10 Favorite Amish Place Names

There’s one favorite “book” of mine.  It has no plot, characters, or author bio.  But it’s one which I can spend hours with.  That book is a road atlas.

One of my favorite killing-time activities is paging through atlases, looking for interesting geographic features, roads, and especially, place names.

It’s fun to wonder why there’s a Mexico in Missouri or what’s so normal about Normal, Illinois. There are umpteen untold stories locked away in these names, many of which we’ll never know (without a lot of digging, anyway).

Unusual Amish Place Names
A small Amish settlement lies near Stone Arabia, NY. Photo by Darlene

And with Amish living in over 450 locations in North America, many places Amish are associated with have interesting names.

First, a word on names.  When referring to a settlement, Amish typically call a community in one of a few ways:

  1. by the county name
  2. by the name of a town or village in the near proximity
  3. by regional name, ie, northern Indiana or Big Valley

In my experience the largest, most established settlements tend to go by county or regional names (Lancaster, Holmes, Daviess County), while smaller communities tend to take the name of a nearby town (Milroy or Union Grove), though that’s not a hard and fast rule.

You certainly have to get more specific when there is more than one settlement in a county, which happens often enough.

For instance, there are five communities lying completely or partially in Branch County, Michigan.  If you just say “the Amish in Branch County”, you could be referring to all the Amish in Branch County, or you may need to clarify.

10 of My Favorite Amish Place Names

I’ve looked through the recent JAPAS Amish settlement report by Joseph Donnermeyer and David Luthy and found ten of my favorite place names associated with Amish communities.

I have mainly listed the town names here, though I can’t vouch for whether or not that is exactly how Amish refer to themselves there.  That noted, I hope you enjoy some of these favorite names:

1. Crab Orchard, Kentucky  I have never visited a crab orchard.  Sounds dangerous.  This settlement in central KY has been around for nearly 20 years, so maybe it’s not that hazardous a place.

2. Lucknow, Ontario  “Lucknow” sounds like the wishful pleading of someone in a jam. “Luck!” “NOW!”  But being in Canada it’s probably pronounced completely differently than I think (“Looknah”?).  It still makes the list.  The second-largest Amish settlement in Canada.

3. Oblong, Illinois  “Oblong” has just always been a funny word to me.  I am guessing this town has an oblong shape?  Not exactly the most creative name, but there is a small Amish community somewhere around this town in Crawford County.

4. English, Indiana  These Amish have gone undercover.  Move right along folks, no Amish here, only English.

5. Philadelphia, New York  Towns which carry the names of better-known cities always catch my eye.  For instance there is a Nashville in North Carolina and a Paris in Maine (and many other states besides).  Were these the result of ambitious naming decisions, coming after the cities were established (most likely), or was there a crop of Nashvilles at one time and only one grew to prominence?

6. Beeville, Bee County, Texas  There is also a small, buzzworthy settlement  near Beetown, Wisconsin.

7. Kokomo, Indiana  According to the famous Beach Boys song, Kokomo lies “off the Florida Keys”.  That place is fictional.  This Kokomo is real, and Amish have been here for over 150 years.

8. Fertile, Minnesota  A name that seems “Amish” in every way.  One of the northernmost Amish settlements.

9. Diagonal, Iowa  Another shapey name.  It would be nice to know its origin.  Most of Iowa is east-west, north-south roads.  Maybe the roads in this town run diagonally.

10. Humansville, Missouri  People, mostly, live here.

I hope you’ll take a moment to add your favorite place names, Amish or otherwise, in the comments below.

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    57 Comments

    1. Top Amish names

      My number one name is Bird-in-Hand for now… it sounds funny for
      not-native-English speaker like me. From your list i pick Humansville 🙂

    2. MJMcEvoy

      Place Names

      Possum Grape, Arkansas (Possum Grapes are the local name for the berries on Pokeweed).

      Cotton, Minnesota – North of Duluth on Hwy 53
      Harmony, Minnesota – another Amish settlement area in South East Minnesota

      Mahomet, Texas – Before moving to northern Minnesota, I had a small ranch near there, the first Postmaster was from Mahomet, Illinois. But I have not been able to find out where the name came from beyond that.

    3. lincolnlady1121

      My favorite is Intercourse, Pa. The first time I heard that I thought the person that told me was kidding. Since then I have been there. I didn’t know there was a Philadelphia, NY and I’ve lived here most of my life. Will have to check that one out.

