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Schoenbrunn Site

Schoenbrunn Site
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

In 1772 Moravian missionary David Zeisberger (1721-1808) led a group of 28 Delaware Indians to the Tuscarawas River Valley to establish Schoenbrunn –the first organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory. This mission settlement grew to include 60 dwellings and more than 300 inhabitants. Zeisberger named the village after the beautiful spring which was found at the site. A 1775 account described Schoenbrunn as follows: “Christianized by the Moravian sect, it is a pretty town consisting of about sixty houses, and is built of logs covered with clapboards. It is regularly laid out in three spacious streets which meet in the centre, where there is a meetinghouse.”

The missionary tradition of the Moravians started in the 18th century by German Count Zinzendorf. He converted his estate into a refuge for persecuted followers of English reformer, John Wycliffe. Zinzendorf’s followers became missionaries for West Indian slaves and established two settlements in Pennsylvania to minister to American Indians.

[photo] Historic view of Schoenbrunn Site, c. 1950
Courtesy of Ohio Memory website

Although Moravians had contacts with many tribes, they did most of their work among the Delaware tribe. They followed the tribe westward from Pennsylvania to Ohio, to Canada, to Indiana, and finally to Kansas. Frequently the Moravian missionaries were the first Europeans to make contact with the indigenous populations. They consciously located their villages beyond the white settlements. Schoenbrunn founder Zeisberger was the most famous Moravian missionary, serving the mission for more than 60 years.

The daily life at Schoenbrunn incorporated both American Indian and European customs. The missionaries drew up Ohio’s first civil code and built its first Christian church and schoolhouse. The Revolutionary War put Schoenbrunn in danger and the community was abandoned and then destroyed in 1777. Schoenbrunn was never occupied after that.

Today the current site includes 17 reconstructed log buildings and gardens, the original mission cemetery, and a museum and visitor center. Schoenbrunn Village is operated by the Ohio Historical Society.

The Schoenbrunn Site is located on US 250, in New Philadelphia. It is open Memorial Day through early September, Wednesday-Saturday from 9:30am to 5:00pm, and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm; there is a fee for admission. Call 330-339-3636 or visit the Ohio Historical Society's website for further information.

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