First posted on April 29, 2013 in
Updated February 17, 2021 on
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[This revised online article has interest to me as a resident of Somerset County, PA, and especially to my wife Susan, who has both maternal and paternal Amish ancestors that came to Somerset County from Lancaster and other eastern counties. In addition, other descendants of those local families have moved farther west to places like Holmes County, OH. We like to say that she has “plain folk cousins” everywhere. At the end of this piece is a list of other Amish-related articles I have written that you might enjoy.]
A new Amish settlement is started, on average, every few weeks. Today there are over 580 Amish communities in North America, the majority founded over the past 20-some years. Amish migration has gotten much attention recently. New settlements appearing in places like Colorado, Maine, and New York attest to a pioneer spirit which has not waned since Amish first settled the Americas in the 1700s. What about the Amish settlements that have been around for awhile? Below, the ten oldest Amish communities, with date of founding and approximate number of church districts as of 2020. The ten oldest Amish settlements are:
10. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania (founded 1847; 21 church districts). The Amish of Lawrence County emerged from the settlement in Mifflin County, PA. Bylers figured heavily among early settlers, and today the name is the most common in this community lying about an hour north of Pittsburgh.
9. Kalona, Iowa (1846; 11 church districts). The oldest Amish community west of the Mississippi River. Two Amish groups are represented here, with one of the community’s districts not in affiliation with the rest.
8. Nappanee, Indiana (1842; 48 church districts). Amish settlement here predates the town which lends the community its name. Nappanee itself was not platted until thirty years after the first Amish arrived, around the same time the first train, of the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad, stopped here. The frequently-used train line remains today, bisecting the community.
7. Elkhart-Lagrange Counties, Indiana (1841; 194 church districts). Indiana’s largest Amish community includes one of the two most heavily-Amish counties in America (Lagrange).
6. Adams County, Indiana (1840; 63 church districts). This Swiss Amish community is also referred to by the name of the local town of Berne. Primarily in Adams County, with some settlement in Jay and Wells Counties, along with Mercer County, Ohio.
5. Milverton, Ontario (1824; 11 church districts). The largest Canadian Amish presence. Most other Amish settlement to Canada followed concerns over conscription post-World War II.
4. Holmes County, Ohio (1808; 286 church districts). The sprawling Holmes County settlement counts Amish living in five Ohio counties.
3. Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (1791, 32 church districts). Known colloquially as the “Big Valley” settlement, three distinct Amish groups live within the confines of 30-mile long Kishacoquillas Valley.
2. Somerset County, Pennsylvania (circa 1772; 6 church districts). This community straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, with some members having Maryland addresses. At one time there were three settlements in the county. Settlers from Somerset County Amish communities helped form numerous other significant Amish settlements in the Midwest.
1. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (circa 1760; 240 church districts). The best-known and oldest of all existing Amish communities emerged from two mother settlements, one in Berks County (the Northkill settlement), and the “Old Conestoga” settlement, lying a few miles outside the bounds of present-day Lancaster city.
Other Amish settlements founded in the 1800s include Oakland, Maryland (1850; 1 district), Yoder, Kansas (1883; 3 districts), and Geauga County, Ohio (1886; 137 districts).
Amish Population in the United States by State and County, 2020
Amish Settlements Across America: 2008 (David Luthy)
The New American Almanac, 2013 (Aden B. Raber)
“Amish Studies Website (etown.edu/amishstudies/Index.asp)
“Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online” (gameo.org)
The Amish Population: County Estimates and Settlement Patterns of the ‘Old Orders’ (Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Cory Anderson & Elizabeth Cooksey)
Nappanee Amish Directory, 2001
Pennsylvania Amish Directory of the Lawrence County Settlement, 2003
Adams and Jay Counties and Vicinity Amish Directory, 2008
The Riddle of Amish Culture (Donald B. Kraybill)
Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities (Steven M. Nolt & Thomas J. Meyers)
A History of the Amish (Steven M. Nolt)
“Three Somerset County Amish Settlements”, Family Life, Feb. 1982 (David Luthy)
Some E-gen articles on our family Amish that you may enjoy:
Last revised 2/20/21