Difference between revisions of "Holmes County"
Revision as of 19:59, 11 March 2014
Holmes County  is in Ohio. It is located the eastern part of Ohio about halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. The county seat is Millersburg. Holmes County primarily consists of steep hills and narrow valleys.
The Amish, known as "the gentle people', comprise nearly half of the county's population (total population estimated at 40,000+) making this region the largest Amish settlement in the world. The area also has many Mennonites, who are also a part of The Anabaptist Movement that moved here from Europe, at the invitation of William Penn . When travelling to and driving in this area, be alert for the horse-drawn Amish buggies, pedestrians on the roads, children walking and livestock crossing and being herded on the roads, all have the right of way on the roads.
When you are visiting the towns and attractions in Holmes County, keep in mind that most of the people selling trinkets and wares as well as the shop owners are not Amish, although some are Mennonite. Items such as cheese, smoked meats, quilts and oak wood furniture most likely are manufactured and finished locally. (Some quilts are made in China, if making a purchase that can run into the thousands of dollars, make sure you know what you are buying)
The items or places you find branded "Amish" may or may not in fact be Amish. Amish do not use the word "Amish" as a marketing ploy, this is something invented by the "English" (as Amish refer to non-Amish). Usually you will find that merchants add terms like Amish Made or Amish Country to link a product to the Amish.
Photography: You should avoid taking photographs of Amish, Amish farms, Amish events, and especially Amish children. Why? This is, of course against their religion. Even asking permission is treading on their religious culture and would be considered quite rude or even racist in nature. This is a different culture and ethnic group of people with deep religious principals. Please be as considerate of their religion, as you would expect one to be of yours. It may be a bit overstated but, waiving a camera around in Holmes County is about as popular as waiving around a gun in a Chicago bar. Most benefit auctions have signs posted, "No Cameras/No Photography", you will find the same at livestock/exotics auctions at Mt. Hope.
Being in the center of Ohio's Amish Country, the world's largest Amish settlement, much of the population is bi-lingual, speaking both English and a dialect of German called "Pennsylvania Dutch." Smaller children speak only this dialect until starting school. The name "Pennsylvania Dutch" is actually a mispronunciation of "Deutsch" or German. Church services are held in "high German," as opposed to the dialect.
Holmes County is accessible from: I-71, I-77, and US 30
Holmes County has the largest concentration of scenic byways in Ohio. Every major thoroughfare, state or US highway, is designated as a scenic byway, making it a great place to tour by car.
Unique to this area, is the Amish/Mennonite Benefit Auctions. These auctions provide funds for a variety of needs in the Community. Some are consignments, some are strictly donations. Most have food/meals, ice cream, pies, prepared by the locals and are quite reasonable and tasty. The auctions take place throughout the warmer months. They sell everything from quilts to furniture to farm machinery. Ads are in the local paper "The Budget". If you have never been to a Benefit Auction, it will be a real treat!!
There are a variety of choices for sleep that range from larger hotels to small bed & breakfasts. For something a bit different you may want to look into the Bed & Breakfasts which are numerous, or even renting a small farm house for a night or two, which can be very pleasant. Do your homework online, there are a lot of choices. If heading for a B&B, make sure you have good directions, the rural roads can be confusing. If lost, just ask an Amish fellow. He most likely will be very polite and set you right.
Due to the geographic location of Ohio, some of the finest hardwoods in the world grow there and to the North. The Amish/Mennonites have developed a large cottage industry around hard woods. Furniture stores are scattered throughout the county offering these products which are usually manufactured without electricity. Some of the more unique and finer items can be found at the numerous benefit auctions throughout the warmer months, that are held to support the Amish/Mennonite schools, rest homes and medical needs of the community.
The Budget is a local newspaper, printed in Sugarcreek, Tuscarawas County and sent to the world wide Amish/Mennonite community. It is printed in English and available by single copy or subscription. There you can find most of the local happenings and Auction advertisement. It is very helpful to new visitors and those wanting to understand the Amish/Mennonite community.
Quilts. Know what you are buying. Ask a knowledgeable party about them. There is quite a difference in the value and stiching. There is an annual Mennonite Relief Quilt Sale held at Kidron each year, that has been featured on National Geographic. If you go, parking is remote with a hay wagon ride to the sale/auction tents. Dress conservatively, wear old shoes.
Cheese. Award winning cheese of numerous variety is available, most made locally.
Jams, jellies and vegetables abound.
Bakery items. You will find numerous bakeries around the county. Just part of the Amish/Mennonite tradition. Made with sugar rather than corn sweetener. Great treat. Bring a cooler.
Horses/livestock. Traders heaven for those interested in livestock and "exotic" animals. The auction barn at Mount Hope seems to be the center for this activity selling herds of cows, sheep, goats, chickens, eggs, bakery items and so on each month surrounded by a somewhat primitive flea market. There are numerous horse sales and "exotic" sales throughout the year.
Shop till you drop. That is pretty much the goal of the majority of visitors to Holmes County.
Visit the furniture stores. They feature locally produced hard wood products that are generally of very high quality. Farmerstown Furniture is one of the oldest stores in the area, and sold Amish-made furniture to local customers long before Amish furniture became so popular. The owners are Amish, and they are very nice people. Other good stops would be Homestead Furniture just outside Mt. Hope, Green Acres Furniture in nearby Mt. Eaton (southern Wayne County) and Walnut Creek Furniture. While Farmerstown Furniture specializes in much of the more-traditional looks, the others mentioned here feature many updated styles and finishes. If in Charm, stop at the restaurant across from Keim Lumber for some of the County's best food.
If in Sugarcreek, visit the consignment store behind the grocery store, for local crafts. A bit hard to find, but worth the effort.
Stop at the bakeries, try a fry pie. Local treat!
While there are a few bars in Holmes County as well as carry-outs, Holmes County is not a "party town" due to its very conservative population. Do not expect to buy alcohol in East Holmes restaurants and gas stations. East Holmes is and has been a dry county since the 1950's.
Since the Amish/Mennonites are pacifists by nature, the threat from them is nonexistent. Your main threat is on the roads from sightseeing drivers not paying attention to the often slow or stopped traffic. Food purchased at the numerous road side bakeries, cheese plants or home made canned items like jellies or preserves should be considered quite safe. If you buy farm eggs, they will likely be very fresh and tasty.
Animals:Keep in mind that this is not a petting zoo type situation. The animals may bite, kick or step on you, or especially your children. Never allow your child to walk up on a horse, buggy, or other farm animal. Animals in pens may be more accessible, but can pass on other diseases. Touching should be avoided.
Part of what has kept Holmes County and surrounding areas rural is the lack of major highway access -- both a blessing and a curse. Major access points are U.S. Route 30 (an east-west route), I-77 and I-71, both of which run north/south, and connect with US 30.
State Routes 62 and 39 are the major thoroughfares in Amish Country, and following them will get you to all the major tourist destinations, and offer some wonderful side roads. Don't be afraid to venture off the paved roads and hit the gravel -- this is the best way to experience the Amish countryside. Don't worry; sooner or later you are bound to find a main road again!