While war was raging between the North and South, a peaceful village was emerging in the rolling hills of eastern Holmes County. First to appear was a wagon and blacksmith shop soon followed by other buildings. The area was eventually called Stevenson, probably because of an Amish farmer, Stephen Yoder, who lived at the north edge of town and his son who owned the blacksmith shop. When asked about the town’s location, people often answered “down by Stephen’s son,” thus the name Stevenson.
During this time, the village also inherited its nickname “Putschtown,” which locals still recognize today. According to legend, the name originated when a traveler topped a hill overlooking the tiny village and proclaimed it a “putscha.” In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, this word means “small clump.”
When the town decided to establish its own post office in 1885, the name Stevenson already existed, so the postal department gave it a list of new names to choose from. No one really knows why Charm was chosen. One plausible explanation is the town’s connection to a local jeweler named Joni J. Yoder. At that time, it was common to have a large watch charm attached to one’s watch chain. Incidentally, Joni worked as the town postmaster for several years.
Most of the land around Charm became occupied by Amish farming families. Because of the hilly lay of the land, the families used the strip farming method. They raised oats, barley, hay, corn, flax, and cane. At harvest time, people gathered to help each other stack their dry, unthreshed grain into the barns and waited for threshing rigs to come separate the straw from the grain.
Steam engines were a common sight in Charm during the early 1900s, used largely in threshing and sawmills. When fall harvesting came around, threshing rings rattled into the valley with their steam engine powered machinery. It wasn’t an easy task to bring clumsy pieces of machinery over the bumpy, hilly roads. In honor of this rich part of its history, Charm hosts the Doughty Valley Steam show every year.
In the late 1800s, cheese making came to town with the arrival of Switzerland-born cheese maker Frederick John Nickles. Using a single kettle for cheese processing, he began his business on an Amish farm at the south edge of town. The humble beginning soon expanded into a larger cheese factory along Main Street, and in 1893, local farmers met to organize Charm Cheese Company.
Charm has always been proud of its business industry and activity. Perhaps its biggest success story is Keim Lumber, which started as a two-story, steam engine powered planing mill in 1911. Over the decades, the business grew and expanded. Now under its third generation of ownership, the company is one of the leading building suppliers in the state.
A lot has changed in Charm since the Civil War era. The feed mill along Main Street has been turned into a furniture store, but one can imagine farmers bringing their wheat and corn to be ground. The pale yellow building on the town square is now a bed and breakfast but once housed a watch repair shop where locals gathered to play checkers and exchange gossip. Harness shops still grace the area, serving the local Amish community. Despite its many changes, the town still exudes the simple aura of an earlier time.