In a world driven by technology and materialistic connections, it can be refreshing to think back to what some people would call a “simpler” time; a time where people didn’t need shower curtains that had pockets for technological devices so we can stay connected literally all of the time; a time where people got their hands dirty, played in the creek and knew the value of a hard day’s work.
But not all people have chosen this worldly culture. In fact, there are people who still live their lives “Little House on the Prairie” style. This community is known for their hard work, simple way of living, and down-to-earth lifestyle. If you live near any of these communities then you know what it is like to be slowed down by a horse and buggy right in front of you. This religious community is known as the Amish.
The Amish community came from Germany with the pilgrims to find religious freedom in America and to be able to own their own land. They settled in southeastern Pennsylvania and later made their way out west. The Amish communities are set up through affiliation, settlement and districts.
They were looking for land to farm and schoolhouses for learning, which made the state of Tennessee desirable to many Amish families.
They speak Pennsylvania German, and they do not start to learn English until the age of seven years old.
“The Amish community came to Tennessee in the early 1940s,” said Ethridge Amish tour guide Dianne Pollock. “Originally, it started out with just two families and has since grown into 250 families.”
The Amish are Christians and use a version of the King James Bible, written in German. Their values and goals are to remain pure and unworldly. To live an unworldly lifestyle, they have many rules they have to follow.
Amish are not allowed to use any kind of electronic devices whatsoever. They also have a strict dress code. You will see women wearing dark long dresses and bonnets, and the men will typically wear dark trousers and a muted button up shirt. When they need to get to town they will saddle up on horse and buggy, and their only form of communication with the outside world is through mail.
“Every morning you will see them run to their mailboxes to see the letters that they have gotten from their families,” Pollock said.
Unlike English children that start school as early as age three, Amish children do not start school until age seven, and their formal education ends at age 14. Amish were granted the freedom to take children out of school once they have finished the eighth grade after the 1972 Supreme Court ruling of Wisconsin v. Yoder, according to Amish America.
“From ages 14 to 21 the Amish boys will learn a trade,” Pollock said. “Farming comes first and learning a trade comes second. And the girls are trained to sew, can and take care of the family.”
They speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Dutch, and they do not start to learn English until the age of seven years old, when they start school. The variations and accents are different throughout each community — very similar to how English dialects and colloquialism can vary throughout different states.
The children will come home from school and also participate in the household chores. If the child is a boy he will help his father and if the child is a girl she will help her mother. They attend church every other Sunday and keep the sabbath as a day of rest.
“The Amish do not participate in recreational activities like the English do such as bowling, movies, going to dinner, etc.,” Pollock said. “But the men will fish and hunt and the women sometimes will put on a Frolic, where they will cook a huge lunch for the men while the men will go out and build a house or barn. The women will also sometimes get together in the winter to quilt.”
There are differences between Amish communities from the north and south. The age that Amish can get married here in the south is age 21, but they are not required to marry at this age or to marry at all, Pollock said. A typical Amish wedding will last all day with a church service and have anywhere from 400 to 500 guests.
They are allowed to pick their own spouses like the English; however, their spouse has to be Amish, but they don’t have to come from the same community or district.
“You also have to be careful when choosing a mate because you can’t divorce in the Amish community,” Pollock said.
“…the first thing they buy in the south are cowboy boots and Levis.”
If someone is born Amish, they are under a strict code of rules, and if those rules are broken, there are punishments. Most importantly, you can not leave the Amish community without being completely shunned, especially if you are baptized. There are exceptions of forgiveness if an Amish person were to leave their community before baptism and try to come back.
“The Amish get to choose when they are baptized,” Pollock said. “Many are baptised at age 18.”
In some Amish communities the teenagers are allowed to participate in Rumspringa at the age of 16 before they are baptized. Rumspringa gives the Amish a chance to participate in a worldly lifestyle and decide of they want to come back home or give up the life of being Amish.
“The southern communities do not practice Rumspringa,” Pollock said. “Most people don’t decide to leave their community because they would never be able to see their family, but on the occasions they do, the first thing they buy in the south are cowboy boots and Levis.”
Outsiders can venture into the Amish community and see for themselves what this life is all about. From the beautiful farmland, houses and handmade furniture, anyone can tell that the Amish put soul into their crafts.
For a taste of the Amish culture, visit Ethridge, Tennessee, for a tour. You may find a peaceful escape in learning more about the quiet side of life.