the finest cheese "mills" to be found in America.
The account of "Bell don't make—bump!" is one that has been told time and again, and "Tillie, the Mennonite Maid" has been the source of most of the misinformation obtained by outsiders about the Mennonite people. Stories of all shades and proportions have been told by persons who have never seen any of them, and given as "gospel truth."
From birth to death their lives are ordered by "ritual" to methods which others think unnecessary, or even foolish. But these people do it and like it—and prefer it to anything the rest of the Protestant world has to offer—avoiding everything outside their own circle as they would a plague.
If the Commonwealth gives these people a free rein in their religious expressions, there will be Mennonites for-ever-and-a-day, for they will hold their own in a world where around then there is much strife and discord; while amongst them there is peace, pleasure and plenty.
The Mennonites are by far the larger in number of the plain sects; then follow the Amish and the Brethren, or bunkers—not, however in church membership. Some pronounce it "Awmish;" others "A-mish;" some even indicate it should be "Ommish." They followed the lead of Jacob Am-man, or Amen, or Ammon—so you take your choice.
28:* The Author will gladly send a list of books available on the Amish, etc., to any address, on request. See page 17b —JBH