The Schumaker Homestead8350 Bixel Road
Bluffton , OH 45817
419-358-4822 | www.swissmennonite.wordpress.com
The Schumaker Homestead
The Schumaker Homestead recreates the 1843 Bluffton-area home of Christian and Barbara Schumaker. The historically furnished home, bank barn, garden, workshop, and summer kitchen offer glimpses into the daily lives of nineteenth-century Swiss immigrants.
The Schumaker Homestead documents the family farm of Christian and Barbara Schumaker and their extended family, who settled in the present-day Bluffton area. Operated by the Swiss Community Historical Society, the house has been restored to its original floorplan and serves as an excellent example of Swiss Mennonite settlement in 1840s Ohio. Several pieces of furniture have been preserved from the Schumaker family and many other period pieces have been donated by members of the Swiss Mennonite Community in Ohio to furnish the Homestead. Docents offer tours of the home and buildings every Saturday during the summer, explaining how each section of the Homestead would have been used in daily life on a working farm.
In the workshop, photographs document the construction of contemporary buildings and visitors can view each step of fabricating a wooden roof shingle by hand. Most of the materials used to build the Homestead were sourced from the property, including the foundation stone. Black walnut trees provided the lumber for the house, and hardwood forests were still being felled in the 1890s for sale in Europe once railroads made shipping the massive trunks possible. The smokehouse and drying shed in the garden would have been used to preserve the gain from hunting and farming and show the natural resources that attracted migrants to Ohio in the early nineteenth century. A thriving network of Mennonite families and churches remains in Ohio to this day.
The Mennonite faith emerged from the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. A minority in Reformation-era Europe at the time of their founding, the Anabaptists were persecuted by civil and religious authorities for their practice of adult baptism. Switzerland was an early center of Anabaptist communities. Some Anabaptist groups were nicknamed “Mennonites” after clergyman Menno Simms in the late sixteenth century, and the name has persisted. Mennonite immigration to the American colonies began in 1688 and continued sporadically for the next 150 years. It is estimated that by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860, Ohio and Indiana had been settled by at least 500 Mennonites who traveled directly from Switzerland, plus more from the eastern United States.
Originally a wine merchant in Basel, Switzerland, Christian and his family practiced the Mennonite faith. Hearing of favorable land prices in Ohio and worried about religious persecution in Europe, the Schumakers emigrated to the United States along with their three adult children. Basel was a key center of Mennonite emigration in the 1830s and 40s, along with Alsace-Loraine and Bern. The Homestead offers an ideal opportunity to consider differences between Swiss-German designs for homes and barns in contrast to many other areas of Ohio settled by Anglo-American migrants with English building traditions.
Notes for Travelers
Schumaker Farm is a fifteen-minute scenic drive from State Route 75. There is grass lot parking available and a single restroom on-site. While visitors will enjoy exploring the grounds and house, the docent-led tour provides depth to the historical interpretation and the connections each artifact has to the historical and present-day Mennonite community. Touring the Schumaker home requires navigating several staircases, some of which are steep, and the barn is a short walk from the house up a gentle incline. Major annual events at Schumaker Farm include the recreation of nineteenth-century Christmas sing-alongs and the Fall Festival, where the outdoor oven is operated, and visitors can try their hand at historical farm implements.
Additional ResourcesDyck, Cornelius J. An Introduction to Mennonite History: Third Edition . Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993.
Lowen, Royden and Steven M. Nolt. Seeking Places of Peace: A Global Mennonite History . Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2012.