The St. Ignatius, Montana Amish community is far enough off the beaten path that I’d guess most of us will not make it there.
But if you do, one place to visit is the Amish-run Mission General Store, run by Ruth Bontrager and her husband. From the Daily Inter Lake:
Located at the center of a 125-member Amish community outside of St. Ignatius, the Mission General Store may be off the beaten track, but people find it and keep coming back. Business is brisk, especially during the summer months when Bontrager and her husband Delbert bump up the staff to six or eight workers.
While the store serves the Mission Valley Amish community, it also draws shoppers from the greater St. Ignatius area and passersby who see the sign on U.S. 93.
Mission General Store was started as a discount grocery by the Bontragers in 2003, but they quickly added a large deli with the signature Troyer products and the popular Montana-made Wilcoxson ice cream. The store also has a large selection of bulk and discounted foods that have passed their “best by” purchase dates.
“We check and make sure the products are good,” she assured.
“We try to get a lot of unique items,” she added, listing products such as Amish-made noodles, soup mixes, pickled mushrooms and peach salsa. Some products carry the Mission General Store name as a private label, but are made by Amish communities in Ohio.
In addition to their assortment of foods, the store also carries fabrics, quilt supplies, furniture, clocks and other products.
St. Ignatius Amish
St. Ignatius is a small community of just one church district, though Amish have lived here since 1997.
A look at the latest Raber’s Almanac shows it is on the larger side as far as church leadership however, with four ministers in addition to a bishop and deacon residing in the settlement (two-three ministers is more common for Amish churches).
The community holds an annual auction on the weekend following July 4th, to fund their parochial school. They have also held an auction in the past to support the local ambulance service.
Montana as a state has had an Amish presence since the 1970s, but still a relatively low Amish population. We discussed why that might be here, in a piece on the state’s oldest community, at Rexford (West Kootenai). Here’s the relevant bit from that piece:
Rexford seems to be a “revolving door” Amish community. One writer observes that “Many a person has been attracted to the area by visions of hunting, fishing, or camping in Montana’s great outdoors, sort of like taking a year-round vacation among the mountains.” However, Rexford is “not a farmer’s paradise”, maintaining a steady income can be hard, the cost of living is probably higher, and eventually “cabin fever and homesickness for the home folks over a thousand miles away” leads many families to move elsewhere. Retired couples seem to stay around longest.
We might presume that something similar applies to St. Ignatius, given its remoteness and natural beauty. The article mentions that many of the local Amish own their own businesses, something that seems more common in places where agricultural conditions are not so good (Colorado is another example).
In any case, if you happen to be in the area and find yourself with a hankering for Carolina Reaper cheddar cheese, Hoppin’ Frog jam, or just feel like plopping down in an Amish-made rocking chair, Mission General Store should have you covered.