On Saturday my brother and I paid another visit to the Swartzentruber Amish settlement in western NC (the area of Polkville & Ellenboro). I am happy to report that the community is up to 22 households, up from around 14 in late 2019. At that time I had been informed a couple of families had moved away, and wondered if that signaled a declining trend. Rather the opposite it seems.
One Amishman I met there in 2019 unfortunately had moved back to Tennessee (well, unfortunately for me, as I wanted to catch up with him again, but I hope the move has gone well for him. That also gives me another reason to visit TN again).
But, we met and made a new friend, a 30-year-old Amishman named Gideon Hershberger who is just getting going in the woodworking trade. I bought a beautiful red oak & white oak cutting board from him. I’ll have a video as well showing you some of the things he makes. He is focusing on rockers and cutting boards.
Here are some other images from the community, taken on Saturday.
Sign at the end of Gideon’s lane. Other signs at the end of the lane here advertised cutting boards, “Variety”, and rabbits.
Approaching the place. It’s up a hill on a property with views of distant foothills. Looks like a nice place to be.
Gideon’s father also lives in this lane and has a business making and repairing buggies.
This buggy was rear-ended some time ago by a FedEx truck. Two of Gideon’s brothers were riding in it. They survived but at least one got a concussion. Gideon says that due to the level of damage it will be used for parts.
The details. No phones in this community so you need to make the trip (or snail mail).
Pile of wood outside the home. This looks like pieces for burning.
Just down from Gideon’s place you’ll come to Enos and Fannie Gingerich’s home. Enos makes Adirondack chairs and other outdoor furniture. Fannie sells scented soaps and lotions.
Some glider benches in Enos’ shop. We met Enos in 2019. It was after dark then, but I promised I’d come back when it was lighter, and try to show more of the business. It took me longer than expected to get back but we made it.
Enos is moving his operation into this building, which the family previously lived in. They just completed a new two-story home, freeing up this space for the lawn furniture business.
Enos also showed me how he powers his business to be able to make furniture without electricity, or even hydraulic or pneumatic power, (which more materially progressive Amish churches permit). I’ll have a video on it coming soon.
Fannie’s soaps and lotions are kept in the cooler basement. This is North Carolina so summers are humid.
We saw several horse-and-buggy warning signs in the area. Good to help increase awareness of this community as it continues to grow.
Another Amish place. I don’t remember seeing this one in 2019. The construction looks like it might be relatively new.
This is in the town of Polkville. I’ve previously described this as the Ellenboro community due to that being the main postal address. But I think Polkville would be the nearer town (Amish are found in both Rutherford and Cleveland counties). There is a gas station and other stores here. This buggy was parked here as we were leaving the area.
I was happy to see this community going in the upward direction compared to 2019. It feels like it is getting more established. This is one of just two Amish communities in the Tar Heel State, the other being the long-running settlement at Union Grove/Hamptonville.
Hopefully the state will see more Amish moving in to other locations in the coming years. Amish are certainly finding life in neighboring states like Virginia and Tennessee attractive, with around 10 settlements founded in those two states over the past five years (for instance, a new settlement is reported to have recently started not too far from NC, in the area of Meadows of Dan, VA).
Historically, North Carolina has seen relatively little Amish settlement compared to those two. But seeing communities like this one succeed might draw more Amish eyes in the state’s direction.
If you’d like to visit any of the businesses above, here are the details:
Herman J. Hershberger
Buggy & Repair
Gideon H. Hershberger
Porch Rockers & Cutting Boards
2982 Hollis Road
Ellenboro, NC 28040
(Both businesses above located at this address)
Enos & Fannie Gingerich
Patio & Lawn Furniture/Soaps & Lotions
2874 Hollis Road
Ellenboro, NC 28040
I’ll also have videos/further posts on these businesses coming soon. There are some other businesses in the community as well, including portable buildings, at least one sawmill, and someone making hickory rockers.
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Thanks for the pictures and narrative comments. I always enjoy reading about Swartzentruber communities and this is a new one I’m not very familiar with. I’ve visited five Swartz. communities (Lodi, Ohio; Orleans, Indiana; Sonora, Ky.; Lamoni, Iowa; and Ethridge, Tn.). It’s interesting comparing differences and similarities amongst the communities. I’ve found that architecture/building style and color is very similar in all of the communities. Are there any distinctive differences you found in this No. Carolina community in comparison to other Swartz. communities you have visited?
Hi Al I thought I replied to you yesterday but I see it didn’t go through, maybe because I was on my phone – I have been to about the same # of Swartzentruber communities and can agree about the similarities. Probably the main thing that stands out here is the white reflective material on the buggies. In Ohio and Tennessee I don’t see that (though they do use it in Mississippi).
One of my uncles moved to the settlement in the Lodi, Oh, back in the 1950’s. His name was Leroy Keim. His dad, and also my grandfather, John Keim, along with his bro. Roman started Keim Lumber Co. in Charm, Oh. Then later on my grandfather started his own Keim Lumber Co. in Mt. Hope, Oh. When I was 6 years old, my dad, whose was Jonas, moved to the Ashland, Oh community. My uncle Bill moved his family there as well. BTW, that was back in the 1950’s as well.
I left the Amish in 1969. I’ve lived in the Austin, Tx area since the late 1970’s.
I joined the Army in 1971, and when I got out, I moved To Austin, Tx in 1978.
Thank you for your time Eric.
Thanks for sharing that John – so you have a direct connection to probably the best-known institution bearing the “Keim” name, if I’m not mistaken? Do you still keep in touch with your Ohio relatives?
Thank you for responding Eric.
Unfortunately I haven’t had much contact with my family that remained Amish all these years, because I was baptized before I left, therefore I was shunned. I did attend both my parents funerals when they passed away.
Four of my brothers followed me here to Texas after I moved here. Most of the rest of my siblings that remained Amish, moved to other states after I left the Amish.
hi see my comment on yur facebook post sir
Amish in Wi.
We have swart. neighbor’s that came from TN. NY. & Ky. We have more old oreder Amish at least 100 within 3 miles of our English farm…
Amish in Meadows Dan Va.
This is to confirm there is a Amish presence in Meadows of Dan Va.
I live approximately 20 miles south of that area. Upon reading your article I visited the area.
The local store confirmed that he understood there was approximately 15 families in the area.
They shop with him and he orders flour that they prefer for baking.
I was told that they have purchased as much as a thousand acres of land.
I question him if he knew the order but told me they were from Kentucky and Ohio.
According to his description of their dress and buggies I would think they are Old Order but not sure.
Will be attending their bake sale held on Saturday at local business to find out more.
Thanks much for this info William. There’s been a decent bit of talk about this community lately and I’d like to visit it next time I’m in Virginia.
Meadows of dan
Hello. Meadows of dan is old order Amish. My son joined the Amish in Hamptonville, NC….which is new order….but one of the teachers in Hamptonville is on loan from Meadows of Dan for the school year. Erik I’m sure you could go to Church with my son and his family if you wanted?