The Amish of Belle Center, Ohio

Belle Center Amish Sign
We mean it

It’s fun to visit a new Amish community when you have someone waiting there to greet you. Last Monday I had a chance to drop in on Mark Curtis, son of frequent commenter Don Curtis. If you recall from last year’s account, Mark joined the Amish after living much of his adult life on the other side of the fence, at the age of 50.

Of course, one of my first questions had to be about how Mark came to be Amish. Mark graciously recounted his powerful conversion story as we sat on his screened-in porch on a warm and breezy afternoon. Mark first visited Belle Center in the early 1980s. A teacher in the Columbus area, Mark returned numerous times in the years following, frequently participating in Amish school activities.

Troyers Amish Cabinets Belle Center OH
Troyer’s Cabinet Shop, Belle Center OH

During a time of hardship, Mark was especially moved by the support shown his family by the people at Belle Center.  And after retiring from teaching, Mark decided to join them. As Mark tells it, the community wasn’t terribly surprised by his decision. The possibility must have been percolating, whether Mark himself knew it or not, for some time. Mark has been Amish for nearly a decade.

Mark’s father Don recently moved to the area from Florida to be closer to his son.  We paid Don a visit and witnessed the sheer energy of his 3-legged dachsund “Fritzi”. Just going by its speed, I’d be more apt to think Fritzi had an extra leg instead of missing one.  Zoom.  Don seemed in good spirits, on the way to recovering from a recent heart attack which saw him life-flighted to Columbus for treatment.

Amish Home Belle Center Ohio
Was or will church be here? Sunday School?

Belle Center Amish community

The community at Belle Center is a New Order group with ties to the New Order Amish in Holmes County.  It lies in rural Logan County, a 2.5-hour drive west of that community.  I was surprised to learn that in Logan County you’ll find Ohio’s highest point, in county seat Bellefontaine (prounced, charmingly, “Bell-fountain”). It definitely “feels” higher in rolling Holmes County and much of the area near the West Virginia border than it does here.  But the sign outside town says it’s so, so it must be.

Yoders Amish Furniture Logan County OH
Yoder’s Country Furniture

There are 3 church districts and around 80 households in the Belle Center settlement, Mark estimated.  Around 1/5 of the community is dairy farms.  Most of the dairies are found in the east district, the first area Amish settled when creating this community in the mid-1970s.

As we toured the community we passed a number of homes and businesses, clumped together in places.  Mark explained that they have “one of everything” including an engine shop, dry goods store, buggy maker, and furniture manufacturer.  Mark handles free range chickens, selling eggs when he has laying hens (a particularly pernicious fox recently wiped out a dozen; Mark is in a rebuilding phase, so to speak).

Amish enclaves dot the landscape of the Buckeye State as in few other.  Ohio has over 3 dozen Amish communities numbering 3 churches or fewer.  Logan County itself claims at least one other Amish spot, at De Graff (this lower group has ties to the larger Kenton/Hardin County Amish community).

The day after my visit to Belle Center, I sat listening to a Holmes County Amish minister describe the challenges in his large community.  They included difficulty getting land and wild youth behavior.  No place is perfect but living is no doubt different–slower, at the least–for Amish in places like Belle Center.

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    32 Comments

    1. Valerie

      Buckeye Amish

      Thank you for this interesting article today Erik. Sad to me what you shared from the minister in Holmes regarding their youth. Maybe there is just too much easy access to trouble there.

      When we first moved to OH from California, having been used to viewing mountains all around us, I remember our family going to Bellfontaine our first Autumn here in 1992. Why? Because of what you shared-i read it is the highest point in OH and I just had to go see it. Had no idea there were Amish in the area, that would have been a treat to visit that communit. The “highpoint” of OH was a letdown as you shared it isn’t obvious!
      Glad you got to visit Mark who we always enjoy hearing his thoughts.
      Blessings

      1. Amish youth concerns

        He felt things had worsened in the past 10 years, but on the other hand he just now has children reaching the age where it becomes an issue, so that may influence how you see things.

