A Brief History of the Amish People

In 1690, Hans Reist and Jacob Amman were Mennonite Church leaders in Western Europe. Disagreements developed concerning some religious practices that were taking place in their congregation. In 1693, after a confrontation with Reist's followers, Amman excommunicated Reist and his supporters. Consequently, the entire Mennonite community was in shock. Jacob Amman was causing divisions within the Mennonite church.

Over the next several years, nearly half of all the Mennonites were excommunicated. Eventually, some were able to begin reasoning with Jacob Amman. After searching his own soul and considering the divisions he had been responsible for within the Mennonite church, Jacob Amman and some of his followers attempted to rejoin Reist’s Mennonite church.

To prove repentance, Jacob Amman excommunicated himself and his supporters from his own church. He tried to rejoin the Mennonites in 1699, and again in 1700. The Mennonites deemed this unacceptable since doctrinal differences and disagreements of interpretation of Scriptures and traditions would always exist.

Jacob Amman eventually started his own church, thus becoming the founder and leader of the Amish religion of today. Amman was still excommunicated from the Mennonite church when he died.

On October 2, 1727, the first Amish families migrated to America, settling in Philadelphia. They now have formed many Amish communities throughout North and South America, as well as Canada. In North America alone, there are more than 230,000 Amish people living in more than 411 settlements in 29 states. Ohio has the largest population of Amish people.

Most Amish people speak a German dialect at home. The children learn to speak, read, and write English in the first grade. In order to preserve their language, German is taught in the schools every Friday. This is essential in being able to read the Bible, prayer books, and songbooks, which are all translated into the German language.

There are many different denominations within the Amish religion today. One will find Old Order, New Order, Beechy, Tobe, Troyer, and Swartzentruber Amish, to name a few. While some denominations are less conservative than others, generally, their hope of eternal life is largely based on their loyalty in keeping the rules and traditions passed down by their forefathers.