The history of the Amish in North America is a multifaceted and complex one. The Amish have been in the New World for hundreds of years, and 2016 marks a special occasion. A recent change stands to add a new page to the history of the Amish community. Developments in Bolivia and Argentina have led to new circumstances that stand to change Amish history forever.
The Complex Migration History of the Amish
The Amish did not originate in the North American, instead their roots can be traced to Europe. The Amish are not Mennonites, but they are closely related to the Mennonite community. This fact has become increasingly important in 2016 as the Amish expand beyond North America. The history of the Amish church can be traced back to Switzerland and 1693.
It was in that year that Anabaptist leader Jacob Ammann spearheaded a split that gave rise to the Mennonite and Amish branches. This split has remained to this day. Many Amish families made the trip to the New World in the coming years. Shortly after 1800, several thousand Amish made their way from Europe to North America with hundreds of families arriving.
In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, an Amish community was established in 1760 with another community following in Ohio in 1808. In the 18th Century, large numbers of Amish migrated to Pennsylvania. Over the years, the Amish that remained in Europe joined with the Mennonites, leaving North America as the focal point of the Amish community and the Amish world. In short, the history of the Amish in North America is a very long one.
The Growing Numbers of the Amish People
When most people think about the Amish, they usually think about the Amish living in the United States. Currently, there are over 300,000 Amish in North America, with the bulk of the Amish living in the United States in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana; however, what many don’t realize is that there are Amish communities in other locations as well. Let’s take a closer look at the Amish outside of the United States.
The Bulk of the Amish Reside in North America
While the vast bulk of Amish in North America live in the United States, there are a small number of Amish living in Canada, particularly in Ontario. The number of Old Order Amish living in Canada is about 1,500.
While Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana make up the majority of the Amish in North America, with those states accounting for roughly 190,000 Amish in total, there are several other states with sizable Amish populations. Wisconsin and New York both have around 17,000 Amish residents, Michigan has roughly 14,000 Amish residents and both Missouri and Kentucky have approximately 11,000 Amish residents.
In roughly the last 25 years, the Amish population in North America has increased considerably. In 1984 there were 84,000 Amish in North America and by 1992 this number had surged to 128,000. This study growth has continued and today there are over 300,000 Amish in North America. Prince Edward Island, Canada has a small Amish community.
New Possibilities in South America
The Amish are well established in the United States but have no major presence outside of North America. There have been new developments on this front from South America. The countries producing the most interest are Bolivia and Argentina. These new settlements are the results of an interaction with Mennonite communities in those countries inquiring about affiliation. The communities in Bolivia and Argentina have experienced financial problems in recent years and a growing concern over isolation; this resulted in the outreach. In order for the South American communities to move toward integration with the North American Amish communities, the South American communities have taken steps such as the men growing long beards and the women adopting the bonnet head coverings.
A New Page in the History of the Amish People
There could be many potential advantages for the Amish looking to relocate to South America, such an increase in affordable land. At this point it is uncertain what the future holds for those Amish communities; however, history has shown that the Amish people, despite their rejection of modern technology and advancements, are very resourceful. There is every reason to believe that the Amish will continue to thrive in South America as they have in North America. In the last three decades, North America has witnessed a stunning increase in the numbers of Amish people.
Thanks to the outreach of Mennonite communities in Bolivia and Argentina, we will likely see the number of Amish in the New World continue to grow as it has done for over 300 years. 2016 will go down as being a unique one in Amish history, as it was during this year that the North American community marked its first major migration since European Amish arrived in North America hundreds of years ago.
The history of the Amish is continuing to be written. These unexpected developments in Bolivia and Argentina in 2016 serve as a reminder of this fact.