Life without the Amish

December 01, 1990

The Amish, who have lived their simple ways in Southern Maryland for much of this century, have become victims of suburban sprawl. Land prices are driving them out.

That could prove a sad loss for the region. The Amish have benefited their communities through their highly developed art of quilting and their successful methods of organic farming. They also enrich the local economy by attracting numerous visitors who purchase their wares in Charles and St. Mary's counties.

Unfortunately for many of the Amish families, some of the very outsiders who find Southern Maryland so delightful are now moving in and threatening the Amish way of life. Such pressures boost land prices and deprive Amish families of their ability to aid their children in acquiring farmland when they marry and start a family. City and town folks may find that somewhat quaint, but it strikes painfully at an Amish tradition.

Harsh economics force Amish families to sell out and move to more affordable rural regions, usually along the Appalachian Mountain range. Probably the heaviest concentration of Amish is along Maryland's northern border in Lancaster County, Pa. But they are equally at home wherever the land is hospitable and neighbors tolerant.

St. Mary's and Charles counties have welcomed the Amish. Yet there is little, if anything, that can be done to keep them from migrating elsewhere. There are many opportunities to purchase, subdivide and build new satellite communities far from the wheels of commuter cars. The growing popularity of Southern Maryland is crowding out the Amish. In the years ahead, it could become increasingly difficult for folks in these two counties to spot quiet men in wide-brim straw hats driving to meetings in horse-drawn carriages.

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