In 1996, we lived near the highest point in Ohio—Campbell Hill, elevation 1535 feet. We bought a Logan County spec home built by Amishman-turned-Mennonite Sam Eicher. Mr. Eicher had a Bobcat excavator; painted on it in dark blue script was “Grandpa’s Toy.” He’d left his Amish ways far behind, but occasionally we’d see Amish buggies in Bellefontaine.
The way I remembered it, Hardin County Amish country and Mary’s Amish Bakery were just north of our old house, but the drive took an hour. Fortunately, the weather that day in early February was great, with sunshine, temperatures in the 50s, and no snow in the forecast.
We took US-33 west to Marysville, where we picked up US-31 north to Mt. Victory, setting our destination for Pfeiffer Station General Store, 19950 County Road 144, Kenton, OH 43326. Once before, our Garmin had gotten us as far as this old-timey grocery/knick-knack store that offers everything from dried peas to Ohio State Buckeye memorabilia. When we failed to find Mary’s Amish Bakery that time, we’d asked for help at this store. The cashier said she’d never heard of it. Disappointed, we bought some of her stock and found out later we’d been less than five minutes from Mary’s Bakery.
This time, I had a map of Hardin County with Amish shops marked and camera at the ready. We headed west out of Mt. Victory on Ohio 273 and north on 179, where several shops selling Amish goods seemed to be located. Alas, all the merchandise mentioned on that road was sold by one family, and no one was outside except a boy sledding alone. After a couple of similar results, we decided to refer to the map only when we came to a crossroads and to enjoy the snowy views as we wended our way to Mary’s. Occasionally we did see people. Friendly people! Many waved vigorously, but I couldn’t wave and take pictures at the same time. Maybe that was the plan.
We saw signs advertising swings, gliders, picnic tables, indoor furniture, maple syrup (we saw people tending a huge kettle), hand-woven baskets, harness shops, and brown eggs. The shoe repair sign in the photo below was the best one of all.
When I’d taken lots of pictures, we drove to Mary’s Market, an unassuming Amish Bakery sign marking the faded red outbuilding. The street address is 12813 Co. Rd. 265, Kenton, OH 43326. If you take the slight fork right from Pfeiffer’s Station General Store onto Co Rd 265 at the Wheeler’s Tavern sign, you’ll soon see Mary’s on your left.
Inside, Mary and her assistant worked lickety-split as several English cars arrived at once, the customers having but one goal: cinnamon rolls. The place smelled amazing. While I took pictures, my husband boldly struck up a conversation with Mary.
“Do you have any cinnamon rolls?”
Long pause. “Can I buy some?”
Mary whisked to the huge black wood-burning oven, snatched an aluminum pan of six rolls from the warmer, frosted them, and whacked the pan in a white cardboard box. She handed it to my husband and he paid less than five bucks. A lady customer confided in us about the pie prices—crazy low!—while Mary chatted with her assistant in Deitsh, probably about the crazy English who paid too much for everything.
I asked Mary if I could take a photo of her oven, fascinated by the ash bucket. “Yes, I will go over there,” she said, making it very plain she did not wish to be in the picture.
Would I drive to visit Mary’s Bakery again? Probably not. But it is fascinating to see how she turns out her baked goods as fast as the customers demand them on a Saturday morning. Her house on the other side of the driveway was as neat as a pin, with braided rag rugs hanging on the front porch in the winter sunshine.
On the way to Mary’s and back we saw lots of pretty sights, but what we heard was best of all. When you see a buggy approaching, lower your window. The clop of horse hooves echoes for miles in the quiet. A drive to Hardin County is a peaceful way to spend a Saturday!
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