Following our look at the 12 Southern states with Amish communities, today we look to the traditionally least-populated-by-Amish region, the West.
As Steven Nolt describes in A History of the Amish, Amish arrived in America in two main waves, first settling primarily in Pennsylvania, and later in the Midwest.
Over their history on multiple occasions Amish have felt the pull of the West…but for various reasons, have never had a very large population there. Amish have tried settling states including California, Oregon, and Colorado.
Colorado is one of the handful of Western states that have an Amish population today, but California and most of the rest of the region’s 11 states do not.
Reasons such as climate and distance from other Amish communities discourage new settlement in the West. But recent years have seen a handful of new Western communities added to the Amish map.
Western States With Amish – 2018
The following four states have an Amish population, with numbers provided here sourced from the Young Center’s Amish Studies website. I’ve listed them in descending order of Amish population.
1. Montana (7 settlements; 780 Amish) – The Treasure State has the region’s longest-established Amish population, with Amish planting their proverbial flag at Rexford back in 1974. Sadly the Rexford settlement was ravaged by a late-summer wildfire last year.
The St. Ignatius settlement was featured here earlier this year for their Mission General Store. Amish in this community hold an annual benefit auction for their school, and have also supported the local ambulance service via an auction. The community at Rexford is the westernmost of all Amish settlements.
2. Colorado (3 settlements; 600 Amish) – This state has drawn some interest from Amish in recent years, with all of its communities founded since the turn of the century. Though the number of communities here has actually decreased from four in 2010 to the present three, two of those three are each two church districts in size (Monte Vista and Westcliffe).
If you watched the excellent PBS documentary The Amish, you may remember a notable scene in which Amish are visiting land in Custer County, Colorado (Westcliffe) in advance of settling there.
A local realtor shares that the original settlers purchased a ranch which they then divided, and that Amish chose this northeastern corner of the state for its better growing climate. Hulett lies near the famous Devil’s Tower national monument.
4. Idaho – The latest Raber’s Almanac tells us that this community lies in Lehmi County with a mailing address of Salmon (the church district is named Salmon River) though this article describes them as being closer to Baker.
Another report looked at the Country Market in Baker, run by the Paul Miller family, who originated in Pennsylvania. Idaho had seen some Amish settlement in the past, with a group living around four years in the early 2000s at Bonner’s Ferry.
Will Amish settle in other Western States? Which might be the most likely candidates?
If I had to take a guess, I’d say the next two candidates would be Washington and New Mexico – in part for their proximity to existing communities. Amish have in fact lived in both states before, with a previous settler describing his eastern Washington community as “paradise”.