The Amish of Rexford, Montana

For people living in the East, Montana is one of those romantic Western states that make you think of big skies and freedom. And that also might explain why the state has attracted some Amish. The first permanent Amish settlers came to the Treasure State in the 1970s. Drawn by the scenery and hunting opportunities, Amish living back East visit Montana fairly frequently.

Amish Rexford MTThe Montana Amish population has never exploded, yet they maintain a steady foothold, with at least 4 communities there today.  I’ve never visited any Amish settlements in Montana.  However I spent some time with a directory over the weekend containing a number of accounts of Amish life in Big Sky Country, in particular the community at Rexford (Lincoln County).

The community at Rexford is the oldest Amish settlement in Montana.  It lies in an area known as the West Kootenai, part of a region once populated by the Kootenai Indian tribe.  The Canadian border is a stone’s throw away.  The area is remote, rugged, and by all accounts very beautiful.

Here’s more on the Amish community at Rexford (from the Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana & Colorado Amish Directory: 2006):

  • The settlement dwindled in size in the late 1980s, and for three years no minister lived here.  Things seemed to revive in the early 1990s when a number of ministers arrived.
  • Rexford seems to be a “revolving door” Amish community.  One writer observes that “Many a person has been attracted to the area by visions of hunting, fishing, or camping in Montana’s great outdoors, sort of like taking a year-round vacation among the mountains.” However, Rexford is “not a farmer’s paradise”, maintaining a steady income can be hard, the cost of living is probably higher, and eventually “cabin fever and homesickness for the home folks over a thousand miles away” leads many families to move elsewhere.  Retired couples seem to stay around longest.
  • That noted, Rexford receives lots of visiting Amish from the East.  Though Amish hospitality prevails, one writer notes that “The heavy influx of summer visitors on the Kootenai has at times placed a strain on the daily routine of family duties…”   Many residents have thus built cabins where guests may stay without interrupting family life.
  • The annual West Kootenai school benefit auction, happening the second Saturday in June, is a highlight, with visitors from as far away as Washington and California.  The auction has featured “Quilts, local crafts, and rustic furniture as wall as consignments of used items…”  Another draw is the good home-cooked food available.
  • Woodworking seems to be the predominant occupation here, or at least was at the time of this directory’s publication.  Over half the households listed engage in some form of woodworking.  Timber and beef cattle ranching were once important trades, but it seems few to no Amish are involved in this type of work anymore.
  • Surprisingly, the Rexford area winter is described by one writer as “usually milder here than in the Midwest where we came from, with less wind, but it lasts longer”.   The area has just a “90-100 day growing season” but long days, with 16 to 18 hours of light.

Readers familiar with this community have added their own accounts on this site from time to time.  Mary notes that horseback riding is common among Montana Amish, while Primitive Christianity observes that bikes were more common than buggies when he lived in the area.  Rosie visited the Kootenai Store this summer and described the area as a “ghost town”, but “the food is still good”.

I hope I’ll get a chance to visit the Rexford community one day, though I think you have to be pretty determined to get there (it’d be a hard detour stop going from, say PA to Ohio 🙂 ).   If you’re interested, here is some more on Amish in Montana.

Montana Amish Photo: James Anderson/flickr

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    17 Comments

    1. Margaret

      Thanks for this article, Erik. My husband and I are considering retiring in Montana, near an Amish or Mennonite community. We know there are several. We have been looking at Lewistown.

    2. Alice Mary

      This is an interesting article.

      Whenever I think of Montana, I think of a song we learned in school…”My home’s in Montana,I wear a bandanna, my spurs they are silver, my pony is grey, When ridin’ the ranges, my luck never changes, with foot in the stirrup, I gallop away.”

      That said,it’s a little bit difficult for me to imagine the Amish there, but I hope they can make a good enough living to grow their communities.

      I’d be interested to hear of more visits to the Amish there over the last year or two.

