North Dakota Amish
Of the 16 states which had established Old Order Amish communities by the 1950s, North Dakota was one of the last to receive the Amish. An interest in colonization to North Dakota began to manifest itself among the Amish in Indiana in 1893, and in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, about 1896. A delegation of Amishmen from Elkhart County, Indiana, consisting of Reuben L. Bontreger, Eli J. Bontreger, R. A. Yoder, J. A. Miller, and D. D. Kauffman, visited North Dakota in 1893. They were favorably impressed with the vast area of level country, and they recommended the Turtle Mountain district in Rolette County for prospective settlers. In the spring of 1894 four families from Indiana moved to North Dakota : R. A. Yoder, John D. Bontreger, Joni Hershberger, and M. H. Hochstedler, besides an unmarried John A. Yoder. These families settled near Rolla in Rolette County, but later moved to the Island Lake region near Mylo and Wolford.
In 1895 a mass movement of immigrants to North Dakota began, including many members of the Church of the Brethren as well as Amish, from several counties in Indiana and from Ohio and Kansas. Two special trains consisting of about ten coaches and some thirty cars carried the immigrants and their movables. Eli J. Bontreger, who was ordained a minister in 1894, and R. L. Bontreger left Indiana and with their families moved to North Dakota in 1895.
Several families in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, became interested in the Dakotas about 1900. Jonas Renno, who owned and operated the Renno Mill near Belleville, moved there in 1898. Aaron Yoder, who married Renno's daughter, established his home there in 1901. In January 1903 D. D. Miller learned of a considerable group of Mennonites and Amish who were contemplating moving from Mifflin County to North Dakota. At Miller's suggestion the Belleville and Allensville, Pennsylvania, congregations (Mennonite Church) met jointly on 1 March 1903 and ordained I. S. Mast to serve as minister for the new congregation about to move to Dakota. This group boarded the train at Reedsville, Pennsylvania, on 30 March 1903, and arrived at Surrey, North Dakota on 2 April. Some of the Nebraska families who moved to North Dakota were David Yoder, Solomon Yoder, and Isaac Kauffman.
For the next eight years families continued to come to Rolette and Pierce counties. Most of them filed claims on government land. The Amish settlement in North Dakota probably reached its peak in 1903, when there were about 50 families in the settlement, and two church districts.
By 1956 Amish life in North Dakota was almost extinct. In 1903 families began to leave. In 1909 many families left for Colorado and elsewhere. The reasons for the disintegration of this apparently promising Amish community were in part severe winters, in part the limited medical and community service, and in part inability to adjust to the new environment. Many of the remaining members joined the Lakeview Mennonite congregation, organized in 1916, which was largely composed of members of Amish descent.
Eli J. Bontreger served as bishop of the North Dakota Amish church 1895-1910. He was succeeded by Jacob Graber and A. R. Gingerich. Bontreger continued to assist the Amish congregation, visiting the church twice a year until 1936, when Mahlon L. Yoder was ordained bishop. The Amish church in North Dakota in 1956 had only three members, and Mahlon L. Yoder was the minister and bishop. There was also at one time a small Old Order Amish settlement at Kenmare, North Dakota, also one at Bloomfield, Montana.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 916-917. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Kauffman, Floyd E. "North Dakota Amish." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N677185.html.
APA style: Kauffman, Floyd E. (1957). North Dakota Amish. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N677185.html.