My top five Amish settlements

amish settlements

Who loves rankings? (everyone loves rankings)–today I offer my personal top-five favorite Amish settlements.  I hope you’ll indulge my self-indulgence for this one day (I’ve been wanting to do this post for a long time!).  I haven’t been everywhere, but of the 17-or-so communities I’ve visited, these are the ones I would most readily revisit (and do when I can), and why.

1.Daviess County, Indiana–I really love the Amish people down in Daviess County.  I love how the settlement feels well off the beaten path, with a minimal tourist industry for a fairly large collection of Amish (toned-down compared to Nappanee, similar-sized, on the opposite end of the state).  I loved learning people’s nicknames, which was super-important with such high-naming-homogeneity (85% of the people here share just six last names).  I got my first taste of Amish peanut butter and first invitation to church here, unsolicited.  Very friendly folks.  And an odd southern twang to the accent makes a Daviess Amishman easy to spot anywhere outside the settlement.

2.Arthur, Illinois– the first Amish settlement I ever happened upon.  That’s probably a big part of the reason it’s number two.  Arthur is in many ways a classic Amish community–it’s of a size where nearly everyone still sort-of knows everyone else, it still has a fair percentage of farmers yet has embraced the idea of home-based businesses (wood shops flourish here), and has a fairly uniform Ordnung across the settlement.  Like the Kalona settlement in Iowa, it is centered around a quaint, smallish town that sort of tries to rev up a tourist industry but doesn’t quite get there.  All the better for the atmosphere.  An interesting fact about the Arthur Amish and vehicles: for a period of time beginning in the 1950s, men in the community acquired driver’s licenses and drove for work-related matters, a practice which later dwindled (see Amish Enterprise:  From Plows to Profits, Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt, p. 234).

3.Holmes County, Ohio– this would be number one but for nostalgic reasons giving the top two spots to Arthur and Daviess.  Holmes County is in my opinion the most scenically beautiful and interesting of all settlements, with its diversity of Amish population and hilly rural setting.  It’s touristy, but nothing like Lancaster.  I probably know more Amish, better, here than anywhere else.  This is where they broke me in, after all.

4.New Wilmington, Pennsylvania–I only visited here a day and an evening, but loved it.  Blue doors, brown buggies.

5.Allen County, Indiana– A Swiss Amish settlement that is starting to butt heads with a major urban area.  Has an interesting charm to it, due to its various ‘quirks’.  The Allen County Amish are a bit more gruff than those in, say, Daviess County or Elkhart/Lagrange, a bit more wary of outsiders.  When you get past the somewhat aloof exterior there are some very nice folks here.  The Amish in Allen County only drive open-top buggies and heavily favor building with brick.  The settlement has a wealthy feel to it due to that.  It doesn’t seem to be a facade.  The construction business has done very well here.  My books also did very well here.

In Allen County, there seems to be an odd mix of rules. Most homes have indoor bathrooms, while a significant number of folks have stuck with outdoor privies.  Yet cellphones are prominent.  English is creeping in, perhaps a bit too close for comfort.  But there is definitely a conservative streak here.  These Amish have close ties to the very conservative Swiss group in Adams County, just on the other side of Fort Wayne.

Disclaimer: My comments here are mostly superficial and done in good fun.  I’ve met great folks and enjoyed my time pretty much everywhere I’ve been in Amish America.

But I wonder, what are your favorite Amish settlements and why?

Ohio Amish photo: Debra

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    37 Comments

    1. I had never thought of favorites. But I enjoy being around those people in St. Joseph County, Michigan. They are practically my neighbors.

      And I enjoy the settlements in western LaGrange county. Maybe those are the people I’d most like to live near. There are some great bicycling places there, too.

      But really, I like all of the places. Every last one of them I’ve visited is a good place for bicycling.

      BTW, where in Allen County do Amish people live? I don’t think I’ve ever run across those communities. I’m guessing it’s on the west or southwest, because I think I’ve seen Amish buggies on the road around Huntington. But that’s just a guess.

    2. I enjoyed your choices. I really can’t say I have a favorite having never visited an amish community

    3. John,

      The town of Grabill, to the northeast of Fort Wayne, is the approximate center of this community. It’s about 17 or 19 church districts, but they are big ones, with up to nearly 60 families.

