Zoarist Village in Zoar, Ohio

A group of 300 German Separatists, who thought that religion should be simple, bereft of ceremony, and peaceful, arrived from Wurttemburg in Philadelphia in 1817, and, with a loan from the Quakers, bought 5,500 acres in central Ohio and built a village, as was common in Germany, called Zoar, "a sanctuary from evil." At the beginning, they had a difficult time surviving; consequently, they pooled all their resources as communal property in 1819. The Zoarist contracted to build a portion of the Ohio and Erie Canal that crossed their land and sold food and other supplies to the workers of the canal; consequently, the community became worth more than $1 million by 1852 without debts.

In the beginning, these German settlers built typical frontier log cabins; later they build  in their German Fachwerk style. They also built "four square" gardens typical of Germany. They made flat red clay tiles as they were accustomed in Germany. As Germans, they grew flax for linen clothing and rye for bread.
In the process of assimilation, most of the Fachwerk houses and newer houses were covered with wooden clapboard to resemble the houses of their "American" neighbors. Men and women were equal, married, and had children. Each couple had a sleeping room; several couples lived in one house and shared a sitting room, as in the Bimeler house of 1868. For awhile young children were raised in a separate dormitory, but later, they lived with their biological parents.
They cooked and ate together in their separate houses. Each house had a kitchen and eating room for the couples that lived there. They did not eat communally. Food was stored in the cool cellar. They drank cider and beer, but did not use tobacco.
The bakery (1845) made 100 loaves of dark rye bread each day: flour was stored in large bins; bread dough was baked in a huge brick oven. Supplies (salt, coffee, etc, in this photo) were bagged for each family as their monthly rations; bread was collected daily.
Young girls, who lived on the second floor and attic of the dairy (the side wing), milked the 100 cows and stored the milk in a spring-fed cooling room. In adjacent rooms, cheese and butter were made.
In the wash house, women boiled clothing and linens and then dried them in an open sideroom -- as was done in Germany -- while men worked in the blacksmith  and carpentry shops.
 
Men also produced tin items for the community and outside sales; spinning and weaving linen and wool was women's work.
The basic religious beliefs of the Zoarist is shown in their 2.5 acre central garden (marked by Xs on the map above), designed to symbolize a New Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation. A Norway spruce in the centered represented everlasting life; a circle of 12 junipers connoted the 12 apostles. Twelve narrow paths leading from the center represented the paths to heaven. Flower beds and fruit bushes appear beyond. A garden's house and greenhouse, facing south, with its glass wall, are on the edge of the garden. The Zoarists were so famous for their gardening skills that for the winter, the wealthy of Cleveland sent their tropical plants by barge along the Ohio-Erie Canal to their greenhouse which was heated with coal from below -- indicated by the clay tiles in the floor under the blue table.
 
Sunday was observed with three religious meetings. Men sat on one side of the meeting house and women on the other. German was spoken and a German bible was used. There was no baptism, confirmation, communion, and ordained clergy; the dead were buried in unmarked graves in a cemetery -- only a few wooden markers indicate the graves of the original settlers.


Created by Ingolf Vogeler on 25 October 2010.