Blackcoats among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier

Blackcoats among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier

Blackcoats among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier

Blackcoats among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier

Excerpt

Tuscarawas County, the site of my childhood, is unique among the eighty-eight counties in Ohio. It was there in the last quarter of the eighteenth century that David Zeisberger, a Moravian missionary, established his first mission of Christian Indian converts in the Ohio country. There in 1772 in the Tuscarawas River valley (called the Muskingum in Zeisberger's time) he founded Schoenbrunn, the first organized settlement in Ohio. There he built Ohio's first church and schoolhouse. When he arrived with his Indians, the Ohio country was a primordial wilderness. For millennia this land had been the home of native American Indians. Roaming the timbered hills and expansive valleys were the Shawnee, Delaware, Mingos, Munsee, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, and Ojibwa. Along the northern branches of the Muskingum River, where Zeisberger first settled, were the homes of the native Delaware. He lived there, among the Delaware, for nine years in relative peace. Then, caught between the opposing forces of the American Revolution, he and his Indian congregations were forced to leave. After wandering in the wilderness of the Ohio country and Canada for seventeen years, he returned to his cherished valley and established Goshen, his last mission. Ten years after founding the Goshen mission he gave up his quest and passed on into eternal peace.

As the years passed, most of the evidence of Zeisberger's six missions on the Tuscarawas quickly disappeared, and this interesting period of American history was virtually forgotten. All that remained at Goshen was the mission cemetery with the graves of David Zeisberger; William Edwards, his assistant; and the forty Indian converts.

In November 1908, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of Zeisberger's death, and through the cooperation of the Ohio Historical Society and the local Moravian church authorities, there was a resurgence of interest in Zeisberger's life. The following year, 1909, the graves . . .

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