      Merry Christmas Erik, to you and yours.

      Marilyn

      1. Thanks Marilyn. That name always turns heads 🙂

      2. Jean Junkin

        Favorite Names

        My favorite would be Intercourse, PA. I have been there several times and the Intercourse Canning Company is there. Awesome place. They have a wonderful Farmer’s Market too.

    4. Theresa H.

      I have way to many to choose from, but I will go with Apple Creek, Ohio. We have Amish friends who live there and it always makes me smile when I think of the name (sounds like it should be in a book). If I was to choose from your list, I will go with Humansville because our last name is Human. I have seen the name in The Budget and my children think it would be neat to live in a town named after them.:)

    5. Elidh
    6. Alice Mary

      I’m rather proud to live in a state (Illinois) that boasts “Metropolis” as one of it’s towns. When I first became aware of it, I thought it was a joke, too!

      However, I don’t think that even Superman could save us from the state’s financial woes. (Woe is us!)

      Hmmm—maybe Crab Orchard has crabapple orchards in the area?

      Alice Mary

      1. I was thinking the same as Alice Mary, that there are or were crab apple orchards in Crab Orchard. I grew up in a Buffalo suburb named Cheektowaga, which is a Seneca Indian word for “Land of the Flowering Crab Apple Tree.” Crab Orchard would make an easy abbreviation for that phrase.

      2. Metropolis, IL

        I have been there and seen the Superman statue. I was driving down the interstate and couldn’t pass it up 🙂

        I am suspecting it has to do with crabapples as well. Though I can’t shake the image of falling, pinching crabs. It would be a challenge to work in a crab orchard especially around harvest.

    7. Brittany

      I’d like to say Intercourse, Bird in Hand and Horse Cave (Ky). As a side note there is a Nashville in Illinois and Indiana 🙂

    8. Linda

      What a fun post! I’m partial to Fertile, Minnesota. We have lots of weird place names here in California–Squabbletown, anyone?–but alas, we’ve no Amish. Maybe they would settle in Hallelujah Junction if they moved here…?

      1. Squabbletown, CA sounds like the black sheep twin village of Harmony, MN. I’d like to know the story behind that one.

        1. Linda

          You got me to wondering about Squabbletown. (Isn’t Google the best thing since cardigan sweaters?)

          http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Feisty-town-back-on-map

          Now I’m wondering about Toad Suck, Arkansas….

      2. Erin

        Interestingly, there’s a Climax, MN near Fertile, MN. I haven’t been to either but Harmony, MN is beautiful area!

    9. Christine T

      Isnt Intercourse near Paradise? hehe

      Blueball, Nanty Glo, Blacklick are in PA as well hehe

      1. cj

        marry me if you live close by any of these?

    10. Nancy

      I like Dry Run in Pennsylvania — perhaps the founders were not especially convinced it would succeed? 🙂 Interesting post.

      1. Great interpretation Nancy, wouldn’t have thought of that. Kind of like naming a town “Beta”.

    11. Robin Miller

      10 Favorite Amish Place Names

      In Southern Maryland, St. Mary’s County to be exact there are Amish and Old Order Mennonite settlements. One place is Loveville and Morganza where the Mennonites live. It’s not unsusal to see them out and about in their open and black-covered buggies. The Amish settlements are in the Mechanicsville area, off of Three Notch Road. They drive the traditional Lancaster County style gray-covered buggies.

    12. Brenda

      Within a 50 mile radius of ‘Rosser’ (Amish community) Tennessee are: Skullbone ~ Brazil ~ Frog Jump & Possum Trot.

      1. That is a treasure trove of great names Brenda.

    13. One of my favorite Amish towns names is Mesopotamia, Ohio.. We love to ride motorcycles out that way in the summer & fall..

      I never knew there were Amish in Beeville Texas. When I was a kid, I lived in South Texas and my moms parents live in N Texas.. My mom would burn up the roads, making that 12 hour trip in considerably less time. We werent allowed to say Beeville, instead saying Bzzzville, because every time anyone said the actual name, my mom got a speeding ticket there.. haha.. She has no love for Bzzville. 😉 That was in the days before the interstate was built. Fun memories of those days.

    14. loretta todd

      10 favorite Amish places

      We have a community (was once a town) that maintains its post office. During Feb. the post office has need of extra help.
      It is Romance, Arkansas and everyone want’s their Valentine stamped from Romance.

