Marker #2587 First Amish Settlement in Kentucky

Historical Marker #2587 commemorates the first Amish settlement in Kentucky. Initiated by the Guthrie Tourism Commission and Historic Todd County, Inc. in 2017, it was dedicated on June 1st, 2023.

Amish denominations became more common in the twentieth century as internal conflicts over specific religious and cultural practices led to a split within the community. Those who were more tradition-minded were labeled Old Order while the more progressive were characterized as New Order. New Order differs from Old Order by being more mission or outreach oriented, prohibiting alcohol and tobacco, and allowing for the greater usage of contemporary technology. However, within the New Order are sub-denominations of those who consider themselves “electric” or “non-electric”.

The Guthrie settlement is considered “electric” due to their embrace of electric powered technology and utilization of tractors more than horses and buggies. This Amish community’s two-church district, comprised of over 300 members, is spread out more throughout the region than other settlements its size.

According to the 2014 edition of New Order Amish published by Abana Books, Simon M. Yoder established the first Amish farm in the area in February 1958 and began constructing a home. A few months later, in April, the Enoch’s and the Byler’s were the first Amish families to move to Kentucky and begin living on the settlement. They chose Western Kentucky as their new home because, as Drew Adams’ article in Murray State’s NPR Station titled “Kentucky Amish Communities Growing” explains, it was known to be favorable towards the Amish and had great agriculture. The 2016 Amish Studies “Amish Population Profile” states:

Reasons for New Settlement Growth. The Amish establish new settlements […] in “new” states […] that may include: (1) fertile farmland at reasonable prices (2) non-farm work in specialized occupations, (3) rural isolation that supports their traditional, family-based lifestyle, (4) social and physical proximity to family or other similar Amish church groups, and (6) as a way to resolve church or leadership conflicts.

Todd County was selected for establishing residency of a settlement due to its location away from the Daniel Boone National Forest. Territory in Eastern Kentucky, especially within the Forest, can be rocky and mountainous making buggy driving and commercial agriculture difficult. (Donnermeyer and Anderson 2014) Todd County, with its flat, horse-and-buggy friendly terrain and proximity to the towns of Guthrie and Elkton proved to be the perfect location.

New Order Amish states that the areas first Amish church was established on August 8, 1965. Until then, religious worship had taken place in private homes. In 1969, Amish children began attending school in the church basement. A separate building was completed in 1972, with a second one being built in 1976.

Joseph Donnermeyer and Cory Anderson’s research article “The Growth of Amish and Plain Anabaptists in Kentucky” (2014) chronicles the arrival of the Amish in the Commonwealth, the expansion of early communities and growth into other areas. From this historical study, we discover the Guthrie settlement’s roots began in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where, in 1940, a “Beachy”, (more progressive) Amish church lifted its ban on the ownership of automobiles. Families who wished to adhere to more traditional standards migrated to Stuarts Draft in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They banned driver’s licenses but allowed for the limited use of farm tractors in field work. In 1942, Beachy churches appeared in Stuarts Draft. Tensions caused by the competing views within the area’s Amish community spurred a second migration by the traditionalists to Guthrie.

Though originally considered Old Order Amish, the people who moved to the Guthrie area loosely associated themselves with an Ohio based New Order community in 1960. Today’s Todd County Amish community is now considered “one of the most conservative settlements in the New Order Amish affiliation, having migrated twice to escape progressive tendencies.” (Waldrep, Mennonite Quarterly Review, 2008)

The historical marker reads:

A group of Amish-Mennonites migrated to Guthrie from Stuart’s Draft, VA in 1958. They formed the first Amish settlement in KY and sought to retain traditional Amish dress, transportation, & language practices. The settlement grew as migrants from other states joined. The first meeting house was constructed in 1965 and a schoolhouse was built in 1972.

The settlement is affiliated with New Order Amish. It is also known as “electric” Amish due to the use of electricity in homes and mechanized farm equipment. Fertile land and local acceptance of the settlement spurred more migration to Kentucky. By the close of the twentieth century there were approximately thirty Amish settlements in the state.



8360 Guthrie Road, Guthrie, KY 42234