By, Christine M. Irvin
The Amish, led by Jacob Amman, split from the Mennonites in the late 17th century. The Amish were unhappy with some of the Mennonite beliefs and practices. They originally settled in Switzerland and in Germany. The Amish began leaving Europe in the 18th century because of religious intolerance. They wanted to be free to worship as they pleased.
When they left Europe, they traveled to the United States. Their first settlement was in Pennsylvania. They soon settled in other states, Ohio in particular. Today, you will find Amish populations in more than 20 different states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, Maine, Arkansas, New York, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Washington, West Virginia and Nebraska. But, the three most heavily populated are Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. In fact, Ohio not only has the largest Amish population in the United States, it also has the largest Amish population in the world.
The Amish in Ohio
Ohio boasts the largest Amish population in the country, about 60,000. Their history in Ohio dates back to the early 1800s when they migrated from Pennsylvania into Ohio. Most of the state’s Amish settled in the northeastern part of the state. Wayne, Holmes, and Tuscarawas Counties are home to the majority of the state’s Amish population. Some towns in Holmes County, the center of Ohio’s Amish population, have tiny populations, like Becks Mills with only 17 people and Stillwell with a population of only 30, while Millersburg has over 3,500 people and Killbuck more than 800. There are 52 individual Amish settlements in the state and over 400 church districts statewide.
Holmes County is home to a diverse population of Amish: New Order Amish, Old Order Amish, “Dan Church” Amish, and Swartzentruber Amish. Most of the Amish in the county reside in the eastern half and make up nearly half of the county’s total population. Amish residents are found in the western part of the county, as well, in towns such as Nashville and Loudonville.
Towns of note in terms of Amish population are Berlin, Mount Hope, Waynesburg, Charm, Becks Mills, Farmerstown, Walnut Creek, Sugarcreek and Millersburg. Berlin is at the center of the Holmes County community and is a popular tourist destination. Mount Hope has a large auction house and is close to many Amish-owned furniture shops. Millersburg is home to the county seat.
The Amish in Holmes County are engaged in various occupations. A minority operate dairy farms, while others raise produce. Many also have their own home business making furniture. Some work in the tourist industry
Just a short distance north of Holmes County sits Geauga County, home of the second-largest Amish population in Ohio and the fourth-largest in the United States. These Amish came from Holmes County, where they trekked farther north in search of farmland and settled in the county in 1886. The settlement is centered in Middlefield, but the population reaches as far as both Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties. These Amish are commonly called the Lodi Amish, in reference to a nearby town.
Other Amish in Ohio
Ashland and Medina Counties are home to the third-largest Amish population in the state. These Amish are of Swartzentruber affiliation, and are represented by the Old Order Amish, the New Order Amish and the Andy Weaver Amish. These Amish make their living mainly as farmers, but some also run own greenhouses or harness shops, or work as furniture makers.
The Nebraska Amish don’t live in Nebraska. They are found only in the eastern part of Ohio, near Andover and in neighboring Pennsylvania. They are highly conservative and are easily distinguishable on the streets by their white-topped buggies.
There are also sizeable Amish communities in Hardin and Knox, Carroll, Harrison and Adams Counties. Hicksville, Ohio (which is close to the Indiana border) and Plain City in Madison County have two of the oldest and smallest Amish settlements in Ohio. They were each founded about 100 years ago, but each has only a single church in its district. Other small communities exist throughout the state, many of them started in recent years. Since 2000, at least 15 new settlements have been started in Ohio. Most of the new settlements are the size of just one or two districts.
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