The Amish of Branch County, Michigan

Michigan’s Branch County is found on the southern end of the state, on the Indiana border.  The two counties to its south are Lagrange County and Steuben County, Indiana, both with an Amish presence, particularly heavy in Lagrange.

Amish California Township Michigan
Amish farm, California Township, Michigan

Head west from Branch County and you’ll reach the Amish of St. Joseph County, Michigan’s largest settlement.  Hillsdale County to the east has an Amish population, as does Calhoun County to the North.

So if you’re in Branch County and you’re allergic to buggies, too bad, you’re surrounded. And Branch County itself has not one, not two, but five Amish communities (one “shared” with Hillsdale County).  I visited a couple of them on last year’s Michigan Amish trip.

California Township Amish

On the south end of Branch County is found a very plain Amish settlement of 5 churches.  This group originates from the Swiss Amish communities of Indiana.

Amish Farm Michigan Branch County

On the Amish in this part of Michigan reader Lance writes: “Adams and Allen Cos. have spawned several daughter communities in Branch and Hillsdale Cos. of Michigan. These communities tend to be more conservative. Indeed, the California Amish of Calif. township, Branch Co. are notably very conservative. They also are in a very small area, with smaller than usual properties for such a conservative way.”

Amish School MichiganThe material plainness of this community is obvious as you travel through the region.  Sparse properties, metal roofs, and dirt drives are the norm.

Typical of Swiss communities, buggies have no tops.  I did not see any Slow Moving Vehicle triangles either, and if that is standard practice would make this group one of the few besides the Swartzentruber Amish who do not use them.  Produce was in season when I visited; small stands about in the community.

Amish Front Porch

Lance adds:  “I have a friend that joined the Amish and he also was much more interested in conservative Amish then the progressive main stream. So he visited Calif. to see if they were for him. He drove his buggy from Allen Co to CA (40+ miles) and when he got there, they searched him! I guess they wanted to make sure he had nothing that would violate the Ordnung and pollute their minds!?”  It appears Amish here believe strongly in a plainer way of living.

Quincy area Amish

Quincy Michigan Amish

Drive north from California Township and you’ll come to another Swiss Amish settlement in the vicinity of Quincy, a small town east of Coldwater.

Amish School MI The Quincy community is less visibly plain than the California Township Amish.  Buggies are nicer and sport the SMV insignia.   Homes have a more prosperous feel with basketball goals and trampolines not uncommon.

Amish Store Quincy MichiganI didn’t see terribly many businesses, but did drop in at the E and A Country Store, (which has a number of signs advertising itself around the area, the one at right includes the helpful “Amish Country” marker) and had a nice chat with the owner.

The Quincy group is slightly larger than the California Amish, at 6 congregations.

Different paths

These two groups living just a few miles from each other show the different paths even similarly-rooted Amish take.  They’ve left behind their large parent communities, likely in search of a more isolated and plainer existence.

It’s probable that for them their parent communities, home to thousands of Amish, became too “fast” as the Amish say, or simply too crowded and expensive.   Both communities have been around for decades (started in the 60s and 70s).  However at least in their material lives, they have chosen somewhat different standards since their founding.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      An interesting post about a state most folks think about being “the American car capital of the world”, and i notice what looks like a BB gun hanging on the front porch. Richard

    2. Nancee

      Michigan Amish

      I live in Grand Rapids, MI, and have yet to visit these communities. I will be planning a day trip to enjoy the Amish so close to my home. Thanks, Eric, for giving us information about geographical locations such as this.

    3. Alice Mary

      Similarly different

      I find it very interesting, comparing different Amish settlements, and these are a prime example. It’s interesting to consider what lead them (both “born” of the Swiss Amish)to their current state of being, their own, particular “Ordnung.” Similar, but different!

      The photos were beautiful,Erik, especially the one under the “California Township Amish” heading. Are you still considering updating the “Amish America” website banner? I’d suggest using that photo, perhaps even a very faded, PhotoShop-ped version of it behind the actual “Amish America” text. When I looked at that particular photo, I thought, “Now THAT’S Amish!” The linear layout, the barn and outbuildings, house in the background, windmill—no electrical lines in sight—it says “Amish” to ME! (Just a suggestion!)

      Alice Mary

      1. Lance

        Things I noticed at California Township

        I have not seen any lawn mowers. I also notice that there are fences and gates around the lawn. I therefore assume the horses are used to eat the lawn…

        No motors of any kind seen. I did see a horse driven shaft drive going into buildings so that is probably how washing machines, table saws, woodworking tools, etc. are powered. Only the more conservative Swiss Amish and a Old Order Mennonite community in KY have rules against motors, that I know of. Can anyone confirm whether or not Nebraska Amish use motors?

