The Amish of Pearisburg, Virginia

Giles County VA Amish

The atypical Amish community at Pearisburg, Virginia (Giles County) has been described as “unique”. I’ve never been there, but we’ve heard a lot about Pearisburg–the oldest of Virginia’s half-dozen Amish settlements–from readers and contributors over the years.

First, Rich Stevick has shared about this mountain settlement a few times. How about this unusual courtesy for non-Amish visitors:

Several years ago at a wedding in Pearisburg, VA, we had the benefit of the simultaneous translation. The four (yes 4!) translators took turns during the three hour service–an amazing gift to us English visitors.

Sunday School is another uncommon-for-Amish custom at Pearisburg. Reader Adrian sensed something different about this community as well:

They dress and seem to conform as if they are Old Order, but I’m not sure that is the case. I talked to a girl in a store that a Kauffman family runs there and she said they came from Kentucky around 1991. They have buggies and the store is run on “Amish electricity.”

Pearisburg VirginiaJAPAS actually lists the founding date as 1993, so that is in the ballpark (I have also seen this community referred to as “White Gate”, as Adrian does).

I’m told Pearisburg is in fellowship with New Order churches in Holmes County, and also back and forth with churches in Michigan.

I’ve also heard that one of the businesses here is an exotic bird and animal breeder licensed to sell to major zoos in the US (if you’re wondering, that’s not a common Amish business description 🙂 ).

I get the sense this is just scratching the surface of what makes Pearisburg not your typical Amish community.

This settlement once had two church districts, but decreased to just one a few years ago. On that point Naomi Wilson added this observation in 2012:

Also, in regards to VA settlements, I wonder if the Pearisburg settlement in Giles is moving. There are many Amish farms for sale there.

Another reader alerted me to the same in 2012, noting at least five Amish homes on the market. Rich Stevick hints at what might be happening:

Pearisburg, VA, has been an Old Order settlement that has welcomed outsiders and has nurtured quite a number over the years. Sadly, they have experienced significant unrest and disharmony among the membership, resulting in a major spaulding or split.

White Gate Virginia Amish Community

Finally, Anne, mother to Amish convert Ed, adds another piece to the Pearisburg story. A number of families in Ed’s Minnesota community once lived in this corner of VA:

Ed told me they now have 15 families, and the community is growing fast. Many of these families came from the Pearisburg community in VA. I know that in VA they were frustrated by too much govt regulation and oversight of housing, building, etc. They found land too expensive and the soil poor for growing their crops.

They were worried about govt registering livestock too; something that was discussed but I never heard how it came out. I know some of the Amish men from the Pearisburg community spoke to representatives in Richmond about how negatively this would affect their community.

Whether it’s church discord or regulatory issues or poor soil or something else completely, Pearisburg seems to have faced its share of challenges. But there are still Amish living there, and that’s who we turn to next.

Visting the Amish in Giles County, VA

One of our readers, Shawn, made a recent visit to the Pearisburg Amish settlement. The photos and comments below are Shawn’s.

A visitor once described the settlement to me as “700-plus acres spanning a valley and parts of two mountainsides.” I have heard that this is an absolutely beautiful area. Shawn’s photos are your proof.

Two weekends ago I went to the Amish community that is in Giles County, Virginia. As of 10 years ago I was told there were 23 families in this district. If that’s the case, I definitely did not see 23 Amish houses.

If you didn’t see the road signs for the buggies you wouldn’t even know a settlement was here.

They do seem to have a nice amount of businesses though. Two country stores, a harness and tack shop, a shed building business, two custom furniture shops. They are busy!

Its a very mountainous terrain, they have found a decent valley for agriculture and I am told they grow apples. LOTS of apples.

Nature's Way Store

This is the Nature Way store. On the main road. Hitching post out front. I am told this is a new store because there was nowhere for the Amish in this community to easily get flour, baking supplies, etc. Reminded me of Zimmermans in Lancaster.

Note from Erik- Here is the store address: 


Interestingly, the store is currently listed on Zillow as “for sale”.

Giles County Virginia

This is just a field leading into a turn onto the road where most of the families live.

Bake Sale Virginia Amish

They have a bake sale and lunch a few times a year to help generate income for the school.

Baskets Business Amish VA

Anything for a buck right?

Red Barn Giles County

Classic red barn.

Amish Home Virginia Mountains

This was one of the houses, pretty nice, bunnies for sale out front. They didn’t all have this nice log cabin look to them.

Amish VA Mountains

All those furniture and shed businesses look like they used this area for getting started on projects.

Amish Pearisburg VA

Two buggy signs going in and out of settlement area. This is one.

