I wrote a post today about author Stephanie Reed's book, The Bargain. That got me thinking about Plain City, which I, coincidentally, just passed through last week on the way to my sister-in-law's house. Plain City, Ohio was once home to a thriving Amish community. The first Amish arrived in 1896 and the settlement bustled with activity well into the 20th century. What became the Plain City settlement's undoing was its proximity to Columbus. The Interstate 270 loop is only about 10 miles from the once rural tracts of land around Plain City and Amity that the Amish once farmed. The low-key Amish were no match for suburban sprawl . The first waves began moving out of Plain City in the 1940s, followed by another huge exodus in the 1960s, with the last families leaving in the 1976.
Interestingly, I remember seeing a sign for a "harness shop" on US 42 outside of Plain City sometime after the last major exodus in 1976, perhaps in the early 1980s. This harness shop is the one that Stephanie Reed's novel The Bargain is based upon.
There is still a robust Plain presence in the area. Many Amish migrated to other nearby Plain churches, primarily Mennonite. There are still lots of businesses with names reflecting the owner's Amish heritages; Yutzy, Beachy, Yoder, etc. Der Dutchman operates a popular restaurant on US 42 which pays homage to the area's Amish past. US 42 used to be dotted with Amish restaurants, but Der Dutchman is the last one standing. This sign along US 42 and I-70 still remains, a picture of a big iron kettle once advertising hearty, homemade Amish fare. The building now houses a dentist's office. but the lonely sign is a testament to a different time.
The Dutch Kitchen bustled with business until 2011 when it too closed its doors.
An interesting footnote is that long after the official end of the community in the 1970s, some hold-outs remained. The harness shop on US 42 was run by an Amish widow well into the 2000s. This is the article that inspired Stephanie Reed's The Bargain. I was told as recently as 2 - 3 years ago that several Old Order Amish widows remained in Plain City, surrounded by suburbia, but wanting to live out their days in their beloved town. New Order Amish clergy from Belle Center would travel to minister to them once a month. But I am not sure if any of the widows are still alive, I'd love to find out. A new book seems to suggest maybe that chapter is closed. Allen Bontreger's The Amish At Plain City, 1896 - 2011 sounds like an interesting read. I'll try to get my hands on a copy and report back!