North Carolina Amish

North Carolina is home to a single Amish settlement

north carolina amishNorth Carolina has a limited history of Amish settlement.  Today, a single church district is found at Union Grove in the western part of the state.

The Union Grove, NC Amish

North Carolina is not known for having a large Amish population.  Amish have attempted to settle NC on a few occasions in the past.  Today, only one Amish community survives in the Tar Heel State.

The Amish community at Union Grove, a small village west of Winston-Salem, was founded in 1985 by New Order Amish from Guthrie, Kentucky.  The Union Grove settlement, like the Guthrie settlement from which it originated, is unusual in that it allows members to tap into electricity from the public grid.

amish north carolina
Amish women visiting Bodie Island lighthouse in North Carolina

Amish here use the horse-and-buggy, wear plain dress, and speak Pennsylvania German, but belong to the tiny percentage of Amish which permit public power (comprising roughly 1/3 of the approximately 60 New Order congregations in North America).  The New Order churches of Holmes County, Ohio, for example, for the most part do not permit electricity in the home.

Amish settlers to Union Grove were welcomed by the NC natives.  One Amish commenter reflected that it may have been because of positive connections locals had with Amish due to visits to the Lancaster County settlement.  The Amish newcomers were visited numerous times by non-Amish, due to reasons of curiosity, and also by “seekers”, reports the Union Grove settler.




Union Grove has not changed much in size over its quarter-century of existence.  Today the community remains a single church district in size.  Amish in Union Grove run a number of businesses, including a dry goods store and a shed-building business as well as outdoor and indoor furniture businesses (read more on Amish furniture in North Carolina).

The defunct Amish community at Yanceyville, NC

A decade after Union Grove settlement was founded, Amish from Union Grove started an unusual community at Yanceyville, NC.

The Yanceyville settlement existed from 1994 to 2001.  Yanceyville differed from most Amish settlements in that it was a bilingual community.  The Yanceyville Amish also attempted to accomodate “seekers”, individuals exploring and in some cases attempting to join the Amish church.  In fact, one reason cited for the settlement’s founding was  “a desire to help some of the many seeking families.”

Six Union Grove Amish families began the community at the Yanceyville location in Caswell County, about an hour’s drive northwest of Raleigh-Durham and the Research Triangle.

The settlement was successful in attracting seekers, and quite a few ended up joining the Yanceyville community.  At one point, half the church membership was made up of individuals of non-Plain background.  Ministers at Yanceyville gave sermons in English.  Members traveled by horse-and-carriage and dressed Plain.

Eventually, however, due to the influence of another church, Yanceyville ceased to exist as an Amish community.  The Yanceyville church was supplanted by a Beachy Amish congregation, which soon went defunct as well.

The Amish settlement at Moyock in Currituck County, NC

Besides Union Grove and Yanceyville, (and one or two failed settlement attempts made by individual Amish), the only other full-fledged settlement in North Carolina came about in 1918.  This community was located near Moyock in the area known as the “Dismal Swamp” in northeastern NC.

The Moyock community survived a quarter-century before finally disbanding in 1944.  Amish historian David Luthy gives the history of this fascinating settlement in The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed 1840-1960.

north carolina amish map
The Currituck County NC Amish community was located on reclaimed swampland

The first Amish settlers to the Moyock area came mainly from Ohio.  However, over its existence the settlement did attract Amish from a wide array of locations, including Montana, Mississippi, Kansas, and even Mexico.  Amish were attracted to the unlikely region by Ohio land developers, who drained and improved portions of the enormous Dismal Swamp on the Virginia border.

The settlement grew slowly.  The land developer took pains to accommodate Amish settlers, constructing a boarding house where immigrants would stay while constructing homes of their own.  The locale was nicknamed the “Amish Hotel”, and it was used by members of the community as a place to hold church and school as well.  Luthy notes that the Amish had plans to build a churchhouse (an unusual intention for the traditionally home-worshiping Amish), but they were never realized.

Amish here appreciated the deep black soil, and with good drainage, were able to make a living farming.  Mint was a popular crop, and one Amishman ran a business distilling mint oil.  Corn, peanuts, soybeans, and potatoes were among the other crops raised.

An unfortunate hazard of the terrain, however, was the flammable nature of the dried swamp muck.  Hunters to the area frequently started blazes by dropping lit cigarettes on the turf.  “Once caught on fire, the soil would burn until the next rain,” notes Luthy (Settlements that Failed, Luthy, p300).  Swamp mosquitoes pestered the Amish settlers as well, with an observer describing it as “a mosquito paradise” (Luthy, p300).

Thanks to a rail connection, the Currituck County Amish maintained ties with the Amish community which existed at Norfolk, Virginia at the time.  Amish would travel by rail to sell farm products in the town of Norfolk, and also buried their dead at the Amish cemetery in this community.

