North Carolina is my home state, and not one known for having a large Amish population. Amish have attempted to settle NC in the past, however, and today one settlement does exist, at Union Grove, a hamlet lying some miles west of Winston-Salem.
Union Grove, which began in 1985 as a spinoff of the Guthrie, Kentucky community, is considered a New Order settlement. Like its mother community (but unlike the vast majority of horse-and-buggy Amish), Union Grove allows the use of public grid electricity. For that matter, about 1/3 of the 50 or so New Order congregations are considered “electric”, with the remainder staying off the grid, including the two dozen New Order churches of Holmes County, Ohio.
An Amish commentator describing the move from Kentucky to NC explains that “it seemed many local people had gone to Pennsylvania to ‘Amish Country’, and were quite enthused about Amish moving into the area.” He goes on to describe the warm welcome offered by locals happy at the prospect of Plain neighbors–apparently a common sentiment, as recent reportage about new Colorado and Maine Amish communities has suggested.
Today, a quarter-century later, Union Grove remains a single church district in size. But a decade after the settlement’s founding, families from Union Grove created the experimental, and now-defunct community of Yanceyville, NC.
The Yanceyville community, existing from 1994 to 2001, was a rather unique one. What set Yanceyville apart was the fact that it was a bilingual community, and one inclined to accommodate those wishing to join the Amish. In fact, it was started by six families from Union Grove described as having “a desire to help some of the many seeking families.”
And such was the case, as a number of individuals of non-Plain background ended up joining this community, and even comprised half the member families at one point. Preaching at Yanceyville was in English, dress was plain, and the horse and buggy was used. But apparently due to the influence of an outside church, this community soon ceased to exist as an Amish settlement, and was followed by a short-lived Beachy church.
For whatever reason, North Carolina has not proven as attractive a destination for Amish as states such as Wisconsin, Missouri, or Kentucky, all of which have seen numerous new settlements formed over the past two decades. Perhaps it has to do with climate, available land, or even building codes, which one Amish commentator notes are apparently stricter in NC when it comes to constructing new school buildings.
Historically, at least one other Amish settlement has existed in North Carolina, however, in the vicinity of the Dismal Swamp in the northeastern corner of the state. Read more about that settlement and other North Carolina Amish communities in the Amish State Guide, or more on NC Amish furniture.
(Sources: New Order Amish Church Directory 1999 and 2004; G.C. Waldrep, “The New Order Amish and Para-Amish Groups: Spiritual Renewal Within a Tradition”, Mennonite Quarterly Review July 2008)
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