In a drive through Holmes County in eastern Ohio, we passed by many pastoral farmlands abounding with corn fields and neatly bundled haystacks. The Amish, living in cities like Millersburg, Berlin, and Charm, have created in Holmes County one of the largest Amish communities in America, rivaling in size the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For hundreds of years, the Amish have tilled this land, carefully tending it through hard work.
The best way to experience their way of life is to turn off the major roads into the small country dirt roads, where whole families may pass by in their horse-drawn, black buggies. The young and not-so-young ride their bicycles. A little boy sweetly turned out in his straw hat, blue shirt, and pants, returned a wave.
The Amish seem to fit in naturally with the other Ohioans; they were expected and extended every courtesy on the roads. We soon anticipated seeing the black buggies as we drove over the hill and slowed down accordingly. I smiled at the Yield sign on the back of their buggies, a nod to their coexistence with modern society.
Things to Do
We stayed only a little over a day in the area. We visited the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center and took a tour of the Behalt Cyclorama, a 265-foot circular mural. Behalt means “to remember”. Our docent traced the history of the Amish from their Anabaptist roots in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 to the present day. Unexpectedly, we were the only non-Amish in the tour that morning. The docent told a joke in their native Pennsylvania Dutch and received hearty laughter from the other guests. We were amused to be outside of the joke.
To understand more on Amish daily living, we visited Yoder’s Amish Home, which includes guided tours of two Amish homes. Children will love taking the horse and buggy ride. In the barn, a young Amish woman generously offered small bunnies and puppies for holding and tiny ponies for petting. It was definitely a hit with Mia and Ethan.
Boyd and Wurthmann Restaurant is a favorite among the locals. Everything is homemade and delicious, from hearty breakfast staples to fried chicken. Freshly baked bread is served with their signature peanut butter spread and apple butter. We had an early lunch and didn’t have to wait for a table, but twenty minutes later a line started to form that extended out the door. But service was friendly and brisk, and no one had to wait too long.
We also stopped by Hershberger’s Bakery. It has a nice selection of fresh produce and a large assortment of homemade pastries, including their famous fry pies, peanut butter spreads, and cheeses.
In taking a four-month trip through southeastern United States, we saw many microcultures. Besides the Amish, we saw scores of bikers on the Tail of the Dragon road in Tennessee. We listened to the bands and solo artists taking to the road, playing modest gigs in Nashville or on the street corners of Asheville. Kentuckians, generations deep in horse breeding, gave us a tour of the farm where champion Thoroughbred racehorses go to retire. Despite the problems facing our country, I feel reassured by the freedom that still exists to live as one pleases.