CAPTION: Beautiful countryside near Eureka, Montana, the closest town of any size to the Rexford Amish community.
The Rexford, Montana Amish settlement was started in the early 1970s by an Amish man with a bit of a restless streak. He had moved around in the Midwest and really just wanted a place where the fishing and hunting were superb. His quest eventually led him to Horsefly, British Columbia to start a community, but the isolation of the area was ultimately its downfall. For an Amish community to be sustainable, you need people – preferably families – willing to come and stay, raise children,,and plant some roots. Horsefly had an amazing sockeye salmon season as they spawned in the nearby Horsefly River, but the settlement was too far from anywhere to endure. Amish families came from Ohio and Indiana to settle in Horsefly, but the community only lasted from 1969 – 1972. One of the founders of the Horsefly settlement – who is elderly now and lives in St. Ignatius – came across some ranch-land for sale in the West Kootenai area and thought that might be a good spot for a new settlement. His eyes twinkle as he re-tells the story and talks of the area’s rich game and fishing legacy. Just like Pinecraft, Florida’s Amish community draws snowbirds and sun-seekers, Rexford attracts the Amish adventurers and outdoorsmen.
CAPTION: To get to Rexford, you must cross Lake Koocanusa across this bridge and into seeming nowhere.
Rexford still featured the same great hunting and fishing that Horsefly had, but it had the advantage of actually being in the United States, making in a more attractive draw for other Amish who might be lured by the great outdoors. And this time the attempt at a far western community stuck. Rexford has seen its population ebb and flow over the years, but this tenacious little community has hung on. A sawmill and log furniture business is the main employer of the Amish in the settlement and leisure time is spent enjoying the great outdoors, where fishing, hunting, hiking, and gathering huckleberries are favorite past-times.
CAPTIONS: Signs point the way to some of the Amish-owned businesses in this remote outpost. And VIEW FROM ABOVE: Most of the Rexford settlement is tucked away in a valley surrounded by fairly high hills and mountains, so there aren’t the sweeping panoramas one generally thinks of when they think of Montana. But the bishop’s residence is higher up on one of the mountain sides offering gorgeous vistas of the surrounding Big Sky Country. The bishop is hitching up his horse here.