The Amish can trace their origin back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. There was an emphasis on returning to the purity of the New Testament. One group of reformers became known as the Anabaptist. They were the earliest Amish. They challenged the unity of the church. The Anabaptist groups were persecuted throughout Europe. They were imprisoned and fined. In addition, they faced fierce opposition from both the Catholic and Protestant authority.
Menno Simons had privately been an Anabaptist sympathizer. He was a Dutch Catholic priest. In 1536 he publicly joined the Anabaptist movement. He worked to nurture Anabaptist churches across Europe. The name Mennonites actually came from Menno Simons.
There was in Amish history, a Mennonite by the name of Jakob Ammann. He had controversial teachings which caused a division among coreligionist in large areas. As a result, Amish settlements sprang up in Switzerland, Alsace, Russia and Holland. Ammann split with the Mennonites in 1693. In 1701 he won approval for an Amish family to raise several orphans.
William Penn played a important role in Amish history. He had a policy of religious tolerance. Many Amish accepted his offer of religious freedom and set sail for America. There were two main groups of Amish who came to America. The first wave of Amish arrived in America in the mid 1700s. The second wave took place in the early-to-mid-1800s. The first Amish settlement was in what became Berks County, Pennsylvania. Although Lancaster County became one of America’s largest Amish population centers, during the colonial period most Amish lived outside of its boundaries. During the American Revolution, the Amish got caught up in political and military turmoil.
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