|

A California Amish Community

Despite what you may read or hear elsewhere, no Old Order Amish live in California today. That said, you will find related groups, such as Beachy Amish (similar to horse-and-buggy Amish, but they use cars and more tech) or Mennonites. But it’s good to keep in mind that these related groups like Mennonites are not Amish – though they have some things in common.

Amish in California

That noted, there is one interesting chapter in California history when Amish did in fact live in the Golden State. Throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s through today, adventurous Amish have pioneered new communities in places hitherto unknown to their people.

521pxmap_of_california_highlighti_2

One such group set its sights on California in 1913 – the first and only attempt to settle in America’s ‘foremost farm state’.  With its vast farmlands, you’d think the location would make a good match for the agrarian Amish.

But apparently not – a year later, the settlement had gone extinct.

The Amish community at Salinas in Monterey County was largely comprised of families from an Oregon Amish settlement that had experienced disunity.  The congregation divided, seven families chose to follow their bishop and set up shop in California.

Like many others, the settlement had a good start, but quickly fell apart, as settlers began moving away, the first of which, a deacon, left inexplicably just two months after arriving.

A poison pen

Over the settlement’s short existence, disparaging letters appeared in The Budget newspaper, an Amish-and-Mennonite gazette originating in Sugarcreek, Ohio.  The comments likely came from one or more vindictive acquaintances from the original Oregon group.

In the letters, the writer portrays the area as one needing lots of hard work to provide irrigation, which was in fact not the case.  The California settlers apparently enjoyed the warm winter climate and generally seemed to be doing well.

Thus the end of the settlement remains something of a mystery.

A grandchild claims her grandfather, Jake K. Miller, father of the settlement’s bishop, had a weakness for land speculation.  She claimed that he took off hunting the next big land opportunity.

David Luthy, the Amish historian responsible for this account, finds this unlikely. He explains why:  first, it would have been a purely selfish act, and more importantly, Miller actually was one of the last to leave.

357980_storm_tree

Another possible cause?

Superstitious Spanish-American Catholics.

It turns out that an extremely rare, and frightening, thunderstorm struck Salinas one day in the summer of 1914.  Fearful natives placed blame squarely on the Amish.

Whether thunder-and-lightning, dreams of real estate riches, or bone-dry turf did this settlement in, no one will likely ever know.  In any case, it’s very possible there may be other reasons for the break-up.

Over the course of a year, all but one of the California Amish left for other settlements (with the sole remaining member joining a Mormon group), bringing a swift end to the Amish ‘California experiment’. This was one of the few – perhaps the only – settlement attempt the Amish have made in the Golden State. There are no Amish in California today.

(Source:  David Luthy’s The Amish in America: Settlements That Failed, 1840-1960.)


To find places where Amish do have communities today, see our 32-state Amish Community Guide. You can also check out the current list of the 18 states WITHOUT an Amish population – including California, Georgia, Hawaii, and more.

California Amish furniture

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    13 Comments

    1. Donald B. Smith

      Recycling of old growth redwood timber

      To whom it may concern
      My name is Don Smith, I am a project coordinator in the building department for the city of Oakland, CA. I am a part of the City team working on the demolition and deconstruction of a number of warehouses at the former Oakland Army Base. Having grown up in Ohio I was familiar with some of the Amish communities in my state, and I remember that there were several barn raisings that took place as I was growing up. The warehouses at the base will be demolished and deconstructed, and in that regard I was wondering if your community would be interested in salvaging the redwood timbers from the warehouses? If you would like any of this timber let me know and I will start finding out what must be done to make this transfer possible.

      1. steve

        well has the deconstruction happened and what happened to the wood?? interested

        hi
        so, please tell us what happened
        has the wood been preserved?
        what took place etc
        interested party
        sincerely
        steve

    2. sarah

      treadle sewing machine

      I’m trying to find an Amish community who would be interested in an old Singer treadle sewing machine in a cabinet. I thought I heard there was a settlement near Julian Ca. I am in southern CA.

    3. some one

      not sure what this is but the amish lifestyle is great

      I am not amish, I would like to be though. I like the doing everything from “scratch” so to speak. The only thing that stops me from going there is the religion, and music is banned (I am a musician). But horse and buggies, making your own clothes, churning butter, etc is very like what I want to have as my community

      1. Tina Branch

        Lets start and Amish community

        Inam black but love the way of the amish if you would like to begin a life much like the amish lets do it

        1. Chuck

          My thoughts exactly. I’m in. Let me know.

          1. Eliza B.

            Just what I was thinking and I think what California needs.

            It be great if the government provided grants to be a rural homesteader that practices sustainable land management. I am a gardener and dream of this lifestyle. I know there are grants to farmers but I’m not sure for individuals , it’s more enviro type business types grants that I seen, like for soil and fertilizer farms .
            Eliza B.

    4. adam

      Amish on the north

      Hi all

      I heard there is Amish settlement North East of Yuba City. But never able to locate it.
      Any thoughts?

    5. Shel

      Yuba City, Northern CA: Mennonite, German Baptist

      There are many German Baptist and Mennonite communities in the ag communities in northern CA but have never heard of the Amish being/settling there. Not saying they aren’t but the other groups are definitely in those areas.

    6. Old Brethren Church

      Some of you may be thinking of my church, the Old Brethren Church. Our members dress similar to Amish. The brother’s Sunday clothing is quite similar, while the sister’s everyday dress is a plain cape dress (with a loose, V-shaped Brethren style cape rather than the Amish cape that’s attached at the waist), and a white covering similar to the Amish Kapp. We do use cars, but mostly maintain a plain and simple lifestyle, for example no tv. Many of us farm, or are entrepreneurs with their own businesses.

      In California you will find us in the central area, from Modesto up into the mountains around Tuolumne. If you are interested in visiting one of our church services in California or have other questions, you can contact some of the brethren through our new website. It is still under construction, but the email and some info portions are working. Church information is available at oldbrethrenchurch.com and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Brethren. Churche mail is oldbrethrenchurch@gmail.com.

      May the Lord bless you all!

      Sister Su

    7. Anne Voytilla

      I have a vintage treadle sewing machine to giveaway; I live in Orange County. It came originally from the East Coast and thought it would always go to the Amish on the east coast; now I and it are on the West Coast. It is in fine working condition and I would like someone to have it who would really care for it. If that is you or you know someone, please contact me. You would only be responsible for crating and moving it up noroth to where you are. Annie

    8. Mya

      FURNITURE

      Hello,
      I am located in Sacramento, California and looking for am Amish community that also does carpentry work (I hear workmanship is great) I would love to purchase a 10 set dining table. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

      1. Marcus Yoder

        furniture

        I don’t think there are any Amish communities in California. There is a company called Simply Amish in Arcola Illinois that has Amish made furniture dealer’s all over the United States. The furniture is made by local Amish. I think there some in California.
        Marcus Yoder