Amish in New York’s North Country

Last month we had news that a Swartzentruber Amish settlement in Pennsylvania would likely be coming to an end, with residents heading to greener pastures.

St Lawrence County NY Amish
St Lawrence County in New York, home to a large Amish settlement

One of the destination communities for families in the distintegrating settlement was said to be the Swartzentruber outpost in St. Lawrence County, New York, part of the state’s “North Country”.

St. Lawrence County due to its remoteness has so far stayed off my Amish visiting agenda.  With a recent story on the Amish in the North Country I had another look at the county.  Here are a few facts about St. Lawrence County:

  • This is not a small county.  At 2,821 square miles it is by far the largest in the Empire State–over 500 square miles larger than the second-largest (Suffolk County, which comprises 2/3 of Long Island).  By comparison Lancaster County, PA is only a third its size, at 984 square miles.  And at 424 square miles, you could fit nearly 7 Holmes Counties inside St. Lawrence County.
  • Over 110,000 people live in St. Lawrence County, though due to its great size it is one of the least densely-populated counties in the state.  This points to some of the attraction to breathing-room-seeking Amish.
  • St. Lawrence County gets its name from the St. Lawrence River, an important waterway forming part of the northern border of New York.  Cross the river and you’re in Ontario.
  • The second-largest New York Amish community is found here, near the town of Heuvelton.  It’s somewhere between 1,500-2,000 people in size.
  • “Breathing room” is a relative term.   Land may be cheaper in northern New York, but as Karen Johnson-Weiner explains in New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State, an influx of Amish newcomers from other states has caused land prices to increase.  Differences between the various Swartzentruber Amish groups living in the area can also create tensions within the settlement.

This news piece from a local station gives some more info on Amish growth in St. Lawrence County, along with scenes from the area and thoughts from Karen Johnson-Weiner (video removed).

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    18 Comments

    1. New York State of Mind

      For Christmas I got Karen’s book New York Amish which I really wanted. As I live in New York State, I had borrowed that book fromt he library so many times. Now, I have my own copy so I can see the Amish areas and go there. I have been in St. Lawrence County many times, but that was before I knew there were Amish in New York State. So, next time I go there, when all this snow melts, I would like to visit Amish in the area.
      Mrailyn

    2. Tom

      You can now drive route 11 from near Mexico NY north thru Pulaski, Clayton, and into St Lawrence County up to Malone. There is one Amish settlement after another. What a treat!
      Tom backroadstraveller,blogspot.com/

      1. Tom and Marilyn I am a little envious of both of you 🙂

    3. My father-in-law moved up there (close to Potsdam) in the early 90s and bought around 300 acres for about $300/acre. Today that land is probably worth about $1500/acre.
      Besides Swartzentruber Amish, a good number of Wenger Mennonites (horse and buggy) are also relocating to the area. They can sell out for $10,000/acre around here (Lancaster) and buy land up there for 1/5 the price. Of course the growing season is a lot shorter, and the dirt is not as productive, but there is room to expand.

      1. Amish real estate strategy

        Buying land in areas showing steady Amish growth, especially the younger but becoming established communities is one potentially lucrative investment strategy. Not one the Amish would appreciate but probably a decent way to make some $$. I doubt that’s what your father in law had in mind though 🙂 However I don’t expect Amish to suddenly start limiting their families to 2.1 children anytime soon.

        1. No, my father-in-law didnt have investment in mind … he had a dozen of his own children! 🙂 And most of them are married now and are living in the area. So the family has quite a few hundred acres in their combined parcels.
          I do think it can be a problem though, that once a couple of Amish/Mennonite families move to an area that the real estate prices start rising because folks know more are to come. Kind of like when we lived in South America … a white face meant double the price on anything from land to a taxi ride. 🙂

    4. Alice Mary

      Moving on

      It’s always interesting to hear these stories of Amish moving a whole settlement elsewhere. I’ll be interested to see how things work out for the Swartzentruber who move to the “North Country” in N.Y. I can only wonder how accepting of the “newbies” the “old & settled” Swartzentrubers in the area will be. Also, what adjustments will those “newbies” need to make to farming more productive, given the poorer soil, etc.?

