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Plain City Peace Books Offer A Literary Representation of Our Village.

A few months ago, I happened across an article by Ken Gordon in The Columbus Dispatch about the Der Dutchman Heritage Day festivity. I was so pleased to see an article about a Plain City event that I tore the page from the Weekender section to save. My excitement quickly turned to dismay, however, when I read Mr. Gordon’s comments about how Plain City had been named.

Mr. Gordon incorrectly wrote, “Though the village was platted as Westminster in 1818 and the name changed to Pleasant Valley in 1823, Plain City was given its current name in 1877 because of the many Amish and Mennonite families (or ‘plain people’) who settled in the area later in the 19th century.”

The information was totally wrong, as I knew from listening to my good friend, Mary Mitchell, at many Plain City Historical Society meetings. It used to drive Mary crazy when people said Plain City was named for the “plain people” as it was not true.

Plain City is actually named (as Mary would tell you–and told me often) Plain City because it is located on the Big Darby Plain.

The first Amish settlements did not arrive in Plain City until 1896, long after the name had been changed in 1877 to Plain City.

I quickly typed an email to Ken Gordon and set him straight on Plain City history. He sent a gracious reply and said I was the third person who had written him about his mistake. Way to go Plain City history buffs.

You can read the Heritage Day article HERE.

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In the process of researching the exact year the Amish arrived in Plain City, I stumbled across a set of books by Stephanie Reed called the Plain City Peace series. The two books, The Bargain and The Bachelor, take place in Plain City and Hilliard in the 1970’s following the Kent State riots. I quickly ordered a copy of both books, as I love seeing our small village represented in literature. Diane Christner wrote a trio of books set in Plain City called The Plain City Bridesmaids, which I read and reviewed on this blog. The drugstore was even featured in one of her books.

The protagonist in Stephanie Reed’s Plain City Peace books is Betsie Troyer. Betsie stays with an English or non-Amish family to learn the trade of harness making after her cousin, who was set to buy the harness shop, is sent to serve in a government hospital since he has “conscientious objector” status and cannot be drafted to the Vietnam War. Betsie intends to learn all she can about harness making and teach her cousin upon his return. The harness shop is not in Plain City, where Betsie lives, but in Hilliard, and someone must pick Betsie up by car at the start of each work week. I laughed to read that Hilliard used to be called Hilliard’s Station and that some older people still call Hilliard, Hilliards, because of the former name. I have known several people who say “Hilliards” and I never knew it was because of that older name.

I was delighted to learn that the story behind Betsie Troyer was based upon a former resident of Plain City, Rachel Miller. Rachel used to own and run the harness shop on Route 42 just south of the drugstore. The building has since been torn down, as the house sold when Rachel’s sisters died and she moved in with relatives due to poor health. Rachel also just recently died this past April. 

Our former delivery driver, Paul Carpenter, became acquainted with Rachel when he took prescriptions throughout the community. Rachel was Old Order Amish and did not drive. Church services were held in her home on a rotating basis when the minister traveled to the small remaining Amish community in Plain City. She lived with two of her sisters and continued to make harnesses for the Amish and Mennonite communities for many years.

Because she did not drive, Paul and his wife, Jean, would take Rachel to Holmes County to pick up the leather goods she needed to make her harnesses. She and her sisters developed a friendship with Paul and Jean and even made Jean a quilt in appreciation for the many trips in the Carpenter car.

Stephanie Reed, who lives in Dublin, wrote an article about Rachel Miller for The Madison Press, which inspired her to write the Plain City Peace series. Ms. Reed has also written two books about the Rankin House and family in Ripley, Ohio. The Rankins were abolitionists who helped slaves escaping Kentucky find their way on the Underground Railroad to Canada and freedom. Those two books, Across the Wide River and The Light Across the River, offer insight into life in Ohio in the early 1800’s before the Civil War and are based on the true lives of the Rankin family.

To discover more about Stephanie Reeds’ adventures in Plain City, read her posting Travel Amish Country Roads with Stephanie Reed on Amish Wisdom HERE.

You can also visit her web site HERE and LIKE her on Facebook HERE.

Read Stephanie Reed’s article about Rachel Miller, which originally appeared in The Madison Press HERE.

If you would like to buy copies of The Bargain and The Bachelor, please go HERE.

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