A new Amish settlement is started, on average, every few weeks. Today there are over 450 Amish communities in North America, the majority founded over the past 20-some years.
Amish migration has gotten much attention recently. New settlements appearing in places like Colorado, Maine, and New York attest to a pioneer spirit which has not waned since Amish first settled the Americas in the 1700s.
What about the Amish settlements that have been around for awhile? Below, the ten oldest Amish communities, with date of founding and approximate number of church districts as of 2012.
The Ten Oldest Amish Settlements
10. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania (founded 1847; 19 church districts). The Amish of Lawrence County emerged from the settlement in Mifflin County, PA. Bylers figured heavily among early settlers, and today the name is the most common in this community lying about an hour north of Pittsburgh.
9. Kalona, Iowa (1846; 10 church districts). The oldest Amish community west of the Mississippi River. Two Amish groups are represented here, with one of the community’s districts not in affiliation with the rest.
8. Nappanee, Indiana (1842; 41 church districts). Amish settlement here predates the town which lends the community its name. Nappanee itself was not platted until thirty years after the first Amish arrived, around the same time the first train, of the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad, stopped here. The frequently-used train line remains today, bisecting the community.
7. Elkhart-Lagrange Counties, Indiana (1841; 154 church districts). Indiana’s largest Amish community includes one of the two most heavily-Amish counties in America (Lagrange).
6. Adams County, Indiana (1840; 50 church districts). This Swiss Amish community is also referred to by the name of the local town of Berne. Primarily in Adams County, with some settlement in Jay and Wells Counties, along with Mercer County, Ohio.
5. Milverton, Ontario (1824; 9 church districts). The largest Canadian Amish presence. Most other Amish settlement to Canada followed concerns over conscription post-World War II.
4. Holmes County, Ohio (1808; 246 church districts). The sprawling Holmes County settlement counts Amish living in five Ohio counties.
3. Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (1791, 26 church districts). Known colloquially as the “Big Valley” settlement, three distinct Amish groups live within the confines of 30-mile long Kishacoquillas Valley.
2. Somerset County, Pennsylvania (circa 1772; 6 church districts). This community straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, with some members having Maryland addresses. At one time there were three settlements in the county. Settlers from Somerset County Amish communities helped form numerous other significant Amish settlements in the Midwest.
1. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (circa 1760; 188 church districts). The best-known and oldest of all existing Amish communities emerged from two mother settlements, one in Berks County (the Northkill settlement), and the “Old Conestoga” settlement, lying a few miles outside the bounds of present-day Lancaster city.
Amish Settlements Across America: 2008 (David Luthy)
The New American Almanac 2013 (Aden B. Raber)
Amish Studies Website (etown.edu/amishstudies/Index.asp)
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (gameo.org)
“The Amish Population: County Estimates and Settlement Patterns of the ‘Old Orders'” (Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Cory Anderson & Elizabeth Cooksey)
Nappanee Amish Directory (2001)
Pennsylvania Amish Directory of the Lawrence County Settlement 2003
2008 Adams and Jay Counties and Vicinity Amish Directory
The Riddle of Amish Culture (Donald B. Kraybill)
Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities (Steven M. Nolt & Thomas J. Meyers)
A History of the Amish (Steven M. Nolt)
“Three Somerset County Amish Settlements”, Family Life, Feb 1982 (David Luthy)