8 Snapshots From My Lancaster County Visit

I’m back now from my multi-week Amish journey, spanning five states.

This trip took in everything from palm trees and short sleeves in Florida to a layer of snow on the ground yesterday morning in Pennsylvania.

After logging around 3000 road miles, I am ready to kick my feet up for a bit!

I planned to visit just 5, but ended up visiting 7 communities:

Pinecraft, FL
Ellenboro, NC
Burke’s Garden, VA
Halifax County, VA
Holmes County, OH
Lancaster County, PA
Glen Rock (York County), PA

I wanted to add Lodi, OH to this list, but the schedule wouldn’t allow it. We also did a drive-through of the Farmville, VA community, but didn’t stop in as it was late Sunday evening.

There will be quite a few posts from these visits I’m looking forward to sharing.

But first, I wanted to post a few photos from Lancaster County, and the stories behind them, since that is freshest in my mind.

First: it is wedding season, and that is why my visit to Glick’s Natural Foods didn’t happen on Tuesday (Tuesday and Thursday are typical wedding days in Lancaster County):

I last stopped in at Glick’s a year ago, and you can have a look inside this nice store here.

Aaron Zook was an Amish artist who became well-known for his three-dimensional painting. One of them hangs in the Young Center at Elizabethtown College. Here is a close-up of one section of the painting.

Have you ever seen a painting by Aaron Zook, or his twin brother Abner? The 3D detail is fascinating:

Apparently their work is also on display at the Shady Maple restaurant. The paintings have become valued by collectors. Here is a video of an auctioneer selling an Abner Zook painting for the final price of $5100.

The Campus Ridge Farm Market I visited this summer in Elizabethtown was also closed, but this seemed to be for seasonal reasons. Christmas cookies will be available in a week.

I also noticed a sign or two at other places in the community informing the public that orders were being taken for Christmas baking.

Demand will be high, as it was in Der Bake Oven in Berlin, Ohio where on Thanksgiving Eve the pies were going out the door before they had a chance to cool.

Luckily for me not every Amish place was closed. I picked up a few canned items at a little farm shop near Witmer, including sandwich spread and 7-day sweet pickles.

Laundry was out, as it was in many places. The shop is the small gray building:

Here is the mobile lamp which illuminates the place.

There are lots of little businesses-without-names like this one scattered throughout the community.

Sometimes they may be as modest as a self-pay roadside stand. This one looks to be off-duty:

A deer business. As we recently discussed, this has become a popular sideline or even main source of income for some Amish people.

Not an Amish building. Ephrata Cloister is a fascinating place to visit. An Amish friend who’d been before suggested we stop in.

We got there late but still got a nice tour from our guide, who did a great job with limited time.

This is the Saron building, where approximately three dozen celibate sisters lived:

An example of an early religious community which flourished, at least for a time, in William Penn’s “Holy Experiment”.

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    1. Franz Sattler

      These are interesting discussions but to my way of thinking you are contacting quite liberal Amish folks.
      We are in the middle of a Schwarzentruber settlement where even the “slow moving” triangle is forbidden. These folks define living conservative.

      As always, there are exceptions and curious breeches in the rules of order, (flashlights) but for sure there aren’t many photos taken around here. (Harmony/Canton Minnesota)

      At the bakery, three Hobart industrial mixers (electric motor removed) are powered off a lineshaft connected to a small Honda engine outside the building.
      The furniture store/factory uses skylights which throw and impressive illumination even on a cloudy day. The overhead fans run off compressed air piped from the adjacent building housing a diesel engine running the lineshafts for woodworking equipment. These folks exhibit the height of ingenuity.

      1. The Amish in Lancaster County are among the more progressive as far as the use of technology (though unlike say the mainline Amish in Holmes County, Oh, they’d practice “strong” shunning which would align them with more conservative groups).

        I also had a nice visit to the Swartzentruber community in North Carolina, which I’ll share more on soon. One Amishman there showed me his furniture shop’s line shaft setup. I am regularly impressed by the what Amish groups accomplish within their respective church rules to be effective craftsmen as far as the working of their shops and tools go.

    2. Witmer store

      I REALLY enjoy your articles and learn a lot. I especially like articles about Lancaster, my home town. Could you please help me locate the Witmer store you visited. I would like to patronize them. Thank you very much.

      1. Thanks Karen! Glad you like the article. I am right now in the middle of getting up a new post but I will try to deduce which road it was on exactly and let you know, if you can hang tight for a bit on that 🙂

    3. Walter Boomsma

      The Ephrata Cloister...

      For several years now, we’ve been making our annual pilgrimage to the Lancaster area between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Several years ago we managed to join a candlelight tour of the Ephrata Cloister. We literally toured carrying candle lanterns. It was an amazing experience… and one I highly recommend! There are re-enactors in costume and a plot that is quite mesmerizing by asking questions about the motivations and practices of the founder. As Eric points out, it’s not exactly Amish but it raises some interesting questions and thoughts regarding what might be considered “closed societies” or “cults” (mean in the most positive sense of the word).

      1. I did not realize they had a program with re-enactors. That would really be interesting. I found the group’s beliefs to be a fascinating mix and am curious how they came about. It sounds like much of that must have come from the founder Conrad Beissel. Jeff Bach, who is the director of the Young Center, has written a book on the cloister called Voices of the Turtledoves: The Sacred World of Ephrata, which our tour guide mentioned. I’m overdue to read Jeff’s book and this visit should give me the kick to do so.

        1. Walter Boomsma

          Only in December... but if there's any way...

          Eric, I’m quite sure that the candlelight tour program is only offered in December. It is an interesting history… there’s a “Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide” by Stackpoole Books that provides a short historical overview. The Candlelight Tour engages visitors in questioning “who was Conrad Beissel?” (Some thought he was an opportunist.) We had the great fortune to be in line order with a young Mennonite Family right behind us and I had a grand time with the young girls… unfortunately, we didn’t have an adult conversation regarding how they viewed the tour. The tour is run by “Student Historians” from local public, private, and home schools. Truly a great program… and they serve hot chocolate and cookies at the end of the tour!

          1. Ephrata Cloister Lantern Tours

            Interesting Walter – I did a quick check – looks like you’re right on, that it’s a pretty rare occasion, this year right after Christmas from Dec 26-29: https://ephratacloister.org/events/lantern-tours/

            From the description:

            6:30—8:00 pm with tours departing every half hour
            These special theatrical tours take you back in time to visit Ephrata Cloister as it may have appeared in the 1700s. Each year, we offer a new story with a cast of junior and senior high school students playing the roles that bring history to life.

    4. Al in Ky

      Thanks for sharing the pictures of Amish communities I may never have opportunity to visit. I’ve been to several Swartzentruber communities and am looking forward to seeing your pictures from Ellenboro.

      How many different Amish communities have you visited through the years?

      1. Al, that’s a good question. The last time I made a list I seem to recall it being in the 50-60 settlement range. I need to update it and/or make a new one. I’ll let you know when I get a new total 🙂 I would ask you the same question – something tells me it is more?

    5. Al in Ky

      I have visited 39 Amish settlements in 11 states. I hope to visit every settlement in Kentucky, but have a long way to go. The Young Center reports that as of 2019 there are 44 Amish settlements in Kentucky and an average of one new settlement each year. Thus far I’ve only visited 9 of them.

      1. I live in Kentucky all my life 65 years could you give me where these Amish community are .

        Would love to know where all these Amish community are here in Kentucky

    6. Zook brothers

      A reader named Bob passed the following comment along to me:

      We have met Aaron and watched him work on some of this 3D art. Each one was a real master piece. We bought a small flat surface paint by Aaron (personally signed by him at the time we bought it). We couldn’t afford more than the flat surface painting. Back in those days, when Aaron was still alive, there seemed to be many more of this 3D pieces around than what we have/can see more recently. If my memory serves me correctly, there use to be a few of those painting still in the Bird-in-Hand Restaurant??? Not sure if I am correct, or of they still have them now. I briefly remember of Abner. According to quick look online, I see that Abner lived longer than Aaron, but I don’t ever remember seeing him.