        However, I asked him about this and he still felt that things were worse…someone was killed on the road after a party just the day before, which also might affect how you see things. In any case, by their nature smaller communities generally have fewer problems with big and wild parties.

    2. Alice M. Aber

      Greetings,

      I am happy to hear Mark is doing well in his new life. Very sorry to hear about Don’s heart attack but glad he is near his son for help.

      It sounds like an interesting community and I would love to visit sometime when I am traveling. Currently I am in Bellefonte, PA but will be heading back to Illinois at the end of this month. I plan on opening an old fashion general store and hope to sell some Amish products too.

      Blessings, Alice

      1. Alice I hope you’ll keep us posted on how things go for you as you open the store. It will be neat to hear if you do end up carrying some Amish products. Happy travels!

    3. Lattice

      Don has done a wonderful job relaying information from Mark to us. I would really like to read more specific details about the things Mark found difficult while becomming Amish. Is he completely accepted by all, or do some still treat him like an outsider? What was the most difficult thing to get used to? What “comfort/convenience” does he miss the most? If he were talking to someone planning to join the Amish, what cautions or general advice would he offer?

      Any chance he would candidly answer these questions?

      1. Don Curtis

        I'll ask Mark

        Well, I’ll ask Mark what he thinks about your inquiries. I don’t speak for him. I can just ask him. I may be his father but, my goodness, he’s sixty years old already. He makes his own decisions.

    4. Joshua

      Visit to Belle Center

      I have been to Mark’s house twice. My last visit involved him taking me to split wood with the youth, and playing volleyball with them afterwards. They were all jabbering away in PA dutch so well. They are some of the friendliest Amish I have met, for sure. There is a very nice bulk foods store in the area, which posts a “please dress modestly” sign on its door, which I thought was a positive surprise. I also noticed many houses sporting solar panels and even a few wind turbines. In my opinion is a more technologically advanced Amish community then perhaps the neighboring Old Orders.

      Just this past Sunday, I decided to join a Beachy Amish church and will begin my 6 month proving time. One of the members of my church is a former member of the Belle Center group. So, if anyone has any questions I can try to answer them.

      Blessings,
      Joshua

      1. Modest dress sign

        Thanks for sharing this Joshua–and for being willing to take questions. And I hope your proving time progresses well.

        On the modest dress sign, I don’t see them too often on Amish stores, but the one place that does come to mind was also a New Order community: Union Grove, NC.

        https://amishamerica.com/modesty-appreciated/

    5. Carolyn B

      Good to hear about Don and Mark Curtis. Hope all continues to go well for both men.

    6. Roberta McGowan

      It is good to hear that adults have been successful in joining the Amish. I too would love the opportunity. I live in an area where there are no local communities. I would love to hear of more success stories.

    7. Alice Mary

      Choice, challenges

      Like Lattice, I’d like to know the answers to the same questions. It would be very interesting to hear his “take” on schooling, Amish and English-wise, also.

      Also, hello to Alice Aber—good luck with your new venture. If I were in the neighborhood, I’d surely patronize your general store! I hope you share a few photos with us, when you open for business!

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice M. Aber

        Hi Alice Mary!

        I will keep you posted indeed and will send Erik some pics to pass along to you once things are set up. I am hoping if I find the right building and can get things going in time to be open by Nov 15th. I guess my interest in the Amish and similar beliefs has led me in this direction.

        Thanks Erik for the well wishes. Too bad we can’t meet up on the road somewhere.

        Blessings, Alice

        1. April Marbaugh

          Requesting a home for two adult cats,two kittens from them w

          Would like them to go to a farm where they can still remain a family ,could bring them today will explain in a call please call me if interested in taking them off my hands I’m not able to keep them anymore I grew up around Rushsyvania Ohio moved away but in Russell’s Point Ohio for now my number is 19375393214 April (cotterman)Marbaugh

    8. Valerie

      Congratulations Alice Aber!

