Amish Settlers

When did the Amish come to America?  Why did they risk everything to start a new life in a strange land?

The Amish trace their history back to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, when the European Anabaptist movement began.  Two foundational beliefs set Anabaptists apart from other reformers: adult baptism and a “Free Church,” with no government interference. 

Considered radicals and heretics, the Amish were persecuted for their beliefs by both Catholics and Protestants.  They were hunted down and imprisoned, tortured, burned  at the stake, and exiled. 

In the aftermath of persecution, the Amish looked to the New World for refuge.  The first major wave of Amish immigration took place in 1737, when the Charming Nancy sailed into Philadelphia with 21 hopeful families.

These Amish pioneers settled on the Pennsylvania frontier to scratch out a living from an untamed wilderness.  More families followed and formed farming communities in  what would eventually become known as Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. Another, larger wave of Amish immigrants arrived in the early to mid-19th century. Many of these  families settled in the Midwest, New York State, and Ontario.

Today, the Old Order Amish have disappeared from Europe completely.  But, their North American communities continue to thrive and grow!

Germanic Roots

The first Amish settlers in America hailed from Germany and Switzerland.  They brought their language and customs with them in addition to their religious beliefs.  Their dialect of German evolved over the years, developing into the Pennsylvania Dutch spoken today.  In this case, the word “Dutch” does not refer to people from the Netherlands.  Instead, it is a corruption of the German word “Deutsche,” which means German.