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All about Amish buggies

buggylineupbybrucestambaugh

An assortment of buggy styles were tied up at a local auction barn.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Amish buggies in Ohio’s Amish Country may be all black, but they definitely aren’t all the same. The nondescript, unobtrusive color merely keeps them uniform and modest.

Even if they all are black, a closer look reveals that there are many differences in buggies. These variances are especially true for buggies owned by younger Amish men. Particular attention is paid to the kind of accessories included on their buggies. After all, a buggy can last for 30 years if it is well maintained.

buggyshopbybrucestambaugh

An Amish bench wagon stood outside an Amish buggy shop near Berlin, OH. The wagon is used to carry the church benches from one location to another. Since the Amish do not have church buildings, they take turns hosting church for the 100 or more members and their children. Shops like this one are cleared out and cleaned in preparation for church service.

At least two-dozen buggy shops are sprinkled around the Greater Holmes County area. That way the Amish do not have to travel far to order a buggy or have one repaired. That concept is maintained in all aspects of the Amish lifestyle.

Demand for new buggies is high. Most buggy shops reported a year’s wait for a new buggy. Depending on the size of the shop and the kind of buggies being built, buggies are produced at the rate of no greater than one per week. Buggy repairs are worked in accordingly. Should a buggy be damaged in an accident or lose a wheel, for example, it would receive priority status.

Most buggy shops are family operations. A father and his son or sons may run the shop, assisted by an apprentice or even wives and daughters. This way the trade can be passed from generation to generation.

buggyworksbybrucestambaugh

Amish buggies are built one at a time. The buggy in the foreground still needs to have its black vinyl coated cloth skin attached, and painting completed.

Because each buggy is custom-built one at a time, assembling a buggy is a prolonged process, taking as long as a year to complete. To build a sturdy, useful buggy, shop owners and workers need a variety of skills. They must be a carpenter, welder, upholsterer, painter and mechanic all in one.

According to Menno Schlabach, owner and operator of M & S Coach near Berlin, buggies start with a wooden base. Reinforced with metal braces, a wood framed structure is attached. The sides and tops are covered with a grained, vinyl coated black cloth.
“With 150 church districts in the area, customization of each buggy varies a great deal,” Schlabach said.

buggydashboardbybrucestambaugh

This wood inlaid dashboard is typical for young Amish men to have installed in their first buggy. The levers that operate lights and even a hand-powered windshield wiper fit through the cutout holes.

Indeed, it is the customization that allows the customer to put personal preferences into the new buggy to give it character. That process also slows the construction. With all the various options, Schlabach said it takes an average of 150 hours to build a new buggy.

finishingtouchesbybrucestambaugh

A worker installed a window in the door of a new buggy.

Some buggies have curtain doors that roll up, while others have sliding doors on the side and a hinged door in the back for easier access. Other buggy accessories include shelves for storage, switches, battery compartments, mirrors, window sizes and shapes including the choice of glass or Plexiglas or no glass at all, shapes and cushioning of seats, manually operated windshield wipers, brakes, upholstery and a variety of lighting options. Even the materials of the wheels and shafts vary.
Dashboards seem to be the telling tale of the owners’ preferences. Some are intricately made using inlaid or exotic wood. The dashboards are mounted on the inside of the front piece of the buggy. They generally house switches for exterior and interior lights and turn signals.

buggylightsbybrucestambaugh

Buggies in the Greater Holmes County, Ohio area are usually well-lighted and marked with a slow moving vehicle reflector, reflective tape, and rear amber blinking light.

Even the exterior lighting is customized. Just like cars, buggies have headlights and taillights. Most also have amber warning lights on the top rear of the buggy. Running lights along the sides of the buggies help drivers see at night. Marker lights positioned on the front and sides of buggies are other accessories that give the buggy its individual distinction. Only buggies owned by Swartzentruber Amish, the lowest Amish order, still use kerosene lanterns for visibility.

The style of buggy is determined by its purpose. A two-wheeled cart is the simplest of all buggy types and is used for quick, local trips. The hack is the Amish equivalent to a pick up truck. Sometimes called buckboards, a hack is a four-wheel buggy that is designed for hauling livestock and other bulk items. Some driver compartments of hacks are covered, while others are open.
The most common buggy type is the surrey. They are built with a bench seat and a storage area in the back that also has an option for two small flat seats along the insides. The side seats can be removed to increase storage. Usually children use those rear seats.

buggyshaftsbybrucestambaugh

Most parts of buggies are made locally, including these shafts that connect the horse to the buggy. The shafts are made and bent at a specialty shop near Mt. Hope, OH.

Surreys come covered or open. Covered buggies are called top buggies. The family version of a surrey has two bench seats and four openings for access, plus some storage space in the rear with a door or curtain that rolls up.

buggywheelbybrucestambaugh

The Amish like to keep things as local as possible. The wheel, spokes, axel and brakes were all made within 15 miles of this buggy’s owner’s home.

The newest buggy version is the mini-surrey, which can actually hold more passengers than a regular top buggy. Affectionately called a minivan by some Amish, the mini-surrey serves the same purpose. The side seats behind the front bench comfortably hold two adults or several children on each side.

The cost of new buggies varies depending on the type and size of the buggy and the kind and amount of accessories included. A new cart could cost $1,500 while a new, well-equipped mini-surrey could run up to $7,000.

With a horse for an engine, the buggy’s driver steers with a set of reins instead of a steering wheel. Still, the purpose of a buggy is the same as a motorized vehicle. It transports its passengers from one place to the other, just at a much slower speed.
Buggies may be black. But they are an important element that helps keep the Amish culture moving in every way.

amishminivanbybrucestambaugh

The newest style buggy seen is the Holmes County area is the Amish mini-buggy, affectionately called the Amish minivan.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Ohio Society of Bluebirds conference sets attendance record

thirstybluebirdsbybrucestambaugh

Eastern Bluebirds frequented a backyard water feature during a cold spell in Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Marcella Hawkins of Glenmont, Ohio has a passion for Eastern Bluebirds. That passion became productively evident Feb. 23 at the Ohio Society of Bluebirds (OSB) annual conference in Wooster, Ohio. Hawkins is the executive director of OSB.

From the record number of people who attended the conference held Feb. 23, Hawkins is not alone. More than 300 bluebird enthusiasts participated in the all day event, held at the Shisler Conference Center on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center.

doorprizesbybrucestambaugh

Adrienne Hopson-Gaston of Mansfield, Ohio surveyed the door prizes available at the Ohio Bluebird Society conference.

The day was filled with exhibits, vendors, speakers and presentations, with only a few breaks. Experts and amateurs alike shared their research and experiences regarding some aspect of bluebirds, their predators and habitats.

Darlene Sillick, a conservationist and birder from Powell, Ohio, related her years of experiences with the Ohio Wildlife Center with owls. She explained that owls could turn their head 270 degrees because they have 14 vertebrate, twice the number of humans.

Sillick said owls depend on their keen sense of hearing and large eyes to track prey. She shared that it is the force of the owl’s talons that kills its prey.

Sillick introduced Matthew Wiese of Dublin, Ohio. Wiese, 17, did a nest box project on Safari Golf Club for his Eagle Scout badge. Wiese said he put in a total of 319 volunteer hours in planning, mapping and checking the numerous bluebird boxes he installed. He also learned to band the hatchlings in several of the boxes.

jasonmartinbybrucestambaugh

Jason Martin, head of Cornell’s Nest Watch project, answered questions from participants.

Roger Downer of Wooster, a retired entomologist from the OARDC, gave a presentation on moths. He said the important connection between moths and bluebirds are the caterpillars that serve as a food source for the bluebirds. Those that survive become moths, which other birds also use as food.

Chuck Jakubchak of Strongsville, Ohio gave a pep rally style presentation about how birds know when to migrate. In the case of Eastern Bluebirds, he proposed three scenarios. He said studies show that some bluebirds migrate to the southeastern states with habitat similar to what they have in Ohio. Others only partially migrate, going to warmer but closer states where they compete for food with non-migrating birds.

leucisticredtailedhawkbybrucestambaugh

Volunteers at the Medina Raptor Center displayed several species of injured birds at the conference, including this leucistic Red-tailed Hawk.

Jakubchak said the bluebirds seen in Ohio during the winter are non-migrating.

“They stay put, perhaps because they have had a successful breeding history,” he said. “But we really don’t know for sure, other than the fact that they choose to stay.”

Jason Martin of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., spoke on the importance of documenting Eastern Bluebirds by monitoring their nesting boxes. He invited participants to join his project, Nest Watch, by keeping track of what is happening inside the nesting boxes.

“Inside the boxes,” Martin said, “is where the action is.” The Nest Watch project began in 1960 and has progressed to online reporting of nesting activity from around the country.

gregmillerbybrucestambaugh

Noted birder Greg Miller from Sugarcreek, Ohio gave an autograph to Trevor Zook of Mansfield, Ohio.

Greg Miller of Sugarcreek, Ohio closed out the session with a spellbinding account of his Big Year experience. He especially focused on the time he spent as the bird consultant on the set of the movie, The Big Year. He told personal accounts of meeting the movie producers and stars, including Jack Black, who played Miller in the movie.

Allen and Nina Bower of Britton, Mich., received OBS’s Blue Feather Award for their effort in spreading the importance of proper nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds. The group’s Wildlife Conservation Award went to Charlie Zepp of Dublin. Zepp has built more than 6,000 bluebird boxes with wood he gathered from refuge bins at construction sites.

After announcing several winners of donated raffle prizes, Hawkins thanked the volunteers and sponsors of the conference, which was free of charge for those who had preregistered.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Churches ready for another candlelight walk

musicatmillersburgbybrucesgambaugh

Brooke Hershberger entertained participants of last year’s church walk at Millersburg Mennonite Church.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The event has such a straightforward name. Yet, participating in the annual Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is so much more than that.

Yes, it is a walk, unless you choose to drive from church to church. This year six churches within walking distance in and close to Historical Downtown Millersburg, Ohio are set to host visitors on Friday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. Millersburg is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 75 miles south of Cleveland or 80 miles northeast of Columbus.

The churches are chosen for the proximity as well as their historical significance, according to Kate Findley, who is the volunteer coordinator for the event, now in its third year.

katefindleybybrucestambaugh

Kate Findley (left), coordinator for the church walk, shared about the Presbyterian Church at last year’s church walk.

“We want those who can do so to be able to walk from church to church,” Findley said. “Those who cannot walk are welcome to drive to each church.”

Besides the physical exercise, people who participate in the tour will also learn about the history of each church. Findley said representatives from each congregation would be available to share about their church and answer any questions. For example, some of the church buildings have housed different denominations over the years.

In addition, the various churches in the walk have unique architectural features that people should find interesting. From ornate bell towers to stained glass windows to intricate pulpits, each church has its own structural story.

“This is an opportunity for people who might drive by these churches frequently without ever being inside them to see what they look like,” Findley said.

specialtreebybrucestambaugh

Participants in the church walk can view special Christmas decorations and traditions at each of the participating churches.

The six churches included in the candlelight walk include Faith Lutheran Church, 187 S. Clay St.; First Presbyterian Church, 90 S. Clay St.; Grace Pointe Community Church, 164 N. Washington St.; Millersburg Christian Church, 125 N. Clay St.; Millersburg Mennonite Church, 288 E. Jackson St., and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 379 S. Crawford St.

“The walk committee is really excited to have Grace Pointe Community Church join the walk this year,” Findley said. The building formerly housed the United Methodist Church. Findley emphasized that participants can visit the churches in any order they choose. Maps of church locations will be available at each church.

“There is no starting or ending place,” Findley said. “We are encouraging people to participate in the special music and Christmas carol singing after the walk.”

A special music presentation and singing of carols at Millersburg Mennonite Church will begin at 8:15 p.m. Members of Millersburg Mennonite will perform vocal and instrumental pieces as well.

Each church will be decorated for the holidays according to the particular traditions of each congregation, Findley said. Luminaries will decorate the path to each church. Participants are also invited to relax at each church and enjoy the music presented. Participants will also have a chance to taste the culinary skills of the various church parishioners. Refreshments, including homemade Christmas cookies, will be available at each church building.

adventcandlesbybrucestambaugh

“The Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk is an excellent time for families to get in the holiday spirit,” Findley said. “It’s fun for everyone.” During the first two years of the church tour, participants represented several generations. Findley said that the church walk gained such notoriety in its first two years that people from other counties contacted her about starting one in their communities.

“I think that says a lot about the quality of the Millersburg Church Walk,” she said.

Findley noted that participants should be aware that the Grace Pointe Church is not handicapped accessible, and that parking is across the street from the church.

The walk is free and open to the public. Besides county residents, several persons from outside the Holmes County area attended the previous two walks.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Retirement: What’s that?

Bob Akins by Bruce Stambaugh

Bob Akins has worked at Briar Hill Stone Co, Glenmont, OH for 65 years.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Bob Akins loves to go to work. He supposedly retired in 1990, but Bob is a man of routines. Work was an important one, so he kept at it.

The 84-year old Killbuck, Ohio resident arrives at Briar Hill Stone in Glenmont every workday at 5:30 a.m. sharp and finishes up at noon. As of September 4, he started his 66th year at the stone company.

“I enjoy working there,” Akins said, stating the obvious. “The company wanted me to keep working.”

Just a few moments with the knowledgeable Akins gives a hint as to why Briar Hill wanted him to stay around. A shiny semi-tractor trailer pulled into the sandstone company’s yard. In one glance, Akins knew where the truck was from, what the driver would be hauling, and where the stone would be delivered.

Think that might be obvious? Think again. Akins had never seen the truck or the driver before. He just knew what shipment was due to go out that particular day. In this case, the load of custom cut sandstone was heading to Saskatchewan, Canada.

Bob Akins with stone by Bruce Stambaugh

Giant brownstone slabs are Briar Hill Stone’s signature product, used in construction around the United States.

As the company’s customer service representative, Akins has enjoyed his part-time labor for 20 years instead of working the full day like he did for 45 years at Briar Hill. With this much experience and his superb loyalty to Briar Hill, he’s entitled to a little rest.

Akins’ loyalty doesn’t just lie with his job. He and his wife, Janet, have been married for 60 years.

“I wanted to date Janet for a long time,” he said. “She finally agreed one New Year’s Eve.”

Akins in part attributes his strong work ethic to his hard childhood.

“My father died when I was nine months old,” Akins said.

Born and raised in Blissfield south of Killbuck in Coshocton, County, Akins still owns his home property there. Akins has lived in Killbuck for more than 60 years.

He graduated from Warsaw High School, now River View. He continued his education taking various courses through work.
Akins started at Briar Hill in 1947 as a production control clerk. He held that job for a decade before switching to the mill department, focusing on stone samples.

In 1960, he worked in sales, shipping and inventory control, and held that position for 21 years. He served as assistant sales manager for two years before being promoted to sales manager. He was in that important position for four years. Akins became customer service manager in 1988. He continues in that capacity today, just on a part-time basis.

Ask Akins anything about Briar Hill products, and he has an immediate and succinct answer. That could be one of the reasons the company wants Akins around.

Glenmont OH by Bruce Stambaugh

Briar Hill Stone has several stone quarries located in the hills around Glenmont, OH.

He cannot only explain the difference in the stone products, but how they are produced, where they are most used and sold. When it comes to Briar Hill stone, Akins is a walking dictionary.

In addition to his work, Akins put his experience to work for the community. He is past president of the Killbuck Chamber of Commerce, past chairperson of the Killbuck Early American Days homecoming, past financial secretary of Killbuck United Methodist Church, and was a former director of the Wayne-Holmes County Home Builders Association.

Akins is a member at Killbuck United Methodist Church. His hobbies include collecting coins, bottles and antiques. He also enjoys attending arts and crafts shows, and traveling with his wife.

As for his job, Akins sees no change in exercising his determined daily work ethic.

This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Adoptions bring joy and miracles

Yoder family by Bruce Stambaugh

Amy and Joe Yoder with their four adopted children, Hayley, Sophia, Matthew and Cameron.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Joe and Amy Yoder of rural Sugarcreek, Ohio wanted to start a family. When they were advised that pregnancy might be a questionable option for them, they had a lot to think about.

In the fall of 2003, they chose adoption. They could not know how much that decision would positively impact their lives and the lives of others. All the way, they sensed God’s leading.

Joe and Amy had decided on an international adoption. Only two months later, little Matthew in Guatemala entered their lives.

“The entire process was tedious,” Amy said. “There was major paperwork, and lots of bureaucracy to work through there.”

They applied in January and were approved in April. But they still couldn’t get custody of Matthew until October.

“We couldn’t have done it without the support of Millersburg Mennonite Church,” Amy said of the church they attended then. “They really chipped in and helped us raise funds to defer expensive adoption.”

That was eight years ago. Matthew is a growing boy and enjoying being in third grade. He also watches over his brother and sisters.

That’s right. The Yoders have adopted three other children, all from Ohio, in the last three years.

Cameron is three. Hayley is two, and the latest addition to their family, Sophia, is 3 months old. If there is such a thing, she was a surprise adoption.

When Matthew was three, Joe and Amy decided to move ahead with adopting another child, only this time doing a domestic adoption. After interviewing several adoption agencies, Just three months after applying they received a call to adopt Cameron. That was 2009. A little more than 10 months later, the adoption agency called about Hayley.

Even after the first three adoptions, Joe and Amy said they felt like God was leading them to being foster parents. On June 28, that changed. Their social worker called. Amy said she thought the call was for an Amish neighbor couple that they were helping with the adoption process.

But no, the social worker told them they had another baby if they wanted it.

“Sophia was ready to leave the hospital,” Amy said, “and they didn’t have a placement for her yet.”

Knowing that each adoption, whether foreign or domestic, is costly, the Yoders hesitated, too.

