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.