Lancaster County (Pennsylvania, USA)

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Lancaster County congregations and institutions, 1954.
Mennonite Encyclopedia, v. 3, pp. 272-273.
Note: Gehman (School) should be north of the turnpike about where the "G" of Gehman is.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was carved out of Chester County and incorporated as the fourth in Pennsylvania in 1729. Named after Lancashire in North England, this county of the Indian country had but a few explorers and Indian exploiters before the Swiss and Palatine immigrants of 1710 arrived, who settled along Pequea Creek for 20 miles (35 km). Large influxes of Mennonites (1717-1756) from the Palatinate (some from Switzerland direct) followed, with contingents of Lutherans and Reformed. By 1738 the population was 2,560; by 1752, 3,977; by 1850, 98,944; by 1954, 241,000; and by 2000, 470,000. From the first settlement, which was made at Lampeter, the Mennonites went north to the city and then branched over the county, leaving the south for the Scottish-Irish and Friends, and the east for the Welsh. Postlethwaite was the first seat of local government, but by 1730 it was moved to "Hickory Town" (Lancaster), where it remained. The Mennonites, so strongly entrenched as farmers in the county, for decades played a strong role in the county's prosperity. The United Brethren, Reformed Mennonite, Evangelical Church, and Brethren in Christ groups started here, and the Church of God had very early essential support in the county.

In Lancaster County in 1954 there were about 12,600 Mennonites (Mennonite Church) in 80 congregations or preaching points, 3,100 Old Order Amish in 30 congregations, 2,900 Old Order Mennonites in 17 congregations, 318 Stauffer, Reidenbach, and Weaver (a type of Old Order) Mennonites. The Beachy Amish had two congregations with 269 members. The Ohio and Eastern Conference had eight congregations with 1,400 members in this area, although part of the membership is in the bordering territory of Berks County and Chester County. The General Conference Mennonites had three congregations, in Lancaster, Bowmansville, and Denver, with 207 members. The Reformed Mennonites (Herrites) had 225 members in this area in 1954, their original starting point having been near Lancaster city. The Mennonite Brethren in Christ had two congregations, Lancaster and Terre Hill, with 110 members, also a mission point at Paradise. Thus these eight distinct groups of Mennonites had in 1954, 21,300 baptized members in over 150 congregations. This was the largest concentration of Mennonites in such a compact area anywhere in North America, and since the dissolution of the compact Mennonite settlements in Russia, anywhere in the world.

Two related peace church groups, the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren in Christ, also had numerous strong congregations in the county in 1954, the former having 21 congregations with 7,500 members, the latter 12 congregations with 1,200 members.

Lancaster County Mennonites had several institutions in addition to a number of elementary schools. These were all under the Lancaster Mennonite Conference: Lancaster Mennonite School (1942, Lancaster), two homes for the aged, i.e., Mennonite Home (1903, Lancaster) and Welsh Mountain Samaritan Home (1898, New Holland), the Mennonite Children's Home (1911, Millersville), and Philhaven Hospital (1952, Lebanon, Pa., for mental and nervous diseases). A headquarters center for the Lancaster Mennonite Conference and its mission board was being developed at Salunga. The Mennonite Central Committee's headquarters have been at Akron since 1937.

The Lancaster County area is noted for its outstanding agricultural production, in which the Mennonites and Amish have always played a major role. It has often ranked in the first three counties in the United States for total value of agricultural production and is justly called the "Garden Spot." It also presents a beautiful landscape with its gently rolling valleys and well-kept farms and countryside.


Culture of a contemporary rural community: the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1942.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 607 f.

Klein, H. M. J. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a History. New York; Chicago: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1924. 4 vols.

Landis, Ira D. "Mennonite Agriculture in Colonial Lancaster County, Pennsylvania." Mennonite Quarterly Review 19 (1945): 254-272.

Proceedings of the Lancaster County Historical Society, 1895-

Roddy, H.  Physical and Industrial Geography of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Lancaster, PA, 1916.

Rupp, I. Daniel. History of Lancaster County: To which is prefixed a brief sketch of the early history of Pennsylvania. Lancaster: Gilbert Hills, 1844.

Author(s) Henry F Garber
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Garber, Henry F. "Lancaster County (Pennsylvania, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 7 Aug 2022.,_USA)&oldid=170470.

APA style

Garber, Henry F. (1953). Lancaster County (Pennsylvania, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 August 2022, from,_USA)&oldid=170470.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 271-274; vol. 4, p. 1146. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.