by Kathy Kuderer
What to know when visiting Wisconsin’s Largest Old Order Amish Community
HI! This is Kathy from The Village Shops at Down A Country Road in Cashton, Wisconsin, just 30 miles east of beautiful LaCrosse!
Today I continue to give you information about Wisconsin’s largest Old Order Amish community here in the Cashton area. We hope you will add a drive in the countryside to your LaCrosse vacation itinerary…
Please read my prior blog to get up to speed on the History and Customs of the Amish. Today we will focus on:
History of the Amish
The Amish have a very rich and interesting heritage. Their history goes back to the early 1500’s. During the Reformation period a group of leaders, including Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, broke from the State Church, or in other words the Roman Catholic Church. These men and others tried to reform the Catholic Church. During this period of radical reformation another group, led by Felix Manz and Conrad Grebel, formed a group called the Swiss Brethren. This group, which originated in Zurich, Switzerland, believed in the separation of church and state, and also believed that one should be baptized only as an adult, rather than as an infant or small child.
On January 21, 1525 this group re-baptized themselves. They became known as the Anabaptists or the Re-Baptizers. This was considered a crime and they were persecuted for their religious differences. Many were drowned, burned at the stake, hanged, tortured and martyred for their faith. Many more tried to escape that persecution by moving into other parts of Europe.
In 1527 a group of the Swiss Brethren met in secret in Schleitheim, on the Swiss-German border. There they wrote the “Schleitheim Articles.” A list of seven articles that would govern their religious group was written.
Those articles stated:
- That they would partake only in Adult Baptism. They believed that an infant or child did not have knowledge of good or evil, thus they could not sin and would not benefit from baptism before adulthood.
- Members who slipped out of the grace of the community by wrong- doing would be warned twice in private and then if the matter persisted, it would be brought before the congregation and they would be banned from the church community.
- Only Baptized Adults were allowed to take part in the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
- They pledged they would separate themselves from the evils of the world and would not take part in such evil things as war and violence. They are pacifists and were to avoid being involved in such activities.
- The leaders of the church congregation were to be upstanding members of the church, of good character and to be able to preach the Lord’s Word if called upon.
- They were to have separation of church and state. They were not to take part in public office or to be involved in worldly affairs involving government.
- Members were not to give oaths. They believed their word was sufficient in making any agreements.
These seven articles and their basic concepts still govern most Anabaptist followers and is still the basis for the Amish beliefs.
The founder of the Mennonites was a Catholic Priest from Holland. Menno Simmons broke from the Catholic faith and took with him a group of followers, who eventually became known as “Menno’s Knights,” eventually shortened to Mennonites. Simmons left the Catholic Church in 1536 and led his group through many changes. In 1632, Simmon’s followers met at Dordrecht in the Netherlands and wrote the Dordrecht Confession of Faith. It was a document that recorded their beliefs and set down a guideline for those beliefs.
In 1693, Jakob Ammann, a Swiss Mennonite Bishop, broke his group from the Mennonites. They became known as the
Amish, named so, after this Bishop. The break occurred primarily because Jakob Ammann did not believe the Mennonites were following the Dordrecht Confession strictly enough. He believed there should be more separation of church and state that Communion Service should be held twice a year and the practice of foot washing should be re-introduced to their biannual Communion Service. He also believed that the practice of shunning should be used.
To this day Jakob Ammann’s followers remain the most disciplined group of the Anabaptist movement. Jakob Ammann’s followers were severely persecuted in Europe. In the 18th century many Amish started immigrating to America. Today there are no Amish in Europe.
I have spent years studying and learning about the Amish and Mennonites and their history, traditions and customs. Much of the information that I have just shared has come from a variety of sources over the years, but not from one particular source that I can credit. I do however credit the writings of John A. Hostetler and his book Amish Society, and Steven Nolt and his book Amish History as some of the content was surely gleaned from their books over the years. I have spent countless hours visiting with Amish Bishops and Ministers and others who have studied the history of the Amish. All of the information shared above is as I believe it to be. I apologize for any inaccuracies. I would highly recommend the above mentioned books for an in-depth look at the history of the Amish and Mennonites.
Kathy Kuderer shares this information as an excerpt from her book “Down A Country Road with the Amish”
Kathy Kuderer grew up on a rural Wisconsin farm. The second oldest of 11 children, she was just 6 years old when the Amish began settling in the Cashton Area in 1966. After marrying husband Chuck in 1978 they made their home on a small farm 2 miles east of Cashton, in the heart of Wisconsin’s largest Old Order Amish Community.
In 1994 the Kuderer’s began working with their Amish friends and neighbors to build a business that would create an outlet for their handcrafted products. Down A Country Road Amish Gifts and Tours is located on the Kuderer’s farm and consists of five gift shops, set in a village like atmosphere.
As you read Down A Country Road with the Amish you will experience a taste of Amish Country as Kathy shares from the heart her knowledge, friendships and experiences of knowing the Amish in a very personal way.
Down a Country Road with the Amish will take you back in time to a quieter, simpler way of life, where a buggy and colorful quilts on the clothes line are not uncommon sights. To a place where the serenity of a slower paced life will catch you unaware. You will imagine yourself sitting on the front porch of an Amish home, or sitting at the large family table with a meal cooked on the old wood stove. A ride in a buggy down a country road will heighten your every sense. Step inside the world of the Old Order Amish and Kathy will tell you more…
For more information or to purchase books online contact us at www.downacountryroad.com or visit us at The Village Shops.
Kathy Kuderer grew up on a rural Wisconsin farm and has worked with the Amish for over 20 years. She has published three books about the Amish community and continues her work at Down A Country Road.