Amish Faith had its start in Switzerland and was founded by Jakob Ammon. He and a small number of people became dissatisfied with the worldliness of the parent Mennonite Church. It was their wish to live a more strict and simple life; therefore they formed together as a group who rejected wars, materialism and frivolity. Early Mennonites came to America to seek religious freedom in 1632. They settled in Pennsylvania and were divided into two groups. The "Church Amish" favored a central church building; the other group known as "House Amish" favored holding services in a home. The Amish in the Arthur area are "House Amish."
The first Amish family came to Arthur in 1865. The Arthur (Illinois) Old Order Amish Mennonite community was started by Moses Yoder, Daniel Miller, and Daniel Otto and their families when they arrived in the community on 3 March 1865, coming from Summit Mills, Somerset County, PA. Bishop Joseph Keim from near Goshen, IN, arriving in the summer of 1865, was the first minister. He organized the first Amish church of that region in 1865 and served it as bishop for seven years. Other settlers moved into the community from Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania so that by 1888 it was necessary to divide the church into two districts, the Moultrie County or Beachy District and the Douglas County or Plank District. The Douglas County District was further divided on 7 December 1902 into the Plank and Mast districts, and the Moultrie County District on 4 February 1906. The Plank District was divided again in the fall of 1922 and the Mast District on 7 March 1926, thus forming four districts from the original Douglas County District. Later the two Moultrie County districts were both subdivided, forming four districts. There were thus in 1953 eight districts with approximately 800 members.
There are 24 church districts in this locality which covers an area of approximately twelve miles East and West, and 15 miles North and South with Arthur in the center of the settlement....
There are now over 4000 Amish in the Arthur area. An average family consists of six children. When the young people are married they are often given a parcel of land by one of the fathers from which they are to make their living. An average Amish farm consists of approximately 80 acres. Their main crops being wheat, oats, clover, and corn. Until a few years ago, farming was their only way of life. Due to the fact that ground is no longer plentiful, some of them are leaving farming for other ways of life such as woodworking, canning, watch repair, and several are now employed at various manufacturing jobs in the Arthur area.
Their homes are large with several rooms opening into one large room where they hold church. The houses are furnished very simply with benches on which the families sit to eat their meals. The floors are bare and the windows are covered with plain colored cloth. The Amish women are good cooks, but only cook plain foods raised on their farms, such as pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and garden vegetables.
The Amish dress is simple with the men wearing dark colored high vests over home-made shirts, collarless coats fastened with hooks and eyes. They have their hair cut in a "Dutch Bob." Their men wear beards, but the young Amish shave until they are married. The Amish women dress simply with plain ankle length dresses, black stockings and flat shoes. In the cold months, they wear black wool shawls. Their heads have a covering or white prayer cap which is worn inside the home or during church services, and wear a black bonnet when outside. The girls dress like their mothers with the exception of the prayer caps which they do not wear until they have joined church.
For more information on the Amish folks living around Arthur, visit www. IllinoisAmishCountry.com