Amish have lived in Pontotoc County, Mississippi for a quarter-century. I made an unplanned visit to this community in late January. It was slightly out of the way, but well worth it. I hope you enjoy these photos and my comments on this Swartzentruber Amish settlement of two church districts.
Amish came here in the mid-1990s, mainly from the settlement at Ethridge, Tennessee, and close ties remain. Once a week, a driver goes between the two communities, about a three-hour journey. The main town near this settlement is Randolph.
Randolph is just a speck on the map, with a post office and a small grocery store. If the Amish need access to a larger town, Pontotoc is about 8 to 10 miles away. As I was prepping this post I checked Google Maps’ street view just to orient myself, and what should I immediately see but this:
Google Maps image, June 2018
I wonder if the Amish driver there noticed the weird multi-directional camera on top of the Google car passing by that day. Anyway, back to the visit.
I happened to be in the vicinity following my trip to Ethridge, and remembered William Justice, who I’ve known via this site for probably ten years now. William had always told me about this community so I figured I’d shoot him an email.
Lucky for us, his schedule was flexible, and by afternoon the next day we were driving over to the Randolph settlement from Oxford.
Knowing a bit of the background of this settlement I expected it to be similar in some ways to Ethridge, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s something like a mini-Ethridge.
The Amish businesses in Pontotoc County resemble the ones at Ethridge, which would make sense.
They sell the same types of things, are located in the same small buildings and stands, and alert you to their presence with the same hand-lettered signs.
A harness shop.
Baskets in here.
Not sure what this place is.
Here’s a baked-goods-and-more place we visited.
Inside. Bread, a little blurry.
Made by an Amish girl in Nebraska. These Amish show a little marketing savvy, just like the people in Ethridge.
“Everything is Homemade.”
Coolers with candy. $3 a bag.
Talking to the Amish residents
We made stops at several Amish places that day. At one, a sawmill preparing pieces for hickory furniture was buzzing away. Countless hickory sticks stacked up by size surrounded the simple open setup.
We began speaking with the youngish man operating the saw, but I grew a bit concerned. He was speaking with us while rapidly running the the thin hickory logs through the saw, chopping each down to an appropriate length. I didn’t want to see his fingers come off there in front of us, and was relieved when he stepped away from the machine.
He was all smiles and I think enjoyed visiting with us, but I could tell he was eager to get back to his work. We let him back at it with a shared parting laugh. I would have liked to have spent longer there, as he seemed a pleasant and positive person.
At another we sat with an Amish woman in her small home and played the “Amish name game” about people we mutually knew in both Ethridge and in Ellenboro, NC, another settlement related to this one.
Finally we visited with an older Amishman in his workshop. His story was the most interesting of all. He and his family were key in the formation of two Amish settlements. His parents were the first family who settled in Ethridge, in the 1940s, arriving from a now-extinct community in a different part of Mississippi.
Then, in 1995, he was the one who came to Pontotoc County, buying a large tract of land which eventually became the heart of the settlement.
Pontotoc County buggies
If you’ve been reading this site since at least last year, you might be aware of the different adaptations that Swartzentruber Amish are now including on their buggies for safety.
Swartzentruber Amish refuse to use the orange SMV triangle. But that does not mean they are completely closed to the idea of visual safety enhancements on their vehicles.
The Amish in Ethridge are now affixing two short PVC pipes – which one Amishman jokingly called “beer cans” – onto the spokes of the back wheel, an idea that I believe was pioneered in the Lodi, Ohio community.
Ethridge PVC pipe buggy reflectors. Photo: FOX17
This creates a reflective fluttering or oscillating effect at night.
Ethridge buggy at night
At Ellenboro, North Carolina, the Amish use additional reflective material on the back of the buggy – what I’d describe as a large rectangular block with a chunk missing on the driver side, and an L-shape strip on the other side.
Ellenboro, NC buggy reflective material
The buggies in Pontotoc County sport something similar – though rather than a solid block patch on the left side, you have the symmetrical L-style strips on either side. And these are upside-down.
Pontotoc County, MS buggy
The solutions in the first two communities have been widely adopted within the past year or so. I didn’t ask, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pontotoc County elements appeared in a similar time frame.
One last interesting thing to note on this community: this side road, which was either installed or allowed to be installed by the business here (I believe it’s a large non-Amish sawmill or lumber yard).
It appears to allow buggies to avoid having to use a section of the main road when traveling to a different part of the settlement.
Readers have wondered in the past why there aren’t separate roads for buggies in Amish communities. We do see wide dedicated buggy lanes on substantial stretches of road in places like Holmes County and Lagrange County, Indiana.
From time to time, you’ll also see these limited shortcut roads which allow Amish to go from one less-traveled country road to the next, without having to turn out into traffic. This one reminded me of another I spotted once in the Allen County, Indiana settlement.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to the Deep South’s only Amish community. How about one last photo from a different source, this one taken on a clearer day: