Other Plain Groups

Many people mistakenly think that all those who look Amish are Amish. In fact, many plain-dressing groups have Anabaptist roots but are not Amish. There are numerous plain-dressing Mennonite groups, including some who use horse-and-buggy transportation and others who use cars, tractors, electricity, and other forms of modern technology in their homes, farms, and businesses.

Various Brethren groups such as the Old German Baptist Brethren, the Old Brethren, the Dunkard Brethren, and the Old Order River Brethren wear plain clothing and practice a traditional lifestyle. Like some of the plain Mennonites, members of these groups also own cars and tractors and use electricity and other forms of modern technology in their homes, farms, and businesses. The men in some of these Brethren groups wear beards, which easily leads outsiders to confuse them with the Amish.

Most of these plain groups forbid divorce and the ordination of women. They typically select lay men to lead their congregation. They do not use musical instruments in their worship services and seek to uphold traditional patterns of religious ritual. Most, but not all, of the plain groups worship in meetinghouses, but they are simple, modest buildings without steeples, stained glass, and ornate furnishings.

Unlike the more assimilated Anabaptist churches, the plain groups emphasize separation from the world. Members are discouraged from owning televisions and radios, and sometimes are restricted in their use of the Internet. The leaders of many of the groups also discourage higher education and involvement in worldly forms of leisure and mass culture.

Additional information

  • Donald B. Kraybill and C. Nelson Hostetter, Anabaptist World USA (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001).
  • Donald B. Kraybill and James Hurd, Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World (State College, PA: Penn State University Press, 2006).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture.

Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a collaborative research grant on Amish diversity and identity in the 20th century. The research team included principal investigator Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College (Pa.) and two co-investigators, Steven M. Nolt of Goshen College (Ind.) and Karen M. Johnson-Weiner of SUNY Potsdam (New York).

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information will be revised and added on a periodic basis.

Recent books

The Amish book cover Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback available in January 2018)

The Amish: A Concise Introduction book cover

Author: Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)