Every small town has its historians and Walnut Creek is no exception. Roscoe Miller is remembered as a long time resident of Walnut Creek as well as a teacher and principal at the Walnut Creek School. A natural speaker, Roscoe was known for his stories and often gave talks to visitors. His entertaining, folksy delivery and dry humor endeared him to all.
Roscoe passed away some years ago at about 100 years old, but he leaves us the following story – it is very close to the way he talked. Enjoy this little bit of history of the pioneer life of Walnut Creek Valley from the early 1800’s. If you’d like to learn more, please consider a visit to the German Culture Museum in Walnut Creek.
Early Pioneers of Eastern Holmes County:
Jacob Miller, Jonas Stutzman and Dan Swartzentruber
Jacob Miller lived in Somerset County, PA. You will find that many of the pioneers in the Walnut Creek area came from Somerset County. He was the first white settler in this area and built a cabin about one mile north of Sugarcreek, close to where the golf course and Winklepleck Grove are today. Jacob Miller was an (Amish) bishop; he preached the first sermon in the area. He was married to Anna Stutzman, who was the aunt of “Der Weiss” Jonas Stutzman.
Jonas "Der Weiss" Stutzman
You all know that Jonas predicted the coming of the Lord and built a big chair for Him to sit in…well, we know he was wrong about the Lord’s coming but the chair still exists and is at the Mennonite Information Center near Berlin if you wish to see it.
Jonas (Stutzman) came to the area and lived with his aunt and uncle while he built a cabin. He chose a location near the bottom of the Walnut Creek hill on the west side of Route 39. Today, a historical marker shows the location. This site was about five miles from the cabin of Jacob Miller and each day Jonas would walk to his cabin site, build, and then walk back to his uncle’s homestead.
I think that Jonas probably walked past our place in Gerber Valley and had a path as he walked back and forth while he built his cabin. It is a direct and easy way to come. One day, it is told, Jonas broke his leg while working on the cabin and had to walk five miles back to his uncle’s cabin for help. Jonas Stutzman was the first settler in the Walnut Creek area.
At the time of the earliest settlers, this was wild country – no bridges, no houses, no nothing. But, there were bears and coyotes and groundhogs and lots of birds. And that takes us to the next story.
Dan Swartzentruber married Barbara Hochstetler and they had a baby, Moses, in 1835. One day, Dan and his wife went out to rake hay and they carried hay rakes. That is how they gathered the hay – raking it into piles. They took their little baby Moses along and wrapped him in a blanket laid in a corner of the field.
The woods were close to that place and while they were raking piles of hay, all at once Barbara raised her hands up in the air and screamed. She pointed to the baby in the corner of the field and saw a bear picking up the baby by the blanket.
The bear then turned and walked off into the woods. So Dan said, “Run for the gun,” and so she ran home for the gun while her husband quietly walked after the bear, trying to keep behind trees.
The bear went deeper and deeper into the woods. Every once in awhile, the bear set the baby down, then picked it up again and carried it on.
When the bear was a fair distance from where it picked up the baby, it put down the bundle and covered it with leaves. Then the bear walked off. Soon, Barbara came with the gun and gave it to her husband, who stood at the site where the baby lay covered with leaves. He brushed the leaves aside and gave the child to his wife.
She took the baby home and Dan hid behind a tree. It wasn’t long before the bear came back, along with a cub. The bear went to the place where it had buried the baby and scraped the leaves and the earth. The bear stood on its back legs and howled like everything because there was no baby there.
And that was a close call. The story goes that Dan did not shoot the bear because it had a cub along!
– Published Courtesy of the Roscoe Miller family
Note: A previous blog post featured Roscoe's wife Mattie and her special relationship with Rebecca Miller. As of this date, Mattie recently passed away at the age of 97. She and Roscoe are together again.