      1. OldKat

        Yep

        Same thing happens in Valentine, Texas.

    15. Wondercat

      Mespo! Yes, and Antiville --

      — Antiville is a bit north of Portland in Jay County. Not much “ville” to it; just the sign and the turn-off to the house of friends. History as place name as fossil.

    16. Gisa

      Blue Ball, Pa

      Blue Ball, Pa: north of Intercourse and west of Gap

      1. Linda
    17. Lydia Wallace

      Peasticks, KY

      Just visited the new settlement of Peasticks, KY. Brand-new, just acquired a Bishop, 5 families total (from Michigan and Ulysses PA) at present. Known as Slate Valley to David Luthy, but local folks don’t recognize this name. No idea, but would like to know, what this name signifies.

    18. Al in Ky

      Another interesting post. I, too, love maps and can be quite content spending an hour or two just looking at maps. I have found the Delorme Atlas and Gazetters of individual states, with detailed maps of each county, to be helpful when I’m visiting Amish communities.
      Offhand I guess my favorite name of a new Amish community is Gravel Switch, Kentucky. I’ve wanted to visit it in 2013, but won’t make it, so will put that on my 2014 list. I was near Pleasureville, Ky., earlier this week and tried to find the new Amish community there, but didn’t have enough time to poke around and find it. That reminds me I need to get a 2014 Raber’s Almanac, because it lists the addresses of the ministry of most Amish communities and that’s a good way to find the community when I’m in a specific area. And thanks, Lydia, for sharing about Peasticks, Ky. I got to visit the Owingsville, Ky., settlement (Preston area south of Owingsville) this summer and was very near Peasticks. And by the way, I have found the Crab Orchard, Ky., and Harmony, Minn., communities very good ones to visit if you’re ever in those areas.

      1. Gravel Switch and Pleasureville KY

        Al those two were on my short list for this post.

        Peasticks, great name.

    19. Loretta

      Strange names?

      Though not strange sounding to me, as a native South Carolinian, there is Moncks Corner…next to Goose Creek 🙂

    20. Michelle V. ~ Sunshine State

      10 Fav Amish PL Names

      I have friends from Cuba and Friendship New York. They say there is an Amish Community there . Anyone have any details ? My friends were teens when they moved away and didn’t really take notice of specifics. Thanks ~ Michelle

    21. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Lucknow Amish

      I think I’ve been to Lucknow, and have, I think, sent Christmas cards to family friends living there in the past. I am reasonably sure that the name is pronounced “Luck Now”, being a Canadian with odd pronunciations, Lucknow isn’t hard.

      I just remembered, there is, or was, a village or small town in Ontario, probably somewhere here in the south, or maybe the “near North” called Utter. I remember this because they had a store where you could buy things with the town’s name on it, and one of the things that I and my family picked up, was a charming bumper stick that had a tagline “You Otter be in Utter” and they showed a grinning cartoon Otter happily splashing in a pond. Although I don’t know why they didn’t go with the obvious cow reference, or maybe I do.

      Lucknow.

    22. MaryAnn Pepe

      Lancaster Amish Town Names

      There is much speculation about the origin of the town of Intercourse. Although it cannot be verified. It centers around an old race track which existed east of the town. As you leave this town while traveling eastward on the Old Philadelphia Pike, there is a long straight stretch of of road where the track was located. This happened to be the entrance of the track and was originally called “Entercourse”. It is believed the name evolved to Intercourse which came into existence in 1814.Probably by some clown who thought he was clever (my words)> LOL

      1. OldKat

        Also,

        there are multiple types of intercourse. We tend to think of it as it applies to sex, but there are other uses for the term. Granted most are somewhat archaic, but they are still valid.

        That said, I wouldn’t want to live in a town called Intercourse!

        1. Katrina

          It's Not An Amish Place But

          how many people want to live in French Lick, Indiana?

      2. Janina

        Interesting to read as I was just wondering about the origin. Should have read all the comments first. 🙂

      3. Controversy over NC schoolboy's T-shirt

        A reader shared a recent story entitled “NC school irked by Intercourse Fire Co. shirt”

        http://lancasteronline.com/eedition/pages/news/edition/CEAM/20131225/B/1/2521024

        According to the report from WXII 12, 11-year-old Art Lawrence comes from a family of firefighters, and had received the shirt from an uncle who serves as a firefighter in New Jersey.

