Visiting North Carolina’s Swartzentruber Amish Community (31 Photos)

We caught a glimpse of North Carolina’s Swartzentruber Amish settlement when someone interviewed a man from this community as he waited at an Alabama Amtrak station. I also previewed the community auction which was to take place in late November.

Amish began moving to the area near Ellenboro, NC (Rutherford County) in 2015. Today this Swartzentruber community sits at about 16 families (apparently two families recently moved out, hopefully not a bad sign for this settlement). UPDATE 2024: Despite some moving in and out, this settlement remains at a solid one-church-district size.

Amish here seem to be mainly from the Ethridge, Tennessee community, plus some from the Pontotoc County, Mississippi settlement. I figured the November auction was a good reason to visit the community, especially since I happened to be in my hometown of Raleigh at the time. That’s just a 3-and-a-half hour drive away, and with my brother Alex along to drive, that would make it even easier.

I found the people we met to be quite friendly. Alex, who had mostly only encountered Amish people from Pennsylvania, found the locals’ thick Southern drawl hard to wrap his head around. Not the “Amish accent” he was used to. The first part of this post will cover the auction, and the second, two Amish businesses and homes we visited.

The Auction

The event was held at an Amish farm, which as you can tell by the photo below is not the traditional Swartzentruber-style architecture, but had to be a previously English-owned place.

The weather was pretty poor (chilly drizzle). We arrived in the afternoon, after the household items had already been sold off, which happened in the covered auction area you can see on the left of this photo.

Larger outdoor goods like farm implements, wringer washers and the like were being auctioned off.

But first stop was the front porch of the farmhouse, which had been converted to a coffee bar and baked goods stand. I grabbed a styrofoam cup of joe for a dollar.

The caffeine and warmth were equally appreciated on this late November mucky day, and I found myself returning for another a bit later.

This is also where I first caught a look at the unusual buggy markings this community is using, on this buggy tied up to a tree by the road as we pulled in to park.

On to the auction.

As we walked down to the auction area, we noticed the special auctioneer’s pick-up truck.

The truck drove down the line from one item to the next as the auction caller did his work selling off items. You can see here someone came well-equipped with an XL umbrella.

The auctioneer was also in a good spot with the roof over his head; it wasn’t pouring down rain but there was a steady drizzle. You could get by without an umbrella, but over time you were going to slowly absorb H2O.

Apparently earlier in the day there were around 100 people for the covered part of the sale. By the time we got there, I would estimate about 3 dozen remained.

I did notice several items which had been featured on the post on this event: wringer washers and the 25-gallon wash pot, which went for around $700 if I’m remembering right.

On the way out, I stopped back at the front porch for a haul of baked goods and sweets.

I recognized the peanut brittle that you find everywhere in the Ethridge community. In fact several of the treats were peanut-based. That included peanut butter fudge, cookies, and milk and white chocolate-covered dollops of Reese’s-style peanut butter substance. The brittle is my favorite though. Simultaneously chewy and crunchy, with just the right number of peanuts scattered throughout:

They also had several containers of fried pies, each wrapped in a towel with the flavor penned out in cursive script. Dried apple is what Amish bakers would call “snitz”:

I also got a coconut oatmeal pie for $14. Tasty.

Emanuel Gingerich’s Furniture Shop

With the auction wrapping up, we decided to head down the road to one of the addresses I had from Raber’s Almanac. We ended up at a place which advertised furniture and canned goods.

Like the Amish at Ethridge, the people here seem to be quite entrepreneurial, selling homemade items and running small businesses.

On that note, there is not much in the way of traditional dairy farming here, though at least one person who does produce. At the simple metal siding house typical of plainer Amish communities, we met the lady of this home, who showed us around her husband’s attached furniture shop.

I also bought a couple of canned items from her including some muscadine jelly.

Midway through our talk a buggy pulled in – her husband had returned from the auction. I immediately recognized him from the sale, as he stood out from the other Amish in his black minister’s coat.

Emanuel Gingerich is his name. He greeted us warmly and ended up having a good long talk as he smoked what appeared to be a small “Backwoods” style cigar.

Emanuel has a laid-back manner and a light sense of humor. He took us back through the shop and explained more about what he does. The photos are not great, but the quality of his work seemed to be high.

Emanuel told us a bit about ambrosia maple, which he had used in some of the items in the shop at that time (see the gray dresser three photos up).

Being of the plainest Amish church, there’s no phone number where you can reach Emanuel. His customers write him letters or visit him to explain the specifications of their desired furniture pieces.

Before we left, Emanuel paged through a catalog of his previous work. Happy customers take photos of their furniture, and send them to him to show prospective clients.

Emanuel also shared his thoughts on the visibility additions on his community’s buggies, and gave us a couple of business cards of others in the area before we went on our way.

One of them was our next stop, Enos Gingerich’s outdoor furniture place (along with his wife Fannie’s soaps and lotions business).

Enos Gingerich’s Outdoor Furniture (and Soaps)

We pulled up to Enos’s place, window lit by the warm glow of a single lamp. I knocked, and though it was basically dark by then, they were happy to give us a look (they’re officially open til 6pm).

