Written by Christine M. Irvin
Sugarcreek’s roots can be traced back to 1814. Abraham Shane named a town that had sprung up at the intersection of two well-used Indian trails in Tuscarawas County, Ohio Shanesville. Those trails are now State Routes 39 and 93 and are marked by a memorial monument and the Shanesville Lutheran Church (although the town of Shanesville no longer exists).
Shanesville became a place for descendants of Swiss and German immigrants (many of whom were Amish) because its climate and picturesque scenery reminded them of their homelands. The Conotton Valley Railroad lines were laid through the Sugar Creek Valley in 1882 and a depot was erected in East Shanesville, about a mile from Shanesville. East Shanesville soon became larger than Shanesville because of the growth of the railroad industry and the businesses and houses that were erected along its path. East Shanesville was close to a body of water known as the Sugar Creek, and the name of the town was changed to match the name of the creek. This name change distinguished Sugar Creek from Shanesville. The name of the village was later changed to one word, Sugarcreek and in 1969, Shanesville merged with Sugarcreek to become one village.
Today, Sugarcreek is a hub of activity in Tuscarawas County. Its large population of Swiss
immigrants started cheese-making businesses in the early 1800’s and the area is now known for its excellent Swiss cheeses. The Ohio Swiss Festival was started in 1953 to celebrate the making of Swiss cheese. It has grown into one of Ohio’s largest events, attracting thousands of visitors to the village each year.
The village’s downtown business district was remodeled to resemble traditional Swiss buildings. A painter by the name of Tom Miller came up with the idea of changing the store fronts. Aden Kaufman built them and Tom Miller painted the pictures on them. They added moving parts to the murals. Sugarcreek has become a major tourist attraction in Ohio as a result.
Because of its abundant deposits of clay, Sugarcreek has also become one of the country’s leading makers of face brick. Its history goes back to 1910 when the Finzer Brothers Clay Company was started by the Finzer brothers, grandsons of Swiss immigrants who settled in Sugar Creek. Belden Brick, a company that originated in Canton, Ohio, bought the Sugarcreek company in 1946. Several of the buildings and many of the kilns that are used today were built and installed when the original company was founded in 1910.
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