The history of the Amish church begins in 1693 in Switzerland with a split between the Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists. The leader of the Anabaptists faction was Jakob Ammann. The people who followed Ammann became known as Amish. In the early 1700s many Amish immigrated to Pennsylvania where they continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Today there are over 25 different Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church groups in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, all with somewhat different traditions and their own understanding of the Bible. The farms of Lancaster County Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch Country) are some of the most productive in the country but the farmers are very different than most Americans. They can trace their heritage back hundreds of years, but most still live as their forefathers did. The more traditional groups, called 'old order' do not permit electricity or telephones in their homes. By restricting access to media, the Amish are more able to keep modern society from interfering in their lives. They prefer farming as a way of life and they feel their lifestyle and families can best be preserved in a rural setting. The old order Amish groups do not permit tractors in their fields, they do, however, use modern farm equipment pulled by teams of horses or mules.
The older groups do not own or drive cars, and you often see their horse and buggies on local roads. Amish women and girls wear dresses made of solid color fabric with long sleeves and a full skirt. They never cut their hair and they wear it in a bun on the back of their head. They wear prayer coverings on their heads and they do not wear jewelry. Amish men and boys wear dark suits, straight coats with no lapels, broad fall trousers, suspenders, solid shirts, black shoes and socks, and black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Their shirts fasten with conventional buttons, but their suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. They do not have mustaches, but they grow beards after they marry. The Amish feel the clothing encourages humility, separation from the world, and is an expression of their faith.
Their separation from the rest of society helps strengthen their community. Amish children attend Amish one-room schoolhouses through the eighth grade. Amish worship services are held every other week in one of the member's homes and socializing is an important part of Amish life. They have a strong sense of community, and frequently come to the aid of those in need. Their barn raisings are a good example of this. Neighbors freely give of their time and their skills to help one another.