Kidron is an Amish tourist attraction
George W. Davis
As for small, Kidron and its new tourist attraction, Sonnenberg
Village, is surely one of the smallest combined areas in Ohio, but you wouldn’t know that from talking to those who live in the quiet Hamlet.
Wayne County Sheriff Travis Hutchinson noted that the hamlet is just 0.0378 parts of a square mile, while the relocated and renovated village of Sonnenberg, just north of Kidron, is located on just 5, 15 acres off Hackett Road.
However, residents claim Kidron as their hometown, even though their residences would then make the town 13 to 14 square miles, community leaders said recently.
Located in the southwest corner of Sugar Creek Township in Wayne County, Kidron is an Amish tourist attraction filled with people touring the town’s historic sites, shopping for materials and supplies needed for their homes or jobs, or simply seeking peace and quiet, except for the oft-heard clip. -clop of horses and buggies so prevalent in the surrounding hills.
Communities bordering Kidron include Dalton to the northeast, Mount Eaton to the southeast, Apple Creek to the west, and Fredericksburg to the southwest. US 30 runs east and west just north of Kidron, and County Road 52 (Kidron Road) runs north and south through Kidron. State Route 250 is just south of the community, which is considered the largest Amish tourist center in Wayne County.
Kidron was originally settled in 1819 by Swiss Mennonites wishing to escape religious persecution and poor agricultural conditions in the Sonnenberg region of Switzerland. They were known as “the quiet people of the country”. Reaching America, they named their land across Kidron Road from Lehman’s Hardware Sonnenberg, and the connotation of “quiet people” applied here too. The name was changed from Sonnenberg to Kidron around 1834.
• Village of Sonnenberg is the community’s newest attraction, with nine relocated and renovated structures on display at 13497 Hackett Road, just south of US 30 and Kidron Road. Retired Wayne County Judge Ray Leisy is the company’s project manager, who said most of the rebuilding is complete.
The buildings on site and their original construction dates include: Sonnenberg Visitor Center, formerly Sonnenberg’s Third Church built in 1907; The Sommer/Bixler House, (1832); The Moser Building (1915), which will be a printing house when completed; The Albertson/Zuercher House (1833); Tschantz Log Cabin (1824); Lehman Spring House (1854); Lehman House (1838); the Gerber/Nussbaum barn (1847); and the Sommer Building (1906) with an overhead sign for the FR Saurer blacksmith shop.
• The village will be open on August 12 and 13, while Kidron Community Historical Society has a special celebration marking his 45th birthday and homecoming day at the Kidron-Sonnenberg Heritage Center and Museum at 13153 Emerson Road. The historical society was founded in 1977 and is housed in the Heritage Center, of which Dick Wolf is the director. Wayne Lichty served as the company’s president for over 30 years. Art Neuenschwander is the current president.
Homecoming festivities begin at 7 p.m. on August 12 at the Sonnenberg Village Barn, featuring the Honeytown Folk Band. A $5 donation is suggested for spectators and a similar donation is suggested for adults and teens attending all events on August 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children 12 and under are free.
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At 11 a.m. on August 13, the Sonnenberg Children’s Theater The group will perform a historical drama, followed at noon by historical performers portraying Swiss settlers Katherine and Isaac Sommers, who were among the first settlers of Kidron. An old-fashioned baseball game at 1 p.m. will feature an Amish team taking on the Smithville Stars. There will also be buggy rides, a Kinder Corner with historical games and other activities.
• Gerber Poultry at 4889 Kidron Road is a family business recognized by many as the largest business and employer in the community. Dwight and Melva Gerber began processing chicken and selling their farm produce to residents in 1952, following Dwight’s motto, “Quality is Worth Praising.”
Now in its 70th year of production, Gerber’s has 150 farms, 500 employees and approximately 3 million chickens that eat 77 acres of corn and 35 acres of soybeans daily. The third generation members of the family now oversee the business and market their chicken as Gerber’s Amish Farm Chicken, which consists of whole chickens, cut chicken pieces and boneless breasts and thighs.
• Another Kidron flagship business is Shisler Cheese Factory on the corner of Kidron Road and US Route 20. Fred Biery built his cheese factory there in 1951 and sold it in 1958 to Rita Shisler’s father-in-law, John Shisler, the originator of Shisler’s. Rita started working there in 1963 and has been there ever since with the help of her sons Dennis and DJ
Shisler’s sells 80 varieties of cheese from the small store across the street, including 2,000 pounds of Swiss cheese a week as well as jams, jellies, sandwiches and all sorts of goodies that delight tourists who travel by charter bus to visit Amish country.
“People go to Smucker’s, Lehman’s Hardware and here,” she said. “We have lots of bus tours that stop here from all over the country.”
• Lehman hardware at 4779 Kidron Road is a major attraction in Ohio Amish country that offers non-electric household items and has grown into an international business. Founded in 1955, the store is operated by Galen Lehman and owned by HRM Enterprises, which also manages Hartville Hardware.
*Kidron’s Auction at 4885 Kidron Road originated in 1923 when auctioneer SC “Cy” Sprunger bought it for $5 from a group of farmers who launched an auction in 1918, then sold it for five years later. Kidron’s Auction, owned and operated by John and Jedd Sprunger, is Ohio’s oldest cattle market. Hay, straw and livestock auctions are held every Thursday, attracting hundreds of buyers and sellers to the hamlet and other businesses in the commune.
• City and country of Kidron has been family-owned since 1926 and is a full-service grocery store and country store. Besides groceries, the store has a restaurant, pharmacy, shoes and clothing. Current owners are Larry and Ranee Yoder, who purchased the business in 2016 from the Gerber family to continue serving the needs of residents of Kidron and beyond.
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• The Mennonite Central Committee thrift store at 4080 Kidron Road is an example of caring and generosity as 325 volunteers and 4½ paid staff volunteer their time to accept donated items of all kinds, including quilts, and sell the merchandise to help the work of organization in 57 countries, according to Michael Amstutz, Director of Kidron MCC. Of the funds raised, 90% goes to MCC and the remaining 10% goes to local agencies that do relief, development and peace projects. The store has 14 large departments visited annually by an average of 74,000 contributors.