Not that Winesburg


WHEN I was in college, I read a book by Sherwood Anderson called Winesburg, Ohio.  I remember it as a mostly downbeat collection of vignettes of small town life.  As I recall it was firmly entrenched in the university Lit canon.  Inspired Hemingway or something like that.

This is not that Winesburg.  Anderson’s town was fictional.

The real Winesburg, Ohio also happens to be a sleepy little spot on the map.  It’s got some very nice old homes, a museum, family-style restaurant and a general store that dishes out free coffee.  Buggies pass by frequently.  The public school in town, like many in Eastern Holmes County, educates a number of Amish children along with the English ones.


It’s one of my favorite spots in the settlement–a bit off the map but a lovely place to stroll through.

Auctions, sales, auctions

I dropped in on a local auction last week, set up to benefit a Winesburg-area school.  The attendance breakdown was about 90% Amish, 10% English and Mennonite.  I grabbed a paper bag full of salty-sweet kettle corn, an ice water and plopped down.  The auction was in full swing.  Bows, boots, lots of hunting stuff.  Two auctioneers, one Amish, one a youth who could have been Amish as well.  How do they speak that fast?

Auctions, or simply, ‘sales’, are a chance for Amish to socialize, grab some good food, and maybe get a good deal on something while raising money for a good cause.  They’re often held for schools or families in need or even for international causes, as in the long-running Haiti auction, held in Ohio each year as well as in Pennsylvania and Indiana.  I had a chance to drop in on the Haiti event as well about two weeks ago in Mount Hope.

Delicious Haitian rice and beans with fried plantains was among the food on offer, along with the standard rhubarb pies and barbecued chicken and so on.

A local Amish woman mentioned that she enjoys the Haiti Auction because it draws so many types of Anabaptist peoples–not only Amish from other states but many different Mennonite groups–from the Old Order to the more progressive affiliations.  There was certainly a diverse mix of garb on display that day.

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    1. Matthew

      Your blog is great! Visiting and learning more about the Amish has been one of the great joys of my life for about the past 10 years. We just attended an Amish school auction a couple of weeks ago – 5 auctions going on simultaneiously – whew! There’s nothing better than an Amish auctioneer with a PA Dutch accent throwing in bits of PA Dutch with his auction lingo. I look forward to reading more.

    2. Thank you Matthew! What Amish settlements have you had a chance to visit?

      I’m attending another auction tomorrow–for a schoolhouse again–it’s that time of year I guess!

    3. Such a good book, Winesburg…There is a tiny hamlet about 25 minutes from my city…called Camden, Ohio where Sherwood Anderson was born and raised…Camden isn’t much not, it’s hard to believe that a literary figure came from such a hardscrabble town…

    4. Matthew

      Well, you can say I’ve gotten around. The last auction I attended was in Milroy, IN. But I’ve also visited the following communities:

      Arthur/Arcola IL
      Kokomo, IN
      Berne, IN
      Salem, IN (Both Old & New Order)
      Orleans, IN
      Montgomery/Logootee, IN
      Freedom, IN (New Order)
      Wayne County, IN
      Adams County, OH
      Holmes County, OH
      Lancaster, PA

      I *think* that’s the exhaustive list for now. If I broke it off by specific communities within a county, the list would be longer – i.e., there are 4 Amish schools in Wayne County, IN, I’m assuming one school per church district.

      There used to be a wonderful resource on the internet that listed all the various plain communities across the United States, but that has been down for a few years. The list came from a book published in the 1990’s that listed plain communiites and accepted advertising from local businesses in that community. Do you recall the name of the book?

    5. Loogootee, Indiana Amish

      Matthew that is a nice list of places you’ve been! Auctions in all of them? Haven’t been everywhere on there but besides Holmes my favorite would probably be Montgomery/Logootee (La-goaty, right?) Indiana aka Daviess County–friendly, friendly people in them thar dusty hills.

      I don’t know that book you are talking about, but for the Amish you could check out the Calender which you may know of already–if not check out the comments of the ‘Two Lancaster Counties’ post (Aug 24) for more on that resource.

      Kevin I wonder if Camden was perhaps his inspiration for the work? I am very foggy on what it was about being about 8 years since I read it…just remember it being not-too-uplifting…I rarely read fiction these days it seems! Miss a good novel every now and again though.

    6. Matthew

      No, actually, the Milroy auction is the first Amish auction I’ve ever been to. It is to benefit their schools. Though I’m sure the other communities have auctions as well. Milroy will have another one at the end of April. You can be assured that date is already on my calendar. I wasn’t aware of the Calender. I’ll take a look at your earlier post.

    7. alyssa

      i grew up in millersburg, ohio so i enjoy seeing these glimpses of home!

      i had to chime in on the Winesburg, OH issue–Winesburg was actually based on Clyde, OH, a town near Sandusky where Anderson lived for some time. many of the people in the book were based on real citizens of Clyde. this caused quite a stir among the town residents, as you can imagine!

    8. Hi Alyssa, just had a stroll around Millersburg the other evening and then yesterday biked the Holmes County Trail from Fredericksburg down to Millersburg–it’s a beautiful town.

      Thanks for the input on Winesburg. That rings a bell.

    9. Frank Kauffman

      Some of the better auctions for relief and benefits are held in Indiana, around shipshewana and Middelbury.

    10. MARIE

      I have been to a few relief sales…I’m from windsor, ontario canada, and every july they have amish school auctions, near st. jacobs ontario, (3 1/2 hrs from detroit)that are wonderful and all full of auctioneers. We also have one in leamington, ontario (first weekend of June) about 45 minutes from detroit, michigan. I have been to the mount hope auction and that was lovely. When I reach Winesburg, I feel I’m getting closer to home-Holmes country that is. I love berlin, walnut creek & the surrounding towns. We usually visit in may and late november. Winesburg always seem to have that autumn touch that makes the town so quaint. I’m feeling homesick all ready. I’m thinking about attending the clare michigan yoder’s auction this sept 3 & 4th. it would be my first auction in michigan. Shipshewana is also a lovely place to visit.

    11. Clare’s is supposed to be a huge auction Marie. Have only visited Michigan communities once or twice, though I lived in St. Joseph County for a summer (before I knew Amish existed :))