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Dakota Datebook

Amish Moving West


On this date in 1901, North Dakotans learned that a large group was interested in relocating to the state. A real estate firm in Grand Forks had received letters of inquiry from representatives of Amish communities in Illinois. Negotiations began for large tracts of land. The real estate agent expected that the Amish would send agents to Grand Forks soon.

The reason for the relocation was rather peculiar. An Illinois man had been found guilty of killing his wife and family. His defense was that he had been driven insane due to his persecution by the Amish church. The Amish population began to fear a backlash against them because of the accusation. They felt it was worth considering moving to a new area. North Dakota offered large tracts of good farmland. 

Grand Forks citizens were open and welcoming. The Amish had a reputation for being wealthy, for paying cash, and for being excellent farmers. The Bismarck Tribune noted that it would be “a very fine thing” for North Dakota if local real estate agents were successful in attracting the Amish to the state.

Amish first became interested in North Dakota in 1893. A delegation to the Red River Valley was impressed with the vast area of flat land. They recommended the Turtle Mountain area in particular to their communities in Indiana and Pennsylvania. In 1895, two special trains of ten cars each carried Amish immigrants and their goods to North Dakota. More Amish arrived in 1900, with the immigration reaching its peak in 1903. By that time there were about fifty families in two church districts.

But despite this promising beginning, the North Dakota Amish population began to dwindle noticeably around 1909. Families began leaving, and one of the main reasons was the weather. The Amish acknowledged that they had difficulty adjusting to the severe winters. Many who remained joined the Lakeview Mennonite Congregation. 

The number of Amish who live in the United States today numbers about 260,000. Pennsylvania is the state with the largest population. While some Amish citizens still live in North Dakota, their number is very small. The state isn’t even included on a list of states with Amish residents. 


Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher



Bismarck Tribune. “Want to Move West.” Bismarck ND. 3/16/1901. Page 1.

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. “North Dakota Amish.” https://gameo.org/index.php?title=North_Dakota_Amish  Accessed 2/19/21. 

Amish America. “How Many Amish Live in America?” https://amishamerica.com/how-many-amish-live-in-north-america/  Accessed 2/19/2019.

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