By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
We hadn’t realized until recently that the Amish are no longer clustered only in the Eastern United States. They now live in half of the country, as well as eastern Canada. But the largest population of Amish in the entire world resides in Ohio. Therefore, our look into areas rich in Amish communities and culture is focused there. We won’t limit ourselves only to Amish villages, however “” not when there are other sites in the same area that are interesting as well.
1. Walnut Creek
Every Thursday through Saturday, from March to mid-December, crowds head for Walnut Creek and the 100,000-square-foot Holmes County Amish Flea Market. You’ll find just about anything Amish-related offered for sale there. The Amish are famous for their quilts, of course, and they’re on display for you to buy. You also may see master quilt-makers, as well as other artisans and craftspeople, at work. They are all as relaxed and at ease as if they were in their own homes.
2. Touring Berlin
Six miles west of Walnut Creek, you’ll come to Berlin. This is an excellent place to take a guided tour and leave the driving to others. While in town you can find several places that offer walking tours, and at least one that provides rides in an Amish buggy. They all seem like a good way to learn while you look.
3. Schrock’s Amish Farm Tour, Berlin
Your entire family will enjoy this tour. It begins with a visit to an Amish home and then outside to several barns stocked with live farm animals. It might not be easy to get the children away from those furry critters, but you can entice them by saying that their next adventure will be a ride in an authentic Amish buggy. Be sure to browse through the numerous shops as well. By the time you leave Schrock’s, you’ll have discovered a lot about this Amish community.
The Village of Millersburg came to life in 1815 when Adam Johnson and Charles Miller platted the town. Five years later there were enough children for the townspeople to build a schoolhouse. Then, in 1824, Millersburg became the seat of Holmes County. More growth occurred as word spread about the hilly countryside and Amish farms nearby. Today you’ll see beautifully restored Victorian homes and an old-time downtown district.
5. So many things to do “” and eat
After you’ve shopped for Amish-made merchandise such as furniture and quilts, explored the area, and admired the pastoral farms, it will be time to eat. Lucky for you, area restaurants serve home-style foods with old-fashioned goodness. Some restaurants even have bakeries, too. And don’t forget the cheese. At Guggisberg Cheese in Millersburg, you can watch as this food is made each weekday morning from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Baby Swiss cheese was invented at this factory.
6. Mount Hope
Mount Hope, which was once called Middletown, is a quiet hamlet, except for Wednesdays, when people head to town for the flea market. Local residents, not all Amish, shop there regularly for bargains. Aside from its cozy restaurants and other businesses, the town still retains the look of a century-old village, with its old-time hardware store, dry goods store, and several bulk food stores.
This village, also known as “The Little Switzerland of Ohio,” traces its history to 1882 when both Amish and Swiss settlers arrived. Some of them built a factory to make and sell cheese (Swiss cheese, no doubt). Then, in the mid-20th century, the yearly Ohio Swiss Festival began being held in town. The festival is still going strong. In the fall, both residents and tourists come to eat, enjoy viewing the old Swiss-style buildings, and explore the historical museum on Main Street.
Settlers lived in this area for several years before Strasburg was designated a village in 1827. That stirred growth, and the town soon had a general store, a shoemaker, a postmaster, a stagecoach driver, and even a singing teacher. Today other businesses include the Thomas Overall Company. Summer evenings, treat yourself to a drive-in movie at one of Ohio’s oldest outdoor theaters, the Lynn Auto Theatre.
9. New Philadelphia
Folks have lived in this area for two centuries, but New Philadelphia wasn’t designated a city until 1895 when the population already exceeded 5,000. More people settled there when the roads were paved, and before long they needed public schools large enough to hold a thousand students. Unlike many other rural towns, New Philadelphia is still growing. Currently it has 17,000 residents. Others come to visit, shop in the many stores, and check to see what’s happening in Tuscora Park. Along with the usual recreation and summer concerts, the park features an antique carousel. The nearby Schoenbrunn mission (see below) is now a state memorial.
10. Schoenbrunn Village State Memorial, New Philadelphia
Two centuries ago this village seemed progressive for the time. Residents included a group of Moravian missionaries and their families, as well as American Indian converts to Christianity. But as the years passed, the mission was abandoned and destroyed. The buildings that stand today have been reconstructed from the original town plan. Visitors will see 17 log buildings, the old cemetery, planted fields, a museum, and a visitors center.
11. Historic Roscoe Village, Coshocton
This 19th-century Erie Canal town has shops and restaurants, plus living history tours, during which costumed interpreters escort visitors along red brick paths and into historical buildings. In addition, an exhibit features displays and dioramas depicting the construction of the Erie Canal. Elsewhere you can watch the village blacksmith forging iron the way it was done in the early 19th century. And the town’s print shop shows off a printing press of the same era.
12. Zoar Village
Persecuted because of religious beliefs, a group of German “Separatists” fled the old country and sailed to America. They settled in the Tuscarawas River Valley and named their newly built village Zoar. The work was shared, for in this community men and women possessed equal rights. Today Zoar is a community of approximately 75 families who live in houses that date from 1817 to the present. The 12-block historic district continues to thrive.
13. Fort Laurens State Memorial, Bolivar
Named in honor of Henry Laurens, a president of the Second Continental Congress, Fort Laurens was built during the Revolutionary War as part of an effort to attack the British at Detroit. Unfortunately, its wilderness location couldn’t be supplied on a regular basis, so residents of that time had to survive on whatever they could find, such as boiled moccasins. The fort was abandoned in less than a decade. Today only the fort’s outline remains, but a small museum commemorating the frontier soldier offers a video describing the fort’s history, as well as archaeological artifacts obtained at the site. The park is closed from early September to late May but is open the rest of the year, from Wednesday to Sunday, plus holidays.