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.
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).