    4. Very cool. Nice to know you think Holmes County is the most scenic. I thought it was very nice when I was there.

    5. Bill

      I like the New Wilmington and Smicksburg communities in W. PA pretty equally mainly because they’re both only a little more than an hour drive from my home. 🙂 Depending where you are in these areas it is possble to drive through and not know you were in “Amish Country” unless you saw the buggy signs on the road or came upon a buggy on the road. For the most part the back roads in these areas tell the tale.

      I haven’t been in Lancaster County “Amish Country” since I was a kid but this was the first place I ever encountered anything Amish. Holmes County and it’s environs is definitely cool and in Geauga County it was neat to see all the buggies at WalMart and to eat breakfast in McDonald’s with Amish sitting at the tables around us.

      North of New Wilmington, Crawford County PA and Ashtabula County OH also have very sizable Amish populations though I haven’t been through there in some time.

      These are the only communities I’ve been to but anytime/anywhere I am in “Amish Country” it’s always a treat.

      Bill

    6. Matthew

      In my list of preference:

      1. Salem, Indiana. Home to New Order, Old Order and Church of God, Mennonite groups, these communities are settled in amongst the hills and valleys of Washington County, Indiana. There is very little tourism, but plenty of down-home charm.

      2. Milroy, Indiana. We have spent lots of time visiting and talking to members of this settlement, which has over 100 households. While not the most conservative group by outside appearances, they are quite friendly and open in discussing their faith. Covered and Iron Truss bridges abound in this area which is a short drive from Indianapolis.

      3. Williamsburg, Indiana. PA Amish transplant group from the late 1980’s. Quickly growing – already has 4 schoolhouses. Group uses steel wheeled buggies and PA dress and coverings.

      4. Berne, Indiana. Swiss Amish of Berne have a number of small shops you can visit including a bakery, bookstore, and general merchandise store. Plenty to see and do around the town of Berne as well. The Berne group is back-and-forth with the Old Order group in Salem, Indiana. Open air buggies only. Much like Arthur, the town strives to attract tourists, but does not have a touristy feel to it.

      5. Calais, Ohio (near Malaga). Located in the southeastern part of the state, near the Ohio river, this settlement boasts incredible scenery. Extremely conservative dress (young females wear black bonnets even during summer) and buggy styles. No shops open to public (that I saw during our visit there a number of years back). Would like to find out more about this group.

    7. Oops. I should have said EASTERN LaGrange county, not western. The people to the east are more conservative yet friendly. The area is not as touristy as the northwestern part of the county.

    8. David Hathaway

      You mention that in Daviess County, Indiana, you were invited to church. Am I correct in assuming that these folks were New Order Amish?

    9. Hi David,

      I wasn’t aware that there are New Order Amish in the Daviess County settlement…this family was Old Order, as far as I know.

    10. Reid

      Any one have any experience with the Amish in Howard and Miami counties in Indiana?

      Reid

    11. James Simmons

      I lived in Holmes County, Ohio with a very special Old Order Amish family. Altogther I think I must have stayed about half a year or a little more. They were the kindest people I’ve met! Holmes county is bursting at the seams with great people and anyone who’s been there knows that! Actually, anywhere you can find an Old Order Amish settlement you will tend to see that the people are very friendly and the food is out of this world. You always have acceptions to the rule but for the most part any Old Order person I’ve met has been very Christlike. Edna Miller makes great rasin pie. Just thought I’de throw that in there!

    12. Frank

      The top five list is GREAT. If any of you guys were going to move to one of these areas permanantly, which would it be??? My wife and I live in crime ridden south Florida, and are really looking to raise a child in a nice, quiet community surrounded by great people. This is why we visit the Lancaster Amish country yearly, but have decided to maybe move to one these areas in the future. Lancaster is just too busy and too tourist ridden for us. I have really fallen in love with Holmes County based on the readings……….but am open to suggestions on not only the places you like best but where you would most like to move. Thanks!

    13. kitty

      Hello..This is my first time at this site..very intereting..My husband and I just got home from a week long trip through the Amish country in KY, IN, and OH..By far the most beautiful place and most pleasant people are in southwest Indiana..Montgomery Area..I love this place..this was are first time there and will definately go back..

    14. Bill Tiencken

      Where can I buy scooters just above wholesale from the Amish?

