Holmes County, home to the world’s largest Amish community, has its share of attractions and shopping. But as of last May, another venue reopened in the village of Walnut Creek. The German Culture Museum has been open in the town since the early 1980’s with a collection of historical items pertaining to the arrival of the Amish in the area, Amish origins in Europe, as well as local traditions and lore.
Housed in a small house where President William McKinley once slept, the original German Culture Museum was a the brainchild of several of Walnut Creek township’s history fanatics, particularly the Schlabach Family, Wayne Hostetler and Roscoe Miller. With the blessings of the Mennonite Information Center (known for the Behalt cyclorama), the team started assembling collections of items that belonged to the early pioneers of Walnut Creek, as well as photos, books, and other antiques. Stanley Kaufman, a former art professor living in Berlin, expertly arranged each room of the little house to describe different aspects of life in the township from the early 1800’s to the present day. Guided tours were available during the weekend.
As years passed, the Museum directors saw that the little blue building would never be large enough to house all of the collection. There was no place to display a surrey, wagons or the numerous local furniture pieces that were housed in two dark damp storage facilities. The old building was neither climate-controlled, weather-tight or handicap accessible – all problematic issues. When land was donated by the Schlabach Family for a community building, the idea began to circulate to relocate the German Culture Museum.
In May of 2007, work began on a brand new Walnut Creek Community building to house a branch of the Holmes County library, a community meeting room and the new home of the German Culture Museum. Entirely paid for by a community fund drive, the building was completed and work began on moving the extensive and fragile collection from the old museum to its new basement home across the street. It took quite some time and a lot of grunt work to clean, build displays and arrange the antiques, but the museum reopened in the summer of 2010.
Rooms have been built to feature the old Kitchen, Bedroom (complete with rope bed and straw tick mattress), Dining Room, Textiles and Tool Collection. In addition, you will be able to see a small replica of a European Hiding Place where Mennonites hid from persecutors during the Reformation and the completely restored and Rockefeller Surrey. A museum feature is a replica of the cabin built by first settler in Walnut Creek, Jonas Stutzman who was known as “Der Weiss.” On a visit, you may even experience a conversation with the old fellow in the form of a Der Weiss reenactor.
Oh, by the way, Ohio’s newest covered bridge over the Walnut Creek has been named Stutzman Crossing in honor of Jonas. To find out why Jonas was called “Der Weiss,” view an interview with “Der Weiss” at the Grand Opening of the bridge last November.
At the new museum location, you’ll be now be able to tour at your own pace, but feel free to ask questions of the museum attendants. Expect to spend an hour there (or more if you are really a history buff), and take your time to view all the fascinating variety of items on display. You won’t need to be a local or a member of the older generation to enjoy the experience – all ages and school groups will find this to be a step back into time.
As of spring 2011, the museum plans to be open on Saturdays, with possible additional days throughout the week. Since the museum is staffed entirely by volunteers, entrance fees are on a donation basis – a great idea for families on a budget. To inquire about hours or book special tours, please call 330-893-2510
If you’re looking for an economical and educational activity, the German Culture Museum should be a planned stop on your trip to Walnut Creek or Amish country. The museum is located on Olde Pump Street, just around the corner from the well-known Der Dutchman Restaurant in the basement of the brand-new library building. It is handicap-accessible and parking is free.