Arkansas is home to few Amish
Arkansas has seen just a few attempts at Amish settlement, with the first settlers arriving in the 1920s. Today, there is a small Amish presence in the state found in a pair of communities. Updated November 2021
Amish communities in Arkansas
By its nickname, the “Natural State” seems like it would be a great location for Amish. However, few have ever attempted to settle Arkansas and few are found there today. In contrast, Arkansas’s neighbor to the north, Missouri, has seen much greater Amish settlement (the 7th-largest population in America).
A buggy in the community at Salem. Image by Don Burke
Reasons for little Arkansas Amish settlement likely include climate and proximity to other communities. Relatively few Amish are found in the Southern states (read more on Amish in the South).
According to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Arkansas is home to two Amish settlements as of 2021 (since 2010, the state lost one settlement, the community near Rector in Clay County). Amish communities can be found near Salem in Fulton County on the Missouri border (founded 2008) and in the area of Siloam Springs and Gentry in Benton County (founded 2013).
Settlers to the Fulton County community originated from the Tennessee Amish settlement at McKenzie. In a 2009 news piece on Amish produce, Fulton County settler and former horseshoer Vernon Borntreger explained that before his move, Tennessee neighbors had told him “growing produce is as hard on your back as shoeing horses. I told them that might be, but I didn’t have to worry about getting kicked by the produce” (see “Vernon’s First Year Garden Produces the Produce”). The community is a single church district in size though has grown over time from just a handful of families. For a closer look at the Fulton County settlement, see this post.
The settlement in Benton County is slightly larger at two church districts in size.
Historical Amish settlements in Arkansas
In their nearly 3 centuries in North America, Amish have settled many states, with varying success. Arkansas attracted its first Amish pioneers in the 1920s. Settlers from the Centreville Amish community in St. Joseph County, Michigan began arriving in Arkansas County in 1927, settling on farms in the vicinity of the town of Stuttgart. A total of seven families made up this community.
As Amish historian David Luthy explains, the Stuttgart community faced challenges from the warm weather and heavy moisture, which complicated rice irrigation and harvesting, and generally made life uncomfortable. The community faced setbacks including the sudden death of its bishop as well as financial losses due to bank failure during the Great Depression. By 1938, all Amish had left the area (see The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed 1840-1960, pp 35-36).
Not all Amish left the state, however. In 1932, a single family from the Stuttgart community set up farming in Craighead County near Nettleton, today a township on the outskirts of the city of Jonesboro. Two families from Mississippi Amish settlements joined the lone pioneer family later in the year. However, this community came to a quick end with all families having departed by 1934 (Settlements that Failed pp. 36-37).
Later Arkansas Amish settlement includes the community at Vilonia in Faulkner County, founded by Amish from Iowa in 1959, and lasting until 1965. John Heide writes that “Most members of this group were related to each other, which, along with several years of bad crops and the lack of eligible young people for marriage, resulted in most of the families moving back to Iowa” (see Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture).
The now-defunct Rector community (Clay County)
The settlement at Rector in Clay County in northeastern Arkansas began in 2009, but had gone extinct five years later. Amish moved here from communities in Indiana, Tennessee, and Illinois, and set up farms and small businesses, including a bakery and a greenhouse.
Amish used a community building as a one-room schoolhouse and in the 2010-2011 school year, had eight pupils (or “scholars” as the Amish call them).
However, despite the initial attraction of the area, the community failed to grow. Photographer Don Burke, who visited the area after the Amish had left, shares this account:
According to a pastor friend who lives nearby and who was a patron of the bakery there, the Amish opted to leave because their anticipated plans for other Amish to join them didn’t materialize.
This was especially a problem in that it left their children without other Amish their age to marry. It seems the individual families went differing ways – some moving back where they came from, others to be with family elsewhere, and at least one who moved to Illinois to be close to a hospital where their child was receiving extended treatment.
My pastor friend tells me that the last known Amish resident of Rector was one of the Hochstetlers [the community’s bishop or part of his family], who was simply waiting for his farm to sell before moving.
In his photos on this page, you can see some remnants of this short-lived Amish settlement. Read a longer account and view more photos of the now-extinct Rector community here.
