As you might have heard, Amish are constantly starting new communities – about once every 2-3 weeks.
But not every new Amish settlement makes it.
Some attract dozens of families and last decades before dwindling to zero.
Others muster just a few short years before economics, church struggles, or other factors send settlers on to new pastures, or back to the old.
Below you’ll find his photos and account of his visit, including some haunting shots from within an abandoned Amish school building.
Like an iceberg adrift on the open ocean hundreds of miles from the nearest arctic ice flow, the hills and hollers of Rector in northeast Arkansas seem more fitting for the Ozarks foothills 50 miles away than the rice-farm flatlands of the region around it.
And it was into these hills which are not unlike the rolling terrain of Holmes County, Lancaster County, or even parts of Amish Missouri that the Amish began to move in May 2009. But like the iceberg adrift in the warmer waters, all too soon the time came when this settlement melted away.
The pictures here were taken recently of the homes and other places that once belonged to the Amish.
Former Amish Homes
The first to move into the area was the Amos Yoder family, coming from McKenzie, IN. After renting another farm for a short while, the Yoders moved into this 76 acre farm just outside of town. The Yoders had a part-time bakery and apparently a greenhouse.
The following November the only minister in the settlement (at least as of 2012), bishop Noah Hochstetler moved in from Tennessee. The next year the Hochstetlers moved to this farm which they co-owned with their son Paul and his family.
Also in 2010, three families of Yoders moved into the region from Cisne and McComb, IL, and rented a house on the northern edge of the settlement and another one nearby. Signs of their short stay are still evident.
The Central Plains [Amish] Directory notes that in August of 2010 Tobias Yoder (a son from one of the Yoder families) “made a rather suspicious disappearance,” and reappeared a month later – with a bride from Bonaparte, Iowa! It then comments that she “…has been faithfully keeping house for him since.” This is the house they once lived in.
In the first school year there was only one family with school-age children, so they were homeschooled. However the following year (2010-2011) – after some much needed repair and cleaning – the neglected Crockett Community Building was made into the one-room Crowley Ridge School.
The school had eight Amish pupils that year, graduating one of those from the eighth grade that spring.
But as the pictures shows, a short five years after Amos Yoder first moved into Rector the settlement is now an Amish ghost-town.
According to a pastor friend who lives nearby and who was a patron of the bakery there, the Amish opted to leave because their anticipated plans for other Amish to join them didn’t materialize.
This was especially a problem in that it left their children without other Amish their age to marry. It seems the individual families went differing ways – some moving back where they came from, others to be with family elsewhere, and at least one who moved to Illinois to be close to a hospital where their child was receiving extended treatment.
My pastor friend tells me that the last known Amish resident of Rector was one of the Hochstetlers, who was simply waiting for his farm to sell before moving.
When I visited Rector the day after Christmas, it was clear that the place had finally sold and the Hochstetlers had moved on.