Arthur Old Order Amish Settlement (Arthur, Illinois, USA)

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1955 Article

The Arthur (Illinois) Old Order Amish Mennonite community was started by Moses Yoder, Daniel Miller, and Daniel Otto and their families when they arrived in the community on 3 March 1865, coming from Summit Mills, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Bishop Joseph Keim from near Goshen, Indiana, arriving in the summer of 1865, was the first minister. He organized the first Amish church of that region in 1865 and served it as bishop for seven years. Other settlers moved into the community from Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania so that by 1888 it was necessary to divide the church into two districts, the Moultrie County or Beachy District and the Douglas County or Plank District. The Douglas County District was further divided on 7 December 1902 into the Plank and Mast districts, and the Moultrie County District on 4 February 1906. The Plank District was divided again in the fall of 1922 and the Mast District on 7 March 1926, thus forming four districts from the original Douglas County District. Later the two Moultrie County districts were both subdivided, forming four districts. There were thus in 1953 eight districts with approximately 800 members.

The 1953 Arthur Amish community had Arthur as its center, while the villages of Chesterville, Cadwell, and Fairbanks also were located in the community. On 11 October 1936, a number of Amish members left the church to join the Mennonites and on 25 March 1945 a small number left to organize a Conservative Amish Mennonite congregation. The following bishops had served the Arthur Amish congregations prior to 1954:

  • Joseph N. Keim  1865-1872 (died) 
  • Jonas (Yoni) Kauffman 1873-1880 (d. 1907)
  • Daniel J. Beachy  1885-1933 (died) 
  • David J. Plank 1892-1945 (died) 
  • A. J. Mast 1904-1949 (died) 
  • Dan. C. Schlabach 1919-1943 (died) 
  • Sam. N. Beachy 1920- 
  • Noah B. Shrock 1925- 
  • Noah A. Yoder 1938- 
  • Jerry S. Otto 1939- 
  • Chris. E. Otto 1948- 
  • Obed A. Diener 1949- 
  • Menno S. Miller 1951-

L. A. Miller

1990 Update

The Arthur, Illinois Old Order Amish Settlement was founded in 1865 by several families from Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Located in Douglas and Moultrie Cos. in east central Illinois, 30 mi. (50 km.) west of Decatur, in the late 1980s the Arthur settlement was the only surviving Amish community in the state. Four other settlements established in the middle and late 1800s have long become extinct (Luthy, Amish [1986], 74-91). In 1936, a group left the Amish church to establish the Arthur Mennonite Church (MC) and some 10 years later (1945) a smaller group of Amish families formed the Conservative Mennonite Church. Otherwise, the Arthur Amish community has experienced long and steady growth with 18 districts (congregations) serving more than 3,000 people (1986).

The survival and steady growth of the Arthur community can be attributed to excellent farming conditions and to the strong leadership among the bishops and ministers. High land prices and an increased tolerance by the church of nonfarming occupations have resulted in many factory and farm-related jobs for young men in the community. This has affected Amish lifestyle, and challenges some of the traditional cultural patterns of this rural farm community. In 1986 the Arthur-Arcola community was one of the 10 largest Amish settlements in the United States. -- Samuel L. Yoder

2017 Update

In 2017 the settlement had an estimated 30 church districts with an estimated population of 4,410.


Fleming, Lois F. "The Old Order Amish Community of Arthur, Illinois." Unpublished MS Ed. paper, Eastern Illinois State U., 1962, copy at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries.

Luthy, David. The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed, 1840-1960. Aylmer, ON: Pathway Publishers, 1986.

Miller, D. Paul. The Illinois Amish. Gordonville, PA: Pequea Publishers, 1980.

“Twelve Largest Amish Settlements, 2017.” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College. June 2017. Web. 31 August 2017.

Author(s) L. A. Miller
Samuel L. Yoder
Date Published August 2017

Cite This Article

MLA style

Miller, L. A. and Samuel L. Yoder. "Arthur Old Order Amish Settlement (Arthur, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2017. Web. 12 Jul 2020.,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=154161.

APA style

Miller, L. A. and Samuel L. Yoder. (August 2017). Arthur Old Order Amish Settlement (Arthur, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2020, from,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=154161.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 173; vol. 5, pp. 38-39. All rights reserved.

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