      I’m excited for you! I LOVE those kinds of stores, always have.
      “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed” Prov 16:3

    9. Alice M. Aber

      Thank you Valerie!!

      Valerie, thank you so much for the kind words. I do indeed commit all that I do to the Lord. Even being here in this campground for this time is by His design, even though I do not know what it is He has a purpose for it. “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way”.

      Being here has helped me clear my head and get a better picture of what God wants me to do next. And I am ready, LOL.

      Blessings, Alice

      1. Sharon Gerstman

        Alice's General Store

        I would love to know more about Alice’s General Store and when it will open. We love to travel though we haven’t been able go much due to my husband’s surgeries in the last 5 years. I would love to know when the store will open and where it will be. Thanks for posting this.

    10. Sharon

      Greetings Sharon,

      The name of the business is “Candle Hill Farms General Store”. I am in Clinton, IL which is about in the center of the state. I will have a lot of Amish “style” and Amish “made” items. I will have Pennsylvania Dutch Candies and Fudge. Over time I will be adding in Amish made crafts too. I will also have beautiful artwork by a local artist. My friend Angie makes wonderful soy candles and melts, room sprays and other items, and I will have her products in my store as well. I’ll also have home baked breads, pies, muffins, cookies, etc. that I will make right there in the store.

      Currently I am doing a lot of work on the store building to get it ready and hope to be opening by around November 13th if all goes well.

      I have started a web site, but do not have much information on it yet as getting the building ready has taken priority. But the goal is to also sell from the web site and ship to those who cannot get to this area. http://www.candlehillfarms.com

      The store hours will be Tuesday thru Saturday 11am to 6pm Closed Sunday and Monday. I chose these hours because I will be there early to do the baking and want the baking completed before I open for the day. Also by being open later I can accomdate the people who work during the day and want to stop in after work.

      Budget restraints did not allow me to have everything I want to carry in the store before I open but I will be adding on as I can and each time I add on new items I will offer a special sale to introduce the new item so that could be fun too, LOL.

      People think I am a bit crazy but there will be no computerized cash register in the store. It will be a cash drawer and I will do it the old fashion way and actually count back change, LOL. A pet peeve of mine in stores today. I just hate having my change shoved back at me and not knowing if they did it right or not.

      Thanks for asking about the store and I sure would love to meet you and of course other readers of Amish America!!

      Blessings, Alice

    11. Sharon G

      Good Morning, Alice. Candle Hill Farms sounds like a wonderful place to come and shop! I am a few miles away……so it wouldn’t be convenient to just “drop in”, but I will certainly be looking for the website. I sincerely hope it does well for you. I love General Stores – true General Stores, which are not easy to find now days. I wanted to visit the Honeyville General Store but it closed some time back. I am looking forward to seeing you “on the web”.

      Sincerely,
      Sharon

    12. Alice M. Aber

      Thanks Sharon!! It will take some time to get it exactly the way I want it to be, but it will get there. 🙂

      Blessings, Alice

    13. Ava

      I don’t know why I’ve never visited Belle Center. I live less than an hour away! I suppose going alone intimidates me, though I don’t know why.

    14. Don Curtis

      visiting Belle Center

      Don’t be intimadated, Ava. There are a number of Amish shops there you could visit as a single lady and feel perfectly at ease. I’ll list a few I know about. You can probably google directions.
      1. The Country Variety Store. It is a bulk food and general merchandise store. 6263 US 68 N.; Bellefontaine, OH 43311
      2. Coblentz Crafts and Fabrics. Fabric store. 5451 County Road 25; Bellefontaine, OH 43311
      3. Yoder’s Country Furniture. It is a furniture store, of course. Mark lives just down the road from it on the left. Little white house with a white rail fence around it and the garden in front. Look out for the black chickens roaming around. Yoder’s address: 9164 County Road 101; Belle Center, OH 43310
      4. Pioneer General Store. This is a general store. All kinds of tools, gardening things, boots, you name it. Address: 8750 County Road 39; Belle Center, OH 43310
      You’ll probably see some buggies on the road and you can drive by the Amish schools on County Road 96, County Road 111 E, and County Road 113.

