Today’s photos were all (except for the first two) recently taken by a reader in the Holmes and Wayne County area. By last count there are 238 church districts in this settlement, more than any other Amish location, with over 30,000 Amish people living here.
The Holmes County community is a sprawling settlement, spanning 20-some miles, as the crow flies, from north to south and east to west. It would actually take you about an hour to drive from its northernmost point to its southernmost, given the windy rural roads predominant in the area.
The “Holmes County” settlement we all think of is actually not the only Amish presence within Holmes County. Head further west in Holmes County and you’ll come to communities at Loudonville and Brinkhaven, technically lying at least partially in Holmes County but considered separate settlements. One day they may be met and absorbed by the main community.
The main Holmes County community was founded in 1808 by Amish pioneers from Somerset and Mifflin counties in Pennsylvania, including “White” Jonas Stutzman, whose original homestead is marked by a plaque just off of Highway 39.
You’ll hear his story and see his painted image if you visit the Behalt cyclorama at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. Did those first settlers have any idea what an impact their decision to move from Pennsylvania would have on the area over time? There’s no way they could have.
And no one can know what 200 more years might bring. If the Holmes County Amish were to somehow maintain the growth rate commonly given for the Amish as a whole (doubling every 20 years or so), there would be something like 33 million Amish residents here.
Of course, that will never happen. For one, the larger Amish communities shed individuals who go on to form new churches elsewhere were land is cheaper and elbow room more plentiful. Thirty-three million Amish in the Holmes County area would mean an Amish megalopolis of highrises and apartment buildings and not scenes like the one below. But in 200 years there might be dozens of “Holmes Counties” scattered across North America.
Returning to reality, the Holmes County settlement is arguably the most diverse Amish community. The Amish here are united by a common faith though their ways of living can differ drastically, from the plain, change-resistant ways of the Swartzentruber congregations to much more adaptive Old Order and New Order churches.
While Amish-owned businesses are abundant in the community, farming remains a part, though generally a small part, of Amish life. In a study reported in An Amish Paradox, approximately 10% of Amish sampled were estimated to be farmers as of 2005. That varies among the different Amish affiliations, however. The lowest tally is found among the Andy Weaver Amish, at just 6%, while the “vast majority” of Swartzentruber Amish were found to be farmers (p. 197).
The black buggy is characteristic of this settlement, as it is with most Midwestern Amish communities. The most traditional Amish in this settlement omit the orange SMV triangle and use lanterns instead of electric lighting.
Sometimes an SMV triangle is not visible for other reasons.
Rolling hills. The photo below gives you a good look at the types of roads you find in the Holmes County community. One of the county’s main thoroughfares, Holmes County Road 77, running from the Berlin area through Bunker Hill and on to Mt. Hope, has been called the “Amish roller coaster” for its dips and rises.
If you are driving through the area, be careful when cresting hills. Now you see it, in a minute you might not.
The settlement flattens out significantly to the north when you get into Wayne County. Not quite sure which direction we’re looking in here.
Businesses abound in the Holmes-Wayne County area. Simple signs like these are all the advertising some Amish do.
Some businesses are larger than others. With produce supplies low, young boys sell what looks to be apple cider (cider partially visible on left, boys not visible at all) at this plain stand.
How many buggy shops are needed to keep 238 church districts supplied?
Many businesses are Amish owned, others are not.
No, you’re not suddenly in Switzerland. The Guggisberg Cheese Factory and Store, just north of Charm.
Animal life is everywhere in the Holmes County settlement.
Speaking of which, here’s another type of business: raising deer. Deer farming has been controversial and not all Amish approve of the practice. The authors of An Amish Paradox observe that deer farming can be less taxing on farmland, more profitable than traditional farming, and provide a means of working at home (pp. 201-202).
You’ve got snow, might as well use it.
There are more than 200 Amish schools in the Holmes County settlement (An Amish Paradox, p. 119).
Not everyone has time for fun.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual visit to the Amish community in Holmes County, Ohio. The best book if you’d like to learn more on the Holmes County community is the one I referenced above, An Amish Paradox by Charles Hurst and David McConnell. Thanks again to our photo contributor.
Berlin postcard photo: public domain, author unknown
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Interesting pictures and thanks to the photographer for sharing.
One that really interested me was the one of Berlin. It would be interesting to see “then and now” pictures of Berlin next to each other. I’ve driven through Berlin in the fall in heavy tourist season when traffic was bumper to bumper. It was like I was in the middle of a city, not in the heart of Amish country!
Amish of Holmes County
Thanks for this article. It was great to see places I have been before. I grew up a little over 30 minutes north of this settlement and have spent, and continue to spend, quite a bit of time in this area. I really enjoy travelling the back roads (Including County Road 77)seeing all the homes, shops and schools. If you go, make sure you visit Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, OH. Wonderful store that will take you to your past. Although this store was built to serve the Amish Community, it is also a great place for “English” to pick up all kinds of things.
Makes me homesick!
Loved the pictures!
I loved the pictures and the information included in the article. Thanks bunches to the photographer for sharing!
