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The village includes a number of reconstructed log structures; the original cemetery, named "God's Acre"; and two-and-a-half acres of planted fields. The restored Schoenbrunn is a fitting memorial to the shortlived settlement, whose inhabitants wrote the state's first civil code and built its first schoolhouse.
The missionaries diaries and annual reports, detailing their activities in the Ohio region, were preserved by the Moravian Church. These records made it possible to relocate Schoenbrunn's site and replat the layout of its streets and buildings. The Ohio Historical Society acquired the site in 1923; soon after, work began on reconstruction of the town. The first cabin reconstruction was completed in 1927. The meeting house and schoolhouse were rebuilt the following year.
A museum near the village tells the story of the Christian Delawares and the Moravian missionaries. Volunteers in eighteenth-century dress help to bring this unique community and its customs to life.
The Moravians were a German Protestant sect whose beliefs included pacifism. Zeisberger hoped that somehow his frontier mission could remain free of the friction between landseeking colonists and the native peoples. He could not have known that his hopes would die in one of the most brutal and senseless massacres in our country's history.
In its five-year life span, Schoenbrunn was a rare pocket of neutrality in a region that grew increasingly tense as the American Revolution approached.
English traveler Nicholas Creswell, who visited Zeisberger after the town had been completed, wrote in his journal: "In the evening went to the meeting. I expected to have seen nothing but anarchy and confusion.... Instead of that, here is the greatest regularity, order, and decorum I ever saw in any place of worship in my life."
Schoenbrunn itself, Creswell discovered, was equally orderly: "Christianized under 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 meeting house...."
Construction of a schoolhouse soon followed, since education of the Indian children was a priority for the Moravians. The task was not an easy one, as Zeisberger later noted in his diary: "Brother David and Brother Heckewelder divided the duty of conducting the school and, indeed, in the Indian tongue. As we have no books for the children, we must write some for them for the time being, a considerable task since there are nearly a hundred children."
The adults were educated as well, learning skills such as metal working and carpentry. In these tasks and in worship meetings, the missionaries persuaded the Indians that Christian lives of peace would reap greater rewards than would involvement in the hostilities that were moving closer to Schoenbrunn.
Eventually, pressure from these forces compelled the settlers to make a momentous decision: the mission would be abandoned. A last meeting was held on April 19, 1777. Zeisberger wrote: "Immediately after thiss meeting, the roof was torn down from the meeting house and all kinds of other things were done to it in order to ruin it for further use."
The Christian Indians of Schoenbrunn and the nearby mission of Gnadenhutten were moved to Lichtenau, a few miles south of present-day Coshocton. They remained there for two years, until the resettlement of Gnadenhutten and construction of two new towns, Salem and New Schoenbrunn.
But in 1781, the British - who believed that the missionaries were informing American rebels of troop movements - forced the settlements' inhabitants to move to the Sandusky River. Zeisberger and the other missionaries were sent to Detroit to be tried as American spies.
In February 1782, some of the Christian Indians held at Sandusky were permitted to return to their towns on the Tuscarawas River to pick up their belongings and gather what remained of the previous year s corn crop.
It was a fateful trip. Colonel David Williamson, leading an American militia campaign in response to a series of Indian raids, captured the Christian Indians in their towns and accused them of assisting British Indians in the raids.
The ninety militiamen forced the Indians into two huts at Gnadenhutten, and decided to cast votes to determine the captives' fate. Only eighteen soldiers voted for mercy; seventy-two favored execution.
The Indians, told of the decision, prayed and sang throughout the night. In the morning, they were removed from the huts two at a time and murdered. Only two boys escaped; sixty-two adults and thirty-four children were killed.
Although the Moravians continued their efforts to reestablish their Christian Indian towns on the Tuscarawas, they never achieved lasting success. Continual Indian wars and the destructive influence of white traders thwarted their efforts. The last Moravian mission town, Goshen - located a few miles away from Schoenbrunn - was abandoned in 1824.
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