Berlin, OH - Events of Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Schoenbrunn Village is the partially reconstructed site of the first American settlement in the Ohio Territory. It is located in New Philadelphia only about 40 minutes from Berlin. Since we pass the exit for Schoenbrunn our way to and from Pittsburgh, we have always been curious about it so we headed to Schoenbrunn last Tuesday to check it out.
Admission to Schoenbrunn Village is $7 for adults ($5 for seniors). The 11-minute video in the visitor center gives excellent background information. Schoenbrunn was founded in 1772 by missionaries of the Moravian Church. Moravia was a country that was located in the present-day Czech Republic. The Moravian Church began as the Hussite Movement (followers of John Huss) in Bohemia in the early 1400s. Like Martin Luther and others who followed, John Huss disagreed with some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually broke away from it.
The Moravian Church sent out missionaries to many places in the world such as Greenland, Africa, the Caribbean, South America and North America. In 1741, they established Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as a mission to minister to the Lenape (Delaware) Indians.
When tensions between the colonists and Britain increased in the early 1770s, the Moravians, who were pacifists, decided to locate a mission in what they hoped would be a more peaceful area farther west. Their goal was to minister to the Indians who had previously moved west as a result of the increasing population in the east. A group led by David Zeisberger ended up in the Ohio Territory near a spring in the Tuscarawas River Valley. They gave the place the name "Schoenbrunn," which is German for "beautiful spring."
The settlement grew to 60 buildings with 300 inhabitants consisting of both Indians and Moravian missionaries and their families. Although the Moravians originally established the mission at Schoenbrunn to escape tensions between the colonists and Britain, the Revolutionary War eventually caught up to them and put them in danger. Schoenbrunn was abandoned in 1777, and the inhabitants moved to an area near what is today Coshocton, Ohio.
When Zeisberger and his followers left Schoenbrunn, they burned the church so it could not be desecrated, and the remaining buildings were eventually reclaimed by nature. Then in the early 1920s, a Moravian minister from nearby Dover, Ohio, sought to memorialize Schoenbrunn. He located the site through research of the Moravian archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After an archaeological investigation and more research using diaries of David Zeisberger and others, the first log cabin and the school were reconstructed in 1927. Today, in additional to the visitor center, there are 16 reconstructed buildings including David Zeisberger's cabin, the meeting house (church), several white settlers' cabins and several Indian cabins.
After watching the video, we visited the small museum in the Visitor Center where there are artifacts from the late 1700s that represent the types of things the settlers at Schoenbrunn might have had. There are also a few shards of pottery and glass as well as fragments of tools, knives, spoons, locks and hinges that were actually found at the Schoenbrunn site during the archaeological dig.
Moravian mission settlements were usually laid out in the shape of a cross, but local topography prevented that. Therefore, Schoenbrunn was laid out in the shape of a letter "T" with the meeting house at the center. The visitor center is at one end of the top bar of the "T."
The Indian cabins were made of round logs, while the settlers had cabins with logs that had been hewn into a square shape.
Supplies were sent to Schoenbrunn from Bethlehem or they were bought from fur traders out of Pittsburgh. The settlers brought a few animals with them, and they also hunted and fished. They grew corn, squash, beans and other vegetables.
There are sometimes people dressed in period costume at Schoenbrunn demonstrating various crafts. Since the people doing the demonstrations are volunteers, their schedules are somewhat hit-or-miss and there is no published schedule. When the demonstrations do happen, they most likely take place on weekends or during special events.
The cabins were modest, and the interiors were fairly spartan and utilitarian. The one in the photo below is one of the fancier ones with a wooden floor and whitewashed interior walls.
The wooden floors were hand-hewn and would have been hard enough to keep clean, but some cabins had dirt floors. Ugh!
Zeisberger didn't want to interfere with the Indians' way of life - he just wanted to teach them about Christ. Therefore, the Moravians' ministry to Native Americans was unique because the Lenape were taught in their own language. Zeisberger studied Native American dialects as a young man so he was able to develop a spelling book of the Delaware language even though no written form of their language had previously existed. A dictionary, hymn books and even sermons were translated into the Delaware language.
The school was the second largest building in Schoenbrunn after the meeting house. It stood in an important spot across the street from the meeting house.
We also walked to the cemetery at the far end of the street at the base of the "T." The original wooden crosses are long gone and have been replaced by flat, carved sandstone markers placed there in the late 1920s when the village was first being rebuilt. Much of the lettering on the soft sandstone has either weathered away or is filled with lichen and moss making the inscriptions difficult to read, but a plaque at the cemetery lists all the names of the deceased as well as all of the inscriptions. The bodies are buried in groups according to their age and marital status rather than by families. Older, married men are in one section; and young, unmarried men are in another. The same is true for the women. Children are in a completely different area.
Schoenbrunn isn't a major attraction by any means. In fact, if you aren't interested in history you will probably find it boring because many of the buildings are so similar inside and out. However, for those of us who are interested in history, it isn't always about what we see - it's about what we learn. We had no idea Schoenbrunn was the first American settlement west of Pennsylvania. It was also interesting to learn about the Moravians and about their world-wide ministry.
We were also excited to be able to tie together the Moravians in Schoenbrunn with the Moravians in North Carolina that we encountered back in 2007 when we visited Old Salem while touring NASCAR country northeast of Charlotte. The Moravians in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, established Old Salem in 1766 as a craft and trade center for two other Moravian settlements in the area. Click here to read about our 2007 stop in Old Salem.
When we left Schoenbrunn, it was after 2 p.m. El Pueblito Mexican Restaurant, where we stopped several weeks ago after visiting Dennison Depot, was only minutes away in Uhrichsville and was on our way back to Scenic Hills. (Imagine that!) Since we liked El
Pueblito and since we were hungry, we stopped for lupper again. Margery had a shredded beef chimichanga dinner ($10) with rice, and Paul had a pick-two lunch special ($6) with a chili relleno, a shredded chicken burrito, rice and refried beans. Everything was delish!.
After lupper, we headed back to Scenic Hills to relax for the evening. Next on the schedule was a trip to another planet. Stay tuned.