No visit to Douglas and Moultrie counties is complete without a visit to Old Order Amish settlement in the two counties. For those visiting the area for the first time. we recommend a stop at the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center and Museum in downtown Arcola for an introduction to the Amish heritage and lifestyles.
It is the first information center and museum dedicated to the Old Order Amish.
Providing visitors with accurate information about the Amish way of life, their religious faith and practices and the nature of their relationship with the larger society around them is demonstrated through an introductory 18-minute video which helps dispel many of the myths that people believe about the Amish.
The museum houses many old artifacts gathered from the local Amish in central Illinois and shows Amish history in Europe, their immigration to American and life in Illinois past and present.
Among the permanent exhibits are the interior of houses and barns. quilting. a Century Old buggy, a table set for a wedding feast. Amish music and worship, and clothing The center also has a boot store and gift shop with a wide variety of books. art, quilts and crafts by and about the Amish.
Amish Country Tours, located in the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center an arrange guided tours Of Amish country, meals in Amish homes and tours of farms and homes. The center is open from 10 a m. to 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday from April through November and from 10 a m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday from December through March.
Although primarily farmers, many of the Amish use their multiple talents in the more than 225 Amish outage businesses which dot the landscape.
Some of the most beautiful and well-built furniture you will ever find is made by the Amish, and they also design and provide cabinets for kitchens. gazebos for yards and wooden toys for children.
A visit to arty of these businesses will give the visitor a sense of the past whenever they step inside to discover how harness, tack and buggies are made by the craftsmen, how horses are shod and how quilts are made.
The Amish also repair bicycles, sell produce and custom cut meats, make canvas awnings and boat covers, make vinyl products, make lamps, restore furniture. do custom lathing, sell all types of fabrics, do custom upholstering and offer many other services.
The Arcola and Arthur Chambers of Commerce provides maps to identify the location of many of these cottage industries, but many can be located by driving the rural roads in the area and seeing the hand-painted signs.
The Amish faith is based on Menno Simon’s break from the Catholic Church during the Anibaptist Movement in Europe during the early 1500s. After generations of persecution, the Amish immigrated to the United States in 1740. and they came to this area in 1865.
In following the traditional Amish customs, the Amish do not use electricity, do not own automobiles and do not use modem farming machinery. Instead, they travel by horse and buggy, use gas to light their homes, do not on radios or television sets and only use telephones in case of an emergency.
Amish children spend much of their time working on the farm, beginning with simple tasks like feeding the horses.
An average family consists of six children. All of their clothing is homemade. Boys wear long pants and a plain shirt in white or dark solid colors. The girls wear plain dresses and avoid jewelry and cosmetics.
Amish women wear prayer caps in summer with black bonnets over them in winter, dark hosiery and shoes. Wool shawls are used in winter. The men’s denim pants have drop fronts and no hip pockets.
Once a young Amish man takes a bride, he grows a beard.
Amish children speak German, a dialect native to the Swiss border of Germany until the year before they attend school, when they learn to speak English. By the age of 12, most Amish children drive a buggy to one of the 12 Amish schools. Some of them attend public schools through the eighth grade.
Many Amish wed at the age of 19 or 20. after becoming members of the faith through baptism.
The Amish wedding is a day-long affair which begins with a 2 1/2 hour religious service followed by the wedding ceremony in which the bride wears her favorite color dress, white prayer cap and white apron.
The wedding is normally held in the home of a relative of the bride and is followed by a wedding meal for the guests who may number from 200 to 450. The wedding party, the men and English guests are served first with the women eating second and the children last.
Church services are held in homes, and the benches, hymn books, hat racks, and dishes are transported from home to home in a green church wagon.
There are 22 church districts in the Arthur and Arcola area each served by a bishop, two ministers and a deacon, all chosen by lot. During the services the girls sit with the women, and the boys sit with the men on backless benches.
Most Amish families welcome visitors, but they believe that photographs of their faces violate the Ten Commandments, so visitors should try to respect their wishes. Travelers in the area should also use caution when sharing the roads with the slow-moving buggies.