About 40 miles east of Cincinnati the ironing board flatness of Ohio's corn country gives way to the deep fissures of the ancient Appalachians. Rock-ribbed ridges criss-cross the countryside and Brush Creek and its tributaries carve deep creases into the land. Historically this has been one of Ohio's poorest areas.
The Amish saw something different, less hostile and more homey, when they first settled in these hills back in the mid-70s. The initial families arrived from the state of Delaware and more crowded parts of northern Ohio to begin a new community. Since their arrival they have added some economic energy to the community with bustling businesses, from bakeries to furniture shops to pallet and metal works. The community is known officially as the "Wheat Ridge" settlement and consists of four church districts and three schools. In the days ahead I'll share some scenes and stories from this special settlement.
Atlee Hershberger has lived in these hills for the past 28 years. He and his wife, a petite, friendly woman with white hair and wearing a cornflower blue dress, raised their brood of children in the Wheat Ridge settlement. Horses are beefier here, muscular from pulling buggies up some steep hills that have earned these ridges the moniker "Little Smokies". Hershberger lives in a cluster of homes in the speck of a hamlet called Harshaville. The crumb of a community has clung to the banks of Cherry Fork Creek since before the Civil War. During that tumultuous time Confederate marauder John Hunt Morgan and his band of rebels ransacked the area but spared the historic Harshaville Covered Bridge which still stands today, recently renovated.
"This is the toughest winter we've experienced in our 28 years here," Hershberger recalled.
Massive icicles clinged to Hershberger's house. "We had one fall off this morning that was 54 inches long!" Hershberger marveled.
The Hershbergers moved here in the spring of 1986 and were welcomed with eight inches of snow on April 10, 1986 (something I scrambled to look up in weather records, but couldn't find...difficult to find exact were data from this rural area so many years ago). Since that first year in the hollows of Adams County, Atlee has been repairing and building buggies. He only recently closed up shop as his health has not been the best.
"I'm getting too old," he joked. But he still goes down to his shop to tinker. But it's been Hershberger who has kept buggies in the Wheat Ridge community on the road and in solid shape.
"A buggy that is taken good care of will last 35 - 40 years," Hershberger said.
The Adams County settlement uses a combination of closed and open buggies. Unlike some of the Swiss Amish settlements, the open buggies aren't mandatory, they are just used to enjoy the wonderfully temperate climate of deep southern Ohio during the summer and autumn. This is one of the open buggies used in the Wheat Ridge settlement.
Coming Next: Adams County Journal, Part II