WHITEFIELD — Mose Miller was getting ready to pour a concrete foundation this month on his Rockland Road property, where Route 32 turns south and splits from Route 17.

The foundation is for a building that he and some friends and family members will build next to the existing house that has stood vacant on the property for a number of years.

“The structure is real good,” Miller said of the house. But there’s not much inside that’s still good.

He and his work crew put a new roof on it to keep the winter weather out. Eventually, the interior will be refurbished, but that’s for later.

On that warm autumn day, Miller and his companions paid little attention to the vehicles speeding by; they were focused on the very hard, manual labor of mixing and pouring the concrete by hand.

By hand is their choice and their way of life. Miller and his companions are Amish.

Known by their distinctive plain, dark clothing and rejection of most modern technology, the Amish are descended from the Anabaptist movement of the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Europe.

Levy Miller rips boards for a work shed recently at the home his cousin, Mose Miller, purchased in Whitefield. Mose Miller is relocating to Whitefield along with several Amish relatives and plans to live in the shed until he renovates his home.

Levy Miller rips boards for a work shed recently at the home his cousin, Mose Miller, purchased in Whitefield. Mose Miller is relocating to Whitefield along with several Amish relatives and plans to live in the shed until he renovates his home. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Staff photo by Andy Molloy

In the United States, the Amish settled across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Today, there are more than 500 settlements in 31 states, including Maine.

By next spring three Amish families will take up residence in this rural town at the north end of Lincoln County. Mose and Clara Miller and Mose and Anna Yoder are coming from New York, while Dennis and Amelia Hostetler are coming from Kentucky.

Work will continue on the house on Rockland Road, and that’s where Miller’s parents will live. He and his wife and two children will live in the building that will go up on the foundation that was poured later that day.

The Millers will start to build their new life in Maine working their 50 acres, maybe running a farm stand. Miller said he’s thinking about doing construction or maybe working as a farrier, because he doesn’t want to be on the road all the time.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Whitefield Selectman Tony Marple said.

Marple and Dennis Merrill, chairman of the Whitefield Board of Selectmen, see promise in these new residents.

Whitefield, with its cherished rural atmosphere, has a vibrant young farmer community, they say, and these families will continue that trend.

The credit for drawing these families to Whitefield, Marple said, belongs to Pat and Robin Chase, who both grew up in Whitefield just two miles from the farm where they have lived for 43 years and raised five children.

As the Chases see it, sitting in their quiet kitchen one morning last week, they won’t be farming forever, but they want to see the farmland in Whitefield stay as farms.

“It’s nice to see the land preserved,” Robin Chase said. “We know we want to see our land preserved. When we downsize, we want to know it’s going to be taken care of.”

The Chases have cows for both dairy and beef, and they cut and bale hay. They also have Chase Farm Bakery, which sells baked goods at area farmers markets.

“They’re not really different from a lot of us,” Robin Chase said. “They support themselves like a lot of other farmers.”

Nine years ago, the Chases were selling off a herd of dairy cows. A group of Amish had settled in the Fort Fairfield area of northern Maine, and some were looking for cows.

“They liked ours and bought them,” Pat Chase said. “We stayed in touch.”

Elizabeth Miller, left, and Robin Chase hang a pot from a timber in the kitchen of the Chase's home in Whitefield after serving lunch. Pat and Robin Chase have hosted dozens of Amish guests, including Miller, at their home.

Elizabeth Miller, left, and Robin Chase hang a pot from a timber in the kitchen of the Chase’s home in Whitefield after serving lunch. Pat and Robin Chase have hosted dozens of Amish guests, including Miller, at their home. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Last winter, Pat Chase was hauling hay from Fort Fairfield to this area when he learned from one of the Amish that some families from northern New York state were interested in starting a community in southern Maine, particularly in the Monmouth and Leeds area, and the Chases set about changing their minds.

It started with their two-day trip to Heuvelton, New York.

“They were quite surprised to see us,” Robin Chase said.

The Chases were persuasive. They invited the Amish to stay with them as they looked at property in the area, and a number of them, including Miller, took the Chases up on their offer.

“We’ve had over 75 visits since April,” Robin Chase said, with as many as 14 at a time staying at their Townhouse Road home, which has been a base while they were looking for land and getting ready for the move, which will be in mid-March.

As it turned out, Whitefield suited them better than Leeds and Monmouth, and it helped that Pat Chase knew of some available farms that weren’t on the market.

Their hospitality was reciprocated when they traveled to New York and stayed with different families over the course of their stay.

Cory Anderson, an assistant professor of sociology and geography at Truman State University in Missouri, has been studying the migration patterns of the Amish.

Maine, Anderson said, has a lot to offer. Several communities have already been established in Fort Fairfield, Sherman, Smyrna and Unity. Whitefield would be the southernmost Amish settlement in Maine.

“They like landscape with moderately rolling hills,” Anderson said.

It may be because it’s similar to the terrain where the Anabaptists originated in Switzerland, France and Germany five centuries ago, he said, or it may be because the scale of the land doesn’t attract competition from corporate agriculture.

They also like areas with no zoning, where farming is established with one large farm to parcel out or several small farms to settle on, and where a bit of a market exists for the goods they produce, he said.

Because the Amish rely on horse-drawn buggies for transportation, Anderson said, they prefer small towns with access to grocery stores, banks and post offices.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1972 allowed the Amish to educate their children in their own schools, ending ongoing conflicts with local school boards, Anderson said, and that allowed many new Amish settlements to blossom.

Amish clothes dry on a line at the Chase farm in Whitefield in this recent photo. Pat and Robin Chase have hosted 75 Amish guests over the last few months as they build homes for themselves in Whitefield.

Amish clothes dry on a line at the Chase farm in Whitefield in this recent photo. Pat and Robin Chase have hosted 75 Amish guests over the last few months as they build homes for themselves in Whitefield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Because of their high birthrate and retention rate, the Amish are among the fastest-growing groups in North America. Anderson said their population doubles every 21 years.

That dynamic sets up the need to establish new communities, he said, and on average a new settlement starts every three and a half weeks.

Miller, a compact man with the strong grip of someone who has worked with his hands his whole life, took a short break from preparing to mix concrete for his foundation to reflect.

“We’ve been aching to move for a long time,” he said. “At least eight or 10 years.”

Rural Northern New York offered limited opportunities for work, because the Amish tend to do the same things – farming, construction, odd jobs.

“It’s hard for young guys,” Miller said.

He didn’t want to go as far north as Presque Isle or south, where the heat and humidity hold no appeal for him.

“I like snow. I like all the four seasons,” he said. Even so, he wanted a place with a long enough growing season.

For all of those reasons, as well as the availability of land, he liked Whitefield.

Marple said signs will go up on town roads alerting drivers to the possibility of horses and buggies on the road before the families arrive.

“We didn’t want to have them go up too far in advance because people might dismiss them,” he said.

For Pat Chase, the push to preserve farms is simple. The Amish-owned farms will stay farms.

“People come and go, and buildings come and go,” he said. “But you can’t make more land.”