The South has been the fastest-growing region in America in recent years, thanks in large part to transplants from other parts of the country.
But Amish, despite their willingness to move, aren’t heading south in quite the same numbers. However, you’ll still find a number of Amish places in the region. Below, a look at five Amish communities in our Southern states.
5 Amish Communities in the South
1. Ethridge, TN
Depending on what you consider “the South,” this may be the largest Amish community in the region. This is a very plain Swartzentruber Amish settlement. There are 13 Amish congregations at Ethridge, with around 2,000 Amish residents.
The community has a modest tourist industry, which Amish participate in to some degree (selling products at tourist spots and being featured on an Amish business map distributed by a local tourist center).
Amish are well-established here, having been in the area over 75 years (since 1944). For more info, here’s one of our all-time most-viewed posts, an account of my 2010 visit to the community.
2. Union Grove, NC
I’m a Tar Heel, so I take special notice of any Amish presence in my home state, of which there has been relatively little. North Carolina is one of the South’s fastest-growing states, but hasn’t proven as attractive to Amish as it has to English people.
The small electric New Order settlement at Union Grove was for years NC’s only Amish location, until being joined by a second community – a Swartzentruber settlement – in 2015. Amish have lived in other locations in North Carolina in the past–including in the Dismal Swamp region in the first half of the 20th century, and a more recent, short-lived and unusual community at Yanceyville.
I’ve visited this small one-church-district settlement several times, including a 2014 trip with stops at two nice Amish-run businesses, Shiloh General Store and Wholesome Country Creamery. I made another trip in late 2020 where I revisited both of these businesses and found a much-expanded general store, and a creamery which hadn’t changed much in six years.
3. Pontotoc County, MS
Is this the most Southern of all the Southern settlements? The community at Randolph in Pontotoc County has existed for over a quarter-century, in recent years adding a second church district. Amish here originate mainly from Ethridge, and like the parent community, this is a very plain settlement of Swartzentruber-affiliation Amish.
Historically, Amish attempted to settle in Mississippi on a number of occasions, with four tries previous to 1950, but little besides the Pontotoc County community since. I paid a visit to this Deep South settlement in early 2020, visiting with several friendly Amish residents and patronizing multiple businesses. Peanut brittle is a popular product for the numerous home vendors here, and generally speaking there are, unsurprisingly, similarities with the Ethridge community, with which it maintains close ties.
4. Salem, AR
Salem is one of the Natural State’s two Amish communities, in Fulton County on the northern border (so I guess by some definitions, barely in the South). Arkansas had a third settlement, at Rector, which it lost some years ago. Contributor Don Burke documented the remnants of this settlement, including haunting images of an abandoned Amish school, in the post A Visit to an Amish “Ghost Town”.
This one-district settlement was founded in 2008 by Amish from Tennessee. The area has a number of businesses including woodworking, a general store, baked goods, and again, peanut brittle, which you can see in this recent account of a visit to the community.
5. Halifax County, VA
Amish began to arrive in Halifax County in southern Virginia in 2005 from the Dover, Delaware settlement (a community facing land pressure which has seen significant out-migration).
Over 15 years later, the Halifax County settlement has grown to four congregations in size with a population about 400-strong, making it Virginia’s second-largest Amish community.
I made a brief visit when it was just one church, back in 2011, and several more in recent years, including in early 2019. I returned later that same year to feature my friends’ Bennie Ray and Mary Ann King’s King’s Kountry Store. This is a friendly community which I hope continues to grow (it’s the closest to my hometown of Raleigh, NC).
Of the Southern states, Virginia has seen a good amount of recent settlement, with four new communities in the past two years, raising its total all the way to 10.
What other Southern Amish settlements could be added to this list?
Image credits: map of the South- etc.usf.edu; Mississippi- Erin Tracy Photography; Arkansas- Don Burke