The latest Amish population statistics have been released by the Young Center for Anabaptist & Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. After looking over the numbers I can share that – no surprise here – the Amish population is larger this year than the last. The new estimated tally is 373,620, an increase of a bit over 12,000 over the past year.
This rate of growth suggests that by 2024 (or 2025 at the latest), the Amish population will surpass 400,000 souls. In addition to the population tables linked above, you can access the 2022 Population Profile as well as the 2013-2022 growth chart.
New Mexico joins the club
The most interesting piece from the new figures is the addition of New Mexico to the list, becoming the 32nd state with a current Amish population. I caught word of this at the Amish conference at Elizabethtown last month, and have since been looking forward to sharing more about it.
But, there are a couple of curious details worth addressing here. First, the 2022 Amish County and State list dates the founding of this community to 2020.
But, why is it appearing just now on the 2022 list?
What likely happened is that the initial family or families settled the area in 2020. But at that time, they hadn’t reached “settlement size”, which based on a generally-accepted definition proposed by Amish historian David Luthy years ago, is three families, or two (if one is a minister).
So even though the first family or families came in 2020, it took until the next year, or this year, for a substantial number of families to join them.
Looking at notes from the Central Plains Amish Directory 2021 shared by Edsel Burdge of the Young Center (one of a handful of diligent souls responsible for compiling these figures), it seems that only one family settled here in 2020. Several more arrived in 2021 and two more in 2022.
I can also add based on info from the Young Center that until last year they weren’t sure if this was an independent settlement, or simply an extension of a Colorado settlement, going by Amish scribe (correspondence-letter writer) reports. But after a phone call from Edsel, it was learned that this is a distinct community.
The second curious detail is the precise location of this community. The notes from Central Plains Amish Directory 2021 show multiple references to the settlement’s location as Ortiz, NM.
But…there is no Ortiz, NM. There is an Ortiz, CO, however, an unincorporated community lying just over the state border in Conejos County. The Amish publication The Diary also refers to an Ortiz, CO.
Edsel writes that likely this “settlement is right on the NM/CO border.” It seems to be that this community consists of Amish households mainly or totally on the New Mexico side of the border – but who are using the Ortiz, CO community as the nearest place name to refer to their own settlement. And since they are physically living in New Mexico, the reference becomes Ortiz, NM.
This makes sense, because if you look at the map of that area of New Mexico, there are no towns anywhere near the area (the nearest marked place name is the “San Antonio Wilderness Area”). This place is pretty remote.
That’s what I would surmise based on the info available here.
As far as the community’s origins, Edsel adds that “there does seem to be a close working relationship with Westcliffe, CO”. This makes me wish I had known of this settlement when I visited Westcliffe in December. Would have made a nice stop (especially as we drove a few miles past Ortiz into New Mexico, just to add New Mexico to the “states-visited” list 🙂 ).
I remember thinking that the nearest Colorado community, La Jara, was not so far away from New Mexico and it would seem feasible for a community to appear at some point over the border.
Families have moved to this settlement from Westcliffe as well as communities in Michigan, Indiana, and it appears Kansas. They have a school there, and an estimated 30 people in the settlement (around a half-dozen households). So, hopefully this community will do well and last longer than a prior attempt to settle in the state…
Not New Mexico’s first Amish
A final note: this is not the first time Amish have settled in the Land of Enchantment. They lived there at least one other time – from 1921 to 1929, in Colfax County, near the settlement of Chico. You can read a brief history of the Chico, NM settlement via GAMEO, or a more in-depth one in David Luthy’s The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed, 1840-1960.
Eleven Amish families moved there from Kansas. After an initial good start, an extended period of drought caused most to move back to Kansas after a few years. However one family, D.Y. and Susan Bontrager remained in the area until 1929. Interestingly, they made a living by growing “diversified crops”, among them pinto beans and onions. Additionally, they produced adobe building blocks for sale.
I doubt New Mexico’s current Amish residents are earning their dinner from adobe block production, but you never know.