      Alice Mary

      1. That’s an interesting question Alice Mary. KJ-W in NY Amish comments on differing attitudes between the native people who have been there some time and newcomers from Ohio. I’d guess it would be good to be mentally ready for a different climate and productivity going into any new venture like this.

    5. Tom in KY

      Nice area of the country, I think I know where I may go for my summer vacation this year.

    6. New York North Country

      I live here along route 16 in Jefferson County where there are Amish 3 families are with in a hop skip and jump from my farmhouse. As far as which clan they hail from I am not certain, but they are nice and offer their “services” when need be, I run into them even in the local thrift stores, I think I may have had only one incident of a amish person, showing discord(to be nice) in the manner to which I dress… not sure if he thought I was a shunned amish girl or what but the facial looks.. was enough … I as I say am a Christian first but worship in a Mennonite congregation,even though my congregation is not plain in dress but us women do practice the biblical headcovering.. I have only been lead personally to dress cape and non cape out of conviction. For the most part I get smiles and nods from the Amish neighbors but that one elderly gent.. He might have been out of the more strict amish community which I know we do have scattered around here in the Jefferson and Lewis Counties.

    7. Barbara Durham

      Amish move to Whitehall, New York

      Recently I left a comment that the Amish have moved into Whitehall, New York. I would like to post some pictures pertaining to them but do not know where or how on this website.
      They are still building along here. Recently a new house/storage shed went up on County Rte 18 adding to the ones on Abair Road, County Route 12, Hatch Hill, and Upper Turnpike. Baked goods, flower nursery, and a leather repair shop are the new offerings from them to the community. I also see over on Abair Road that they have some kind of sawmill at work. They purchased 3 already built homes, which they are occupying, this included the farm-land and barns. Cows are daily enjoying the high grass of the fields and you can see their crops peeking up through the plowed fields as well. On a recent trip to our neighboring town we were lucky enough to see a tractor-trailer truck unloading household goods and such to one of their homes over on County Rte 12. We also had the pleasure of watching, what seemed to be a community affair with 7 or 8 buggies, them fishing one day on Lake Champlain on the outskirts of Whitehall. I wondered if they liked fresh fish!

      1. Barbara if you wouldn’t mind sending the photos/info along to me, we might be able to put them up in their own post. I’m at . Thanks for checking back in on this.

        1. Dawn Meador

          Amish Feed Mill

          We’re moving from Tennessee to upstate NY. Here in TN we drive into KY to Hoover’s Feed Mill where we purchase all our feed at a great price from the Amish. Is there an Amish feed mill there in NY? If not maybe VT, OH or PA we could drive to and buy bulk? Thanks for any help you can provide.

      2. Marjorie Moxley

        Fishing

        “Our Amish” near Lebanon NY go fishing every chance they get in the summer, and some of the younger ones ice fish as well. They seem to relish fresh meat of any variety (as opposed to standard canned meats)
        I remember the first time I saw a buggy go by with one canoe on the top and another on a set of wheels towed behind!

    8. Bill Rushby

      Whitehall Pictures?

      Eric:

      I grew up 40 miles north of Whitehall, and would like to see Barbara Durham’s pictures. Have they been posted yet?

      1. Bill they haven’t been posted, because I don’t think I’ve heard from Barbara yet, but she’s still welcome to get in touch with me at the email I shared above.

    9. Ernestine

      Amish in black lake ny

      Just got back from a vacation to black lake ny and that is Amish country got lots of cool pics saw the ladies out doing their laundry , working in the gardens, pulling weeds, tilling the fields, and we seen the saw mills and the guys working building sheds, there were some building on their house , we bought some stuff from their stands they set up in the price chopper parking lot everyday in Ogden’sburgh , it’s really neat to see how hard they work and how they do their work and it just amazes me how they live life giving the fact that we ourselves are a very tight knit family but these people won’t change their culture or go against what they believe in for nothing and they are so kind whenever passing by them they always wave a hand at you it’s just really cool I’m amused by these people

    10. KEVIN m HALE

      lumber mill

      I have some property in duane NY not far from Malone and I am looking for some amish builders in the area