“I asked the social worker how much money and how soon they needed it?” Amy shared. Having already adopted through the agency, Amy really knew the answer to the money question.

“She told us we needed $20,000 by Saturday,” Amy said, “and this was Friday afternoon.”

The Yoders said that they prayed about it all night. By morning they had their answer.

“For some reason, we had a real peace about the decision,” Amy said, although they had no idea how they would come up with that much money on such short notice.

Yoder children by Bruce Stambaugh

Hayley, 2, Sophia, 3 months, Matthew, 8, and Cameron, 3, gathered on the living room couch long enough for a photograph before running off to play.

They agreed to take Sophia on the condition that they would pay half of the money up front, and the other half in a week. The social worker agreed.

On Monday Amy was sitting on the front porch with the four children when she received another call from the social worker. It was more good news. But Amy couldn’t believe the message.

“Don’t send us anymore money,” the social worker said. “It’s all taken care of.”

Joe and Amy had no idea what had happened. The agency wouldn’t say. The Yoders simply consider it all a miracle, the process, the money, and of course Sophia.

But wait. There is yet one more miracle, according to Amy. The final adoption always takes place exactly six months after receiving the baby, which would be Dec. 31, when the courthouse in Columbus would be closed.

“Somehow,” Amy said, “we were told that the courthouse would be open for us.”

Their appointment to officially adopt Sophia is 3 p.m., New Year’s Eve. It will likely be one more joyous celebration in the Yoder household.

This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Viewing the leaves in Ohio’s Amish country

Fall from my backyard by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Ohio’s Amish Country, particularly Holmes County, is a great place to be when the autumn leaves are at their finest. With its many stands of mixed hardwoods throughout the area, the colors can be spectacular if all the conditions are right.

The leaves are usually at their colorful peak by mid-October. Though the summer’s drought may have caused some trees to already change, they seem to be on a normal timetable for coloration. Now through the next two weeks will provide marvelous viewing.

Several great routes can be driven to see the rainbow of leaves. Just consider the rolling hills, rows of corn shocks, grazing cows, romping horses, Amish buggies and silvery streams as backdrops to the main event.

Fall farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Simply traveling the main highways that lead into the Holmes County area and crisscross the county will guarantee beautiful scenery. That’s especially true in the fall.

Trees and shocks by Bruce StambaughState Route 39 cuts Holmes County in half east to west. In many places, the road roughly follows the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin Glacier. To the south, hillsides loaded with maple, oak, walnut, beech and hickory trees are steeper than their counterparts on the opposite side of the road. The glacier filled in the valleys on the north side 10,000 years ago, leaving a gently undulating geography, with rich soil that farmers pamper for excellent crops and lush pasturelands. Stands of woodlots and tree-studded fence lines create magnificent leaf viewing.

Yellow and red by Bruce StambaughState Route 83 bisects Holmes County in half north to south. You will be dazzled by the vistas that change seemingly at every curve. Both north and south of Millersburg, the county seat, the route hugs the eastern edge of the Killbuck Valley. Impressive slopes with ample forests east and west nestle golden marshlands teeming with wildlife in between.

U.S. 62 runs diagonally across the county. From the northeast, pastoral views are aplenty, meandering through Amish farmland on each side. Because the wood industry surpassed agriculture as the number one employer in Holmes County a few years ago, trees are treasured and properly cared for.

Fall scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Follow U.S. 62 from Millersburg southwest toward Killbuck and on to Danville in Knox County and you might think you are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In truth, you are. The road follows the area’s main waterway, Killbuck Creek, and then climbs the hills into the Mohican River watershed.

Woods and hills by Bruce Stambaugh

The lesser traveled state, county and township roads provide equal opportunity viewing when it comes to autumn leaves. State Route 520 from Killbuck through Glenmont’s seven hills and on to State Route 514 especially provides a pretty show if the timing is right.

In the east, State Routes 241, 515, 557 and 643 all are winding, hilly and gorgeous in the fall. Farmsteads with white houses and coffin red barns are the norm in any direction on these roads.

Red barn red tree by Bruce Stamaugh

For those who desire more than just riding and looking, the area has plenty to offer. At the Wilderness Center off of U.S. 250 west of Wilmot, you can hike through prairie grass and virgin forests, and explore an education center, where there is fun for all ages.

Mohican State Park near Loudonville affords numerous trails with incredible overlooks to the steep Mohican River gorge. The greens of the thousands of white pines nicely compliment the colorful mixed hardwood forest.