      Alice Mary

    3. Mary

      I live in “The West Kootenai”, and will say Erik’s write up on here describes the Amish community to a T. (I’m not Amish) Yes, its a beautiful place to live if you don’t mind traveling 28 miles to the nearest gas station, or 70 miles to the nearest hospital, etc. Its an adventure, but to describe it as a ghost town is rather amusing! Must be the world outside the W. Kootenai view us residents back here as stranger then we thought!! 🙂

    4. Richard from Amish Stories

      Lancaster has whoopie pies and chicken corn soup, but what about in Montana's Amish settlement?

      Montana is a beautiful place and I’m sure even more so now with some of the Amish settling there, and like Lancaster that has say “chicken corn soup and whoopie pies” I wonder what that area has as a specialty in regards to food. I love checking out local favorites in different states so I wonder if the food theme in these Montana Amish communities takes on a sort of western taste!

      Richard from http://www.Amishstories.net

    5. Glad if you found the post worth reading…and Alice Mary, I did find an interesting post from Kevin Williams, who visited this community last year: http://www.oasisnewsfeatures.com/gateway-to-rexford/

    6. Linda

      Alice Mary, we learned that song, too.

      Tricia Goyer has authored Amish fiction books with a Montana setting.

    7. Steve Behringe

      Hutterite Family Style Dinner...

      I have been told that there is a terrific Hutterite family style place for dinner in or near Eureka, Montana. Can anyone supply information on

      1. Mary

        Hutterite Family Style Dinner

        To answer Steve Behringe about a Hutterite style dinner. We presently live in Eureka, MT. We had lived in The West Kootenai for a number of years so we know the area well. There is an Amish style dinner served at The West Kootenai Store each Friday evening. I have never heard of a Hutterite style dinner being served anywhere near Eureka or The W. Kootenai. I’m assuming someone got The Amish and The Hutterite mixed up.

    8. Steve Behringer

      Thank you!

      Mary-
      Thank you for the information. I want to take my family there for dinner. I assume that the store is named: The West Kootenai Store.

      Many thanks!

      Steve

      1. Mary

        You should probably call them ahead of time at this no.406-889=3588

        1. Steve Behringer

          Mary–

          Very helpful! Thank you!

          Steve

    9. E Garrett

      Business Information

      Do you know if “The Antenna Farm” radio business is still in business? I placed an order with them and they have not responded. The owner’s name is John W. Holbrook. Any information would be appreciated.

      Their website is: http://www.theantennafarm.com

      Thank You

    10. E Garrett

      Business Information

      Do you know if “The Antenna Farm” run by John W. Holbrook is still in business? Thank You

      1. Jason

        No

        Antenna farm closed it’s doors unexpectedly this past spring.

    11. matthew endris

      Mccormick Thrasher

      Hi I have a Mccormick Thrasher in pretty good shape that I’d like to sell. I can be reached at 307-461-2908 and my email is matthewendris@ymail.com

    12. Peter Hicks

      Roofing a Barn

      I have a old barn that needs a new roof. The master craftsmanship that I have seen from the Amish, I was wondering if you had any ideas or suggestions I can use.
      Any help is very much appreciated
      Thank you for your time

    13. Sharon

      Inquiry

      In 2006, when I had just lost my husband, I was told that my deck pillars were deteriorating and dangerous. Still deep in mourning, I wasn’t up to doing the kind of research needed to find a competent and honest person to rebuild it. But I thought to myself, “I’ll call the Amish. If you can’t trust the Amish, who can you trust?” I called, I believe, the Rexford community. A young man came and bid the project. It was a fair price, and I engaged him on the spot. He did a wonderful job. So, when my house needed refinishing, I called him again. And again, he did a wonderful job. Then I learned that the Masonite “lifetime” roof was not “lifetime” at all and needed replacement. So I called my Amish friend. He did an amazing job of that. Long story short–I need some exterior refinishing presently. My friend has returned, I believe, to Ohio, so I would like to engage someone else. How do I go about making contact?