    15. Mike Esposito

      I’ve never had the luxury to list my favorite Amish settlements because the only one I can get to is in Lancaster County (that also spills over into western Chester County). There are some enclaves in the area that don’t seem as touristy. Amish also sell their products at the Lancaster County Farmer’s Market in Wayne, PA and at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. This last one is interesting because it’s located next to Chinatown, and as a result one can observe the Amish and Chinese interacting with each other.

    16. Catching up on some comments–a bit late on some of them, but better late than never!

      Reid I have never been to those counties personally, I’ve only met maybe one or two families in other Indiana settlements from Kokomo–one fellow in Daviess County who deals in natural remedies.

      James, great to hear about your experience! I am not surprised.

      Frank, thanks and glad you liked it! Very generally speaking, you would probably have a better chance of interacting more easily off the bat with the Amish in one of the first three settlements rather than the last two on my list.

      Kitty thanks for your input and sounds like a very nice tour you had–lot of stops.

      Bill check out the comments section of this post (‘Where Amish scooters come from’) for a couple of contacts: https://amishamerica.com/2008/03/where-amish-sco.html#comments

      Mike I was just told by an Amish lady who used to run a business there of a very old and interesting market I believe in Delaware or near Philly–and I can’t recall the name! That doesn’t do any good. I will need to ask her again because it sounded like it would be worth visiting.

    17. Don Colley

      I have been to Holmes County many times and spend most of my time driving (slowly) through the farming area in and around Charm, Berlin and Millersburg. But, by accident on my return from visiting 18 covered bridges in Ashtabula County I drove down Route 534 and then back up Route 528 between US Route 6 and US 422 I was surprised to see many Amish and Mennonite in buggies and on bicycles. I drive through Hartsgrove, Windsor, but especially around Mesopotamia and West Farmington and then back up to Middlefield, Huntsburg and Montville and all the area in between. Pleasant surprise. Not as commercialized as it has become in Millersburg, Berlin and Plain City Ohio. Based on your recommendation, I will visit Indiana. Try northeastern Ohio.

      For the Ashtabula covered bridges, go to Jefferson, Ohio just off Ohio 11 at the junction of Ohio 307, 167 and 46. It is south of Ashtabula and Interstate 90. There is the starting point. There is a museum with maps, but also a nice local advertiser that can be obtained at the local deli and restaurant that has a route outlined.

      No need to go far afield to enjoy Beautiful Ohio.

    18. Don, sounds like a great trip! Hope you enjoy Indiana too. And thanks for sharing on your Ashtabula tour–I had no idea there were so many covered bridges in that county.

    19. Wendell Bailey

      I found your comments interesting. I have met people from about 15 to 20 Amish communities. I spent 23 years teaching in an Amish school in Elkhart County. I had a friend from Allen Co. who had visited Geuegua Co. I said I have never visited that community but I always heard they were somewhat spiritually lacking. he looked at me and said ” What about my community? Holmes County is Great!

    20. Thank you Wendell! And thanks for the anecdote–I imagine you collected more than a few of those. I was once asked to teach in the same community, and though I wasn’t able to, somewhat regretted it and have always wondered how it would play out. You must have found it very rewarding.

    21. Tyson Swartzentruber

      Great article, I just happened across it by chance and was pleased to see that we Daviess county folk topped your list 🙂 People are always interested that I come from an Amish background and I can usually blow them away when I tell them about the family nicknames, lol. Though I don’t live in the area anymore, I make it back as often as I can and I can always bring out the family nickname as an I.D. card and they always know who I am. Seriously once I tell them the nickname, they know who my grandfather was, my grandmother and the next question is invariably “Which one of the kids do you belong to?”, it amazes me every time. It’s great that no matter how long I’m gone or how far away I live, when I go back, there is an instant sense of home and community.

    22. Susan

      I’m very familiar with the settlements around Blair, Whitehall and Acadia in Wisconsin. They are Old Order for the most part. The setting is absolutely beautiful, the people a bit reserved but warm up in a hurry. They do some furniture sales, otherwise its agriculture. I think several have dairy cattle. The settlements run in a triangle within these three communities, and north almost to Eau Claire, WI.

