The Amish of Juniata County, Pennsylvania

juniata county amish home

Say the words “Pennsylvania Amish”, and Lancaster County inevitably comes to mind.  But Pennsylvania is a state covered with Amish settlements, with over 50 as of 2010 (see Young Center 2010).

juniata county mapThe Amish community in Juniata County is one of the Keystone State’s many lesser-known settlements.  I had a chance to visit Juniata County last week while returning to Lancaster County from Big Valley.

Juniata County was created by carving off a chunk of Mifflin County way back in 1831.  What was leftover from Mifflin County now borders Juniata County to the northwest.  Mifflin County is home to the Big Valley Amish settlement, much better-known when it comes to Amish.

juniata county amish business
One of many Juniata County Amish businesses

A bit confusingly, the seat of Juniata County, and the town often associated with the county’s Amish settlement, is actually named Mifflintown.

Juniata County’s Amish community numbers 8 church districts (see Raber’s Almanac 2011), meaning around 1000 Amish live here in about 250 households.

The settlement was founded in 1950 when Amish from Mifflin County and other states began to settle the area (see GAMEO-Juniata County).

juniata county amish buggy
Outside a buggy shop. The black, boxy buggy style in this community is like that of the Renno Amish group in Mifflin County.

Juniata County is filled with rolling hills and stretches of forested land.  The Juniata river snakes its way through the county and past nearby Amish farms.  The county itself has a relatively sparse population.  You won’t find much if any of the Amish tourist attractions and traffic congestion that mark parts of Lancaster County.

amish juniata county
Near the Juniata River

Amish farms and homes are found nestled among the county’s hills, valleys and ridges.  Signs for small businesses dot the settlement.

A few of the businesses I saw included a sign painting business, a buggy shop, stamp shop, lumber mill, harness shop, basket makers, and a clock repair business which specializes in restoring antique clocks.

I’m told there is also an Amishman here who sells binoculars and other optical devices, particularly useful for birdwatchers.

pennsylvania amish juniata county church wagon
An Amish church wagon, containing benches, song books, and other items necessary for Sunday service

As in other highly rural Amish settlements, dairies abound in Juniata County.   The occasional stench of chicken farms, which supply a large local chicken processing plant, is the only thing I didn’t enjoy about my visit.

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    1. Alice Aber

      Very interesting Erik!!! You are certainly right though, mention PA Amish and the first thing that comes out is Lancaster.

      This looks like a beautiful area and less congestion is a plus in my book. I realize tourism is what keeps a lot of businesses up and running and therefore is a necessary evil but I sure do like the quiet away from it too, LOL.

      Love the pictures!!
      Blessings, Alice

    2. Ruben

      Great place to hunt, Juniata County! Lot’s of Amish friends have cabin up there on the ridge. (Turkey Ridge Rd. etc)

    3. Beautiful pictures. I do love all those rolling hills. Right up my alley with all the rolling hills we have here.

    4. Alice Mary

      Interesting posting, Erik! The photos are very interesting, as well…keep them coming!

      The wringer washer repair sign brought back childhood memories of my grandma’s old wringer washer. I liked it better than my mom’s new-fangled “spin dryer” (she often hung our laundry in the basement to dry, as we lived next to a commercial laundry with a smokestack that, back then, sometimes belched out ash all over mom’s clean sheets if she hung them to dry in our postage-stamp sized yard—this was in Chicago). Air-dried sheets sure smelled good—the opposite of my first experience (at a farm next door to a hog farm here in northern Illinois). Jeez! I wondered if clothes they hung out to dry outdoors would take on the hog scent? (I’m afraid the odor will be on my mind all day, now!Peeyuuu!)

      Alice Mary

    5. Glad you guys like the views–I had a number of other shots but not enough text to go with them 🙂

      And Alice Mary, how ’bout those farm smells. In this Juniata post I linked to an older post (“stench of chicken farms” link in last paragraph) I did where we discuss some of the various farm aromas.

      For me, the hierarchy (most to least tolerable) is: dairy-hog-poultry-the rendering plant.

      Those last 2 nearly make me gag. I feel for people who have to live near chicken barns or rendering plants, though I guess you could get used to it in theory. Don’t think I could though.

    6. loretta

      is this pronounced hoon–i–ata ?

      1. Christine Brehm

        June ee ah ta

        When I first moved here about 12 years ago, I pronounced it whaneeta county lol. Everyone else pronounces it june ee ah ta . I hope this helps.

      2. Leigh

        Pronounced “Jew-nee-ata”

      3. Nope! Joo-nee-A-tuh (emphasis on the next-to-last syllable) 🙂

      4. Julie zeiders

        Juniata pronouncing

        June ye at a

    7. Richard

      Nice image’s Erik, very nice work. Since that area seems to not be too far from me here in Pennsylvania, it looks like a road trip of sorts is maybe in order when the weather gets warmer. And im all for less commercialism which is one of the reasons i love living where i live. And from what I’ve found those Amish folks in less commercial areas tend to focus more on farming than anything else, and that seems to suit them just fine. Richard. Pennsylvania.

