The Commonwealth of Kentucky is home to some 6,000 Amish, and unknown numbers of Mennonites. The bulk of the Amish live in Christian, Crittenden, Cumberland, Daviess, Monroe, Todd, Washington, and Wayne Counties. The first Amish settlement in Crittenden County was established in 1977, and has a population of about 400 Amish.
Their life appears a step back in time, with no telephones, or electricity. Transportation is a horse drawn buggy.
The Amish and Mennonites were born out of the Anabaptist or “late baptizers” movement in Europe over 500 years ago. In 1536 a young Catholic Priest from Holland named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement, and his followers were known as Mennonites. In 1693 followers of a Swiss Bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonite church. They were known as Amish. Although they have similar beliefs on the basic bible doctrines, baptism, and non-resistance, they differ somewhat on technology, dress, language, and interpretation of the bible.
Both groups settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn’s “holy experiment” of religious tolerance starting in the early 1700’s. They split from the European churches in 1824.
The Amish in Kentucky have been able to hang on to the rural lifestyle they have practiced for centuries more so than the Amish in many of the other 25 states they inhabit. Large corporate farms have driven up land priced in the more Amish populated states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana where 70% of the estimated 180,000 Amish have settled. Much like the rest of the country, more Amish are working off the farm.
It has become more difficult for the Amish to stay away from mainstream society, but has opened up some economic opportunities. In Kentucky the Amish are the main breeders of standard bred horses. Their old world work ethics and attention to detail and quality make them perfect for the Kentucky Horse Country. They are starting to get into thoroughbred horses as well, and may soon be visible as at racetracks as they are at horse auctions.
The stereo-type is that The Amish are unable to change with the times, however historically cultures that are so rigid that they cannot adapt, cannot survive. The Amish have proven to they can adapt. Opening up to once banned technology is already taking place. Farm equipment and telephones are commonly used, and many of the Amish Furniture and Quilt shops sell on the internet through third party brokers. Kentucky has begun to look at the safety of the horse drawn carriages by requiring flashing yellow or amber lights visible from the front and two (2) flashing red lights visible from the rear as written in HB 278. And the Amish will adapt again.
A contemporary Amish writer wrote in the Amish Country News; “Men and women struggled to know the will of God, and to live it. True faith in the sixteenth century was not easy. Nor is it easy today in the twentieth century. The cost is still the same — whole-hearted devotion and obedience to God. Temptations have not lessened, nor even changed, in 400 years. The decisions of our forefathers are the decisions that we face today.”