The 10 Oldest Amish Settlements
Updated February 2021
A new Amish settlement is started, on average, every few weeks. Today there are over 580 Amish communities in North America, the majority founded over the past 20-some years.
Amish migration has gotten much attention recently. New settlements appearing in places like Colorado, Maine, and New York attest to a pioneer spirit which has not waned since Amish first settled the Americas in the 1700s.
What about the Amish settlements that have been around for awhile? Below, the ten oldest Amish communities, with date of founding and approximate number of church districts as of 2020.
The Ten Oldest Amish Settlements
10. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania (founded 1847; 21 church districts). The Amish of Lawrence County emerged from the settlement in Mifflin County, PA. Bylers figured heavily among early settlers, and today the name is the most common in this community lying about an hour north of Pittsburgh.
9. Kalona, Iowa (1846; 11 church districts). The oldest Amish community west of the Mississippi River. Two Amish groups are represented here, with one of the community’s districts not in affiliation with the rest.
8. Nappanee, Indiana (1842; 48 church districts). Amish settlement here predates the town which lends the community its name. Nappanee itself was not platted until thirty years after the first Amish arrived, around the same time the first train, of the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad, stopped here. The frequently-used train line remains today, bisecting the community.
7. Elkhart-Lagrange Counties, Indiana (1841; 194 church districts). Indiana’s largest Amish community includes one of the two most heavily-Amish counties in America (Lagrange).
6. Adams County, Indiana (1840; 63 church districts). This Swiss Amish community is also referred to by the name of the local town of Berne. Primarily in Adams County, with some settlement in Jay and Wells Counties, along with Mercer County, Ohio.
5. Milverton, Ontario (1824; 11 church districts). The largest Canadian Amish presence. Most other Amish settlement to Canada followed concerns over conscription post-World War II.
4. Holmes County, Ohio (1808; 286 church districts). The sprawling Holmes County settlement counts Amish living in five Ohio counties.
3. Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (1791, 32 church districts). Known colloquially as the “Big Valley” settlement, three distinct Amish groups live within the confines of 30-mile long Kishacoquillas Valley.
2. Somerset County, Pennsylvania (circa 1772; 6 church districts). This community straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, with some members having Maryland addresses. At one time there were three settlements in the county. Settlers from Somerset County Amish communities helped form numerous other significant Amish settlements in the Midwest.
1. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (circa 1760; 240 church districts). The best-known and oldest of all existing Amish communities emerged from two mother settlements, one in Berks County (the Northkill settlement), and the “Old Conestoga” settlement, lying a few miles outside the bounds of present-day Lancaster city.
Other Amish settlements founded in the 1800s include Oakland, Maryland (1850; 1 district), Yoder, Kansas (1883; 3 districts), and Geauga County, Ohio (1886; 137 districts).
Amish Population in the United States by State and County, 2020
Amish Settlements Across America: 2008 (David Luthy)
The New American Almanac 2013 (Aden B. Raber)
Amish Studies Website (etown.edu/amishstudies/Index.asp)
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (gameo.org)
“The Amish Population: County Estimates and Settlement Patterns of the ‘Old Orders'” (Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Cory Anderson & Elizabeth Cooksey)
Nappanee Amish Directory (2001)
Pennsylvania Amish Directory of the Lawrence County Settlement 2003
2008 Adams and Jay Counties and Vicinity Amish Directory
The Riddle of Amish Culture (Donald B. Kraybill)
Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities (Steven M. Nolt & Thomas J. Meyers)
A History of the Amish (Steven M. Nolt)
“Three Somerset County Amish Settlements”, Family Life, Feb 1982 (David Luthy)
10 Oldest Amish Settlements
Most interesting! Hopefully expanding and growing, if they can find suitable land, these days.
Do you have a list of all settlements?
Erik, this was quite interesting but I was wondering if you have a list somewhere of all the settlements with dates established and church district sizes. I know that would be quite an undertaking but also very interesting. I well expected the oldest to be in PA but would be interested to see the time frame of others, especially as the Amish started to migrate more to the west.
I do not have one of my own Alice but there is such as list from 2008. It first appeared in Family Life and is sometimes seen in booklet form. By David Luthy, it’s called Amish Settlements Across America: 2008. They may have one at one of the Arthur-area Amish bookstores, otherwise I believe it would be orderable from Pathway Publishing. Here is the address, it is a small booklet and shouldn’t be more than a few dollars:
Pathway Publishers, 2580N 250W, LaGrange, IN 46761
Thanks Erik!! I will check that out. I am planning a trip to Arthur in the near future and will look there first.
Amish in Western PA
Have you done any research (articles) of the Amish living in the following areas of western PA? :
Sandy Lake/Stoneboro PA area ( Mercer County about 3o minutes NE of New Wilmington, PA)
Atlantic/Kennard PA area (Crawford County about 45 minutes N of New Wilmington, PA)
Both of these are not far from New Wilmington…which I have seen mentioned in your articles.
Amish in Mercer and Crawford County, PA
Here is a post on Amish in Mercer County, not sure if this is the same settlement b/c there are a number of communities in that area:
Also a reader comment describing Amish settlements’ locations in the area: https://amishamerica.com/mercer-county-pennsylvania-amish/comment-page-1/#comment-4609
I visited a Mercer County settlement in 2011 but not for very long. Did not make it to Atlantic unfortunately, we don’t have an article on that community (maybe you’d like to do one?), but here are a couple of mentions on the site:
western PA settlements
The two areas I mentioned in western PA are indeed what you commented on in your articles….
Jackson Center would be near the Sandy Lake/Stoneboro settlement area.
I agree with ‘Bill’ I believe it was…..as far as the picture being most likely in JC area . The buggies around here are different than the New Wilmington ones…..New Wilmington buggies have the brown covering.
Lancaster farms… I would agree to the fact would be more vast and upkeep noticeably different for the most part….however, our nearby Amish farms/homes are generally very well taken care of.
We have had a influx of MI Amish moving to the area in the last few years … more so west of rt 19 going towards Greenville, Fredonia areas (Mercer County)…..
they are noticeably different than older standing farms etc on the ‘other side’ of rt 19……
supposedly migrated here with much more cash at hand etc.
Are there any Amish communities in eastern ky?
I would love to know because I’m really interested in that lifestyle. I am 45 years old and hopefully that’s not too old to start lol!
Will have to go to Yoder< Kansas next time we are there. Have family living in Wichita.
Thanks Eric I found this very interesting. Do you know when the Amish first migrated South?
Historical Amish migration to the South
Debbie there were settlements in Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia by the late 1800s. Alabama, Texas and North Carolina saw communities in the early 1900s. And if Maryland counts as Southern, there was a settlement there in the 1830s. These communities are all extinct now however. The best book for this is “The Amish in America: Settlements That Failed, 1840-1960” by David Luthy. Frequently found in Amish bookstores but can also be ordered from Pathway Publishers (see address in comment above). The price tag on mine says $19, I picked it up in Indiana about 7 years ago.
New Amish Settlement
Not too long ago there was mention of a Nebraska (Yoder) Amish settlement syarying in New York State. Recently I spoke to an Amish friend who said that they were settling in Hammondsport in Steuben, NY at the south end of Keuka Lake. This location is in the southern area of the Finger Lakes Region where real estate prices might be high by Amish standards. I will have to travel down there this summer.
Tom the Back Roads Traveller
Amish in Hammondsport and Steuben County, NY
I live in Hammondport, Steuben County, NY and have been here since the early 1970’s so I believe I can speak to the question of the Amish buying land in and around Steuben County. Real Estate is very high along the lake shores, but up on the hills not so much. Much of this area is quite poor with the exception of the lake shores. Farm land on the hills and back valleys is available at very reasonable prices. There are many abandoned farms in the county. The Amish and the Mennonites seem to have reached an understanding about where each will live. The Mennonites (Old Order) live on the east side of Keuka Lake and about half way down the west side. There seems to be an east-west road on the west side of the lake with Mennonites on the north side of the road and Amish on south. The Amish have settled the southern part of the county down to the PA border.
We’re # 5, we’re # 5!
I am surprised that Milverton, ON is as old as it is.
I remember seeing a documentary when I was a young teenager about the migration of Mennonite families to a certain area in areas north of Lake Erie somewhere between 1800 and 1810 and it featured an OO descendent of one of the original families.
There is a significant Amish population in eastern Allen County, Indiana,particularly around the town of Grabill.Do you know if this community is it’s own or is it possibly an extension of either the Adams County settlement or the larger Elkhart -Lagrange settlement?
That is a separate community, Drew, though related to the Adams County settlement. You can find more on it at these links:
Adams County, Ohio Amish
I was interested in learning more about the Adams County, Ohio Amish.
Are there any articles on them or anyone who has visited and taken pictures? I am originally from Dayton, Ohio but I was unaware that there was even an Amish settlement there until rather recently. Any info would be appreciated.
10 oldest Amish
This is very informative and educational about 10 Oldest Amish Settlements in the U S and Canada. The settlement in TN as you know is here in Ethridge, Tennessee, the settlement here is very friendly and all Amish are very polite, courtesy and caring. There is some outside of Ethridge, however some are Mennonites as well. I’m very proud of our Amish here in Tennessee because they have same strong Old Order Amish, the language here is mostly Deutch or high end German.
I’ve enjoyed this information Erik and thank you for all your good true stories about the Amish.
Best Way to Contact & Communicate
Erik, thanks for this update. I am working on a related project that I would really like to communicate with you about. What might be the best way to do that?