It used to be when we thought of the Amish, we generally thought of the rolling hills of Holmes County, Ohio or the gorgeous green valleys of Lancaster County. I remember a puff piece in People Magazine in the mid-80s about the Amish settlement in Kalona, Iowa and how the local mailman had a challenge delivering mail to the community when so many people had the same name (i.e. 10 John Stutzman’s on the route). Back then, that was one of the western-most Amish settlements. There have been Amish settlements in Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota for generations, but they were historically a small, quiet presence. Fast-forward to today, and Amish settlements everywhere are growing because of the church’s impressive retention rate and large families. This has made the once off-limits American West a frontier for the Amish.
The New Order Amish community near St. Ignatius, Montana continues to grow and prosper, as are other Amish communities in Montana. The oldest settlement there is an Old Order Amish community near Rexford which started in the early 70s. But St. Ignatius captures the “beauty award.” Can you imagine hanging your laundry out to dry with this beautiful mountain range to look at? That is exactly what one elderly Amish couple has from their house. The snow-covered peak is Mount McDonald rising close to 10,000 feet above the surrounding valley. The peak is closed to climbers each summer as protected grizzly bears forage on the huckleberries that grow on the high slopes. Occasionally a grizzly wanders down into the valley. We’ll have lots of neat photos and recipes from St. Ignatius in our upcoming book, Amish Cooks Across America (Spring 2013)