The atypical Amish community at Pearisburg, Virginia (Giles County) has been described as “unique”. I’ve never been there, but we’ve heard a lot about Pearisburg–the oldest of Virginia’s half-dozen Amish settlements–from readers and contributors over the years.
Several years ago at a wedding in Pearisburg, VA, we had the benefit of the simultaneous translation. The four (yes 4!) translators took turns during the three hour service–an amazing gift to us English visitors.
Sunday School is another uncommon-for-Amish custom at Pearisburg. Reader Adrian sensed something different about this community as well:
They dress and seem to conform as if they are Old Order, but I’m not sure that is the case. I talked to a girl in a store that a Kauffman family runs there and she said they came from Kentucky around 1991. They have buggies and the store is run on “Amish electricity.”
JAPAS actually lists the founding date as 1993, so that is in the ballpark (I have also seen this community referred to as “White Gate”, as Adrian does).
I’m told Pearisburg is in fellowship with New Order churches in Holmes County, and also back and forth with churches in Michigan.
I’ve also heard that one of the businesses here is an exotic bird and animal breeder licensed to sell to major zoos in the US (if you’re wondering, that’s not a common Amish business description ).
I get the sense this is just scratching the surface of what makes Pearisburg not your typical Amish community.
This settlement once had two church districts, but decreased to just one a few years ago. On that point Naomi Wilson added this observation in 2012:
Also, in regards to VA settlements, I wonder if the Pearisburg settlement in Giles is moving. There are many Amish farms for sale there.
Another reader alerted me to the same in 2012, noting at least five Amish homes on the market. Rich Stevick hints at what might be happening:
Pearisburg, VA, has been an Old Order settlement that has welcomed outsiders and has nurtured quite a number over the years. Sadly, they have experienced significant unrest and disharmony among the membership, resulting in a major spaulding or split.
Finally, Anne, mother to Amish convert Ed, adds another piece to the Pearisburg story. A number of families in Ed’s Minnesota community once lived in this corner of VA:
Ed told me they now have 15 families, and the community is growing fast. Many of these families came from the Pearisburg community in VA. I know that in VA they were frustrated by too much govt regulation and oversight of housing, building, etc. They found land too expensive and the soil poor for growing their crops.
They were worried about govt registering livestock too; something that was discussed but I never heard how it came out. I know some of the Amish men from the Pearisburg community spoke to representatives in Richmond about how negatively this would affect their community.
Whether it’s church discord or regulatory issues or poor soil or something else completely, Pearisburg seems to have faced its share of challenges. But there are still Amish living there, and that’s who we turn to next.
Visting the Amish in Giles County, VA
One of our readers, Shawn, made a recent visit to the Pearisburg Amish settlement. The photos and comments below are Shawn’s.
A visitor once described the settlement to me as “700-plus acres spanning a valley and parts of two mountainsides.” I have heard that this is an absolutely beautiful area. Shawn’s photos are your proof.
Two weekends ago I went to the Amish community that is in Giles County, Virginia. As of 10 years ago I was told there were 23 families in this district. If that’s the case, I definitely did not see 23 Amish houses.
If you didn’t see the road signs for the buggies you wouldn’t even know a settlement was here.
They do seem to have a nice amount of businesses though. Two country stores, a harness and tack shop, a shed building business, two custom furniture shops. They are busy!
Its a very mountainous terrain, they have found a decent valley for agriculture and I am told they grow apples. LOTS of apples.
This is the Nature Way store. On the main road. Hitching post out front. I am told this is a new store because there was nowhere for the Amish in this community to easily get flour, baking supplies, etc. Reminded me of Zimmermans in Lancaster.
Note from Erik- Here is the store address:
NATURE WAY COUNTRY STORE
106 NATURE LANE
PEARISBURG, VA 24134
Interestingly, the store is currently listed on Zillow as “for sale”.
This is just a field leading into a turn onto the road where most of the families live.
They have a bake sale and lunch a few times a year to help generate income for the school.
Anything for a buck right?
Classic red barn.
This was one of the houses, pretty nice, bunnies for sale out front. They didn’t all have this nice log cabin look to them.
All those furniture and shed businesses look like they used this area for getting started on projects.
Two buggy signs going in and out of settlement area. This is one.
I find it fascinating that they have lasted this long in this area. They seem spread out except for this one small grouping (maybe 10 families) and this terrain is HARSH. Winters are ROUGH here.
They seem to be thriving though because that Nature’s Way store is not old and the businesses are plentiful. I assume land to be cheaper here as well.