Is West Virginia Amish Settlement Picking Up?

Are the Amish starting to pay more attention to a state they have – til now – mostly ignored? A new community in West Virginia appears to be the latest example of a fresh trend of migration to the state.

West Virginia lies wedged between Ohio and Pennsylvania, the two biggest Amish-population states. But for most of its history, it’s had little Amish settlement.

However, things began changing last year, with two new communities popping up, in Barbour County and Mineral County.

Photo by Ed Maurer Review Correspondent

And now there is a third, meaning the number of Mountain State Amish communities has doubled in less than two years, from three to six.

This article in the Hampshire Review is behind a paywall, but gives us a brief look at the new community, which has been settled by Amish from (drum roll…) Lancaster County.

The site is near the hamlet of Points, in Hampshire County.

This is in the eastern “hook” end of the state, so it’s about as close as you will get to Lancaster County (not quite a 3.5-hour car ride to the town of Bird-in-Hand). From the article:

Gentrification has come to their former homes in Lancaster County, and they have come to Hampshire County in search of lower taxes and less regulation, though they have found building codes more restrictive than they had expected.

They live simply, dress plainly and avoid modern technology of any kind, and they hope to fit quietly into Hampshire County.

“We usually like to stay by ourselves,” one said, while saying what nice people her new neighbors seem to be.

While it seems they’ve gotten a warm welcome, there are two problems:

One is the speed of the traffic on Jersey Mountain Road, where there is little room for pedestrians or bicyclists to get off to the side.

Speeding cars may also pose a danger to the horses and buggies they will use for transportation.

When members of their group met with the county planning commission in May, they suggested putting strobe lights on buggy tops, plus red flasher lights on the sides, to make their vehicles more readily seen. They will turn the strobe lights off after dark, so as not to blind drivers.

A second problem is the county building code requirement that housing have electricity — completely alien to their way of life. They are not sure how they will deal with this.

It was a surprise, since they were aware that Amish settlers in neighboring Mineral County have not been required to install electric and discovered only after making plans to settle here that it is a Hampshire County requirement.

It seems they are working towards a solution for the electrical issue. If the Amish can get comfortable with the idea, they could install electrical systems, but leave the power switched off. Some Amish do build houses with electrical wiring, in the event that they would sell or rent the home to a non-Amish party.

Will West Virginia continue pulling in Amish?

Amish first settled in West Virginia almost 170 years ago. While that community lasted nearly a century before going extinct, others founded elsewhere at the time went in the opposite direction – becoming thriving and seemingly permanent Amish spots on the map. Relatively few Amish have tried to settle the Mountain State in the ensuing years.

Why has present-day West Virginia lagged in Amish settlements? In recent years neighboring Kentucky has drawn Amish by the buggyloads. Upstate New York has been another hot spot.

Perhaps this is because West Virginia is not a traditional dairy farming state, with a much heavier focus on cattle (the WV cattle industry dwarfs dairy farming, with recent figures (article removed) showing 380,000 head of cattle to just 9,000 dairy cows).

Much of it is hilly and mountainous terrain, so less appealing for a buggy driver. In contrast, New York has the advantage of a long dairying tradition, and many vacant farms have become available.

That noted, Amish are much less dairy-dependent than they once were. A raft of new occupations including small shops and businesses, as well as alternative farming, provide ways of making a living that their grandfathers’ generation would have lacked.

Perhaps these possibilities – and the potential success of this new crop of settlements in the state – will mean migration-minded Amish start looking more closely at West Virginia as a place to call home.

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    8 Comments

    1. H. Leonard

      Not quite WV but close

      The Amish have recently bought 3 farms and 2 pieces of property under contract in Highland County VA. Highland County is located in the mountains of far western Virginia bordered on the north and west by West Virginia. Highland is the least populated county in VA with an estimated population of 2,100 people, one blinking light and no grocery store. This area is mountainous with beautiful flat valleys for farming, primarily cattle, and sheep.

      The Amish families moving to our area are moving from southern Ohio which is about a five-hour drive from us.

      I for one am delighted the Amish have “discovered” Highland as they will be good stewards of the land and help us to retain our rural farming heritage.

      1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing. 2100 in one county is not a lot! Sounds like my kind of county, I can imagine it’s beautiful in that area, and that sparsely populated. Do you know if anyone has officially moved yet, or when they might plan to do so?

        1. H Leonard

          Highland County VA Amish

          Yes, two families have moved into homes in Highland County VA from southern Ohio. We know two of the properties that have yet to close are farmland without buildings which are located in distance from the other homes that it seems they will need to build. One farm has yet to close although it seems they are at the farm and doing work to get moved. Within one week of moving one family living just 2 miles south of Monterey VA has set up a farm stand selling baked goods and preserves. So it seems Highland County, VA will be the next Amish settlement!

          This is the link to our chamber of commerce. The video of the county is lovely! https://highlandcounty.org/

          1. Great to hear that! I hope the community grows and thrives. And thanks for the link, really a lovely part of the country.

      2. Joe Donnermeyer

        Number ten for Virginia

        To H Leonard — your comment about a new Virginia settlement was quite interesting. If the Highland County settlement develops, that would be the 10th one for the Old Dominion state. Keep the readers of Amish America abreast of developments there.

        1. Bill Rushby

          Highland County VA Amish

          Just as I am moving from the Blue Grass Valley in Highland County VA to the Champlain Valley in NY/VT, Old Order Amish are moving into both of these areas. In fact, the new neighbors next door to our farm in Highland County are Amish.

          The Highland County Amish are moving in from Patriot OH. The Amish in Essex County NY are primarily from Heuvelton NY; Swartzentruber Amish. There is also interest in Essex County from some Lodi OH Swartzentrubers.

          I have provided transportation for land shopping expeditions for some searching for real estate in Essex County.

          When I was last at the farm in Highland County, I drove a van provided by a Mennonite family in the area for two young Amish couples and kin to the Cass Railroad attraction in Pocahontas County WV.

      3. Bill Rushby

        Grocery Retailers in Highland County VA

        There are no “full-spectrum” grocery stores in Highland County, but there are several general/convenience stores. Dollar General(?) Store in Monterey is the only chain grocery retailer; it is very popular!

    2. Blake

      Work Available 219-608-0253

      Please call 219-608-0253.
      I am looking for help to build one or two small cabin shells with high roof pitch for useable loft space 700-800sf near Wyrick Road, Bland Virginia (close to Burkes Garden). WoSeptic and well permits are granted, would like cistern also. My home is sold and due to close Jan 2021 so I have to leave my current residence and go to Bland Virginia this month. I can help with driving large trucks to bring supplies in if needed. I need to get basic shelter up quickly. Please help.