We first visited the soap shop, housed in the home’s basement. We left with a number of soaps which will make nice gifts. These were $2 apiece with a free one thrown in if you buy a certain amount.

I also bought Fannie’s last candle. Apparently she is stopping making those in favor of the soaps and lotions. Here’s a flyer for Fannie’s business. Two things caught my eye here:

Next Enos took us over to show us the outdoor furniture shop. Enos specializes in Adirondack chairs and rockers, and has some other items like tables and ottoman rockers to go along with them.

He took us through the shop explaining the different styles and about the business in general.

I told Enos about this website, and suggested I come back and take better photos for a full post on his business another time. He liked the idea. UPDATE – you can find that post here.

Enos is currently working out, in addition to running this business, but would like to be home full-time. He just needs to sell more chairs. We talked about some channels he had used to sell his furniture.

Either he or Emanuel (I can’t remember which) had been in touch with the state’s other Amish community, the New Order Amish at Union Grove, about selling furniture. But they needed larger production with a faster turn-around than was possible for shops of this size.

If you’re in driving range and in the market for Adirondack-style chairs (Enos does a number of varieties with accessories as well), I’d recommend paying a visit.

Like Emanuel he’s a friendly and talkative person. Enos and Fannie have six children, some of whom help him in the shop.

Next time

I’ll be back to visit this community, preferably on a day with less rain and more sunlight. I don’t get the sense that it is a growing community, since it’s five years old and has just 16 families. UPDATE  – See the posts on my return visit here and here.

Plus, the two recent departures suggest that people either got homesick, or weren’t making the living they wanted in this corner of western NC. But, hopefully this will be a place Amish call home for a long time. By what I’ve heard from others and the general sense I got from non-Amish attendees at the auction, I think the Amish are welcome and appreciated here.

The fact that this group has made changes to their buggies to improve visibility, something that helps their English neighbors as well – I would also see that as a positive sign.

I like seeing Amish settlements take root in the South, traditionally not a region where they’ve settled in great numbers (though 3/4 of Southern states have at least one Amish settlement, and more seem to be moving in).

If you know something more about this community that I missed, let us know. I plan to return, possibly as early as late winter. And for more on the state’s two Amish communities (Ellenboro and Union Grove), check out the North Carolina Amish community guide.

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    22 Comments

    1. Al in Ky

      Thanks for this post with all of the pictures. I’d like to see more pictures of houses and barns in the community. I’ve been to several Swartzentruber communities in several states and it seems like the architecture is very similar no matter what the state, so wondered if it was a similar style in Ellenboro (other than the non-Amish style house pictured).

      Was the auction a benefit for a community need such as the Amish school or medical fund?

      I don’t think there has been any news from the Ellenboro community in The Budget recently so I wonder if the Ellenboro scribe was one of the persons who has moved out.

      1. I will get some better photos next time, we only saw something like 3 homes. Emanuel’s home reminded me of the simple shop-style places in Ethridge. I didn’t get a great look at Enos’s place since it was dark, and the auction location looked like a formerly English place. There is also the classic Swartzentruber farmhouse look, but I didn’t see any of those this time. Will see if I catch sight of any next time.

        I asked someone if it was a school benefit and sounds like it was “just an auction”.

        Interesting about the scribe. If he/she did move, maybe that person is now reporting from Tennessee or Mississippi or some other place now?

        1. Cyndi Gardner

          Scribe

          The 2 families that moved out of Ellenboro moved back to Kentucky. One family was there less than 6 months before returning to Kentucky, the other wasn’t there much longer. I do not believe they were the scribes but honestly, I don’t know who is. I am in the Ethridge, TN community and helped move several families out there.

    2. Adair

      All the Gingeriches I’ve ever chatted with in Ethridge have been very friendly and gregarious, and there are, or were, LOTS of them. Sounds like some of them have transplanted to North Carolina!

      1. Ha, neat to hear. I think it must be a common name both in Ethridge and now Ellenboro. I recall at least 3 and possibly all 4 of the Ellenboro ministry are Gingeriches.

        Maybe it’s the holiday season, but my brain just read that “Grinches” as I looked back over the text. But the Grinch demeanor would not match the Gingeriches I met here.

    3. Ed Moore

      NC Amish

      I do believe a lot of the families in Ellenboro are from Ethridge. I work with several Amish businesses in Ethridge. I supply two sawmills with logs, and have two more families that provide essentially reman work on lumber products. One of my partners has a father and two brothers in Ellenboro, they are Hershbergers. I know one is making survey stakes, and the other is running a buggy repair shop. Coincidentally, one of the families that just moved back to Ethridge from NC works at one of my mills. He says he came back to be near family, and also, as a newly wed, thought it would be easier to make a living in Ethridge. I do know of 2 families that are planning to move to NC and one that just moved in the last 6 months. It seems that most people I know that are considering a move from Ethridge are headed to Mayfield, KY.

      1. This is all interesting info to know Ed, thanks for sharing. Now that you mention it, would be interesting to visit the Mayfield, KY community as well.

