New England has historically seen little Amish settlement, with Amish mostly avoiding the region. Maine, however, is one exception to that story. Amish have steadily founded new communities in the state, growing from just three settlements in 2010, to 11 communities today (2023).
Maine Amish Locations
Amish can be found in four locations in Aroostook County – including long-established communities at Smyrna and Fort Fairfield, near the Waldo County town of Unity, and in five other counties in the Pine Tree State.
The oldest Maine Amish community is located in Aroostook County in the area of Smyrna (Smyrna Mills). This settlement was profiled in a piece in the Boston Globe in 2005. The town of Smyrna itself is described as a “rugged town of potato farmers and loggers, notable for its fierce winters and solitary general store” and “a remote place with little allure for outsiders.” (“Putting Down Roots: Amish find a home in rugged Maine”, Boston Globe, Sarah Schweitzer, February 2, 2005).
However the area has held enough allure to keep Amish around, with families hailing from states as varied as Tennessee, Michigan, Iowa and Maryland making up the settlement. The community remains small at one congregation in size. In describing why they came to the area, an early settler explained: ”We wanted to be in an uncontaminated community”…”One less populated with plain people” (“Putting Down Roots”).
The path this group took to being considered part of the Old Order Amish today is unusual. Individuals comprising a church somewhat like the Amish, but with key differences leaving them outside the Amish fold, first came to the Smyrna area in 1996.
Following internal change, the group eventually did affiliate with the Old Order Amish in 2000, which may be considered the founding date for this settlement as an Amish community (personal correspondence Stephen Scott; see also Bryce Geiser, “The Christian Communities: A Brotherhood of Covenant and Commitment,” Old Order Notes, 321 Spring Summer 2000).
Amish in Smyrna created a range of businesses, including greenhouses, a furniture shop, bicycle center, a horse breeder, as well as more traditional farms (read more on Maine Amish furniture). The community, along with the settlement at Unity (see below) is considered to be a part of the reformist “Michigan Circle” Amish churches. Today (2023) around 120 Amish people live here.
A second Maine Amish community can be found near the town of Fort Fairfield, also in Aroostook County. Karen Johnson-Weiner notes that a group of conservative “Joe Troyer” Swartzentruber Amish left the Heuvelton, NY Amish settlement in 2007 in order to found a settlement in Maine (see New York Amish, p. 60). The community has grown to become the state’s largest, at nearly 300 people as of 2023.
Amishman Noah Yoder explained that he had spent two years searching for the “ideal place” to relocate. “What drew us to the area was the beautiful scenery, availability of farmland and some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. We’ve been well-accepted here and appreciate that.” (“Fort Fairfield and Easton Welcome Amish Families to Their Communities”, Fort Fairfield Journal, David Deschesne).
The Fort Fairfield Amish are known as Swartzentruber Amish, one of the most traditional of all groups. Amish in this very plain group supplement their farming with small businesses, including a dry goods store and furniture (“Amish in Fort Fairfield”, March 17, 2011, WLBZ2).
Members of the community harvest ice in winter for cooling, forgoing the liquid propane-powered refrigerators used by Amish in more progressive communities. Visitors to the area should also take care as this group rejects the orange slow moving vehicle triangle as well as electric buggy lights, in favor of reflective tape and relatively dim lanterns.
The state’s second-largest Amish settlement is also found in Aroostook County, in the area of Sherman and Island Falls. This community was settled in 2011, and has grown to over 200 residents. In the community can be found traditional farms, produce and farm stands.
The atypical Amish settlement at cheerily-named Unity (Waldo County) was founded in 2008. Some families arrived at this location from the settlement near the town of Smyrna in Aroostook County. Other areas contributing settlers included Amish settlements in Missouri and Kentucky. Around 150 Amish call the Unity area home as of 2023.
The Amish have cooperated with locals and have opened small businesses, including wood shops and food outlets. “We’ve been welcomed by the community. The community has been what we expected. They’ve welcomed us and helped us any way they can,” explained Ervin Hochstetler, Deacon of the Unity church, not long after their arrival. “Farmers have a lot in common, although our method of farming would be quite different than most farms.”(“Amish families reviving farms in Thorndike, Unity”, Bangor Daily News, Walter Griffin, October 23, 2009). Since that time, the Amish have become valued neighbors and members of the general community.