I find it fascinating that they have lasted this long in this area. They seem spread out except for this one small grouping (maybe 10 families) and this terrain is HARSH. Winters are ROUGH here.

They seem to be thriving though because that Nature’s Way store is not old and the businesses are plentiful. I assume land to be cheaper here as well.

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    1. Naomi Wilson

      Several years ago I spent many hours poring over real estate listings of Amish farms for sale in Giles, VA. At the time, there were probably six to ten places for sale, some of them beautiful log homes. There were photos of lovely home interiors, gardens, orchards, spring houses, cellars full of produce, mountain views, etc. It was quite a treat. It looks like all those listings are gone now.

    2. Debbie H

      Interesting. I don’t think Virginia is known for farming and living off the land. Seems like the Pearisburg Amish, like the Florida Amish, have found a way to exist there. Florida has strict building and zoning rules, especially along the coast, making it difficult to observe many Amish traditions. Florida has the extreme hot weather and Virginia has the extreme cold weather. I guess you pick your poison.

    3. Jeanne

      Pearisburg Setttlemet

      I had the chance once 10 years ago to visit with Sam and Lydia Chupp. they live in this setelement an they are one of the nicest families that I have ever meat!! I wantto go back one day and take my childdren for a visit. They were so warm ad inviting!!!

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        If I’m not wrong, Sam & Lydia Chupp are now living in Michigan.

        1. I wonder if they have a bishop here anymore then.

    4. Alice Mary

      Pearisburg a hidden gem

      How intriguing! I’d be more interested in visiting a small, “hidden” settlement like this than the more usual big settlements. Beautiful photos. I hope it survives…it sounds very welcoming.

    5. Jerry

      Pearisburg Settlement

      I grew up one county over and have an Aunt and her family still living there. I visited often as a child and I remember that area had a nice limestone soil. Not like that in Lancaster but close. They grew huge peaches and I remember a gyspum mine.
      The local English were not exactly open-arm welcoming. The Amish tried to settle in near-by Tazewell county in a beautiful bowl shaped “Eden” called “Burke’s Garden”. There the locals refused to sell land to additional Amish families.
      About government regulations. Yeah they’re rough and getting rougher. Now days you have to get a permit to build anything and running water and septic systems a required. A lot of the time the area will not perk for a septic system. Most of the top soil is about two feet deep and then you have solid rock. Sand mounds are not allowed in many areas. It’s tough now.

    6. Al in Ky

      I visited the Pearisburg Amish community last year (Sept. 2013), as I passed through the area on my way to Harrisonburg, Va. I had Googled “Pearisburg Amish” on the internet and was directed to a website that listed quite a few Amish stores/businesses in the area,but didn’t really give any directions on how to get there. So after I crossed the W. Va. border into Va., I stopped at the Giles
      County Court House because I thought someone there would know. The first two court house staff people I talked with looked at my information I had downloaded and printed and said, “Oh, that’s old information. Those businesses are all closed because the Amish got in a big fight with each other and they all moved out.” Well, there was a local man who had come to the court house to do business and overheard our conversation and said, “Oh– there are still some Amish down there,” and gave me general directions on how to get to the settlement. I was surprised it was so far from Pearisburg — seemed to be about twenty miles or more southwest of Pearisburg. When I got to the area, the first two people I saw were two young women with a bake sale stand by the side of the road. They were dressed very similar to Amish women, so I asked them where some Amish stores were. Before giving me directions, they made it a point to tell me they themselves weren’t Amish (and I then saw their car parked under a tree). I wondered if they were part of the former Amish that left the Pearisburg Amish, yet
      remained living there. Anyway, I drove up the road to the Nature Way store and had a nice conversation with the owner. (I would’ve like to have talked longer, but he had lots of customers that day.)
      I drove around the settlement a little longer and stopped at another nice store that seemed to sell lots of household items. It is beautiful country around there. And thanks Shawn for the many pictures you shared of the settlement. Good pictures.

      And — Mark of Holmes County — yes, Sam and Lydia Chupp are still
      there. They send in news almost every week to The Budget. I still have last week’s Budget and looked at their letter and counted at least eight different Pearisburg Amish families they wrote about in their letter. And Rich Stevick — yes, I remember the major split in the community a few years ago, because the Budget scribe (can’t remember if it was the Chupps or someone else) wrote letters “with sadness” for several months about how distressed they were over the split and the many families who left.

      I always enjoy these posts about lesser-known Amish settlements.

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Last evening I asked my wife about Sam Chupps, as she keeps better track of people’s comings & goings than I do, and she said, like you did, that Sams are back in VA but had spent part of a year in MI where they have the Harmony Haven Home. We don’t get The Budget but do get die Botschaft and there is a different scribe for Die Botschaft, Ben Wengerds.
        There was a division there that caused a lot of stress for everyone and there were many who moved out or aligned with another church.

