Amish Settlement Attempts Since The 1700s

Joseph Donnermeyer of Ohio State University today shares with us an article published two weeks ago in the Budget newspaper.

In it, Joe looks back at all the Amish settlement attempts throughout their history in North America.

He highlights some interesting figures, including a total of 342 settlement attempts since 2000.

At first that seemed higher than I’d expect, but it only underscores the growing Amish population and accelerating rate of new settlement attempts.

How many times in history have the Amish started a new community? In total, there have been well over 800 settlement attempts since they arrived here in the 1700s.

Though the Amish have been prolific in starting new communities, not all of them survive, of course.

Joe’s data gives us a statistical big picture of how many did survive each era – first by half-century, then by decade, and more recently, year-by-year.

Below you’ll find the brief article and accompanying data. Those of you who enjoy studying the phenomenon of Amish population growth should find this interesting. Thanks to Joe and the Budget for letting us share it here.

Final note: Joe is behind a new publication called the Journal of Plain Anabaptist Communities (JPAC), which we’ll have more on at an upcoming date (in the meantime you can contact for details).

Amish Settlement Attempts in North America*

The end of a decade seems like a good time to pause and look back on Amish settlement growth throughout their history in North America. In this most recent decade, 183 new settlements were founded. This same time period saw 28 settlements failing for one reason or another. That is a net gain of 155! The first decade of the 21st century witnessed 159 new settlement attempts, and 40 extinctions, for another large net gain of 119 settlements. Altogether, 342 settlements are founded so far in the 21st century, and the total number of attempts throughout their history in North America is 842, of which 574 exist today. It is likely that the number of Amish settlements will exceed 600 sometime during 2020 or 2021. At that point, the number will have doubled since 1999, when the total was not quite 300.

*Information for this chronology is based on: (1) the files of the Pathway Heritage Historical Library, Aylmer, Ontario, and (2) information from the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. The definition of an Amish settlement is based on criteria that was originally developed in a series of publications titled “Amish Settlements Across America” by David Luthy (Pathway Publishers, Aylmer, Ontario).

Note: Here’s the accompanying statistics table which ran in the Budget:

Here’s the same data in a table which might be easier for some to read:

A Statistical Chronology of Amish Settlement Attempts Across North America1
Time Period Founded During // (Cumulative) Extinct During // (Cumulative) Net


Surviving at End of Time Period2 Surviving Today
As of 1799 19 10 +9 9 3
1800 – 1849 29 (48) 4 (14) +25 34 10
1850 – 1899 38 (86) 28 (42) +10 44 18
1900 – 1949 71 (157) 65 (107) +6 50 34
1950 – 1959 26 (183) 10 (117) +16 66 50
1960 – 1969 42 (225) 15 (132) +27 93 70
1970 – 1979 75 (300) 17 (149) +58 151 124
1980 – 1989 68 (368) 14 (163) +54 205 167
1990 – 1999 131 (499) 37 (200) +94 299 255
2000 – 2004 72 (571) 24 (224) +48 347 319
2005 – 2009 87 (658) 16 (240) +71 418 398
2010 – 2014 91 (749) 23 (263) +68 486 485
2015 15 (764) 1 (264) +14 500 500
2016 18 (782) 0 (264) +18 518 518
2017 14 (796) 0 (264) +14 532 532
2018 26 (822) 1 (265) +25 557 557
2019 19 (841) 2 (267) +17 574 574
1Includes four attempts outside of North America: Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras, and Paraguay

2The second to the right column refers to settlements which were still active at the end of a time period, but later became extinct. For example, the settlement of Berlin in Somerset County, Pennsylvania was founded in 1767, but became extinct in 1910. It is one of 65 settlement extinctions during the time period – 1900-1949.

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    1. John R Gastineau

      What happens if a settlement fail?

      What do the residents of a settlement do if it fails?

      1. There are different outcomes, but typically some would return to their home community, some to other communities, and in some cases church members have remained in the same area but joined non-Amish churches.

    2. Al in Ky

      It seems like during the past five years, there have been many fewer Amish communities that have become extinct compared to the three five-year periods preceding 2015-2019. I wonder what is the reason for that. Also, it would be interesting to read a listing of the names of all of the communities that have become extinct.

      Concerning what the Amish residents do if the community fails — In The Budget newspaper, I sometimes read where Amish from one community will occasionally visit the remnant of people left in a community that has become extinct and lead an Amish worship service. When church members who have remained stay in the area and join a non-Amish church, do they still identify themselves as Amish, and retain Amish lifestyle distinctives such as manner of dress, using horse and buggy transportation, not using electricity from the grid, etc.?

      1. I agree with your first two points Al. I don’t know if extinct communities list will be publicized, though it has in the past – both in the large “Settlements That Failed” book of course, and in a follow-up pamphlet which you may be aware of giving an updated list. We shall see.

        In those cases where the Amish visit the remnant to lead a church service – I have read about those in Luthy’s extinct settlements book, but hadn’t learned of situations where that is going on in modern times (though, why not). As far as those who join a non-Amish church, I suppose it would be like anyone who decided not to be Amish – there are examples of some who have left the Amish but maintained an Amish-like lifestyle (we have had the 7th-Day Adventist and LDS church examples in the past year on this blog, and I think could add the Charity movement churches where some members at the least maintain Amish garb). There are also some unusual examples of Amishesque groups such as those identified in the G.C. Waldrep paper on “Para-Amish” if you’re familiar with it.

    3. ann


      What are some reasons that the community would fail?