Loved all the pictures and learning more about the Amish. Thanks to the photographer for sharing all the wonderful pictures.
Thanks for sharing the pictures. I’ve never made it to Holmes County, but maybe this summer I will visit some of the bigger, more “touristy” areas with some friends.
The fourth and fifth photos look like a Swartzentruber home to me, but I notice that all the photographed buggies have the SMV triangle, so maybe not. Clearly a conservative lot, though.
These are from different places and I think they are, also the first business sign looks typical of a Swartzentruber place.
Thanks for sharing the photo’s. Love to go to that area. It’s so peaceful and the folks I have encountered are very friendly. Would love to spend some extended time there.
Great pictures of Berlin, OH
This summer we will be visiting my Amish penpal. Her husband, Roy Yoder, was the Bishop for Berlin for many years. He has now stepped down. Elsie and Roy have invited us to visit their home and have a “good old fashioned” Amish supper. We will probably stay in Millersberg, unless they have motels in Berlin. We can’t wait to meet each other for the very first time. We’ve been writing and talking for over a year now. What a Blessing this will be.
Sounds like fun Jean. Enjoy your trip. There are a few places to stay in the Berlin area.
Jean, there are a number of hotels in Berlin. A new one just went up in Walnut Creek. I suggest coming during the weekdays if possible. Fridays and Saturdays are a real traffic mess in Berlin. (They are starting to redo Route 39 in Berlin to deal with more traffic, so the next year or so will also mean construction.) I drive an Amish furniture maker every Friday on the outskirts of Berlin and we dread going through there after noon on Friday. Mike
Worse traffic on a Friday afternoon–Berlin, Ohio or Berlin, Germany? 🙂
Primitive Christianity Mike?
Mike Atnip, you moved to this area? I guess that took me by surprise!
Yep, we're back ...
If you mean Holmes County, then yes we’re back in “this area.” We’ve been here for almost a year now, right in New Bedford (We are actually in Coshocton County by about 100 yards.) I am doing some taxi work for the Amish, but mostly helping a friend build a house.
Primitive Christianity Mike
Hi Mike, yes when I said ‘here’ I did mean Holmes County area, welcome back, you leave me with all kinds of questions then but that would be a big bunny trail, on Amish America-a lot going on where you moved from I guess. Hope all is well.
Mrs. Yoders in Mt. Hope is having their ‘German Buffet’ on Saturday, it is GREAT, and worth your drive from ‘barely into Coshockton’
God Bless you and yours
Berlin & Holmes Co
I have really got to get down there to Holmes County.. its just 2 hours south of me.. not far at all. I’ll have to plan a day trip with my daughter & a friend this summer.. I think it’d be much fun!
Great shots to the photog! Thanks for sharing them!
Thank you for sharing the pictures. I remember visiting this area as a child with my family. The area had not yet become a tourist attraction, very different from today.
KimH – Sounds like we are nearly neighbors. It’s 30 minutes from Middlefield and about two hours from Holmes county for me as well.
Lynn, it sure does.. I live in Eastlake.. Where are you?
We are close! Might have crossed paths at a Captains Game : ) I grew up in Mentor and live in Perry now.
Nice to meet you Neighbor! 🙂 I may go to work in Perry soon.. Im hoping.. I think. 😉
Jean–you lucky duck! I hope you’ll share a little of your visit here, after visiting your pen pal.
It just occurred to me (duh!) that in order to see those handmade Amish signs (for Amish businesses), you’d probably need to be traveling at “buggy speed”, not “auto speed.” Just one more reason to “slow down” in Amish country.
I enjoyed all of the photos, and I thank you (photog. & Erik) for sharing them here.
I see you have an Amish pen pal, I always thought of doing that as well, to learn more about their way of life. Can you email me and tell me how you did that? Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Absolutely beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing them.
I absolutely love all the photos, commentary and information, but I do have a question? Is there any way possible for the webmaster who puts up the photos and articles to make it so the viewer can click on the photos to enlarge them? Perhaps that would be cost prohibitive? I ask because I would love to be able to enlarge the photos in order to see more detail. They really are beautiful!
Anyway, that said, thank you and keep up the great work!
Oak Ridge, TN
Thanks for the request Cathy. You are right, that would be nice. At our next update I will see if this can be done without slowing things down too much.
Holmes County is one of my most favorite places! My husband and I have considered moving there when the kids are grown! So peaceful (outside of the touristy areas) and the locals are so friendly! Thanks for sharing the photos and remarks. This will have to do until we get back there in the spring!
A Visit to the Amish of Holmes County, Ohio
I recently spent Chrismas in Cayuhoga County Ohio. My brother lives there. It was beautiful when it finally snowed, and very cold. Thank you for sharing the pictures.
Holmes County Friendlist
We are lucky to have two Amish husband and wife as very dear friends. And, yes, I couldn’t agree more about the friendliness. They welcomed us into their homed, served us a fantastic supper, and introduced us to their family who lived next door. The Amish couple is planning to visit us here in the Upper Peninsula. Then, we can show them how friendly “Yoopers” are.