NAPPANEE, INDIANA - Indiana has the third largest Amish population in the United States. As of 2018, it was reported that there were roughly 55,000 members of the Amish community living in Indiana. Pennsylvania and Ohio are the only two states with a higher Amish population.
From the outside looking in, the lifestyle may seem arduous and antiquated. However, if you were to ask any member of the Amish community, they'd be quick to inform you that this is the simple life.
Embrace The Pace,
(mural in Nappanee)
The Amish, originating primarily out of Switzerland and Germany, came to the United States in pursuit of religious freedom and opportunity. They first arrived in the early 18th century and they settled in Pennsylvania, this is where the highest population of Amish remain.
Upon arrival, a place with a high amount of religious freedom was desired. William Penn, an early American Quaker, founded the colony of Pennsylvania with the intention of providing a safe haven for those being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Soon the colony would welcome Native Americans, Quakers, Protestants and of course, the Amish.
As time moved along, so did the Amish, they continued west, moving into Ohio and then eventually into good ole Indiana.
This map provided by INContext from the 2010 census, shows where the Amish can be found in our state.
One thing that's easily noticeable, is that there are ZERO settlements that are in or even border Marion county. This is something that has a rather simple explanation, the Amish prefer to distance themselves from urban expansion. Indianapolis, located in Marion County, is the urban epicenter of the Hoosier state, your chance of seeing the Amish near Indy is extremely rare.
However, if you do want to get out and interact with members of Indiana's Amish community, I know the perfect place for you to go! AMISH ACRES! AMISH ACRES! AMISH ACRES!
Amish Acres is the only Amish farm that can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. The farm is located in Nappanee, Indiana, which straddles to northern counties, Elkhart and Kosciusko.
According to an article published by AmishAmerica.com in 2017, the Nappanee settlement is the 6th largest Amish settlement in the country and the second largest in the state.
Amish Acres gives visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into Amish culture. You can take a tour of the farm in a buggy and even experience an all-you-can-eat feast courtesy of Amish Acres' nationally recognized Threshers Dinner.
During my time with Indiana's Amish, I was able to ask questions and gather some statistics about their unique community within our state. In Nappanee alone, there are 46 Amish districts, each consisting of 25 to 30 farms. There are 26 one-room school houses in Nappanee and over 180 statewide. The Amish do not send their children to school past the 8th grade, no other necessary schooling is needed.
Amish Schoolhouse 1927
Although Amish rules can vary from district to district, here are some common beliefs or traditions that are followed by the Amish:
- men are not to cut their beard
- use of electricity is avoided as much as possible
- Amish do not own cars (but may still ride in them)
- Amish may only marry within the Faith
- The Amish are pacifists, avoiding violence at all costs
- clothes are handmade, and usually out of dark fabric
- members can be shunned from the Amish community
- women wear their hair up
- the common language spoken is Pennsylvania Dutch, a blend of German and English
- Amish generally do not vote in local, statewide and national elections, although some will
- Amish do not pay Social Security or Medicare taxes but they do pay income and other taxes
- Amish are exempt from military service
While I don't think the Amish lifestyle is the one for me, the simplicity is appealing. It's as if the Amish have found a way to stop time, a way to move at a pace of their own. That's when I feel most at peace with my environment, when it feels as if I have the hands of time within my two palms.