Jonas Stutzman was the first settler and Amish person to come to Holmes County, Ohio. He came from Pennsylvania and settled in present day Walnut Creek in 1809. Stutzman built one of the first sawmills in the area and had a crossing bridge in Walnut Creek named after him in 2009. It was not until later in his life that he gained the eccentric reputation that he is known for today.
It was in 1849 that Stutzman had a revelation and wrote a manifesto about the second coming of Jesus Christ. He felt that the second coming was upon us, and would occur at some point in 1853, in Holmes County! Stutzman wanted people to repent and adhere closely to the Amish interpretation of Christianity; he specifically wanted Catholics to give up communion. A huge wooden chair was built by Stutzman because he knew that Christ would need a special chair, befitting of His holiness, to sit in while He judged souls. Stutzman kept the chair with him at all times, just in case. The chair now resides at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center (Behalt):
Stutzman also began dressing all in white, and he is the only Amish person to ever do this. He wanted Christ to be able to tell how pure and holy he was just by looking at him. This is how Stutzman gained the nickname “Der Weiss”, or “The White”. Stutzman preached to his friends, family, and neighbors about the urgency and imminence of the second coming until the day he died. The Amish church did not see Stutzman or his message as a threat, since he never gained any followers, and was allowed to stay a member of the church throughout his life.
Upon his death in 1871, “Der Weiss” was buried in a family plot on a parcel of farmland in Walnut Creek. Unfortunately, in 1964, ownership of this farmland changed and the cemetery was razed. Some of the markers and remains were moved to the Walnut Creek Mennonite Cemetery (As you travel along 39 through Walnut Creek, towards Sugar Creek, it’s located on a large hill on the left hand side of the road, just behind Walnut Creek Cheese), but it is impossible to know how many headstones and graves were not relocated. The location of Jonas Stutzman’s remains is unknown, but a new head stone was erected for him at the Walnut Creek Mennonite Cemetery. A historical marker was also erected in his honor on CR 114 in Walnut Creek.
His newly erected headstone says:
Born 1788 Died Oct. 18 1871
Jonas Stutzman was the first white settler in Eastern Holmes County. He arrived in the Indian territory during spring of 1809. He provided the first sawmill, was a teacher, and in his later years, dressed in white (weiss) clothes. In 1849, he wrote a booklet predicting the Lord's return in four years, then built an oversize chair for the Lord. Jonas was buried in a hillside family cemetery south of Walnut Creek. That cemetery was razed in 1964 and some remains and markers were relocated to this cemetery.
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