For bicyclists, the Holmes County Trail offers 16 miles of lovely trials from Fredericksburg to Killbuck. Hikers are welcome, too. The trail runs along the Killbuck through the center of the county until it turns southwest toward Killbuck. The wildlife, birding and leaf viewing can all be consumed simultaneously. A note of caution, however. Horse and buggies also use the trail on one side while bikers and hikers are on the other.

Everyone has their favorite spot to view the changing leaves. You’ll enjoy finding yours.

Fall in Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

This article appeared in Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Bible antiquities on display

By Bruce Stambaugh

Antiquities by Bruce Stambaugh

Dr. Rev. Kenneth Walther showed some of the antiquities that will be on display at his church near Millersburg, OH.

During October, Holmes County, Ohio area residents have a unique opportunity to view firsthand biblical antiquity items dating back to 2,000 B.C.

The church’s pastor for the past 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Walther has arranged for multiple items representative of the first five books of the Bible to be viewed by the public and members of his congregation. All of the items are on loan from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland.

How was a church of 100 parishioners in Millersburg able to acquire such a collection, even on a loan basis? The answer is easy. In addition to serving as the pastor of the church, Walther is also an adjunct professor at the Ashland Seminary. He had taught Bible courses there for 33 years prior to his retirement in 2009.

“Really, the reason the artifacts are here is in conjunction with The Story Bible study project we are holding in the church through April,” Walther said. “The entire church, youth through adults, is studying the same scriptural passages each week.”

Walther said the antiquity items, which range from samples of parchment writing to clay vessels, are part of a 1,500-item collection at the seminary. He said he gives tours on a regular basis there.

“This was really a spontaneous idea,” he explained, “to give people a firsthand look at what some of the Old Testament Bible characters would have used in their everyday life.”

Items will be on display each Sunday in October at the church from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On Oct. 28, a special open house will be held where additional artifacts can be viewed between noon and 5 p.m. Walther will be available from 3-5 p.m. that same day to take questions.

Walther said the items span the lives of Abraham, Joshua, David and Solomon. He said the items represent three specific cultural areas, Cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, pieces from Egypt and artifacts from the land of Canaan.

“Mesopotamia is the land from where Abraham originated,” Walther said. “We have pieces of colored mummy wrapping from Egypt, and various practical items like jugs from Canaan.”

Specifically, Walther said, the display includes clay tablets from Ancient Mesopotamia, scribe boxes, stone inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and fragments of pottery from Egypt. Items from Canaan include water jugs, lamps, bowls, pilgrim flasks and a variety of cosmetic items that were used thousands of years ago.

Walther said the church decided to share both the study and the artifacts with the general public. He said people could participate in The Story, which is an international study, each Sunday.

“We will discuss the lessons including some of the objects during Sunday school, which begins at 9 a.m.,” he said. His sermon will expand on the themes presented each Sunday.

Walther said the seminary purchased all of the items from private collections and antiquities dealers. All items were obtained by those sources prior to the 1967 six-day war in Israel. Since then, he said, such items are prohibited from being taken from the country.

Walther said The Story is an attempt to introduce people to the Bible, history, and background and interpretation of the cultures of biblical times. He said study materials are available for entire families. The Story was written by scholars from various denominations and published by Zondervan Press.

“We even have a special New International Version Bible to accompany The Story materials that focus on particular events of the Bible,” Walther said.

He said the sampling of items on display at St. John’s Church provides a physical handle on the picture of the Bible. The church is located at 8670 state Route 39 west of Millersburg.

Church by Bruce Stambaugh

St. John’s Church of Millersburg, OH.

The story appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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A most unusual birthday gift

The donkey by Bruce Stambaugh

Robert Troyer, Millersburg, OH, received this unusual birthday gift from friends.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Out of town friends of Robert and Edna Troyer of rural Millersburg, Ohio kept promising him a donkey. When his birthday arrived this summer, he finally got it, sort of.

Around the time of his July 25th birthday, a group of friends from Ottawa, Ohio came to visit. Robert, 67, and Edna, 66, were sitting with about a dozen people in a circle on their concrete driveway when some of the visitors excused themselves to check on the “donkey.”

Robert and Edna are Amish, and their “English” friends thought they could use a donkey even though the couple owns a business, not a farm.

“I was a little suspicious,” Robert said. “I got curious when people started to disappear.” In fact when Robert went to see what was going on, he was politely told to sit back down.

Cement pad by Bruce Stambaugh

The “donkey” was delivered to Robert Troyer on the cement driveway in front of his home.


Soon, the oldest in the group, Leo Schroeder, came riding down the drive on the “donkey.” In truth, the contraption was a jerry-rigged bicycle and hand push lawn mower. To add to the joke, Schroeder wore Robert’s straw hat for effect.