The settlement faced challenges.  The main issue stemmed from the lack of spiritual leadership in the community.  Amazingly, over its 25 years only one minister ever lived in the settlement, and then only for a short time.  Ministers from other communities visited only rarely, and only one group of youth was ever baptized.   The settlement seemed to experience a lot of turnover as well.  Luthy notes the comment of one resident:  ‘some came and others left all the time we were there” (Luthy, p298).

The lack of spiritual leadership damaged the community’s long-term prospects.  Eventually, Amish began moving away, with the last settler pulling up stakes and returning to Ohio in 1944.  Today, not a trace exists of the Amish settlement that once existed here-no buildings, and since Amish were buried at the community at Norfolk, no graves either.

North Carolina Amish today

North Carolina has never attracted much settlement by the Amish.  This may be due to a number of factors; perhaps its relative distance from other communities, or its particularly warm and humid climate contribute to deter potential Amish settlers.  NC has seen nothing of the Amish influx into other states such as Kentucky, New York, or Missouri, which have attracted large numbers of Amish migrants in recent years.

Today, land prices in NC would likely be a discouraging factor as well, particularly compared to prices in places like upstate New York or Colorado.  Another factor may have to do with building codes, as one Amishman from the Union Grove settlement notes that they are stricter than in some other areas when it comes to constructing school buildings.

Whatever the reasons, the Union Grove settlement remains the lone Amish community in the Tar Heel State, small but long-lived at 25 years in existence.

For further information, see:

New Order Amish Directory, 2004, pp166-172

New Order Amish Directory, 1996

“The New Order Amish and Para-Amish Groups: Spiritual Renewal Within a Tradition”, G.C. Waldrep, Mennonite Quarterly Review July 2008

The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed, 1840-1960, David Luthy

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    134 Comments

    1. Patty Vasquez

      I think Ellenboro is about 11 miles southeast of Polkville with both little towns not being far the the county lines. Not too far especially if they live between the two towns for a buggy or wagon ride to sell goods in Polkville. I mentioned the Amish to a facebook friend who lives in NW Cleveland County and she said she sees them out in buggies all the time, I would say it is most likely to be the same group.

      Al, if you see anything else in the Budget about this settlement would please post it. I live about an hour and half away but have family in Shelby so visit the area fairly often. For those of us NC that enjoy learning about and visiting Amish communities this is great news.

      1. Al in Ky

        Patty, I still had several other copies of the June Budget newspaper, so looked at them and discovered that there is a scribe from Polkville who is regularly sending in news to The Budget. In their letter in the June 7 edition, they reported that the Polkville Amish community is a small settlement of 10 families and stretches for approximately 15 miles from one end to the other. That would be a long buggy ride! I will share other interesting news from Polkville when I learn of it.

      2. Laura

        This is a little late, but I am not far from polkville either and I be curious to know where they relocated from. And I hope the small settlement sticks.

      3. Joseph R. Gainey

        Swartzentruber Amish in Rutherford Co., NC

        According to the 2019 New American Almanac, there is an Amish community in eastern Rutherford Co., NC and western Cleveland Co., NC which is a member of the Swartzentruber Amish affiliation.

        1. Swartzentruber Amish in Western North Carolina

          There is a thriving Swartzentruber Amish district in Eastern Rutherford Country and Western Cleveland Country. The moved from the Ethridge, NC community in 2017 and there are now 16-18 families. The bishop is JD Gingrich who lives in the Ellenboro area. He has a tack shop and offers all kinds of leather and canvas products and repair. His daughter and son-in-law live next door. Moses Yoder trims hooves and shoes horses. JD’s oldest son Manus has a large vegetable farm. We’ve written a little about the local community on our farm website for Homestead Oaks in Ellenboro, NC.

          1. Joanne Slocum

            Builder

            Looking for Amish builder to build 2 bedroom 2bath approx. 1200 ft. One level. 12ft ceiling in living room
            The land will be prepared to build on in McDowell county in Western N.Carolina. I willl need you to build entire frame with outlets for electrical boxes , a space for a chimney, And a metal roof. If anyone can do this please contact me at my email address . We shall negotiate Thank you. Joanne

      4. TERRYE J ROBINS

        Shelby-Ellenboro Settlement

        1/12/23 — I get weekly copies of “The Budget” and there are frequent submissions to it from the Shelby-Ellenboro settlement.

    2. Stephanie Smith

      Food Products

      Do you sell the smoked chicken and butter

    3. Judy Ratchford

      looking for crew to construct traditional pole barn in Cleveland, NC, Iredell County NC

      Would greatly appreciate any information available on businesses near Iredell County, NC, like Union Grove or Hamptonville, NC that may sell and construct a traditional pole barn on our property in Cleveland, NC. We are near exit 45 and 42 on I-77, south of Statesville, NC. My contact info is jratchford92@gmail.com. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.

    4. Scott Conard

      how and what

      do I become part of the Amish and what do I need to know?

