Amish in California?

Religion in Family History – Amish in California?

Did you know that the Amish at one time had a settlement in California?Amish - California - Hubbard, Oregon - Amish Settlements - Salinas, California - Amish in California - Failed Amish Settlements - David Luthy

The Amish had a settlement in Salinas which is near Monterey. The settlement was small having only eleven families, and was only there for a short time. The last family to move away was only there for 18 months.

So when did the Amish settle in California? The Amish moved there in early 1913 and had moved away by the end of 1914.

The majority of the families moved to Salinas from McMinville, Oregon. McMinville was another Amish settlement that failed. Problems in the McMinville settlement caused a split and half of the families made the move to California. They were joined there by several families from Illinois and Kansas.

My Amish ancestors were not involved in the California settlement, but some of them were close cousins to my ancestors or lived together in the same settlements either before or after their time in California.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Amish families moved around quite a bit and started many new settlements. Some of the relocations were prompted by lack of good farmland in existing settlements. Many of those who moved were younger sons who did not inherit the family farm. Problems within a community were also a contributing factor to the founding of new settlements. David Luthy wrote a well researched book about many of these settlements that failed between 1840 and 1960.

Today the Amish are still moving into new areas of the country for these same basic reasons.

The reasons for the failure of the settlement in California are very interesting. In this case there was no disunity in the settlement as they continued to hold communion up to the end of their stay in California. Most of the families either moved back to their original settlements back East or joined other family members in new settlements. The California families ended up moving to Oregon, Michigan, Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma and Delaware. One of the last to leave was David Y. Miller who moved to Delaware. Not only was he among the first Amish families in California, his family was the first to settle in Delaware. I also found that all the Amish families did not leave Salinas. One of the families stayed and joined the Mormons.

There is an interesting story as to why the Amish may have abandoned the California settlement. Below is an excerpt from a letter written by the Granddaughter of one of the settlers.

The Amish were afraid of the Catholics. The summer we were there it thundered one night and that was something Californians were not used to. They were really afraid. Some had the doctor, others took bedding and made a nest on the floor to sleep. They were all badly afraid and blamed the Amish to be the fault of the thundering. Earthquakes they didn’t mind, but the Amish didn’t like that, and there was one earthquake while we were there that I remember. That was enough to make the windows rattle.

For those of you who have not lived in California, thunderstorms are very rare. Especially along the coast. Just imagine how different the landscape of California agriculture could have been if it had not been for a rare thunderstorm in Salinas.

It seems that The earthquakes and the superstitions of their Catholic neighbors were large contributing factors to the demise of the Salinas settlement.

Religion and clashes between religions can have an interesting influence on migration patterns.

Steven

p.s. The text of this post was originally written in November 2009. I wanted to find a picture to go along with the post and decided to post this picture of my Great, Great Grandfather John A. Miller, who was an Amish minister. More about him in the future.

See also:

Amish in Oregon

Amish in Oklahoma

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25 responses to “Amish in California?

  1. Thanks for this bit of Amish history and your personal connection to it. We took our grandson to eat at a great Amish restaurant in Sarasota, FL, last Friday. Even at (nearly) 8 he was impressed with the abundance of food we received.

    • My biological ancestry on my mothers side is Amish. They were active in the Amish Community in Sacramento. My mother was raised for part of her childhood as Amish until my grandfather got custody of her at around the age of nine. I know my mother had ties in Monterey County because this is where she had me. I was one of three given up for adoption. I was the third. My sister lives in Aptos, California.

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  4. In Alberta, we have several colonies of ‘Hutterites’, a religious, self sustaining, community. They own large tracks of land. They dress in very old fashioned dark clothes and the women (who all look alike) always wear a scarf on their heads. They’ll often sell produce in markets. I wonder if they’re are a displaced Amish group?

    • Nay, die sinn nedd. No, they’re not. The Hutterites speak an Austrian dialect, and the Pennsy Dutch speak a language similar to what is spoken in Southwest Germany, especially between the towns of Mannheim, Gr├╝nstadt and Neustadt.

  5. The Hutterites are a different group than the Amish. They do have some similarities but a different background and history. Hm, maybe an idea for a future post. They are one of several groups that get confused with the Amish. The Amana colonies in Iowa is another example.

  6. historyof4families

    Religious family history is an interesting topic. I have some varied religious roots as well. I don’t think, however, that I have any Amish, though. I do have a Mennonite branch, which is another group that traces back to the Anabaptists, like the Amish and Hutterites.

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