The first thing people notice about the town of Harmony is its pleasant name. Local legend says that the settlers decided to make their community an incorporated “village” and met to choose a name. Each group wanted the town named for its leader, and the bickering became louder. Finally the chairman banged his gavel on the table and said, “Let’s have Harmony here!”
Today, visitors to Harmony can take an Amish tour, visit the magnificent Niagara Cave, and ride or walk on the Harmony- Preston Valley State Trail, which connects Harmony to the Root River Trail System.
Like many small towns a hundred years ago, Harmony developed near the railroad, and was peopled by immigrants from Norway, Germany and Ireland. That pioneer spirit has survived in the descendants of those hardy settlers as Harmony continues to serve the farming and business community.
The symbolism of the town’s name took on new meaning with the arrival of Amish families to the area in 1974. Today the Amish community consists of over 100 families, and is concentrated in the area around Harmony and Canton. With their old-world farming methods, the Amish offer a stark contrast to the modern machinery and tall silos of their neighbors, while reminding tourists and residents alike of the lifestyle of our ancestors.
Visit the homes and farms of the Amish families living around Harmony. A local business offers car and group tours of the Amish settlement. View fine Amish craftsmanship and purchase Amish goods, such as baked goods, baskets, wood crafts, candy, quilts, and more. While traveling through the beautiful farm country, learn about the history and beliefs of the Amish community and how their lifestyle differs from modern ways, while giving us all a glimpse of how our own ancestors lived and farmed in bygone days.
The area is blessed with rolling hills and valleys, fertile soil for growing crops and plenty of water in springs and brooks. Niagara Cave, a natural result of the area’s karst geology, is an underground wonderland, millions of years in the making. It was discovered under a sinkhole and was explored and developed over the years as local residents turned the cave into a well-known tourist attraction. Niagara Cave has been in continuous development and operation for seventy-five years. One-hour guided tours offer a chance to thrill at nature’s beauty, including a 60-foot waterfall, the crystal “wedding chapel,” huge stalactites and rock formations millions of years in the making, all far below the earth’s surface. The cave stays a constant 48 degrees year round. Niagara Cave has a gift shop and a 10-acre picnic ground.
The Harmony Area Historical Society has developed a Karst geological interpretive site as an educational tool for both local residents and visitors to the area. An observation deck with interpretive signage will allow visitors to view a sinkhole, learn about how it was formed, and why it is important to our environment. The area has some of the finest trout streams in the state, river canoeing with rentals available, snowmobile and cross-country trails and outstanding hunting for wild turkey, upland game birds, deer and small game.
The Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail connects Harmony to the Root River Trail System, and encompasses over 60 miles of recreational trail. The trail leaves Harmony and passes a variety of wooded areas and large panoramic views of rolling hills, spring fed creeks and farm sites. The Harmony Trailhead features a park area complete with picnic shelter, playground and visitor information center. Bike rental is available in the area.
A Hobo Camp consisting of life-sized, wood-carved figures is located at the trailhead park. Interpretive signage has been provided by the Harmony Area Historical Society.
Harmony also has a nine-hole golf course, one of a dozen in the area which offers an almost endless variety of terrain as well as reasonable fees and uncrowded courses.
Overnight visitors can choose from guesthouses or a 24-room motel with a meeting room. A variety of dining options can be found in Harmony as well.
Campers may find a comfortable place in Harmony’s municipal campground or one of several private campgrounds in the area.
Harmony offers the shopper many unique and interesting alternatives. For fine hand-crafted Amish quilts, furniture and other items, country crafts, period antiques, and gifts for the spirit, you need go no further than Harmony’s business district. Other specialty stores include an Amish furniture store and an antique mall featuring over 100 vendors!
One of Harmony’s unique attractions is Slim’s Woodshed, the largest woodcarving museum in the nation. Offering a variety of services for anyone who may be interested in woodcarving, this establishment is filled with woodcarving relics from around the world.
Another claim-to-fame for Harmony is that it is home to Fillmore County’s only movie theater, JEM Movie Theatre, which shows current movies and serves popcorn with real butter.
Hobo Camp depicts “Life Along the Rails”
A life-size wood carved hobo camp is located at the Harmony-Preston Trail head in Harmony, not far from
the old railroad depot.
The camp was created by Stanley “Slim” Maroushek of Slim’s Woodshed in Harmony to commemorate the life of hobos who traveled the rails throughout America, often in pursuit of work and adventure. Following the open road, hobos would travel from town to town often stopping long enough to work for a meal. Consisting mainly of men, it wasn’t unusual to have women travelling the rails as well.
Resourceful, self-reliant and independent, hobo culture included wood carving, story-telling, song-writing and hobo markings – simple pictographs left on the side of buildings to communicate with like-minded travelers. The center of life was the hobo camp, which was located wherever it was most convenient, usually close to the railroad track. Hobos were often known by their colorful nicknames, such as the hobo’s depicted at the Harmony camp: Oklahoma Oscar, Harmony Hank, Sleepy Slim, Handbag Hattie, Preacher, Steamtrain Satch and Dawg.
The railroad came to Harmony in 1879 and remained an integral part of the community until 1977, when the rails and ties were removed. An interpretive sign detailing life at the hobo camp has been provided by the Harmony Area Historical Society.