    5. Karen B

      Attn: Erik/Amish America

      Hi, Erik, I have info on the new settlement in northern Rutherford county Polkville/Ellenboro, NC area. I really don’t want to get into posting it on this site. I’ll, soon, be showing my small farm & home ( way up north of Hickory/West of Taylorsville) to a family in encouragement for small settlement only 1 hr from Union Grove, NC & 1 hr & 15 min. from Polkville, NC. Please Private message me. Thanks

      1. Stacey Childers

        Interested to know

        I am interested to know if that farm land sold to the Amish in Taylorsville. I live in claremont and I would love to visit a community.
        Where exactly is the community in Union Grove do you know?
        Thank you

        1. Visiting the Amish in North Carolina

          The bishop for the Western North Carolina community, JD Gingrich, lives on Short Road in Ellenboro. Is son-in-law, Moses Yoder, lives next door and trims and shoes horses on Tuesday and Saturday. Moses’ wife, Lizzie, makes pies and cakes. JD’s other son lives right down the road and has a large vegetable farm. JD has a tack shop and can make or repair almost anything out of leather. He has a good supply of tack and leather products on hand including leather bags. As you would expect, they all do top-notch work. Please treat them like neighbors and respect their wishes not to be photographed. To them it is breaking the commandment regarding “images.”

          1. marie c Mehl-Rizzo

            I would like to just know how do I go about converting into the Amish as I am now living as a Mennonite on my own

            1. Converting to Amish

              Converting to the Swartzentruber Amish district in Rutherford and Cleveland counties would mean not being on this website or using any electric devices with the limited exceptions of a few gas-powered engines and battery flashlights. To join you would need to talk to JD & Nancy Gingrich, the district bishop and his wife. You would find them home every day except meeting Sunday at 591 Short Rd, Ellenboro, NC.

        2. KELLY L CAMPBELL

          Windsor Crossroads/Shiloh Store Hamptonville/Union Grove Yadkin/Iredell Co Line NC

    6. Hedvika Miller

      Documentary abot Amish Community

      Hello, my name is Hedvika Miller I’m an international reporter from the Czech Republic in Europe. I’m working on article about Amish People in America and would like to visit some families in North Carolina for an interview. Could you please help me what direction I should go or who I need to contact? Thank you so much for your help!

      Hedvika Miller
      704-650-9262

    7. Demetrios

      Looking for Amish made furniture

      I would really want to find an Anish community that I can buy hand made furniture directly from the Amish community. I would prefer that over buying from a reseller.

    8. Alice Hoover

      Amish Pony for sale?

      We are looking to buy an Amish Pony. We live in Wake Forest NC.

      Alice Hoover
      919-971-1349

    9. Darin Bett

      Amish built cabin - builder wanted

      Hey there,
      We have a piece of property that we’d like to build a small cabin on Hyco Lake. Not far from Yanceyville. I have a plan and an actual model to look at to duplicate. The original builders are located in IN and we would like to see if there is someone local interested in the project?
      It’s a 14’X32’ with 6’ front porch. Insulated windows bath with shower, kitchen and loft for two beds. Please give me a call. 336-662-7953.

      Thanks,
      Darin Bett

      1. Amish in Ellenboro & Hopewell

        There are Amish communities Ellenboro and Hopewell, NC. None of them have phones. They are easy to find, especially on Saturday because they are parked along main roads selling.

        1. Brad

          Amish in Ellenboro and Hopewell NC

          I wasn’t aware of any Amish in Hopewell.

    10. Deena Hudson

      Looking for an Amish Barn Builder

      Looking for a Barn to be built in Tryon, NC
      Please contact 813-355-6029

    11. Ronnie Franks

      Would like to visit.

      Would like to visit.

    12. Raymond

      Hello my name is Raymond and I live in Elon Caswell county. Im very interested in getting a small shed built to be used as an office at my residence. I would like it to be high quality and I know your work is top notch! Please contact me via email at elonacres@yahoo.com
      Thank you and have a blessed day!

    13. KELLY L CAMPBELL

      There are Amish or Mennonite on the Rowan Iredell NC line near Cleveland/Cool Springs Rd?

      https://www.google.com/maps/@35.7872061,-80.5995929,3a,15y,172.44h,78.29t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sZPg2zHmbltuIicwmN6Kqdw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    14. Natella Jolia

      Visit

      Hello, We are in NC for two weeks and would love to visit . Please call me at 407 448 2800.
      Sincerely , Natella

      1. Kelly L Campbell

        Visit what? Who is your question directed to?

        The Salisbury store is closed now but Shiloh is still open.
        https://www.google.com/maps/place/Shiloh+General+Store/@36.085541,-80.8624999,768m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8851632ced64807f:0x11628f8e9958e218!8m2!3d36.0855367!4d-80.8603059

      2. Kelly Campbell

        5520 St Paul Church Rd, Hamptonville, NC 27020

        5520 St Paul Church Rd, Hamptonville, NC 27020 Shiloh Store

    15. Richard Hibshman

      Do the Amish in Union Grove, NC make and sell shoofly pies?

    16. Maria Au Yan

      Amish Tour

      I would like to visit an Amish community between September 8-14, 2023. Are there any tours departing from Durham NC?

    17. It’s fascinating to see how this community has maintained its traditions while also adapting to the modern world.