Building Tiny Houses In A Maine Amish Community

The 20-family Smyrna Mills, Maine Amish community, founded in 1996, is the oldest in a state with relatively few Amish.

A recent article in the Bangor Daily News visits a Smyrna Mills Amish business, Sturdi-Bilt Storage Buildings, a maker of portable structures including sheds and tiny homes.

You can lean more about it in the short video below.

You’ll also notice one unusual element in this community – the unshaven upper lip of the men, which you find in a few Amish communities (and another example of why it’s often tricky to say things like “the Amish always…” or “the Amish never…”):

Sturdi-Bilt produces structures like sheds, camp structures, and “premium buildings” which go up to a max size of 14 x 32 feet (dictated by legal limits for shipping by road).

Oh, and if you have $350-400 to spare, you can also pick up an outhouse.

I liked this quote in the video, from Jonas Yoder: “I find it a big challenge, but the most fulfilling life I’ve ever had. Because it’s a life of serving. True joy comes from serving.”

A desire to be apart

The Smyrna Mills community has been featured in news pieces before, such as in this 2005 article in the Boston Globe.

In settling this remote corner of one of the northernmost states, the founders of the settlement located a place well off the beaten path.

This wish to be apart was reflected in a pair of quotes from Amish members of the community in the 2005 Globe article:

”I feel very protected and shielded from worldly things,” said Daniel Esch, 20, a member of Smyrna’s Amish who breeds horses and builds barns for two of the Amish-owned businesses that have sprung up along Route 2, Smyrna’s main road.

The first Amish family moved to Smyrna in 1996. Today the town’s Amish community numbers about 100, comprising families from Amish settlements in Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, and Iowa, places they say had grown too large and had been overrun with outside influences.

”We wanted to be in an uncontaminated community,” said Norman Kauffman, a church elder whose family was among the first Amish to settle in Smyrna. ”One less populated with plain people,” he added, using the Amish term for themselves.

This suggests that Amish who settled here were seeking a fresh start in a place away from “faster” communities which likely have problems with youth, or other issues.

Though the Amish who founded Smyrna Mills were seeking a purer setting to live their lives, an Amishman quoted in the recent BDN article suggests that his community meshes well with outsiders:

Johnson said he really likes working with the public outside of his community.

“Our being Amish and our customers not being Amish does not cause any difficulties,” he said. “We like to look at the larger picture, [and] we are not here for ourselves, but to serve Jesus, and if our customers see what we do as good, it is because we are doing it in service to God.”

This is a common attitude for successful Amish business owners dealing with a significant non-Amish clientele.

Could you live in a tiny house?

Circling back to Sturdi-Bilt’s products, how would you feel about living in a tiny house? I didn’t grow up in a huge home (especially compared to the sizes of suburban homes being built today), but at something like 1800 square feet for a four-person family it certainly felt large enough.

Now I live in a much smaller loft-style apartment (under 400 square feet), but living alone, suits me just fine. Sure, sometimes I feel like I could use more closet space, but it also encourages you to be minimalist and get rid of things you don’t need.

I remember hearing about the tiny house movement several years ago (here’s a post on Amish in Colorado who also build them), and found it appealing. I don’t know if apartments count, but if so, I guess I qualify as a tiny home person.

In the end I think what matters is your attitude to “stuff”, and also how many bodies you need to fit in that tiny home. For instance, though they build them, I don’t see a ton of Amish with the typical six, eight, or ten-children families, being candidates for a tiny home 🙂

How about you – could you live in a tiny dwelling? Wikipedia suggests that we are talking about structures under about 500 square feet in size….about the size of a two-car garage.

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    1. linda

      tiny house amish wisconsin

      I love this idea. We live in wisconsin sherwood area out in country. We are of knowledge of a large amish settlement in cashton area. Who makes tiny homes from that area. And could they be delivered to our area near high cliff state park. Would love a 2 holer outhouse not a working on though. Just need safe animal free storage for trash cans. I love the outhouse concept. Its nearly 3 hours to cashton wisconsin for us. We do business with amish family there. Bent hickory furniture and special made quilts. If we could get tiny house and a 2 holer outhouse that would be great for us. Any info would be of great help to us.

