By Nancy Huth
The house next to the present Ice Cream Depot on Route 608 has served as home to the Middlefield Historical Society for 34 years. At their banquet on Oct. 14, the group honored retiring President Rick Seyer, who has served in this capacity for 10 years. At the banquet Rick was recognised for his service, as was retiring officer Gilberta Town, who was referred to as the heart and soul of the Historical Society. The newly elected president will be Susan Sullivan.
When Seyer spoke, he gave a short history of the building. Built in 1818, it has served as a hotel, private residence, boarding house and printing shop under Garland Shetler, and boasts of being the oldest building in Middlefield. To save and preserve the building, it was sold to the Village of Middlefield in 1983 under the urging of then-mayor Rick Sayer for $60,000. The Historical Society was formed and the building leased to them. Fund raising events were so successful that in 1985 a “mortgage burning” was held.
Since Middlefield has the fourth largest Amish community in the USA, this part of our heritage was fittingly represented at the banquet by the serving of an Amish Wedding Dinner with all the trimmings. It was followed by a presentation by John Gingerich on the historical background of our Amish neighbors, as well as on the two-year old Amish Historical Library, now located on Shedd Road.
Mr. Gingerich, who himself has Amish ancestors, is an avid collector of Bibles, song hymnals and prayer books, some dating back to the 1500s. His comprehensive collection is on view at the library, 15240 Shedd Road, along with other Amish books and memorabilia. Call 440-682-0606 to arrange a visit. Mr. Gingerich’s power point presentation gave an excellent overview, starting in 1520 Switzerland, home to the first group of Swiss Brethren, later referred to as Anabaptists for their belief in adult baptism, to the year 1727 when the first Amish settled in the USA. Mr. Gingerich was assisted at times by Sam Weaver, a direct descendent of the first Amishman to settle in Geauga County in 1886. Mr. Weaver pointed out that the Amish now form 1 percent of the U.S. population with 300,000 nationwide and approximately 18,000 in Geauga and surrounding counties. With 90 schools and an Amish population doubling every 20 years, the Historical Society recognizes this important part of our Middlefield heritage.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Middlefield Historical Society, call 440-632-0400 and leave a message.