And what an effect it had, too. Everyone burst out laughing.

“You can actually ride the thing,” Robert said, “but it doesn’t turn very well.”

A rotary blade mower head serves as the front wheel with its handle attached to where the front bicycle wheel should be. The rest of the “donkey” is a regular push pedal bike.

About 20 years ago, the group was looking for a harness shop. One of the group members needed harness items for some ponies.

Originally the group consisted of seven couples. In their search, they stopped at a home near Walnut Creek and asked about a harness shop. They were told to keep driving north on state Route 515 to Indian Hill Harness, just north of Trail. They found what they were looking for at Robert’s shop, and they have been friends ever since.

“Robert was a work,” Edna said. “I waited on them and they later told me that they took to us because I was handicapped.”

Edna suffered a spinal cord injury when she was 18.

“I fell through a hole in a barn and onto concrete,” she said. “I was paralyzed at first, but later could walk.” Edna said that as she aged and after an unsuccessful knee surgery, she needed a wheelchair full time.

“They are all members of the Farm Bureau,” Edna said of the group of friends. “They meet here in February, July and August.” Edna said that none of the group farms anymore, but they stay interested in farming.

Harnesses by Bruce Stambaugh

The harnesses are just a sample of some of the custom horse harnesses Robert Troyer makes.


Robert and Edna, who have been married for 46 years, have become such close friends with the group that they go on overnight outings with them, including to other states.

“One of the members even bought a big van so I would be able to accompany them,” Edna said. “It is just he and his wife, so he didn’t really need a van.”

With their gregarious and easy-going personalities, it is easy to like both Robert and Edna. They said they enjoy sharing their hospitality with others.

When she learned that one of the group members likes pineapple pie, Edna baked one for him.

“He liked it so much,” she said, “he ate the whole pie in one day.”

Edna said that the group has even hosted them in Ottawa, located in western Ohio. She and one of their friends, Sharon Lammers, even share the same birthday, August 16.

Edna keeps busy painting scenes and decorating cups, glasses and wooden plaques with flowers and birds. She said she taught herself to paint, and her paintings are available to purchase at Behalt!, on County Road 77 near Berlin.

Robert said most of his business is supplying the Walsh Company in Brookfield, Wis. with fine show harnesses. He had worked for Mast Leather in Walnut Creek, Ohio until Walsh bought the business in 1990, the same year he started his harness shop.

Edna appropriately summed up why their friendship with the group has lasted so long.

“Despite your situation,” she said, “you have to keep going. Life is too short.”

Paintings by Bruce Stambaugh

Edna Troyer’s paintings are available at Behalt! near Berlin, OH.


This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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More than a benefit bake sale

Baked goods by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

This could have been the bake sale of all benefit bake sales. As impressive as they are, the numbers alone don’t tell the entire story.

On June 3, the life of 2-year-old Betty Ann Weaver changed forever. Her left hand was accidentally mangled in a lawn mower. She lost all of her digits, with only a couple of stubs remaining.

Betty Ann returned to her parents’ home four miles west of Holmesville, Ohio on July 4. Her nine brothers and sisters and her parents, Roy and Lovina Weaver, were glad to have her back home.

After a month in the hospital and with rehab visits ongoing, medical bills accumulated. Her maternal grandmother, Ada Yoder, was determined to help. The gregarious woman, who lives with her husband, Wayne, a mile west of Holmesville, had a big idea to raise some funds for her granddaughter. She shared her vision, and soon a bake sale was planned.

“We had lots of help,” Ada said. In fact, four Amish churches donated hundreds of baked items that were sold August 16 and 17.

“There were some good looking items that we sold,” Ada said, “including a square angel food cake.” As delicious looking as all those items were, the homemade donuts were the real draw.

“We used 11 bags of donut mix,” Ada said. “Each bag made 50 dozen donuts. That’s a lot of donuts!

“The first day we started making donuts at 7 a.m. and finished at 9:30 p.m.” Ada explained. The next day the process began all over again.

“We started at 3 a.m. and finished at noon,” she said. “We had people here for donuts at 5:30 a.m. already.” The donut making finished up that evening with another round of frying them in coconut oil that lasted from 4-8 p.m.

Bake sale sign by Bruce StambaughAda said customers had to wait until the donuts cooled enough for them to be glazed and boxed. To generate orders, she had distributed fliers about the donut and bake sale to several area businesses. Many bought multiple dozens to share with employees.

“We had pre-orders for all the different kinds of donuts we made,” Ada said. “We did raspberry filled, strawberry filled, Bavarian cream and glazed.”