      1. Terry from Wisc

        Did you know?

        Hi Linda, We live in Neenah so we’re neighbors! Have you ever been to the Amish settlement in Kingston/Dalton south of Princeton? It’s way closer than Cashton. We have several friends there and I’d have to ask if there was a builder in the area that could help you.

        1. linda

          tiny homes wis

          Ive not heard of this amish area is this green lake county. Any info on amish builder would be great to know. We have a small amish here st. Anne area but not awate of builder. I know there are a few by cashton i called english lady who lives by family we visit in cashton. We are going for a visit to take fabric for wuilts for next years fund raiser saving laws rescue in appleton. So anna will take us for a tour to show us who does building over in cashton. This family we have known for many years. We do trades wuilts pot holders place mats for door county cherrys. I also get them sewing needs. Have taken daughters shopping as well. They love going for rides in car with us. They enjoy playing with my smart phone to look up stuff online and at pics ive taken. I get the best eggs ive ever eatten from them each visit. Hubby has been in barn milking with the dad. Its like we are family dont seem to matter were english. I speak some german mom enjoys this. Id haveto say this amish family is more like family to us than some of our own family. Take em shopping at ft. Mccoy they love this alot. Great family. But if you do know of a builder on our side of state post it on site id be happy for the info. Ive been told that there is a few builders who would even build a big house for us as well from cashton area. Wed put them up by us while they build. Takes time and must get building inspector to agree to this. Just need plumber electrician basement dug they can do the rest. Hubby says tiny house to small wed need at least 6 to 8 put together. Ive heard its been done. Amish builders go out of there to please a customer. English builders not so much. And the work doesnt come close to amish homes. Have you been in any amish built homes. Floors are just beautiful. Kitchens are very large roomy. With pantry attached. Ive got plans in my head. Cant find local builder to do what i want. Pocket doors extra deep garage with ramp going into basement
          Kitchen closed off from animals in house. Walk in closets huge bathrooms with special walk in tubs. And no carpet. But builder must get trailer off basement off to side build new one right where trailer is. Im sure the right amish builder can do the job. Have you seen them move a house we have with team of work horses. Any info on builders please post for me. Thanks so much

    2. Dave

      Success made simple.

    3. robert

      I was wondering what Amish sect they represent. Often you do not see Amish men with moustaches. Seems like a nice quiet area they are in

      1. Dan Holsinger

        They belong to the “Michigan Churches”, an Amish affiliation that in many aspects is similar to the New Order Amish.

        Smyrna, by the way, was not founded as an Amish community but as one of the Christian Communities of Elmo Stoll (1944-1998).

        After the early death of Elmo Stoll the Christian Communities as a group disbanded and some of these communities joined other affiliations. The Smyrna community then joined the Michigan Churches of the Old Order Amish.

    4. Alice Mary

      At this point in life (mid- 60’s, more physical impairment every year, arthritis, hand palsy due to spinal injuries, etc.), a tiny home sounds wonderful. Of course, my husband would have to live in his OWN tiny home (his “man cave”) 🙂 I would love just enough room to “entertain” a handful of family or friends. I look forward to retirement in a year or two, with time to FINALLY read all those books I’ve had to put on my “to read” list! I’m sure my cat would be OK with it, too!

      I would like a “regular” bathroom, though I could certainly make use of an “outhouse” when I’m out gardening!

      I read the other article (linked) and it mentioned the Amish having beards but NO moustache. I wonder when that actually changed and why. Does anyone know? I always find Amish “reasoning” of interest in such matters!

      Alice Mary

    5. linda


      There is an english owned budiness caston wisconsin. Believe its called down a country road. They have 6 outhouses each has different theme nicely decorated wheelchair built for plumbed and electricity very cool. Inspector made owner do electric plumbing. The owner sells all things amish she does tours of amish area this part of wi. If your ever in the area go check the outhouses out. Im a firm lover of outhouses. Make for great storage and neat yard lookers. Ive always loved them. Our shower curtain is outhouses. Enjoy a vist to cashton wisconsin and visit the land of outhouses. Linda