Since 1974, David Luthy has periodically released a directory of Amish communities appearing in Family Life, with updates appearing every 5 to 10 years (the last was in 2008).
Writing in last July’s issue of Family Life, Luthy observes “with 62 counties in its 49,109 square miles, New York has in the past ten years become a popular state for Amish landseekers. Such, however, was not always the case and was slow to occur. In the 1974 directory there were only two settlements. As of May 2012 there are 47” (“Yesterdays and Years: Amish Migration Revisited: 2012”).
Luthy observes the especially rapid NY Amish growth over just the past few years: “from 2007 to May 2012 – a mere 4 1/2 years – major migration to and within New York occurred. Eighteen more settlements were founded, an unheard of number for such a short time.”
Going by anecdote, the state remains attractive in 2013. While in Pennsylvania, I heard of much migration from Old Order Mennonites to New York, as well as a new Nebraska Amish community in the Empire State.
One of the relatively new NY communities can be found in the vicinity of Little Falls, in Herkimer County (part of the Mohawk Valley Amish conglomeration). The writer of this recent piece on Amish and Mennonite migration visits with Lydia Zook, whose family has a business selling sheds and assorted woodcraft. Her part of New York is colder, but emptier than back home.
“Back home” happens to be Lancaster County. Amish and Mennonite arrivals to the area have found their money goes a lot further in central NY than it does in southeastern PA: “For example: An 85-acre plot in Newport in Herkimer County listed by Weichert Realtors of New Hartford is selling for $65,000. Comparatively, a 51-acre parcel in Holtwood, Pa., recently sold for $500,000, said Matt Ziegler, sales manager for Weichert Realtors in Lancaster County.”
Holtwood is in southern Lancaster County and somewhat off the beaten path regarding the Amish community, which has its center 20-some miles away. Prices are likely even higher in heavier-demand areas of the county.
As we’ve addressed many times before, Amish migrants sometimes encounter problems meshing with local communities. A local official “says he’s seen challenges ranging from families dropping their children off at corners to sell products without a permit to Amish buggies being hazards on the roads.” However “citizens are getting used to knowing that there may be a horse and buggy.”
Besides New York, other states making big jumps in the period Luthy studied include Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa and Minnesota. In 1974 Arthur was the sole Amish settlement in the Land of Lincoln. As of last May there were 17 other Amish communities in the state. Kentucky multiplied from 2 to 36 communities over that span, while Minnesota and Iowa went from 3 and 4 to 15 and 23, respectively.
Where will Amish settle most heavily in future? Luthy closes his latest update with a few ideas: “No one knows what is on the horizon, but the states to watch are Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri – and, of course, New York which is by far not filled up.”