Driving through Amish towns and villages will leave you charmed by their simple lifestyles and picturesque setting. There are no streetlights or billboards, and the only store signage is a small, hand-painted wooden plaque. The lack of modern-day distractions may make it feel like you have stepped back in time, but what about the rather wacky-sounding names of these quaint little hamlets? How did they come to be?
This article will dissect the etymology of some of the most popular Amish town names. We’ll look at the literal meaning of the name as well as its historical context. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for these unique places by the end.
What this article covers:
Origins of Amish Names and Towns
Just like typical Amish names, such as Amish female names and Amish last names, the names of Amish towns have an interesting history. Most of these names are derived from Dutch, German, or Swiss origins. Others were named after the founders of the settlement or the first bishop. Still, others were given descriptive names based on the area's physical attributes or topography. Others are named after Biblical figures.
Before we dive into the names, it's worth noting that you may find some of the names "embarrassing" or "hilarious." However, the Amish take a great deal of pride in their heritage and culture, so it's important to approach this topic with respect.
Funny Amish Town Names
Below are some of the most popular Amish town names:
1. Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania
This town got its name from an old inn located along the old Philadelphia-Lancaster Pike. The inn had a sign out front that depicted a man holding a bird in his hand. The inn was a popular stop for weary travelers making the journey between the two cities. Also, the phrase "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is derived from this inn.
2. Intercourse, Pennsylvania
No, this town wasn’t named after a time-honored Amish pastime, but there are a few theories about how this town got its name. One theory is that the town was named after a key intersection of two major roads. These roads were used by the Native Americans and, eventually, the settlers. One road connected Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and the other road connected Erie to Wilmington.
This intersection was named "Cross Keys," but over time, the name morphed into "Intercourse." Another theory suggests that the name stemed from an old race track that was located in Old Philadelphia Pike. This track was called "Entercourse" because of the intersections that were necessary to navigate the track. However, over time, the name changed to "Intercourse."
Another interesting theory is that, in the past, the word "intercourse" meant fellowship and social interaction. So, it's possible that the town was named after the friendly social interactions and fellowship that took place there.
3. Blue Ball, Pennsylvania
This town was named after an old inn that was located along the Philadelphia-Lancaster Pike. The inn was known for its blue ball that hung from the eaves. The owner referred to this as “The Sign of the Blue Ball.” Eventually, the inn and the blue ball became synonymous with the town.
This town is a hotbed of Amish activity. The outskirts of the town are dotted with Amish farmsteads, and the town itself is home to several Amish businesses, including a grocery store, a bakery, and a furniture store.
4. Lititz, Pennsylvania
The little town of Lititz traces back its roots from Germany. In 1756, a group of Moravian settlers fleeing religious persecution settled in the area that is now Lititz. Led by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the settlers named their new home Lititz after a Bohemian castle called "Litice," which Zinzendorf had visited. The name "Litice" means "town of peace." Therefore, Lititz is known as the "town of peace."
5. Paradise, Pennsylvania
Two people are credited with naming this town: Joshua Scott and Mary Ferree. Joshua Scott was standing at the middle of the road when he noticed the beauty of the area. He was mermerised by the view of the mountains, valleys, and streams. He, therefore, suggested the name "Paradise." Mary Ferree is also credited for the name. Together with her family, they fled from France and were granted land in the area. The natives were very friendly and the area was beautiful. Legend has it that she exclaimed that the area was truly a paradise, and that's how the town got its name.
6. Ephrata, Pennsylvania
Ephrata is one of the Amish country's most popular tourist destinations. The town is named after Ephrath, which is a town mentioned in the Bible. Ephrath is also the name of a valley located near Jerusalem. It's believed that the founders of Ephrata were looking for a name that would reflect the religious nature of their community, and they chose the name Ephrata because of its biblical connection.
This cultural-rich town is home to Ephrata Cloister, a historical site that was founded by a group of religious dissidents in 1732. The cloister is a well-preserved example of the simple lifestyle of the early members of the community.
It also hosts the Reiff’s Farm Market, an Amish-owned market that sells fresh produce, baked goods, and other Amish-made products. Here, you can find awesome Amish products like fruit harvest baskets, decorative hanging file baskets, hand-made Amish dolls, and other simple yet beautiful items that define Amish culture.
7. Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Strasburg, Pennsylvania, is another picturesque town located in Amish country. The name Strasburg is derived from the French city of Strasbourg. The Amish mainly live outside downtown Strasburg in the nearby farmland.
The town is home to the Strasburg Railroad, a heritage railroad offering scenic rides through Amish country. The Strasburg Railroad is one of the oldest operating railroads in the United States. It was founded in the mid-1800s and is still running today.
Something worth noting is that most scenes in the movie Witness were filmed on Amish farms on the outskirts of Strasburg.
8. Manheim, Pennsylvania
The town of Manheim is named after the city of Mannheim in Germany. It was founded in 1762 by Henry William Stiegel, who was born in Mannheim, Germany. He named the town after his hometown as a tribute to his roots.
The Amish community in Manheim is one of the oldest and largest in Pennsylvania. They’re known for their high-quality handmade furniture, which is sold in many of the town's stores. They’re also known for their fresh produce, which can be bought at the town's farmers' markets.
9. Mount Joy, PA
Mount Joy is another town located in the heart of Amish country. It was named after the "Good Ship" Mountjoy, which during the Siege of Derry, transported provisions and supplies to the city.
The town is home to many Amish businesses, including buggy builders, quilt shops, and furniture stores. It's also home to the Mount Joy Farmers' Market, where you can buy fresh produce and other Amish-made products.
Just like the funny Amish nicknames and Amish surnames, these Amish town names may sound and look strange to the outside world. To the Amish, however, they’re simply a reflection of their culture and heritage. They hold a special meaning to the people who live there, and they’re a reminder of the simple lifestyle that the Amish community values so dearly. Therefore, it’s prudent to have an open mind and avoid making fun of things we don't understand.
Embracing other cultures is what makes us all unique and special. It's what makes us human. Therefore, the next time you are on an expedition to one of these Amish towns, remember to be respectful and humble. Buy their rattan dog beds, baskets for storage on shelves, and other things that define their simple lifestyle. Try to live like them, even if it's just for a day. It’ll be an experience you never forget.
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