Following years of state budget cuts, Ohio Historical Society programs and activities that serve educators, students, families and other Ohioans are once again threatened by state cutbacks. The most recent version of the two-year state budget that begins July 1 would reduce the state’s investment in your state historical society to the lowest level since 1994! We want you to be aware of what this could mean to preserving and promoting Ohio’s history. With just 13 days left until the beginning of the next fiscal year, the Ohio Historical Society is highlighting each day one important program, activity or historic site jeopardized by the current state budget crisis.
Zoar is a village founded in the early 19th century by German immigrants seeking religious freedom. The group organized as the Society of Separatists of Zoar, owning the property communally until they disbanded 78 years later. Much of the original village is privately owned; however, the Ohio Historical Society manages 13 restored and reconstructed buildings throughout the village as well as the Zoar Garden.
The History of Zoar
The immigrants, dubbed “Zoarites,” bought some 5,500 acres in the Tuscarawas Valley on credit in 1817, but life quickly proved difficult for the tiny society of 53 men and 104 women. They believed in the separation of church and state as well as communal earnings and equality for men and women. Their beliefs, combined with their hardships, led to the drafting of the Articles of Association in April 1819, which established their own communal society in what is now Zoar, Ohio.
Shortly after this, the people of Zoar were contracted to dig seven miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal, which was set to pass through their land. Once the work was completed in 1828, the Zoarites received a $21,000 payment that effectively expunged the community’s land debt. The Separatists began to experience economic prosperity. The community was almost entirely self-sufficient and sold any surpluses to the outside world. In addition to agriculture, Zoar residents also worked in a number of industries, including flour mills, textiles, a tin shop, cooper, wagon maker, two iron foundries, and several stores. The canal also ushered in many new commercial possibilities. By the mid-1800s the community had assets ranging into the millions of dollars. In 1898, with the outside world influencing the community more and more, the remaining members decided to dissolve the society and divided the property among themselves.
Zoar Village Today
Today, the Ohio Historical Society operates Zoar Village as a state memorial. More than 7,000 visitors a year are given a special glimpse of the historic village and the rural way of the life of these people. The site also works with the community to celebrate special seasons of the year through a series of events that include the August Harvest festival and Christmas in Zoar on the first weekend of December. A special highlight at Zoar is the historic cooking classes taught at the site. Participants can learn a variety of historic cooking techniques and the foods of the time through the five to six classes taught yearly, including hearth oven bread baking.
Zoar Village is located 2.5 miles east of I-77 (exit 93) on State Route 212. It is between New Philadelphia and Canton in Tuscarawas County.
This Place Matters!
Help keep this National Historic Landmark open to the public by contacting your legislators today! Let us show you how.
Tomorrow: Gov. Ted Strickland recently directed the Ohio Historical Society to lead Ohio’s Civil War Sesquicentennial initiative. Log on tomorrow to find out more about it.
What can you do to save Ohio history? Contact your state legislators and tell them to stop cutting what makes Ohio special – our shared history. Help generate awareness by sharing this with your friends and family. Find out more by going online at saveohiohistory.wordpress.com or www.ohiohistory.org.