For further information, see:
The New American Almanac 2021, Raber’s Bookstore (Baltic, Ohio), Ben J. Raber
“Amish Population in the United States by State and County, 2021” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College (https://groups.etown.edu/amishstudies/files/2021/08/Amish-Pop-2021_by-state-and-county.pdf)
The Amish in America: Settlements That Failed 1840-1960, David Luthy
“Vernon’s First Year Garden Produces the Produce”, Erma Harris, Villager Journal, September 2, 2009. Online at http://www.areawidenews.com/story/1567141.html
“The Amish Settlement at Vilonia”, John J. Heide, Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings 41 (Spring/Summer 1999): 23–29
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, “Amish”, John J. Heide, online at http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4717
The Amish Settlement at Vilonia, Arkansas; Lester F. Graber
“The Quaint and the Devout: A Study of the Amish at Vilonia, Arkansas”, Ruth McKnight, Arkansas Historical Quarterly 23 (Winter 1964): 314–328.
Amish Furniture-Arkansas–a guide to Arkansas Amish furniture sellers
“A Visit to an Amish Ghost Town“
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Very interesting Erik! I never knew there were Amish in Arkansas, but perhaps with so few there not many do know.
I visited an Amish group down here in Texas in Grandview. They said they don’t count on farming to live on and grow just enough for themselves and sell at Farmer’s markets. They say it’s tough to farm in texas compared to when they lived in Philly.
I wonder why Amish have not settled down in the state of Washington! It is beautiful here with plunty of land for farming and agriculture.
How do I find an Amish family?
I don’t know who I should ask or even what I can do? I lived with a family as a child that I called my family. I don’t remember their last named even. I was very small. I was considered a foundling. They called me Kinder and Dorothea or Dorthy. It was the closest approximation of my English name. Eventually my “English” grandparents came to claim me. I want to see if they are still alive and thriving.
I remember the woman I called Mama, was young and still had not had children. She was due to have one when I left. We lived on a street that faced each others houses. Across the street were a bunch of boys that were Amish also.
There was a general store, which only big strong men could go into because the things for sale tempted me so. English people would come into the store and comment about how “adorable” I was sitting on the bench outside. I remember having trouble sitting still and waiting for Papa, the man I called Papa.
I was too young for school yet. I was in Pennsylvania. My grandparents told me they moved to Ohio and that I would never see them again when I was little. They told me I should forget about them. I am an adult now. I still can’t forget them. When I talk about the things I did with my husband as a child, I still refer to them as Mamma and Papa. I would like to know that they are fine and to thank them for caring for me even though I was a strange foundling.
This may help
You might try posting an inquiry in the Budget Newspaper. I’m told it reaches Amish and Mennonite families all over the country. Here is
the contact information. Try to give them as much information as possible.
PO Box 249
134 North Factory Street
Sugarcreek Ohio 44681
Phone: 330-852-4634 Fax: 330-852-4421
Good luck with your search and I hope you find your “other” family.
I am looking for fresh produce
I was told about a Amish community that sells produce some outside of Little Rock, AR I was wondering where it is excatly and if I could got there and by some of there produce. I would like to know what all is available to purchase.
There is an Amish branded store in Arkansas that resells their products. Mostis from other areas, check out Amish store in Arkansas. The produce you are thinking of comes from Mennonites. We have a gathering outside LittleRock that come to city several times a month, more likely to see them near Bryant, Benton area.
amish store outside little rock, ar
I’m not sure about one that is near Little Rock but Midway Discount Foods is a Mennonite owned store in Dardanelle, Ar. The owner of the store is a helpful man and might know of the place that you are looking for. The number for the store is 479-229-3368. Hope you find a family store to support 🙂
Directory for AR Amish?
Does anyone know where to find any directory information on the Amish in AR? With so few communities I’m doubting that they have their own directory — so not sure where to look.
I doubt there is one since I haven’t heard of any communities remaining but if there is a directory the only person who might know of it or could tell you who might have info would be the owner of the Discount Foods store and number I listed above. He and the community there are Beechy Amish/Mennonite and are very nice people. If he can help you Im sure he wont hesitate to do so. Good luck with your search 🙂
And just north of hector
There is another outside of Harrison near the Missouri border.