        When Art wore the shirt to Huntsville Elementary School in Madison, N.C., one day recently, he was asked to change it. His family was not happy with the school’s decision, the television station reported.

        The report did not mention any connection between Art’s family and the fire company.

        Intercourse fire Chief Steve Diener said he heard about the incident Tuesday morning from a fellow firefighter at a local coffee shop.

        “At least it will be good advertising for the fire company,” he said with a chuckle.

    23. MaryAnn Pepe
    24. Linda

      Oblong Man Marries Normal Woman

      A man from Oblong, IL, married a woman from Normal, Illinois. Therefore, the headline, “Oblong Man Marries Normal Woman,” was published!

      In addition to Fertile, MN, there is also a Fertile, Iowa, as well as Manly, Iowa. The Iowa towns produced a newspaper headline, “Manly man marries Fertile woman.”

      Rocky Comfort, Missouri, doesn’t sound very comfortable to me. It’s an Amish settlement listed in The Budget newspaper.

      1. Love the headline

        Thank you Linda, we are thinking alike–Rocky Comfort was on my short list as well.

    25. Michigan Mary

      Fun Names

      Shortest town name?? Why it’s Ai, Ohio. And it’s said just that way, A-I. No Amish though….

    26. Christine
      1. Lauren Futch - North Carolina

        Hah! Monkey Junction being near Wilmington,NC…I was born and raised about 20 minutes from Wilmington.

    27. Janina

      Great post! I love weird names like the examples you posted.

      As many people, I also like Bird-In-Hand and Intercourse. First time I heard about Intercourse in PA I was too young (as non-native English speaker) to realise how funny it was. Now I just wonder why on earth it got that name? Any ideas what the origin of both names is?

    28. Char

      What about Horse Cave, KY?

    29. Char

      I think there is also a Plain City in Ohio.

      1. Plain City Amish

        There is a town of that name in Ohio Char, however the Plain City Amish settlement was considered extinct as of 2011. It was over 100 years old. A shame because it was a great settlement name for the Amish.

      2. Marcus Yoder

        There are only about 4 or 5 elderly Amish women left of the Plain City area.

    30. Lauren Futch - North Carolina

      Just for you Erik, I’ll start out with Poland, New York! 🙂

      How about Licking, Missouri?

      – Once a Lancaster daughter settlement that eventually went extinct, has been resettled by Amish from a different group in recent years. Not quite sure where the new settlers came from, although I would guess they have Swiss Amish roots based on the surnames found here.

    31. muriel silverthorn

      crab orchard kentucky

      Crab orchard ,kentucky not only does not have an orchard but certainly not a crab apple orchard. used to live about 20 miles from crab orchard in Waynesburg, ky.

    32. muriel silverthorn

      how about Russia, new york.

    33. CableFlame

      My great aunt lives in New Holland, PA, so I grew up with names like Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse, and of course, Blue Ball, which is the next town over. There’s even a Blue Ball National Bank, BBNB.

      Some of the best town names I’ve ever heard were in Atlantic Canada. Shubenacadie and Tracadie are both on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Antigonish, too. But no Plain people live there, at least that I know.

      1. Great names, CF, thanks for sharing 🙂

        I was just in Blue Ball the other week, there is a sign noting that the name comes from an old inn or hotel. Here’s what Wikipedia has on it:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Ball,_Pennsylvania

        The name originates from the Blue Ball Hotel, built more than two hundred years ago, which stood on the southeast corner of the PA 23-US 322 crossroads. The inn was torn down in 1997.[2] In the early 18th century, John Wallace built a small building in Earl Town at the intersection of two Indian trails, French Creek Path (Route 23) and Paxtang (Route 322). He hung a blue ball out front from a post[3] and called it “The Sign of the Blue Ball.” Locals soon began calling the town “Blue Ball” after the inn. In 1833, Earl Town officially changed its name to Blue Ball. During Prohibition, the inn changed its name to Blue Ball Hotel.[2]

    34. Martha Cupp Davis

      Welcoming Amish Communities

      I was raised around the Amish of Adams County, Indiana and they are very warm hearted people. My elderly parents were close friends with some families and Willie Swartz,a neighbor, took it upon himself to modernize their home. He put in running water and a bathroom. He refused any money.He said” they were always good to me”. He checked on them everyday till they died.