    23. Tyson, glad to hear that. I met some families with the last name Swartzentruber in the southern part of the settlement. I learned a number of the nicknames but can only recall a few right now–nicknames are big in Daviess Co,though! great place

    24. Susan there are a lot of smaller settlements in Wisconsin and nice to hear about these. I know i would enjoy a visit; have spent time in WI but never among Amish.

    25. Medic K

      I too, have a background in the Amish in Daviess County. As a matter of fact, I still live there. I have met many Amish from many different Amish communities in different states. A lot of the great folks I have met agree with the top 5 list. There are lots of nicknames, as mentioned!!! They are good, friendly people. There are many different proffessions in Daviess County, but the 2 main ones are construction and cabinent shops. Thank you all for choosing Daviess County as number 1!!!

      Medic K.

    26. Nathanael Franks

      Hello,
      I have really enjoyed reading your opinions about the different settlements. I currently live in Arkansas and am very interested in Amish society and living. I was hoping to get in touch with an Amish family for whom I could work and live with during my spring break from March 19 through 28. I have farm and manual labor experience and would apply myself very well. I was wondering how I might go about doing this or if you could put me in contact with someone. Thanks very much and God Bless!
      Nathanael, age 19

    27. Tom

      Thank You, Daviess County, Indiana

      Daviess County, Indiana

      Hello Eric,

      Yesterday I ventured to Daviess County to explore this settlement. My observations matched your description of this community. The people here were very hospitable. For the first time in a Amish community I found myself on the other end of the conversation spectrum. At a particular bakery in the settlement the proprietors were friendly folks who kept the conversation going, and offered up a free treat. They were interested in the fact that I live near a Amish settlement in Kentucky that they were acquainted with. This led to the who do you know there questions. This was the first time I was able to bridge distant settlements by actually having something in common and familiar to the people of this settlement.This helped to forge a instant connection.The endless gravel roads led to one surprise after another. I took plenty of pictures and met many interesting people. I would highly recommend a trip there to any reader of your website. Just take a day or two and get lost among the roads of Daviess County.

    28. Al in Ky.

      Good to hear more about Daviess County, Ind.,one of my favorites. If anyone is planning a trip there, try to go on a Friday, and go to the Amish produce auction on Friday morning and then to Dinky’s Auction Center on Friday night. I’ve had many interesting conversations with Amish people at the auctions. I, too, have found many friendly, nice Amish people in Daviess County — easy to talk with. If it’s your first trip to Daviess County, you do need to be aware of the gravel roads like Tom mentioned. They have some of the largest rock gravel I’ve ever seen and I always drive slowly on those roads. The main road, CR 900E, is paved.

      About 35 miles to the east of Daviess County is Orange County
      where there is a Swartzentruber settlement with three districts.
      Many of the farms sell various items and I’ve had many interesting
      conversations there also. It’s an interesting contrast to the
      Daviess County settlement. The easiest way to find it is to go
      north of Paoli on Hwy 37 about five miles and start looking for
      signs such as “Tarp Shop”, “Produce and eggs for sale”, etc.

    29. Daviess County dirt roads

      Tom, Al, agree with both of you on Daviess County. Glad to hear things haven’t changed since I was there. And a few of those gravel roads are more like dirt. One time I actually had to get an Amish farmer to yank my car out of the ditch with his tractor. Turns out you shouldn’t try to drive on fresh mud right after a rainstorm. Who would have thought?

      Glad to see this post is still getting some responses. It was a lot of fun to do…now that it is going on four years later, maybe I need to come up with an expanded list, perhaps a top 10?

    30. forsythia

      Holmes County, hands down. One lovely cabin was built by Amish labor. I like to see them in and around Danville, OH and Berlin, OH. It’s obvious there are a variety of Amish groups, plus Mennonites. You see every kind of garb from teen age girls in pastel dresses, prayer caps, and flip flops to others in more traditional dress. As our five-year-old daughter once said, when she saw a little girl crossing the street with her mother, “Look, Mommy, a baby nun.” Whenever we are in Ohio, we buy the freshest eggs in the world from an Amish woman.

    31. forsythia

      I meant OUR lovely cabin, not “One.”

