- Amish Country
Located in New Philadelphia, Schoenbrunn Village just east of Dover, is a reconstruction of an 18th Century village created by Moravian missionaries. These missionaries were sent into the Ohio wilderness to spread the word of God to a group of Delaware Indians. This settlement known as Schoenbrunn Village is considered Ohio's first European settlement.
The Schoenbrunn Village site is owned by the Ohio Historical Society, but is operated by the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum located in Dennison. The 17 buildings are open to the public for a small admission fee with seasonal hours. The reconstructed buildings were built as close as possible to their original sites and includes the original cemetery, church and gardens.
Moravians were from a part of Europe that is today Czech Republic and were pacifists. The group of missionaries and Delawares originally had a village in Pennsylvania, but when the war between the colonists and Great Britain erupted, they decided to move their small village to a more peaceful area in the Ohio Territory. Although the Delaware Nation was quite large, a number of their tribe had converted to Christianity from their contact with the Moravians in Pennsylvania. Because of this relationship, the Christian Delaware donated some tracts of land in the Tuscarawas Valley to the Moravians to establish small villages and churches.
The first group of Moravians consisted of 28 men, women and children, and arrived here in 1772. Their first task was to plant crops even before building shelters, so they would have food to survive the following winter. They were led by 51 year old David Zeisberger who had devoted his life to helping Native Americans. He often served as a translator between the English and Native Americans.
Between 1772 and 1800, a number of missionary villages were established in the Tuscarawas Valley where Schoenbrunn Village is located. These villages were very similar to what Schoenbrunn Village depicts today. They included Gnadenhutten, Lichtenau, Salem and Goshen. When war erupted between the colonies and Great Britain problems arose among the Native Americans who also chose sides either being for Great Britain, against, or independent. Perception can be a dangerous thing. The Christian Delaware were seen as being loyal to the Moravians who were, despite being independent, were seen as siding with the colonists because the Moravians had not openly declared an allegiance to either side. Because of this perception, British forces along Lake Erie urged other Native Americans to turn against the peaceful Moravians and the Delaware Christians. This antagonism led to violence, revenge and retribution all of which had unforeseen consequences.
Relations between the missionaries and the Delaware were quite good,. However, in the spring of 1782, a great tragedy befell the Christian Indians that had joined the Moravians in the Tuscarawas Valley. when a large group of them returned to the Gnadenhutten to harvest some of the previous years plantings. It was here that a group of Pennsylvania militia who were searching for a group of Native Americans responsible for ravishing several American settlements along the border. When they came upon the peaceful Indians, they assumed that they were those responsible and executed everyone (62 adults and 34 children). This event became known as the Gnadenhutten Massacre.
Later that spring, when a group of Native Americans, including non-Christian Delaware, captured some men on an American military expedition through Central Ohio. After their capture they were told that some of the men may have been involved in the massacre of the Christian Delaware earlier that year. Because of this, they tortured and burned at the stake, Colonel Crawford, the leader of the expedition.
The reconstructed village is laid out on a plan based on early excavations and journals. Although the original village had approximately 60 buildings on the site, today there are 17 cabins aligned as they likely would have appeared according to these early descriptions. In time Schoenbrunn had a population of 400 mostly Delaware Christians, that also included the Moravian missionaries.
Group tours are available by appointment. The visitor center has a museum covering the lives of both the Delaware and Moravians. A short video orientation is also available. Tour of reconstructed mission village is self-guided and includes costumed interpreters that describe the activities associated with various structures and early pioneer life in the area.