    8. George

      Great pictures, I enjoyed them; lot of privacy.
      What are the chances of photos of Amish kids?
      I know they don’t like to be photographed, but Bill Coleman and a few others were successful, thanks!

    9. Bob Rosier

      Thanks for the great pictures and information. I had the Big Valley around Mifflintown on my April to-do list. There are many Amish and Mennonite groups in that specific area as you know.

      The Byler Amish are found by following the yellow brick road…,no…its the yellow-topper, and the Nebraska Amish are the white-toppers. So your picture must have been the Peachey or Renno Amish? the black toppers. I’m really looking forward to visiting that area, and I also plan to go to the Nicholas Stoltzfus house in Berk county. What else should I see my good friend?

      I’m getting excited !

    10. I have a number of cousins in Juniata County. One of them is vacationing down here in Pinecraft right now.

    11. Bill Coleman Big Valley Amish photography

      George Bill Coleman takes great photos. I don’t really do a lot of photos of people myself, concentrating more on the distance shots, buggies, farms, etc–plus, I’m not really much of a photographer (I follow the quantity school of photography–shoot enough of them, and a couple will turn out half-decent!).

      But Bill and some others do take a lot of nice shots. I’ve always wondered how Bill developed the relationships to be able to document the Big Valley Amish as he has. Pretty impressive.

      1. Dale D.

        "shoot enough of them"

        Erik, many of us who take photos are in the school of “shoot enough of them.” But, we are in good company! National Geographic has thousand/s of photos taken for every photo published. Blessings

        1. That’s good to know Dale. Lucking into a beautiful winter day like I did during this visit helps too.

    12. Katie please give our best to your cousin, it is officially Juniata County day on Amish America 🙂

      Richard that’s right you are probably not too far from Juniata. From where I stay in Lancaster it is about 2 hours, most of it on the highway. I guess from Lebanon it would be similar or maybe closer.

    13. Less-visited Amish attractions in PA

      Bob, you have some great trips in store there. I would spend at least a day if you can in Big Valley. You won’t be bored. Go on Wednesday if you can, that is the auction day in Belleville. Nebraska Amish are at the top of the valley; as you go south you get into the Byler and Renno folks.

      Stoltzfus house is a nice visit as well. When I first went there it surprised me, as it literally is right in the middle of Reading near a highway. There is a nice green area immediately around it, but on the whole it is not rural calm.

      Loretta, I’ve never heard it pronounced that way, but I like the question. I’m not a central Pennsylvanian but I’ve always said it with the hard J and I believe that’s right.

    14. Richard

      Well it looks like i will be away for awhile Erik. I’m not sure if you folks have been seeing and hearing all the news about “the whoopee pie war” between the state of Maine and Lancaster county. It seems Maine is trying to take the credit for inventing the “whoopee pie”, while Lancaster rightly claims itself to be the birth place of this artery clogging but beloved sweet cake. So when i arrived home today i checked my e-mails, well first i had a sandwich, then i checked the e-mails. I then saw that i recieved a letter from the state of Pennsylvania requesting my assistance in the war against Maine , as well as a $10 dollar donation for a “free the groundhog tee-shirt”. well short story long, ive been selected to join the” protect our whoopee pie army”, i leave for duty with the rank of captain most likely because of my service with the boy scouts. I’ve been promised a foot locker full of ring dings, funny bones, and all the mad magazine’s i can read. So i leave Amish America with a heavy heart, most likely from all the cholesterol from eating those whoopee pies, i shall in time return most likely 20 pounds heavier wearing a cream mustache. Ill take my laptop with me so you folks wont be done with me that easy, as i know all of you cherish my thoughts and opinions. Well ill keep fighting the good fight for all of you, all i ask from you is “please send me all the milk that you can get a hold of” as ill need it to wash down all the whoopee pies that ill be eating. Good bye, well until thursday,lol. Richard. Pennsylvania

    15. Kate

      If it’s pronounced like the common Amish name for girls then it’s said like the spanish “J” in “Juan” more like a “wha” sound and then “eeta” sorry it’s very hard to describe sounds over messaings haha!

      1. Leigh

        It is a Native American name, pronounced “Jew- nee-ata”

    16. Ex-Amish

      Gorgeous pics!! Thanks for sharing!

    17. Kurt

      Juniata is pronouced June-e-ata. Pronounce it any other way and they’ll snicker at you, Englisher.

    18. Kurt–are you sure it’s not “CHuniata”? 😉

      But maybe that’s the Ohio I’m channeling.

    19. Richard, I am inspired by your whoopie pie patriotism. Keep it non-violent though. You had me cracking up.

    20. Kurt

      The ‘Amishers’ in Mifflin/Juniata Counties usually don’t have the dutch-ified accent, maybe some do if they migrated from elsewhere. I’m not an expert, just my observation.

    21. dolores

      bicycle mode of transportation.

      I am interested in tricyle with big wheels, where can I get one.