Covered wagon train excursion to Amish Country enjoys its final trek

Covered wagon train excursion to Amish Country enjoys its final trek

Image Credit: Submitted

For one week during July, Steve Whitt and his companions pack up their lives in a 40-square-foot area and open their lives up to an entire countryside of Amish Country life.

Nearly three decades ago, Steve Whitt led a team of covered wagons into Amish Country and helped the group slow down to a pace of life that is cherished by few people these days.

Twenty-seven years later, Whitt and his covered wagon friends saddled up for their final trip to Holmes County. Down to just three wagons, the time has come for the group to disband its Holmes County trip, and July 3-9 Whitt’s crew savored its final round-up.

Whitt, who grew up near Wellington, Ohio, said at the height of the trip the wagon train featured nine wagons traversing the back roads of Holmes and Wayne counties.

Struggling with a bad ankle, Whitt said the remaining parties wanted to take one last fling in Amish Country to properly celebrate an excursion that has grown to mean a lot to all of them, but also to the many homesteads in Amish Country who invited the wagon train members to camp overnight.

“Well, here we are on our swan song trip,” Whitt said. “What has always made this trip special was the people. We have been blessed to meet a whole lot of wonderful people in our travels, and this year we’ve gotten a chance to say goodbye to some of them.”

Stops this year came on farmsteads like John Coblentz on Fountain Nook Road near Maysville and Andy P. Miller, 9080 South Carr Road, close to Fredericksburg. This year’s tour started and ended at the home of Andy Hershberger. Every year families invited the wagon train into their farmsteads, and at each stop, the families would welcome the team members and make them feel like family.

Whitt said the campfire gathering around the evening meal at the Miller homestead probably had 60 people, with the Millers inviting other neighbors and friends to share in the fellowship and food.

“I met Andy at his dad’s place at Blessed Acres, and he invited us to stay here,” Whitt said. “That’s the way it has always worked. People have met us and invited us to stay and opened their homes to us. We’ve never had to go ask anyone to ask us to stay. People have always come to us and offered. That’s the type of people who live in this area.”

After an evening of fellowship around the fire, the covered wagon families crawled into their covered wagons. On this night, a soothing rain pelted the canvas, creating a peaceful sound that helped them sleep soundly.

In the morning Lucille Collins broke out her massive skillet, and the group pitched in to make a breakfast of potatoes, eggs, sausage, onions, zucchini, squash, peppers and bacon.

Just as it had been the evening prior, Whitt’s crew and Miller’s family met around the fire and fellowshipped over breakfast before the crew packed up and headed off for the day.

Whitt and company said this way of life is fleeting as the world spirals into a more hectic, jam-packed pace.

“We have gotten to know so many wonderful people through this experience,” Collins said. “It’s something that we will all cherish, and it is sad that our trips here are coming to an end. So often we have our Amish host families sing and share stories, and it is so relaxing.”

“There are not too many roads we haven’t traveled in Holmes County over our years of coming here,” Whitt said. “Like Fredericksburg, for us, there’s seven ways into town and only two ways out.”

As has always been the case, the wagon train found stopovers all over Amish Country, where they never wanted for a safe place to tie their horse teams for the night, build a campfire, cook up dinner and lay their heads inside their covered wagons for the night.

From the start, much of the focal point of the Steve Whitt covered wagon train experience hasn’t been about the covered wagons as much as it has been about connecting with people and building relationships. Yes, the covered wagons were the vehicles that took each participating family around Amish Country, and yes, that was what drew people to watch and chat with the group, but this trip has always been about the many people the travelers met and stayed with during each annual excursion. Those relationships blossomed over the past three decades, and it will be those memories Whitt and his cronies will take home with them from their Amish Country experience.

“In my opinion the Amish people here in Holmes County like nothing more than to get together and fellowship,” Whitt said. “They love to gather with family, neighbors and friends, and a wagon train is a good excuse to have a get-together.”

With the wagon train coming to an end, Whitt met with Miller and decided to sell his team of half-Belgian, half-pony to Miller for a good price. The important thing for Whitt was knowing his horses would have a good home with someone who would properly care for them.

“I’ve known the Millers for so long that it’s like selling my team to family,” Whitt said.

That feeling is one that is shared by the entire Whitt party and the many families that have hosted them over the years. They have built a unity of love and a bond that will go on despite the wagon train coming to an end.

The joy of slowing down in life and experiencing the world from a unique perspective will be memories none of them will forget. Reveling in the friendships they have made will forever be in their hearts.

“These friendships we’ve made are golden,” said Steve Fausey, who helped create the trip each year. “We’ve developed new families and friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Fausey said his friendships began when he was a leather salesman and met many of the people in the community here through his stops back in his working days.

“We’ve known them, and they know us, and throughout the years this has been a blessing to all of us because it has become such a special week with very special people,” Fausey said. “A big part of the joy of all of this is meeting new people along the way and making new friends.”

Whitt said they have experienced some tough times during their many trips, but for the most part, it has been a series of good times and blessings as they travel along at a pace that allows them to enjoy all the little things in life.

The final round-up may be over, but the memories will now carry on for everyone involved in the annual trips.