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Harmony Amish

Harmony Area Historical Society
Amish Buggy Entering Harmony, Minnesota

Amish buggy entering Harmony, Minnesota at its southeast U.S. Hwy 52 entrance

On the streets of the small town of Harmony, in Fillmore County, cars and trucks share road space with horse-drawn black buggies and wagons. Drivers in modern dress travel alongside people dressed in dark, plain clothing resembling mid-nineteenth-century attire—members of a local Amish enclave. Since its founding in 1974, the Harmony-area Amish community has grown to become the largest Amish population in Minnesota.

The Amish who live in the countryside of Harmony and Canton belong to the most conservative Amish group, called the Old Order Amish. It is the least progressive of Amish orders, and its members do not use modern technologies or conveniences, including electricity and running water.

Harmony’s Amish came to Minnesota from Wayne County, Ohio, where they had lived for several decades after immigrating to the United States in the eighteenth century to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. They were originally part of the Dutch Mennonite movement. In the seventeenth century, however, several members broke ties and formed their own religious sect, headed by Jakob Ammann.

In 1850, a second schism created the New Order Amish and Old Order Amish. While the New Order Amish accepted some forms of modernization, the Old Order Amish continued to follow the traditional practice of living in the modern world while remaining separate from it.

By the early 1970s, the Ohio Amish, who belonged to the Schwartzentruber subgroup, were experiencing an overcrowding problem. Growing families were using up dwindling agricultural and business resources. In August 1973, four Amish men traveled to the Harmony and Canton area of Minnesota to survey the location as a possible place for settlement. They were impressed with what they saw; small acreage farms could be purchased for $300 to $700 an acre. In addition to the excellent farmland, they found plenty of timber and an abundance of water sources provided by natural springs. Harmony and surrounding small towns also appealed to the Amish since their populations were low—around 1,000 people in total.

The four travelers returned to Ohio and told family and friends of their discovery. They decided that Harmony would be a perfect place to start a new life. They purchased land through a local real estate agent, and six families arrived in the spring of 1974. Their horses, buggies, farming equipment, and other machinery arrived by freight train.

Although Harmony’s Old Order Amish sometimes use modern conveniences borrowed from the English—a term they use to refer to their neighbors who are not Amish—they do not have their own. They pump cold water into their houses, use kerosene lamps for lighting, stoke wood-burning stoves for warmth, and power their machines with diesel engines.

The Amish conduct church services in their homes and have their own cemeteries. They also run their own schools. One-room buildings accommodate children through the eighth grade. They speak Low German or Pennsylvania Dutch in their homes and among themselves; children do not learn English until they go to school. Adults support themselves by farming but bring in extra income from selling homemade candy, bread, jams, and jellies, as well as handmade baskets, furniture, and quilts.

Amish people dress in dark blue or black clothing, the women in ankle-length dresses with aprons and bonnets and the men in denim trousers and shirts with wide-brimmed hats. They do not use zippers; straight pins secure clothing. The Amish believe that the Bible forbids images of any kind. They cite Deuteronomy 5:8: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” For this reason, they have no photographs or mirrors (though men may use a small mirror for shaving), and children’s dolls lack faces.

The Old Order Amish have thrived in the rural agricultural area surrounding the towns of Harmony and Canton, growing from a handful of families in the 1970s to ninety families by 1993. In 2018, over 1,000 Amish live in the area. Their presence has provided Harmony with a lucrative tourism business. Every year people from all over the state, region, country, and world stop in Harmony to learn about the Amish lifestyle and purchase their homemade and handmade wares.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Fillmore County Historical Society. Fillmore County History 1984. Dallas, TX: The Taylor Publishing Company, 1984.

Johnson, Millicent Yates. Let’s Have Harmony: A Centennial History. Harmony Centennial Committee. Rochester, MN: Davies Printing, 1996.

Milne, Drucilla. The Amish of Harmony. Rochester, MN: Davies Printing, 1993.

Related Images

Amish Buggy Entering Harmony, Minnesota
Amish Buggy Entering Harmony, Minnesota
Harmony Amish Buggy
Harmony Amish Buggy
Amish Buggy Traveling Through the Harmony Countryside
Amish Buggy Traveling Through the Harmony Countryside
Amish Field
Amish Field
Amish Horse and Buggy
Amish Horse and Buggy

Turning Point

In 1974, the first Amish families emigrate from Wayne County, Ohio, and arrive in Harmony, MInnesota.



Overcrowding and commercial competition in Ohio force members of the Swartzentruber Amish to look elsewhere for land and business opportunity.


Four Amish men travel to Fillmore County on a survey mission for relocation.


The first Amish families arrive in Harmony in March, with their machinery, horses, and buggies delivered by train.


Over ninety Amish families reside in the Harmony and Canton area.


Numbering over 1,000, the Harmony and Canton Amish community is the largest in Minnesota.