Which states have the most Amish settlements? I should first note that this post is about individual settlements, not total Amish population. The two have some correlation, but are not the same thing. An Amish settlement is a distinct geographic location where Amish live. The roughly 350,000-strong Amish population is found in close to 600 separate settlements – most in the US, with around 20 in Canada and two in South America.
Nebraska Amish settlement at Andover, Ohio. Photo by Don Burke
There is typically some amount of geographical distance that makes one settlement location physically separate from another. There can be multiple settlements in one county (indeed some counties may contain parts or all of a half-dozen settlements). In some cases, individual settlements may grow until they overlap with one another. This is the case with the northern Indiana settlement of LaGrange & Elkhart Counties, and the nearby Nappanee community. They still remain distinct settlements even though they have grown to the point where they have begun to merge into one another’s “space”.
A settlement is different from an affiliation, which is a way to describe the “type” of Amish. Affiliations have been described as “loose federations of like-minded Amish churches” (see The Amish p. 140), which are generally similar (but not necessarily identical) in their Ordnung, permitted technologies, and so on. Some examples of affiliations are Swartzentruber, Adams County Swiss, and Troyer Amish.
Barn raising in a Wisconsin settlement. Via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
One settlement can contain multiple affiliations. The best example of this is the Holmes County settlement, with 10+ affiliations. Others are the Big Valley settlement in Pennsylvania and the Geauga County, Ohio settlement.
Finally, a settlement is also different from a church district. A church district is what the Amish call their individual congregations, with each district having its own ministry. Amish meet every second Sunday with the others in their district for church service.
A church district is typically 25-35 families in size, but can be larger or smaller. A settlement can contain a single church district, or hundreds in some cases. Many settlements are just a single church district in size. When a new settlement is just starting out, it might be just a handful of households in size until it begins to attract more settlers.
The 10 States With The Most Amish Settlements
As noted above, this list looks a little bit different than the total Amish population list (I’ve included that at the end for comparison purposes).
A sunny winter day in the Juniata County, Pennsylvania community
This list shows you where the Amish are found in the most distinct individual locations. It’s noteworthy that in some states, the Amish are more heavily concentrated in large settlements. A good example of this is Indiana. It is #3 in terms of total Amish population, but #8 as far as number of settlements. That’s because it has five of the top largest Amish settlements – and relatively few small settlements.
Another state of note is Delaware, which is not on this list, and has just one Amish settlement. At the same time it has a greater Amish population than 17 other states, some of which have six, eight, or even 10 individual Amish settlements.
Buggy warning sign in a small upstate New York settlement. Photo by Dan Callister
These figures are taken from the Young Center Amish Studies 2020 population numbers. Those numbers came out two months ago, so there may have been some small changes in the meantime. A hat tip also goes out to Joseph Donnermeyer’s settlement list for some of the info here.
1. Ohio – 64 settlements. Unsurprisingly the state with the second greatest Amish population has the most settlements. It has both many individual communities, and two of the four largest in Holmes County and Geauga County.
2. Wisconsin – Not far behind is Wisconsin with 62 settlements. Despite Pennsylvania having nearly quadruple the Amish population, Wisconsin has a slightly greater number of settlements. This tells us that Wisconsin has many small communities.
3. Pennsylvania – At 59 settlements it has both the largest overall Amish population and close to the largest number of individual settlements.
4. New York – The Empire State is right behind Pennsylvania in number of settlements at 58. Over 40 of those have been created since the year 2000, reflecting the state’s popularity among Amish looking for cheaper farmland over the past two decades.
5. Michigan – Since the 1970s, Michigan has steadily added new Amish communities, and at a pace that has increased over the past decade. There are currently 52 settlements in the Wolverine State.
6. Missouri – The Show Me State is right there with Michigan at 51 settlements. The story here is similar to that of New York, with well over 30 of those communities arising since the turn of the century.
7. Kentucky – Like Michigan, Kentucky has seen new communities founded steadily since the 1970s with a recent uptick, and today totals 45 settlements. One of those settlements, Munfordville/Horse Cave, not long ago reached 20 church districts in size.
8. (tie) Indiana – 25 settlements. Notice the big drop-off here. Indiana as noted above is one of the big three states in total Amish population, but has relatively few settlements.
8. (tie) Iowa – Also 25 settlements. Despite this, Indiana has about six times the total Amish population.
10. Minnesota – The Land of 10,000 Lakes rounds out the list with 22 Amish settlements.
Plain Amish farm in Branch County, Michigan. The county is today home to all or part of six Amish settlements
For comparison, here are the top 10 states by total Amish population:
1. Pennsylvania (81,500 people)
2. Ohio (78,280)
3. Indiana (59,305)
4. Wisconsin (22,235)
5. New York (21,230)
6. Michigan (16,525)
7. Missouri (14,520)
8. Kentucky (13,595)
9. Iowa (9,780)
10. Illinois (7,240)
Read more on the Amish population in 2020.
You might also like: