A New Amish Community at Whitefield, Maine

For a state with few Plain people, the Amish in Maine sure get a lot of coverage.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen news stories on the atypical Amish community at Unity, ME, Amish convert and Unity resident Matthew Secich, the conservative Amish enclave at Fort Fairfield, and the Smyrna Mills community, the state’s oldest.

Whitefield is now home to an Amish community. The Yoders moved to town in mid-March and will be followed by several other Amish families. (Abigail Adams photo)
Signs for the town and buggies at Whitefield, ME. Photo by Abigail Adams

Last year, Maine press outlets began covering a community in the works at Whitefield (Lincoln County).

Interestingly, the initiative of a local non-Amish couple, Pat and Robin Chase, led to Amish deciding to move to the southern Maine destination from their home settlement in New York:

In early April, they sent a letter to one family, the Yoders, expressing that Whitefield would be a good fit for their slower-paced, agrarian-centered lifestyle. Mose Yoder wrote back explaining that his family might not have time to make it to Whitefield on their land-scouting trip but ensured that they would try.

This didn’t sound concrete enough for the Chases. So instead of writing back, they took a leap of faith, driving overnight 10 hours to the Yoders’ home in Heuvelton, New York.

“We hopped in the car and drove there and landed on their doorstep and said, ‘We’re the Chases, we’re from Maine,’” Robin Chase recalled while sitting in her kitchen this week.

The leap of faith worked. Over the past eight months, the Chases have acted as point people for the Yoders and other Amish families looking to settle in Whitefield. In June the Yoders closed on a 64-acre plot of land just across the Sheepscot River from the Chases’ home.

“That’s quite an interesting thing how we’ve come together. I almost want to say it was meant to be. I guess it was meant to be because it’s happening,” Mose Yoder said.

Mose Yoder and his wife Anna moved to Whitefield about two weeks ago. Since it sounds like they are technically the only families there now, this won’t officially be a “settlement” until a few more souls show up.

But more are expected next month, and a school is planned for the fall.

Learning about the community

Today the Whitefield group gets a profile courtesy of the Lincoln County News.

The Yoders moved into the barn they built on their Route 218 property in mid-March. The barn will serve as a temporary home until they are able to build a house on the property. (Abigail Adams photo)
The Yoders’ current home – a barn serving as temporary housing until they build a proper house. Photo by Abigail Adams

The piece is an introduction to the new residents, mainly via comments from Mose Yoder, plus general information about Amish culture and beliefs.

In it, we learn:

  • The Whitefield area has been preparing for the new Amish residents for some time. A potluck meal introduced the Yoders to the community. There are already yellow buggy warning signs on the roads. Robin Chase is described as “proud of her community” for the welcome they’ve shown. This is not always the case when Amish move to new areas.
  • Besides farming, the Yoder family plans to have a sawmill and furniture shop – a typical mix of businesses.
  • Amish here are likely from a different affiliation than those elsewhere in Maine: “The Yoders do not know much about the Amish that have settled in other areas of Maine, they said. They are from different families, but it is good to have a mix in the area, Mose said.”
  • Mose’s comments on photographing the Amish might surprise you: “Pictures are prohibited, and no one in the Amish community will pose for a photograph, Mose said. However, when people stop to take photographs, it is not necessarily considered disrespectful. ‘We know people are used to it, and for them it’s an everyday thing,’ he said. If photographs are taken, it is preferred that they be at a distance, and facial features are not recognizable.”
  • And I liked this wholly Amish quip: “‘It’s a joke we have that we use wireless,’ Anna said, referring to some of their tools. The family used hand-powered drills in the construction of their barn, which was livable after 20 days of work.”

This is the third article on an Amish community which technically is still being created.

This coverage and positive non-Amish response bodes well for the fledgling settlement’s prospects, since Amish are not isolated from their surroundings, but often thrive in part due to their interaction with outsiders.

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    1. eve

      Goodness Always Prevails

      This is such an article of goodness. Goodness of people, goodness of community, goodness of land.

      Believe in goodness, Act in goodness, Trust in goodness and it will happen, always has, always will.

      “Goodness Always Prevails.”

      1. Can’t argue with any of that, eve 🙂

    2. Alice Mary

      The county where I live was once highly agrarian, with thousands of acres of farmland still “intact” and being farmed (though less each year). I often pass some of it (farms) and think how I wish the Amish could settle there (hopefully maintain and even increase local farming).

      I admire and thank the Chases for their idea of bringing the Amish to their area. I doubt it could work here, but who knows? If nothing else, the Amish lifestyle might encourage other residents to slow down and enjoy life more.

      Alice Mary

      1. Yes by the sound of this and the previous article, they were clearly very motivated to get an Amish community in their neck of the woods. Since meshing with local non-Amish community is on the list of concerns for new settlers (though not as high as things like land prices) doing things to make the new settlers feel welcome surely helped open the door.

        The Chases have several hundred acres of their own some of which they want to sell which may also be part of the motivation, but it sounds like not the main one as they don’t seem to be pushing their land on the new arrivals. I was impressed that they even made a down payment on a property that they thought one of the families would like, without clearing it with them first. They could have lost a nice chunk of cash if the family didn’t love it as much as they thought they would. As it happily turned out, they did.

    3. Deborah Atkinson

      In need of workers

      I was told that you work for others outside your community, that your charge was reasonable and your work excellent.

    4. Update on Whitefield, Maine Amish community

      Here’s an update on this community. Since March 2017 when there were 3 families, the community has grown to 13 families: http://bangordailynews.com/2018/08/19/news/midcoast/maine-towns-amish-population-quadruples-in-less-than-two-years/
      From the article:

      Henry Miller and his family were among the first Amish people to move to Whitefield. Before moving more than 400 miles to his son’s property on Route 17 in Whitefield, Henry lived most of his life on a settlement in St. Lawrence County, New York. He said about 300 families live there.

      Henry, like other Amish people moving from the same area, said it is becoming overpopulated, causing a lot of competition for work. His wife, Lydian, said their reason for moving was “for a better income.”

      The town has welcomed the newcomers.

      “They have further invigorated the farming culture in town and added to the cultural diversity,” Whitefield Board of Selectmen Chair Tony Marple said. “I think many people feel some pride that they chose Whitefield.”
      And on how the new Amish families integrate into the community:

      Henry and John said the other Amish families have been very hospitable.

      When a new Amish family moves in, the others find out through word of mouth and show up to help their new neighbors unload their belongings and build any workshops or barns needed on their property.

      “We all help each other as much as we can,” John said. “I think that’s the way it should be.”

      Newcomers are also welcomed into the growing community through weekly church gatherings. Community members host the gatherings in their homes on a rotation.

      The Whitefield community does not have a minister, but a minister from Fort Fairfield periodically attends.

    5. Emily Jenks

      Dug wells

      Did you want mail or email? Mail is:105 Main St. Thomaston,ME 04861
      My husband and I found an old (about 250-300 years old) hand dug well on our property. A garden had been planted on it and we were raking the leaves (a few years ago) and a hole opened up. We have had it covered with boards and we need to do more. We would like it to be built above ground and someone suggested that we contact the Amish because they still dig wells by hand and would know about such things. Is there someone I can contact who would be willing to look at the project. I can send pictures if necessary.
      Thank you for whatever help you can give.
      Emily Jenks