For over 200 years, the burning of limestone was conducted on almost every farm throughout Pennsylvania. The early Mennonites from the Holy Roman Empire were revered for their masterful farming and husbandry skills. When they arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 18th century, they quickly fanned out into lands in Chester and Bucks County. As time progressed, later generations traveled out into Lancaster, York and present day Adams County. Farm lands were carefully chosen for the presence of limestone. The land was made more fertile by techniques developed by this religious sect that the princes within the Empire (Germany) sought this religious group to settle on their lands.

The Swiss and Dutch settlers were specifically recruited by William Penn’s agents to settle in Pennsylvania. When the dominant Quaker society populated early Pennsylvania, the Mennonite faith shared many religious tenets with the Quakers. There were some parallels in religious beliefs when the Quakers entered the Quietist period in their movement’s history, but there were great differences in Europe. Mennonites and the Quaker population suffered significant persecution. The Quakers suffered persecution from their dissident and disorderly resistance to the prevailing order of religious and political life. The Mennonites, who lived in cultural and religious enclaves, simply believed in separation from society which was Biblically based and practiced adult baptism. Large numbers of German speakers were entering Pennsylvania, so society was becoming more homogeneous. Great farms, barns and a growing prosperity would become the hallmark of Pennsylvania’s reputation among the east coast colonies.

James Fritz is a member of Historic Gettysburg Adams County.

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