By Kevin Williams
So I stumbled upon The Pioneer Place in Smyrna, Maine last week. The Pioneer Place, owned by Chris Hilty, is sort of the hub of the Amish settlement in Smyrna. People gather to exchange news and gossip, to meet friends, and pick through the eclectic mix of wares for sale. Outsiders come to purchase anything from kerosene lamps to trail mix. Pioneer Place is a true general store serving rural Aroostook County. If you're expecting baked goods or homemade bread you might be disappointed, the Pioneer Place is not a bakery. Food-wise they do offer a selection of bulk foods for sale, such as bagged snack mix and some chocolates, but they are not made locally.
The real draw of Pioneer Place is the assortment of hardware and outdoor items (it is Maine, after all) and the fact that it gives you a central point from which to explore the surrounding Amish settlement with its various businesses.
The Smyrna settlement is more progressive than some Amish communities, but they do draw some clear lines such as not using motorized tractors and heating with wood instead of kerosene.
I probably wouldn't plan a vacation around visiting Smyrna, but if you are in the area, the Pioneer Place and other Amish-owned businesses are definitely worth checking out. If you are visiting on a weekday during the school-year the log school-house with children playing ball at recess offers a serene scene and on clear days you can easily see Maine's tallest peak - Mt. Katahdin - off to the southwest. The Amish settlement is an easy 5 minute jaunt off of I-95. Tomorrow, more from Smyrna!
Here are a few scenes from the Pioneer Place: