This title is meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. What I’m referring to though, is an interesting development brought to my attention by reader Al in KY.

I’ve noted here in the past how the Elkhart-LaGrange and nearby Nappanee Amish settlements (first and third largest in Indiana) have essentially “grown together” in that their areas touch and overlap. For example: “Even in 2006, Amish settling in the region between the two communities were faced with the choice of which settlement to attend church in.”

Buggy in the Elkhart-LaGrange County community. Image: David Arment

But Al notes that this same thing has now happened with the Centreville community (largest in Michigan), to the north of Elkhart-LaGrange. Quoting Al, who noticed this reported in Amish correspondence publication The Budget:

One of the Budget scribes from Shipshewana (Mrs. Al Leanna Fry) wrote in her weekly Budget letter (news) the first part of July that she and her husband had recently attended church in one of the Centreville, Michigan Districts which is right across the border from LaGrange County, Ind.

She said she learned during that visit that there is no longer any gap between the boundary of the Centreville Amish settlement and the Elkhart/LaGrange settlement and no longer any gap between the boundary of the Elkhart/LaGrange settlement and the Nappanee settlement.

Would this be the first time that this has happened with three Amish settlements (two of which are amongst the Twelve Largest Settlements in the U.S.)?

My impression is that it most likely is the case that it’s the first time three settlements of such size have overlapped or geographically “met” like this.

I passed this topic on to Joe Donnermeyer of Ohio State University who shared some interesting observations of similar situations:

I guess these days we could call it “Amish suburban sprawl”…Hostetler, in a chapter he wrote in 1980 about the failure of Amish communities in the western states, observed that long distances (in reference to extinctions) did indeed make a difference, so, proximity does as well (to sustain settlements).

The Greater Holmes County settlement and the Lakeville (a Dan church) in western Holmes County is another example. I know there is at least two communities in one of the central valleys of PA that overlap now.

Nappanee Water Tower

Nappanee water tower reflecting the area’s plain community

He also adds this related note:

There are counties like Crawford and Mercer Counties in PA or Knox County in OH with five or more settlements. So, even if communities are not yet contiguous, they enjoy the advantages of other nearby Amish, and likely foreshadow where future contiguities will occur.

In any case, by my rough Google-mapping this makes a rough triangle of about 60 x 60 x 30 miles traced from the Centreville community to the southwest side of the Nappanee settlement to the eastern edge of the LaGrange County Amish area and back up to Centreville again.

Centreville, MI Amish Directory. Image: Jim Halverson

By similar rough Google-mapping this would be larger than the general area covered by the Holmes County and Lancaster County communities (though still having a bit fewer Amish people in this Indiana-Michigan “Amish megalopolis” – around 36,300 total – than in either of those two largest of Amish communities).

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