    4. Ken

      Amish soap North Carolina

      I like helping small business like this, But I was wondering if you remember how big the soaps were? Also if I order through regular mail how would that be done? Would they ship to me in NJ? Would I just enclose a check for the amount and how would I know how much to add for postage?

      1. Cyndi Gardner

        Soap

        If you’ll write Fanny with your address she can give you a shipping price to include with your check based on how many bars you’re ordering.

      2. Ken I’d say the soaps were similar to an average-sized bar (not the jumbo size ones), but longer and narrower as you can see in the photo.

    5. Cyndi Gardner

      On your next visit, please stop by my friend Manas & Emma Gingrich’s on Iron Wheel Dr, just off Short rd and less than 10 miles from Enos’s on Hollis Rd. He is an exceptional cabinet maker but plans to make his primary living with produce since moving. Emma, and their daughter Nancy, make some of the best pies, cakes and candy you’ll find anywhere! Manas’s father JD lives across the field on Short rd and has a tack shop. His brother in law, Mose Yoder, also lives on Short rd and has a horse shoeing shop. I live in the Ethridge, TN community and miss all my friends who’ve moved to NC, but if you and your readers could stop in and do some business with them to help them get this community off the ground, that would be fantastic.

      1. Worth visiting

        Cyndi thanks for jumping on here and sharing this with us. I do hope readers who can will pay these places a visit, it should be well worth it. It’s not a big community by any definition, but I enjoyed my visit and I hope the post conveyed that.

        I plan to go back later this month, and would like to do another post on Enos’ shop at least. I’ll be sure to drop by Manas and Emma’s place as well.

    6. Allen

      Business

      I am planning on buying some land at the end of Getty’s Road for an off grid cabin. I believe this is close to this community. I would love to buy anything possible to help this community.

      1. That’s great Allen. I think you’ll enjoy meeting your Amish neighbors and visiting the businesses. I hope it all goes well!

    7. Helping This Community with Online Sales

      We are neighbors of the bishop of this Swartzentruber Amish community. My job is in marketing and after talking to J.D. again this last Saturday, it seems they could use some help selling online. Having experience in this area, I’m wondering if you could tell me what products you would buy? The bishop makes all kinds of horse tack and leather products, but anything you need would helpful for us to consider as we try to help this community thrive. We would like to make their products available through online orders and shipping.

    8. REBECCA

      Carpenters

      I can’t wait to visit these places. I am from Hendersonville but live in GA right now. I can’t seem to find any Amish goods near here now. In Hendersonville, there is this cute little restaurant we used to go to called The Dutch Cupboard. If you are ever in the area, give them a try. It’s actually in Etowah, a little community of Hendersonville. We bought property in Rutherfordton last year and will be building our home there. I was hoping to find Amish carpenters in the area to buy furniture to furnish my home with. Even better would be to find an Amish builder to build my home! I was also hoping to find an Amish Market. There is one in SC that I love but I don’t get down there enough.

    9. Melanie Pigg

      Enos

      I’m pretty sure I know Enos from Etheridge, he is Adam Gingerichs cousin, and lived in front of him and Lydia on Campsville Pike. He was nice enough to gift me with a fresh gallon of milk once, just went right out in the pasture, and milked that cow, and gave to me with a big smile, telling me it was free, but to come on back and let him know how I liked it. Well, I was excited, got home, poured up a glass, of milk from a cow that had eaten green wild onions and bitterweed. He absolutely thought that was hilarious. I got Adam’s address today from his mother, and will write them tomorrow. Thank you for this page. They are great people. But be careful with the milk. ❤️

      1. Cynthia

        Milk?!?

        Was this in Ellenboro or somewhere else that you got the milk from?

    10. Beautiful Community

      I was there for a few days helping someone who was in duress. I found the people of this community the kindest people who walk in the love of God . If there is any opportunities to volunteer I would love to part of. The peace of God was ever present. .

    11. Larry Trn

      Barn Builders

      Thanks for all of the great information.

      I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, not far from a thriving Amish community. I miss the quality craftsmanship and baked goods.

      I’m building a house near the Green Creek Community of NC, not far from Ellenboro. Do you know if anyone in this community would consider building a barn for me?

      Thank you!

    12. REBECCA HAMMONDS

      I am also looking to find Amish builders. We are building in Rutherfordton and want good, honest, hardworking people that we can trust. Years ago, when I was a single mom, I needed some work done on my house. I got so many outrageous estimates and went with the middle estimate. They did such shoddy work, I had to find another contractor. I had a friend who knew an Amish builder. He came and he was so honest, told me exactly what he was going to do, and was so kind. He could have charged me double because he had to fix someone else’s work but he didn’t. He wouldn’t accept anything more than what his bill was and it kind of made me feel bad. The honesty, awesome craftsmanship, and excellent work ethic are what we value most. We have put off our build because Covid happened then prices skyrocketed, but we want to start building so bad. I pray everyday I can find an Amish builder. Depending on how they want to work it, I am willing to be the General Contractor. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know.

      1. REBECCA HAMMONDS

        I know I commented on this a year ago but I wanted to add that the house we will be building will be one story, rectangle, and under 2400 sq ft. So it isn’t going to be a really difficult build. And we won’t have a garage, just a carport.