      2. Thomas E O'Quinn

        I need to speak with Sam Chupp about building building a cabin

        I would like to speak with Samp Chupp’ Does any one have a phone number that I can call him or his wife Lydia ?

    7. Anne

      Thanks for the update

      It’s so good to hear what’s going on in this community now. But it saddens me, because it sounds like it’s far from the thriving community it was when Ed found and joined it. The area is truly gorgeous, with Amish farms spread very broadly around. There is lots of good farmland due to the valleys, while the mountains provide a beautiful backdrop.

      When Ed decided to leave, he’d only been with them about 2-3 years. There were both broad and personal concerns; the broad being the hassle of dealing with gov’t regulation, and the personal being the changes the group was making. The latter was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for Ed. They decided to modernize with electricity and cars, a step too far for him. There were several “converts” in this group, and I think all of them left, as they’d joined in part to participate in the Old Order way of life. They spread out over a number of different communities. It’s especially sad to me, because this community was so inclusive. Hearing the service translated is an example of their desire to reach out and involve others. We had this experience many times.

      And a high point was the “bird zoo” as we called it. The birds were beautiful and quite exotic. I am quite sure they belonged to the bishop, Sam Chupp, and I wonder how this business has done? Especially if he was away for an extended time? But when Ed lived there, there were many in the community who helped out, so I’m sure some did that in this case. The decision to modernize was what spelled doom for this group in my opinion. I wonder if it will ever recover and renew what it once had…

    8. Naomi Wilson

      Anne, that is sad to hear. Unfortunately, it will probably discourage other old order groups from being seeker-friendly or otherwise welcoming to outsiders. I’m glad Ed joined when he did.

      1. Anne

        Yes Naomi, I agree. My only concern is that I wonder if what he’s into now is what he “signed up for”??? I think he’s in a much more traditional community now, though they still seem very open to outsiders. But there’s also less flexibility. I know there are things he’s found there quite different from the Pearisburg community. In my heart of hearts I wonder if he’d make the same choice today if he knew he’d end up in the group he’s with now? Someday I bet he’ll tell me!

    9. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Anne, i have wondered the same thing. It would be very difficult for our kind of Amish to move to a community like Ed is in, so I can only imagine what it must be like for him to find himself in that setting.

    10. Anne

      The comfort to me is that many of his friends from Pearisburg are in Fertile, MN, with him now. So it’s good to have that continuity for him. The group in MN started this one, though other families have come in from other places. One of our favorite families is from Canada! And I know they are very supportive of Ed 🙂

    11. Vernon in VA

      We live about 40 miles from the Whitegate Amish community in the Wytheville area. The name Whitegate comes from a very small spot along Rt. 42 close to where you turn in to the main part of the community which is on the south side of Rt. 42. If I am not mistaken, some of the ones that split off of the original group are the ones that have electricity and cars, not the core Amish group which the Chupps are a part. Sad to say, but there have been some issues there over the years that were difficult to deal with. We visited there a couple times and enjoyed it.

    12. Linda Peck

      Friends of mine

      Just wondering if any one knows where Daniel and Suzanne Miller and their children from the White Gate community in Giles county Virginia live now. I did find out they moved from White Gate. Several years ago we came to know Daniel and his family. He built us a little cabin that we enjoy so. He set it up on Big Stony creek for us. I often think of him and his family. They are awesome people. Their children are the sweetest and loving kids I have ever met. Also had the honor of meeting Daniel’s father, nice man and he makes the best cheese.

    13. Jonathan Edwards

      Southeast Iowa

      They helped establish a new settlement in southeast Iowa.

      1. Linda Peck


        I would love to get in touch with Daniel and his family.

    14. Thomas E O'Quinn

      I need to speak with Sam Chupp about building building a cabin

      I would like to speak with Sam Chupp; or someone in the Amish community that would consider building me a log cabin in Bluewell W V.
      I prefer to speak with him or next in kin; but if he or his wife cannot be reached; please get a phone number that I can reach him. Thank you so much. Tommy O’Quinn cell 304-952-1693

    15. Vickie White

      Stores around that area that are Amish or Mennonite?

      I had a chance to go through but not able to stop in Pearisburg, recently. I was gorgeous there. I would like to know what stores are there nowadays?
      I love the bakeries, eateries, buffets, little shops to shop in, etc. Is there somehwere there, that you can live at an Amish or Mennonite farm for a day or 2? Thanks for your help with this. I love the pictures posted of the area, there. I read Amish and Mennonite books all the time. I love them.