Among the community’s Amish-run businesses, the best-known of which is arguably the Community Market and Bakery (368 Thorndike Road). This mainstay features donuts twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) which are especially popular with the locals. The market burned down in early 2022, but was rebuilt and reopened later that year.
Also well-known is Charcuterie, a gourmet cured meats and cheeses shop. The owner, Matthew Secich, is a convert to the community and a former Chicago chef.
The background of Charcuterie’s owner hints at one of the things that makes this community “atypical”. The Unity settlement has a generally different outlook towards outsiders than the typical Amish community. While most Amish do not encourage converts, the Amish at Unity are considered “seeker-friendly”, and have attracted a number of them over the years.
Another element that makes the Amish here stand out is visual: men generally do not shave their upper lips in this settlement, in sharp contrast to common Amish custom.
The area of Whitefield in Lincoln County saw its first Amish settlers in 2017. This community has an interesting origin story: A local non-Amish couple wrote a letter to Amish in New York, encouraging them to consider settling in the Whitefield area. The couple, Pat and Robin Chase, even drove overnight 10 hours to an Amish household in New York to make the point.
Yellow buggy warning signs quickly went up in the Whitefield area, and a potluck meal welcomed one family’s arrival. The warm welcome and assistance has led to this Amish community growing to well over 100 people in size.
Other Amish Settlements in Maine
Two settlements are found in Somerset County – one at Palmyra, founded in 2020, and a second near Mercer, founded in 2022. Both communities are relatively small in size. The year 2020 also saw the founding of Amish settlements at Hiram in Oxford County, and at Wales in Androscoggin County. Both remain a small size at just a handful of Amish residences each.
Finally, a conservative Swartzentruber Amish settlement was recently established in the area of Corinth (Penobscot County). The community, which numbered just a few families in 2022, has tripled in size in just a year’s time.
Warm welcome for more Amish in Maine?
Amish have generally found a warm welcome in Maine. Harsh climate and distance likely discourage Amish from settlement, but the relatively cheaper land prices and low population typical of the state are pluses for many Amish when considering a new location.
Additionally, Maine is no longer the only New England state with an Amish presence, either. In 2015, Amish put down roots in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
Like in other regions, Amish settlers in the state have developed thriving small businesses, reflecting the diversity of Amish occupations in the 21st century. While some Amish continue to make a living in traditional farming, many do not.
Amish have found a ready market for their products, and for the most part (with rare exceptions), have been welcomed by the non-Amish residents of Maine. If the current communities continue to show that New England can work for the Amish, perhaps more will look to the region when considering new home locations in future.
Maine Amish Video
In this video, you’ll see footage of several Amish locations in Aroostook County, Maine, including the Smyrna Mills and Fort Fairfield areas.
For further information, see:
- “Putting Down Roots: Amish find a home in rugged Maine”, Boston Globe, Sarah Schweitzer, February 2, 2005
- “Profiles in Rural Maine”, allmainematters.com, Ken Anderson, Vol. 1 No. 9, September 2006
- “The Christian Communities: A Brotherhood of Covenant and Commitment” by Bryce Geiser, Old Order Notes, 321 Spring Summer 2000
- New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State by Karen Johnson-Weiner
- “Fort Fairfield and Easton Welcome Amish Families to Their Communities”, Fort Fairfield Journal, David Deschesne
- “Amish in Fort Fairfield”, March 17, 2011, WLBZ2
- “Amish families reviving farms in Thorndike, Unity”, Bangor Daily News, Walter Griffin, October 23, 2009
- “Living in Unity”, Boston Globe, Sarah Schweitzer, November 29, 2009
- “Maine’s latest immigrants: Amish”, Morning Sentinel, David Leaming, March 17, 2010
- The New American Almanac, 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” – compiled by Edsel Burdge, Joseph F. Donnermeyer, and Adam Hershberger