The ten largest Amish settlements, by number of church districts, as of 2009:

10. Allen County, Indiana (Founded 1852; 19 church districts).  This Amish settlement located to the north of Fort Wayne is a Swiss-ethnicity community.  Open buggies are driven here;  the construction trade is popular.  Allen County Amish homes are often built of red brick, unlike those of most other Amish.  The three most common last names here are Graber, Lengacher, and Schmucker.

9. Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (Founded 1791; 22 districts).  Also known as Kishacoquillas Valley or more commonly, ‘Big’ Valley, this settlement is home to three distinct Old Order Amish groups: the black-buggy driving Renno Amish, Byler Amish (yellow buggies), and the most conservative group, the ‘Nebraska’ Amish, aka ‘white-toppers’.  ‘Big Valley’ is, in fact, a big valley–about 30 miles long, and around 5 miles wide at its widest.

8. Daviess County, Indiana (1868; 24 districts).  This community also has Swiss roots, though Amish here use closed-top carriages and other differences exist.  Daviess County Amish speak with a distinctly ‘southern’ accent.

7. Arthur, Illinois (1865; 27 districts).  The largest and oldest Amish settlement in Illinois.  The Arthur settlement is very entrepreneurial, with numerous Amish cabinet shop and furniture businesses scattered around the flat countryside surrounding the small town.

6. Nappanee, Indiana (ca. 1841; 37 districts).  This community lies not far from the largest in Indiana, that of Elkhart/Lagrange Counties to the north-east.  Similarly to that community, Nappanee Amish have been heavily involved in the RV industry.  Amish Acres is a big tourist attraction here.  It’s not impossible that this and the Lagrange/Elkhart settlement will ‘grow into’ one another in future, forming one even larger settlement.

5. Adams County, Indiana (1850; 47 districts).  This Swiss community lies on the opposite side of Fort Wayne, Indiana from Allen County, with which it has close ties.  One of the more conservative Amish settlements.

4. Geauga County, Ohio (1886; 86 districts).  Ohio’s second-largest settlement, about an hour east of Cleveland.  The Geauga County Amish settlement originated from the Holmes County settlement to the south.

3. Elkhart/Lagrange Counties, Indiana (1841; 133 districts).  Indiana’s largest Amish settlement long thrived thanks to the RV industry.  With the local economic downturn some Amish have had to look elsewhere to make a living.  This community has featured heavily in recent media examinations of the Amish youth period known as Rumspringa.

2. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (ca. 1760; 171 districts).  Lancaster is the most well-known, and the oldest existing Amish settlement.  Lancaster is in certain ways different from most other Amish communities, for example in its ‘urban’ character.  Nearly half-a-million people live in Lancaster County, with perhaps 6 or 8% of them being Amish.  Holmes County, Ohio, on the other hand, is home to around 40,000 total residents, with the Amish likely comprising half the population (not including Amish in neighboring counties).

1. Holmes County, Ohio (1808; 220 districts).  Holmes County is the largest and arguably most diverse Amish settlement.  Amish affiliations range from the ultraconservative Swartzentruber Amish to the more progressive New Order Amish.  The unusual ‘White’ Jonas Stutzman was one of the first Amish to settle here.

(Sources: Amish Studies web site; David Luthy’s Amish Settlements Across America: 2008, GAMEO)

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