This was a time of turmoil and upheaval in the colonies with the fight moving toward independence from Great Britain. The Moravians were pacifists, however, their sympathies were with the colonists. The Moravian and Delaware leaders agreed to relocate missions from Pennsylvania to the more peaceful Tuscarawas Valley in the Ohio territory. The land, near a large spring, was given to Reverend David Zeisberger by the Delaware Chief Netawates, whose name means “Newcomer.” It was called “Welhik T’uppek” in the Delaware language and Schoenbrunn, meaning “Beautiful Spring” in German.
On May 3, 1772, Zeisberger and his party, consisting of 28 men, women, and children and a herd of cattle arrived. Their first task was not building cabins, but planting crops to sustain them through their first winter.
Zeisberger’s Cabin was the first built, followed by the school. At its greatest size, Schoenbrunn had a population of 400 Christian natives, mostly Delaware Indians, and included in its buildings, the first school and first Christian church built in Ohio.
Early Moravian mission settlements were laid out in the form of a cross, the main street running east to west, with the church at the center. Schoenbrunn, however, was laid out in the form of a “T”; because the topography would not allow a cross. The church was in the center of the “T” and from Zeisberger’s diaries, we know there were several more streets, and approximately 60 buildings.
After a few short years, the mission’s neutrality was questioned and Zeisberger was urged to move closer to Coshocton. So, on April 19, 1777 he destroyed the church so it couldn’t be used by non-Christians and the whole village moved to Lichtenau, near Coshocton. That, effectively, was the end of Schoenbrunn.
In the early 1920’s a Moravian minister, Reverend Joseph Weinland from Dover, sought to memorialize Schoenbrunn. Research from the Moravian archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, planning and digging continued and in 1927, the first log cabin and the school were reconstructed.
Today, Schoenbrunn has over 16 buildings including the Church, School and David’s cabin on their original sites. There is also a visitor center that has a gift shop, museum and theater.