These 6 Places In Virginia Amish Country Are Unique And Worth Visiting
The Amish have long been a source of fascination for mainstream society. From their simplified way of living to their religious practices, they are a fascinating cultural anomaly in that they seem to integrate into society through trade and public recognition, without ever becoming part of it. Despite seeing their culture everywhere from Hollywood to reality TV, the day-to-day life of the Amish often remains an enigma.
Amish communities in Virginia started as far back as the late 1800s and early 1900s, but today only four recognized “formal” communities remain, one each in Giles County, Charlotte County, Halifax County and Lee County. Earlier Amish communities included Fauquier County (Midland, 1892-1901); Princess Anne County (Kempsville, 1900- early 1940s); Portsmouth (1927-1945); and Augusta County (Stuart’s Draft, 1942 – 1981). While these communities formally disbanded, it’s not uncommon to find Amish residents and places of business in these areas.
The Amish, like the Mennonites, formed from a 16th century group called the “anabaptists.” When a Swiss Anabaptist leader, Jacob Ammann, felt that the larger group was not keeping a strict enough separation from mainstream society, he broke away, forming a new group soon known as the “Amish.”
Today, the Amish are distinguished by many of Ammann’s original guiding principles, including untrimmed beards (Mennonite men do not wear beards), horses and buggies instead of cars, horse-drawn farming implements, plain clothing, no electricity (or limited solar power) and little to no interaction with banks or government entities.
The following images show life in Virginia’s existing Amish settlements, as well as some of the Amish establishments and places of business throughout the state. Please note that while the Amish do not generally like to have their photos taken, and will rarely pose for an image, these images have been gathered with permission or the understanding that general public photography is not offensive.
In addition to the four “formal” Amish communities, the Amish can be found in other parts of the state, as well.
Despite their commitment to close community and spiritual separatism, the Amish remain an entrepreneurial group. Their goods can often be found for sale within larger organizations.
For example, Alan’s Factory Outlet in Luray sells and delivers Amish Sheds to locations in Virginia and West Virginia.
And Amish Originals, in Prospect and Farmville, offers beautifully handcrafted Amish furniture.
In addition to Amish businesses, it’s not unusual to find Amish-Mennonite collaborations, often run by Mennonites, that offer traditional Amish woodworking, foods, spices and baked goods. Many of these shops feature items from Amish communities outside of the state. For example, Yoder’s Country Market, a popular Madison County destination just off of Route 29, is run by a Mennonite family, but offers Amish items and handmade furniture from both Amish and Mennonites communities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
And don’t think that the Amish only stay in their own small communities. Even the Amish like to take a vacation now and then…
Especially at a time of year when we are, often, at our busiest – shopping, visiting and planning our next holiday party – it’s nice to stop and reflect on the beauty of the Amish way of life. I am not eager to give up my car, cell phone or internet just yet, but seeing the simplicity and faith of these communities in Virginia does make me reflect on the important things in life.
Have you visited any of these communities? How about Amish businesses around the state? We would love to hear your thoughts and contributions in the comments below!