    32. Alexandria(15 yr old Amish lover!)

      Just a Post :)

      Hello,
      I happened upon this site about 15 minutes ago and really enjoyed it! I live about literally 45 minutes away from the Amish settlement in Arthur, IL. For about 2 years I have been trying to contact a family because I badly would like to stay a month or so with an Amish family. That would be super awesome! I figured that my being a Chrisrian(Baptist) would help, but not really. As far as I know, they appear to be pretty Old Order Amish. I’ve seen several in our town’s Wal*Mart and they don’t seem to be liberal at all. I even once ran into what appeared to be a newly wed couple by the looks of his beard. I see at least one Amish person likely once a week. The Amish/Mennonites even have a semi new grocery store right up my neighborhood. I’d really love to personally meet a few though.

    33. Joanne

      Eric: Could you put up a newer list of Amish places? I know of several new settlements in Iowa and Illinois. I especially like the one around Cuba, Illinois, with a great bakery and a general store. I understand there are a couple of new settlements in southern Iowa too, possibly an offshoot of the Kalona, Iowa, settlement. We will celebrate my birthday again at an Amish or Mennonite home for a wonderful meal! I’ve been there twice before and the food, and the amount of it, is fantastic.

      1. Joanne, do you mean a new list of favorites? That would have to mean that they had changed since I made this one 🙂

        Or did you just mean a list of new Amish communities? It’s not exactly that, but you may like this post: https://amishamerica.com/5-fast-growing-amish-settlements/

        Also, you might check out the State Guide link at the top menu.

    34. information

      I have Swiss ancestors who settled in Allen County. How can I find out if they were Amish? I’ve tried the local library and office of records. Thanks

      1. Karen Baker

        Allen County Swiss ancestors

        Hi Cathy,
        I don’t know where you licmputerve, but you could try the Geneology Library in Ft Wayne, Indian. It is located in the Allen County Public Library, in downtown Ft Wayne. this part of the county library is huge, and is staffed by librarians who are also geneologists. If you can visit there, they have about 40 computers that you can use for free (if you are not a library member, you can get a temporary card), to get on Ancestry.Com, and other such sites, also for free. If you want to copy something, there is a tiny fee for that. There are also so many books-books on so many areas of the world, military regiments, governments at all levels, immigration lists, also, books written by people who have researched their family trees. When I lived in Ft Wayne, the library had a program, where if you had done your research, and written it up, they would have printed in hard bound form, a copy to keep at the library, and a hard bound copy for you-free! With all the information at this library, I bet you could find something on your Swiss ancestors.

        BTW, the library is in the center of downtown, and there are hotels nearby, as well as restaurants. Good luck!
        Karen Baker

    35. Karen Baker

      My favorite Amish community

      For years, my father had a hunting camp, in the Town of Sherman, in Chautauqua County, NY. There are many Amish living nearby, in fact my dad had two different Amish neighbors.

      One, was a retired couple, who moved to Ohio, to be closer to their grandkids, a relatable thing! They sold the double wide trailer and barn to a young logger, Andy, who had two Percherons, Tim and Tom, as well as a carriage/riding horse, who kept getting loose, and walking over to my dad’s place, to look in the windows.

      We spent a lot of time with Andy, when we kids rather took over the hunting camp in the summer. We came to know him, his family, and his friends pretty well. Saturday nights were a blast, with a big bonfire either at my dad’s, or at Andy’s, with lots of beer and pizza and s’mores-boy, that combo does NOT sound as appetizing now, as we seemed to find it back then!

      The Amish around Sherman are Clymer Amish, and came from Ohio in the 70/early 80’s, in search of farmland. They raise hay, wheat, corn, vegetables for roadside sale, and also sell baked goods. There are also a number of shops-blacksmithing and mettle work, leather workers, roofers and construction workers, in addition to farming.

      From what I’ve been told, the Clymer Amish are a bit more permissive than many other groups. They use cell phones for business, travel in English driven cars for out of the area shopping or work (Andy had an English partner who had the diesel pick up, and horse trailer), carriages are closed, and heaters can be used in winter. Propane is used, for businesses like making baked goods, or heating shops. I remember the women wearing teal and light blue quite often, with a white cap, as well as black.

      It was also my impression that these Amish interact quite a bit with the English. Amish teen girls babysit for English neighbors, or spend Saturdays cleaning English homes. Kids play together. Adults know each other, and neighbors socialize.

      I try to drive the 100 miles from my home to the Sherman area, at least once a year. I manage to look up Andy and his family, and we reminisce. Its a fun time, in a beautiful part of New York State.