“I made six kettles of raspberry filling,” she said.

Ada said she was overwhelmed with both the amount of help she had and the response. The last baked good item, a regular, round angel food cake, was sold at noon on August 17. The sale was held at the Weaver’s home.

“We were very pleased with the results,” Ada said. “We made in excess of $5,000 the first day alone.”

The money will be used to help defer medical expenses for her granddaughter. Donations may still be sent to Wayne Yoder, 9378 County Road 329, Holmesville 44633.

The article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Carl Maxwell leads a life worth living


By Bruce Stambaugh

Given his many maladies and his age, Carl Maxwell, 77, of Berlin, Ohio, would have every right to simply give up on life. Instead, he has done just the opposite, and many people are the beneficiaries.

The list of all the good Maxwell has done in his life far exceeds his list of illnesses. Kidney dialysis three times a week, congestive heart failure, diabetes, quadruple bypass surgery on his heart, suffering four heart attacks, staph infections and skin cancer head the list.

Maxwell hasn’t let any of that stop him. If anything, they serve as incentives to live life to the fullest everyday. He does so personally and through several community organizations for which he volunteers.

“I love life,” Maxwell said. “I want to do everything I possibly can while I can.”

Carl Maxwell by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell

Maxwell has and is doing a lot by any measure. His accomplishments would be impressive for someone in excellent health.

Maxwell was a charter member of the East Holmes Lions Club and is a charter member of the newly established Berlin Lions Club. He served as president of the East Holmes club, and was recently presented the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellow award by Lions Club International.

“I’m especially interested in the sight aspect of Lions Club,” Maxwell said. Lions Clubs collect used eyeglasses and distribute them to needy people around the world.

Maxwell has served as either president or vice president of the East Holmes Fire and EMS District board since its inception in 2000. He is the at large member of the five-member board.

Maxwell, along with his wife of 53 years, Lorene, volunteer at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg twice a week.

“On Tuesdays,” Maxwell said, “I cut rages with Paul Roth.” He and Lorene also help out as cashiers on Thursday evenings.

Maxwell has also taught Sunday school at several levels at Berlin Mennonite Church for many years.

“I like people,” Maxwell simply said.

If he did slow down, no one would question his decision. Maxwell goes for kidney dialysis three times a week in Wooster.

“Counting my time on the road,” he said, “each visit takes eight hours.” Maxwell is not complaining about that.

“I didn’t really want to do dialysis,” Maxwell said. “But I got out voted 5-1 on that.” His loving wife and four sons all wanted him to do the treatments. Maxwell drew the line there.

“I had an opportunity for a kidney transplant,” Maxwell said, “but I turned it down.” He said he felt someone younger than him should have a chance at the available kidney. “I couldn’t live with myself if I had taken a kidney that some 20-year old needed,” Maxwell said frankly.

Carl and car by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell showed off his salmon and grey 1958 Buick.


Maxwell doesn’t spend all of his time volunteering. He also has some heart-felt hobbies in which he has invested much time and money. Maxwell, who once had 14 antique cars, now has three old cars and a 2002 Corvette, which he calls his “toy.” He occasionally drives it to his dialysis sessions.

At the peak of his car collecting days, Maxwell served for 16 years on the regional board of directors of the Antique Car Collectors of Canton. Maxwell also has the world’s largest collection of Sinclair Oil products and memorabilia, which was featured earlier this year in an international collection magazine. From old gas and oilcans to large advertising signs to refurbished gasoline pumps, Maxwell’s collection is clearly one-of-a-kind. He has gathered items from many states and even other countries.

That extensive collection stems from his life’s work.

Sinclair signs by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell has two triple-check Sinclair Oil signs displayed at his barn. He said only a handful remain.


Maxwell worked 36 years for Holmes Oil, which originally distributed Sinclair products. He started as a truck driver, but after six years, he and Maynard Hummel became co-owners of the business. Maxwell sold his half interest in the business after 30 years.

“I have had an unbelievable life,” Maxwell readily shared. He credits two women for those experiences, his wife and his late mother, Edna Weaver Maxwell.

“I owe a lot to others, especially my wife,” he said. “She’s just been amazing.” He said Lorene has been an incredible help to him in his many times of need. Maxwell said he recognizes his physical limits and takes the time to rest so he can continue to keep his busy pace.

“I want to do everything I possibly can,” Maxwell said. “Life is still worth living, and it’s too short to be negative.”

Carl and pumps by Bruce Stambaugh

Carl Maxwell has collected Sinclair Oil signs, cans and even gas pumps.

This article appeared in the July 2, 2012 edition of the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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