        Alice Mary says that this is what Amish are supposed to look like. I agree. You will be more likely to see that trait in the smaller and older Amish communities where farming is still the primary occupation. In communities where home shops/stores, and factory or other away from home occupations are popular, the buildings look more like a Amish suburb than farm country. With current land and commodity prices, I expect this to be the direction most Amish go in the future.

        Notice the picture of the porch. There are 3 different sidings to the house. No fancy landscaping and prideful houses here. Many, maybe even most of the houses at CA township have unfinished look to them and tend to be small for the family size.

      2. Thanks for the suggestion Alice Mary, I’m not sure if I will change it or not, for a couple of reasons (one technical another aesthetic). I do like the concept though, I am quite partial to windmills.

    4. Margaret

      Gosh, I wish we were retired so we could go around the country visiting these different Amish communities you share about! I would love to see these places first-hand, but until then, THANK YOU, Erik, for sharing these articles and pictures with us!

      1. Margaret, very glad to hear you and others enjoyed these photos. A memorable day it was.

    5. Denise VanWoerkom

      Friend form this area

      I have traveled to Shipshewanna, Ind. and to Lancaster, Pa. Have yet to visit these Amish communities in my own state. However, I met an ex-Amish gentleman, through work, whose family is still Amish. They live in this area; Burr Oak, I believe. I loved all the stories he would tell about growing up Amish.

    6. Wm Justice

      Motors/engines among the Swartzentrubers

      My Swartzentruber friends in Randolph use gas and diesel fueled engines. The diesels are used to power their shops via under the floor belt drives and the gas fueled engines are used in washing machines, on water pumps and on table saws. I once confronted my best friend when I visited her while she was mowing her lawn with a reel push mower. I asked, “You use a lawnmower engine to pump water, wash clothes and run table saws. Why not use a lawnmower engine to mow a lawn?” She fired back, “Well, you gotta to stop somewhere.” I should mention that my friend is a rarity among the Swartzentrubers. 61 years old, living alone in her father’s grandpa house and never married. BTW, she is a superb quilt maker as well as great humorist.

      1. Lee Ann

        Wm Justice:
        I would love to meet your friend and talk to her about her quilt making. Maybe one of these days I will make it to Michigan and the Amish community there. Would she be willing to speak with me?

        Erik, Loved to see the photos of the difference in the Amish communitites. Wow!

        1. Wm Justice

          Lee Ann

          Of course she would. She is on of the most delightful woman I have ever met.

          1. Lee Ann

            Thanks Wm Justice:
            I would need to get your friends address in order to find her when I visit Michigan.

    7. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Hi all;
      I have a question about the no-top buggy Amish. What do they do in the winter, particularly when there is snow and wet, do they have a covering?
      Not to sound critical, but what about the winter months.

      1. Alganseeresident

        Open Buggies

        I live in the middle of the Algansee Amish community, just north of California. The open buggies are used in all weather. It the winter and cooler spring and fall weather they use an umbrella to help block the wind.

    8. Lance


      For protection from wind, rain, cold and snow, you have lap robes and umbrellas. You may get wet and/or cold depending on the weather. You hope the english that told you what the forecast is, is correct, because you do not want to get cold or wet because you might get sick. I still have my hack buggy which is like a old west buckboard and it is open top. I also have the lap robe and the umbrella. I sold my top buggy.

      Gives a new meaning to commitment. Might make one ask one’s self, are my commitments to my faith as strong?

      1. Lee Ann

        If you sold your top buggy, will you still be returning to the Amish community you grew up in? Have you already returned?

        I wouldn’t want to be in an open buggy in the winter or rainy months. To cold, and as you mentioned, one would get sick from the wet weather.

        1. Lance

          Lee Ann,

          When I return, I’ll have to make or have made a new buggy. Since I won’t have a excess money at the start it may be some time before I get a top buggy. My hack is a sturdy vehicle and it will have to do a lot until I can afford the luxury of a top buggy.

      2. Mindy


        Just a question. I live and grew up in Coldwater and see a lot of Amish shopping in stores and eating at fast food places. What are the beliefs of the local Amish?

    9. Wm Justice

      Randolph, Mississippi

      Lee Ann, the community I visit is in Randolph, Mississippi and not in Michigan.