Kentucky is home to a sizeable and growing Amish population. As of 2023, over 15,000 Amish live in 50+ locations across the state.
This is remarkable as Amish did not arrive to the Bluegrass State until the mid-20th century. Since then, the Amish population has skyrocketed to become the 8th-largest in North America.
Kentucky Amish Communities:
- Munfordville/Horse Cave -The Munfordville community in Hart County is the largest in Kentucky, and one of the fastest-growing in the nation.
- Hopkinsville (Christian/Trigg County) – The state’s second largest Amish group is found at Hopkinsville in Christian & Trigg Counties, with over 2,000 Amish.
- Guthrie – The area near Guthrie in southern Kentucky is home to a small “electric New Order” group.
- Other KY Amish Settlements – Kentucky is dotted with small Amish communities. Amish people can be found in nearly three dozen of the state’s counties.
The Amish settlement in Hart County, found near the towns of Munfordville and Horse Cave, was started in 1989. This community has ties with the Geauga County Amish settlement in Ohio. The Munfordville settlement has grown rapidly over the past two decades, and numbered 20 church districts as of 2023 (about 2,400 people).
The Munfordville settlement has benefited from a high level of in-migration of Amish from other communities, including its large parent settlement of Geauga County (note: though Munfordville is used to describe this community, there are no Amish actually in the town, it simply refers to one of the most common mailing addresses for area Amish).
Like in other communities, Amish at Munfordville operate small businesses and also do some farming. The hilly terrain is not the best farmland, but Amish do operate traditional farms as well as grow produce. The local produce auction runs on Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 12 noon.
A number of shops, including furniture businesses and retail stores provide ways of making a living for the Amish (more on Kentucky Amish furniture). Detweiler’s Country Store, near Cub Run, is a well-known variety store with gardening amenities, books, foods, and dry goods. Amish-run sawmills and stores such as fabric shops can be found dotted among the Hart County hills as well.
Traveling in Hart County by buggy can be hazardous. Like the Amish community at Holmes County, Ohio, Hart County is hilly. In some places you will find buggy pull-off lanes, usually on steep hills, which provide a shoulder for buggies to pull over and allow vehicles traveling behind to pass. Read more on the Munfordville, KY Amish.
Christian County is home to two Amish settlements: the second-oldest in the state, near Crofton (founded 1972, three church districts), and a newer and larger settlement near Hopkinsville and Pembroke (1989, at 15 districts the state’s second-largest). The Hopkinsville community has grown rapidly over the past 10+ years, doubling in size and nearly surpassing the state’s largest community at Munfordville. The Amish living in this settlement are also found in neighboring Trigg County.
The group at Crofton is an electric New Order settlement, of similar size to that at Guthrie in neighboring Todd County (see Guthrie Amish above). Christian County, along with Todd County, is also home to a community of Old Order Mennonites, a group which resembles the Amish in many ways, including its use of horse-drawn travel and plain clothing. Todd County hosts a sizeable produce auction (Fairview, at Elkton) where both Amish and Mennonites sell their fruits and vegetables.
The lands near Guthrie in Todd County are home to an unusual community of “electric” New Order Amish. New Order Amish on the whole make up only a small minority within Amish society.
Though they dress plain, use the horse-and-buggy, and speak Pennsylvania Dutch, New Order Amish in general differ somewhat from Old Order Amish. New Order Amish tend to have a greater focus on missions and outreach, are generally liberal on technology, believe in assurance of salvation. Some groups also hold Sunday School.
New Order Amish are themselves divided into two groups: “electric” and “non-electric”. Electric New Order Amish differ from non-electric New Orders in that they permit electricity to be used in the home.
The Amish at Guthrie are also very progressive when it comes to tractor usage. Tractors are driven on the road; most Amish homes can be identified by the bright blue or red tractor parked outside. Buggy usage is limited compared to other Amish settlements. As a result, Guthrie homes are more spread out than one might expect for a settlement of this size.
The Guthrie community is the oldest in Kentucky, founded in 1958. Today it numbers just two church districts in size, and approximately 300 people. The Amish here originate from a now-defunct Amish church at Stuarts Draft, Virginia (GC Waldrep, “The New Order Amish and Para-Amish Groups”, Mennonite Quarterly Review July 2008 p. 399). This Amish group maintain ties with other similar communities, such as the electric New Order Amish church at Union Grove in North Carolina.
Numerous other Amish settlements are found across Kentucky – some very small with just a handful of households, others numbering hundreds of Amish residents. Among the noteworthy ones, Marion in Crittenden County is home to the third-oldest Kentucky Amish settlement, founded in 1977 and with four church districts today (approximately 450 people).
In addition to Guthrie and Crofton, a third, smaller electric New Order settlement can be found at Princeton in Caldwell County. This particular Amish subgroup has found Kentucky a welcoming state.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky is also home to several ultraconservative Swartzentruber Amish settlements, one found in Hardin County near Sonora, and a second in Graves County near Mayfield.
A number of Kentucky counties are host to multiple Amish communities. Barren County is home to a pair of settlements founded in the 1980s, each with over 400 Amish residents, and a third community dating to 2014. Bath County also has three communities, including the Swiss Amish settlement at Owingsville (“Swiss” Amish communities have a distinct background and customs as compared to the majority “Pennsylvania Dutch” Amish).
Other Kentucky counties with multiple Amish settlements include Grayson, Henry, Lincoln, Logan, Fleming, Casey, and Breckinridge Counties. For a full list of Kentucky communities, check the 2023 Amish State & County Settlement list.
Amish in KY: A growing & diverse population
Kentucky is a state which has rapidly drawn new Amish settlement over the past 50 years. In fact, all of today’s Kentucky Amish settlements, except for two, have been founded during the last half century.
The Bluegrass State’s attractive location, lying adjacent to Amish-heavy states like Ohio and Indiana, and its relatively low land prices have led large numbers of Amish to settle within its borders.
According to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Kentucky has been among the fastest-growing states with Amish populations of significant size.
In fact, the Kentucky Amish population has nearly doubled since 2010, a rate which significantly outpaces the typical natural Amish growth rate. This is in large part due to high in-migration, which has continued at a high rate in recent years. And with its wide range of affiliations, from the most conservative to most progressive, Kentucky is a state which showcases the diversity of Amish society.
Kentucky Amish Grocery Store
In the video below, you will see the inside of a typical low-tech Amish grocery store. This is a “bent and dent” store, also known as a salvage grocery, in the Amish community at Hillsboro, Kentucky. These stores carry products with damaged packaging, or which are past their “Best by” dates.
This is a popular type of Amish-run business which attracts both Amish and non-Amish customers. The Amishman who runs the store explains how the business works and also some other interesting details, including how the shop gets its lighting.
Kentucky Amish Home
The video below gives you a look inside an Amish home in the Hillsboro, Kentucky Amish community. The Amish in this settlement are in some ways among the more conservative (e.g., lacking indoor plumbing), although they have been accepting technological change in recent years.
Along with the main home, we also see inside a dawdihaus, which is a smaller home built on an Amish property where traditionally the grandparents will live after transitioning away from full-time farming. All photos in this video by Tim Harris.
For further information, see:
- The New American Almanac 2023, Raber’s Bookstore (Baltic, Ohio), Ben J. Raber
- “Amish Population, 2023” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College
- “Amish Population in the United States by State, County, and Settlement, 2023“
- “The New Order Amish and Para-Amish Groups”, G.C. Waldrep, Mennonite Quarterly Review July 2008
- “Produce Auctions Continue to Grow”; University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Laura Skillman