I personally work with each of these communities
Greg, are you talking about Salem? It’s about an hour-and-a-half from Harrison. (Eric has a page here highlighting that settlement.)
I don’t know anything about a community at Belleville. They are not listed in the AR Amish Dir. Are they a new settlement?
Belleville is a beachy Amish Mennonite church community. They have a store ran by stuzman family. And no the one by Harrison I am talking about is between Harrison and Branson. I’ll get the community name this weekend when I go up there. Belleville is at least 10 years old. I have been working with them since I moved from Iowa. I grew up Amish and never got baptized. These are my people. I stay very involved in the community even though I chose to live English.
Your research is not correct
There is an old order Amish and Mennonite community in bellville Arkansas. See stutzman pantry which is an Amish store there. Another group called kuper Amish just outside of hector Arkansas . Then The other three you mentioned.
The Amish community from the 1920 settlement of Stuttgart
Do you know if any of the dwellings from the Amish that lived in Stuttgart are still there? My husband’s great-great grandfather Noah Bontrager & his son Samuel Bontrager owned property there, which we found out recently. Since we now live in AR we thought it would be great to go view the property & any buildings if they remain.
Mountain Home Ark Amish
I presently live in Sturgis mi have Amish neighbors and friends. We are moving to Mountain Home Ark. When we were there I saw a Amish family was very excited because going to miss the ones who I know in mich. is there a community of Amish in Mt Home? When I get moved is there a way to find out. I am looking forward to moving to the beautiful Ozark Forrest. Thank you. Mary Harless
The Amish Directory for the Central Plains area only lists two Amish communities in AR, and one of those (Rector) is no longer in existence. (https://amishamerica.com/a-visit-to-an-amish-ghost-town/) The one remaining settlement is a relatively small group in Salem, which is some 30 miles east of Mt. Home on Hwy 62. There is an article on that community here on Amish America (https://amishamerica.com/amish-salem-arkansas/) if you are interested in reading a little about it.
Hi, I am looking for an Amish community near Mountain Home Ar, we are from Wisconsin and have a large community of them and I really miss their food and other items. Can anyone tell where they are located near Mountain Home ar? thank
I would like to find an Amish farmer’s market/goods store to frequent but everything I find seems to be a ripoff. So many businesses tout “authentic amish” but when you look at the label or ask around, they’re not. I want to buy authentic Amish goods and foodstuffs, and if I am going to pay more than usual to do so, (which they are so worth it), I want to make sure I am giving my money to the actual Amish, not someone capitalizing on their name and good reputation. Any ideas?
Finding authentic Amish goods
Tammie, generally if it’s promoted heavily as “Amish”, there’s a chance it might not be Amish. Also watch out for labels like “Amish Country”, b/c that is a way to get the word Amish in there and have the description be technically true, even if it’s not an actual Amish-made product–it just comes from somewhere around “Amish Country” or is sold there, or whatever.
I would say the safest bet is to go directly to Amish shops, and you can even ask them about the origin of the product or food your interested in, they should be able to tell you, or at least tell you if it’s not made by them or someone in their community.
looking for father woody with the poppy
Amish in Arkansas
There is a community in the Belleville, AR. area. I have a first cousin
Dennis Miller that has a truss shop in that area. His shop is just a short distance east of Belleville on the north side of the hwy. I have met an Amish family at the Arkansas State Fair that sold home made jams and jellies and I think there last name was Stutzman if my memory is correct. Blessings
Is there any updated information on the communities in Arkansas?
Amish haven't (yet) been much drawn to Arkansas
Not much has happened as far as Amish settlement in Arkansas. It just hasn’t drawn new communities like nearby states such as Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Barring any recent additions, there are just 2 settlements, in Fulton County (Salem) and Benton County (Siloam Springs). That info is via a list which Joe Donnermeyer has compiled and should be released in the not too distant future from what I understand.
There is a good bit of settlement in southern Missouri so you might suppose that Amish will eventually end up in Arkansas in greater numbers at some point, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
Don Burke, who contributes often here, in 2014 did a guest post on his visit to the Salem community which you might find of interest: https://amishamerica.com/amish-salem-arkansas/
As of summer 2020, the Amish still have a community in Salem. I grew up there and still see the buggies when I visit.