    15. Don Curtis

      One I forgot

      Oops. I almost forgot Cherokee Lane Grocery. It’s a bent and dent store, grocery, and meat market. It’s way back a long lane on an Amish dairy farm. Address: 5570 County Road 49; Huntsville, OH

    16. Don Curtis

      Just remembering

      After thinking about it, I’ve been invited to all of these homes for a meal except for the first one and I know Mark has been there, as well. The last one I was invited there along with Mark for Christmas Day supper.

      1. Linda

        May I add a few more, from a county tourism website I came across promoting an Amish Backroads Tour.
        http://www.logancountyohio.com/tourism/bustours.pdf
        lists Country Kettle (jam making), Miller’s Woodworking, and lunch in an Amish home. Phone 888-564-2626

        1. Don Curtis

          Visiting Belle Center

          Thanks for the additional ideas, Linda. The Country Kettle Jam is actually on the same property as the Pioneer General Store. Both businesses are on the home place of Marvin and Dorcas Coblentz. The Miller Woodworking is right down the road from Mark and is on the same home place as Yoder’s Country Furniture. There are three Amish families that open their homes for catered meals: Marvin Helmuths, Carl Burkholders, and Jonas Herschbergers.

    17. Debbie

      Belle Center Visit

      This summer My husband and I will be visiting family in Ohio. We wanted to visit an Amish settlement while in the area. I am pleased to know this settlement exist since I have family in Middletown and Marysville. My question is: Is there a bed and breakfast in the area we could stay in? My husband has terminal cancer and he would enjoy the stop if he had a place to periodically rest.

      1. Don Curtis

        Belle Center visit

        Belle Center only has about 800 residents and no bed and breakfast that I know of although the county seat of Bellefontaine has some motel/hotel accomodations. Why don’t you write to my son, Mark, and see what he has to say on th subject. He’s the one that joined the Amish and knows more about that sort of thing than I do. His address is:

        Mark Curtis
        9417 County Road 101
        Belle Center, OH 43310

      2. Linda

        Debbie,

        http://www.logancountyohio.com/tourism/

        shows lodging of hotels, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds, and lake cottages. Two bed & breakfasts are listed, probably non-Amish; maybe Don would know how close they are to the Amish community.

        Country Home & Harness B&B
        2685 SR 274
        Huntsville, OH 43324
        Phone: 937.686.3612
        http://www.shanahanharness.com/bandb.html

        Whitmore House Bed & Breakfast
        3985 SR 47 West
        Bellefontaine, OH 43311
        Phone: 937.592.4290
        http://www.whitmorehouse.com

    18. Debbie

      Thanks Don

      How gracious of you to send Marks address for suggestions. God Bless you.
      Debbie

    19. Amish cyclist killed in Belle Center area

      I was sad to see that an Amish cyclist, 29-year-old Nathan Lee Yoder, was struck and killed in the area of Belle Center on Friday.

      It sounds like it happened in the evening, as medical help was reported dispatched around 10 pm. I haven’t spoken to him, but I’d imagine Mark would know this person.

      http://www.whio.com/news/news/local/bicyclist-killed-in-logan-county-head-on-crash/nm6bs/

      1. Joshua Richards

        Thanks for letting us know, Erik. I may have actually met Nathan personally when I visited their community several years ago, and I have a couple friends who know him very well. To be absent from the body is to be ever present with the Lord.

        1. Sure thing Joshua, thanks for your comment. I tried to ring Mark a little earlier but couldn’t get through.

          According to the report, the driver of the truck was the same age as Nathan. Though the obvious pain is with those family and friends who’ve endured the loss, that is also a heavy burden.