Walnut Creek Confidential: The cradle of Amish Country

Scenic Walnut Creek in Holmes County

While many travelers regard Holmes County as the crux of Ohio’s Amish Country, few realize that Walnut Creek is its cradle. In 1809, Amish farmer Jonas Stutzman migrated from Pennsylvania to present-day Holmes County as the area’s first white settler. More Amish folks soon followed, putting down roots that blossomed into the world’s largest Amish-Mennonite community.

Though 190 years have passed since Amish pioneers platted the village of Walnut Creek, the splendor of the land rema ins obvious. Narrow ridges bordered by undulating valleys present a pastoral mosaic of tidy farmhouses, bountiful fields, and hillside pastures where horses graze. The scenery alone makes Walnut Creek worth visiting; its other attributes — shops, restaurants, entertainment, and genuine encounters with the “plain people” — are bonuses. Some advice: Bring a camera for capturing Walnut Creek’s bucolic beauty and a cooler for keeping the local goodies you’re bound to buy.

Olde Time Lodge

Merle and Lela Hershberger grow peaches and apples to sell at Hillcrest Orchard farm market, but when they retire, their “dawdy haus” will be a restored 1850s log cabin. Until then, lucky lodgers can experience the cabin’s rustic simplicity (gas and electric lights but no TV) and serene orchard setting.

German Culture Museum

With eclectic exhibits that encapsulate Walnut Creek’s Amish and “English” (non-Amish) heritage, the museum is an instructive first stop. Its treasures include chairs made by Jonas (“The Father of Amish Country”) Stutzman, who famously anticipated Christ’s Second Coming by wearing white clothes and building an extra-large chair for Christ to sit in.

Rebecca’s Bistro

Rebecca Miller’s tasty tomato basil soup is so satisfying it’s a local legend. Her cozy, often crowded eatery occupies a repurposed 1817 log cabin, and even though she seasonally tweaks the “modern farmhouse food” menu, you can’t go wrong with the creamed eggs, quiche, or carrot cake.

Carlisle Inn

The inn enjoys a heart-of-Walnut Creek location just a short walk from most village attractions. The exterior resembles a rambling country manor, and its uniquely furnished guest rooms feature comfy Amish-crafted beds. While Walnut Creek bustles on Saturday, the best place for basking in Sunday’s peace and quiet is the inn’s front porch.

Amish Country Theater

The Conn family’s wholesome and hilarious shows provide entertaining evenings. Grandkids laugh as much as grandparents, and this year’s original, country-style productions are Macho Mule and Show Me the Funny.

Walnut Creek Flea Market

A popular State Route 39 shopping destination, it’s clean, modern, and completely indoors. Three attributes set it apart: no repeat merchandise; parking for buggies as well as buses; and the genial atmosphere fostered by the Zimmerman family members who own and operate it.

Der Dutchman Restaurant

When Der Dutchman debuted nearly 50 years ago, its hearty, Amish-style fare helped put Walnut Creek on the tourism map. Regulars rave about its broasted and baked chicken, but homemade noodles over homemade mashed potatoes constitutes comfort food nirvana. Although you may have to wait for a table, your reward is the dining room’s eye-popping view of Goose Bottom Valley.

The Farm at Walnut Creek

A working Amish farm offers a Noah’s Ark adventure — by car or horse-drawn wagon — that lets families hand-feed some 60 different animals ranging from American bison to zebras. Visitors also can tour the barns and snack on cookies in the main farmhouse.

Walnut Creek Cheese

The phenomenal cheese selection is merely the tip of the foodie iceberg at this State Route 39 megastore, where tourists and locals alike shop for everything from its bakery’s fresh-baked fry pies to its cannery’s apple butter barbecue sauce. Don’t miss the creamery’s homemade custard, the café’s pulled pork, or the test kitchen’s free samples.