Religion In America – Zoar Village Ohio

ISOA Banner    I will start off this series of religion in America with the latest place I visited and that is Zoar Village in central Ohio.  I visited here last summer on one of my frequent micro-RV trips.  As is common in many historical religious settlements it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

2017-05-21_09-41-38.pngMost of the info for this post was obtained from the book shown to the right which contains hundreds of pictures of the village throughout its history.  The book was purchased at the village but is also available from Amazon.

Zoar village was settled by Lutheran separatists escaping persecution in Germany in the early 1800s. In Germany at that time the state and church were one and the same. It ran the schools and most civic ceremonies. A group of “Zoarites” or “Separatists” as they were called refused to attend the mandated church, or to send their kids to church run schools and because of their non-violence beliefs refused to serve in the army. As a result many were flogged, imprisoned, had their children and land stripped from them and turned over to the state.

With the help of English Quakers they emigrated to America.  The American Quakers also helped them initially settle near Philadelphia.  But Joseph Bimeler, who became their leader during their three month journey to America had no patience for the well-meaning Quakers and found land in “far-off” Ohio for his group to settle and thus the village of Zoar Ohio was formed.

Separatists had an abiding faith in the Bible and thought that each person should have a “direct” relationship with God.  They also believed in the imminent return of Christ so each individual had to purge himself or herself of evil and become a living example of virtue.  In rebellion to the church they left their worship services were stripped of all ceremony.  Because of the imminent return they also believed in celibacy which demanded that households be divided by sex. That practice ended after about ten years.

By about 1850 the population of Zoar had reached about 500 and land values of the town exceeded $1 million.  However a year later Bimeler died and no one was able to successfully take his place,  and as a result that started years of decline of the town. In March of 1898 to society of Zoar formally decided to disband and everything was basically sold at auction soon thereafter. The remaining 200 or so members were given $200 and a piece of real estate.

As we will learn in future posts on this subject the final fate of the village was similar to many other religious settlements. Today the village of Zoar is struggling to find the resources to maintain the town.  It has lost much of its attraction as a tourist site which kept it going for some time.

Click on any pic below to see a larger slideshow view..


American Ingenuity..

Youngstown, OH – Creativity

Lets look at another pic from my Youngstown Historical Center visit. It isn’t immediately obvious what you are looking at so I will explain it. Working in the steel mills is dirty business so when the workers started their shifts they changed out of the street clothes into their work clothes. The mill owners didn’t want to spend the money for lockers so the above system was implemented. A chain with a basket attached was used to store the clothes and then raised to the ceiling and locked into place. Another sign of American ingenuity.

Being Amish….

Lancaster County, PA – Amish Country

This is a pic of a postcard we bought there. There are many things about the Amish that I admire but their shunning is not one of them.They should not feel so insecure about their faith to have to turn their backs on the sons and daughters who choose to leave it.  Much of the land in Lancaster county is owned by Amish families and tourism is probably the main economic source of income there. So much so that it twists the real meaning of that religious sect.  If you want to get a glimpse of a more real Amish living you should try Berlin Ohio and its surroundings.


Cleveland, OH – Emporium

This emporium in downtown Cleveland while pretty much vacant now was once a vital part of the city. These were the first shopping malls in America. Like this one they are pretty much abandoned now because everyone now goes to the modern ones in the suburbs.

The Printed Word….

Columbus OH – Newspapers

Newspapers were essential in the formation of the new American nation. Now they are dropping like flies it seems. I recently saw where e-books now outnumber the sale of printed ones. Yeah I have my share of e-books but still cling to the printed page for some things.


Youngstown, OH – Steel

Anybody with much study of America knows that Youngstown was one of the premiere cities for steel production back a century ago.  The “Ohio Historical Society Youngstown Center of Industry and Labor” does and excellent job of giving you an idea of what those times were like.  Since I am going to be away from my desk for a few days I thought I would pre-load some more images from this museum for your view pleasure while I am gone.

American Food…

Cleveland, OH – Guarinos

I know the hot dog is supposedly very American but I kind of think our food, like our population, is a melting pot of different ethnic varieties.  In reality I don’t think of our population so much as a melting pot but as a stew; maybe I should think that way about the food also? Any large city has at least a dozen different nationalities restaurants in their environs.  My favorites have always been Chinese and Mexican. I do like a hot dog now and then but the flavors from many ethnic foods pulls me in.

WKRP in….

Cincinnati OH – Fountain Square

Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati reminds me of the TV show from the 1970s entitled “WKRP in Cincinnati”. It was an off-the-wall comedy but so was I at the time. The fountain above was always prominent in the opening credits. One thing about America is that we certainly have our share of unusual characters like Johnny Fever and Arthur Carlson and I might humbly say me :).

Who Doesn't Need A Basket…

Dresden OH – Longaberger Basket Factory

Who doesn’t need a basket once in a while. The Longaberger basket factory has been in Dresden for over one-hundred years and they make a very “American” basket. It is nice to see somethings are still made here.  Actually the factory is not really a “factory” more than hundreds of individual stations make one version or another of their line. My wife has several Longabergers in her collection of over 150 baskets strewn throughout our home…


Youngstown3As noted in yesterday’s post we spent the day at Youngstown. It was everything I expected it to be. The Youngstown Historical Center was of course all about steel. I took about forty pictures of the exhibits and will give you a few of them here.  I didn’t realize that there were actually seven mills running here during their heydays in the 1960’s. They started shutting down after the Japanese started flooding the market with sub-cost steels in the early 1980s and Ronald Reagan didn’t do anything to stop them. As a result they disappeared very quickly along with thousands of good paying middle class jobs.

There is little there now of any of the big buildings. About all that is left is the soot they produced. Youngstown is a dirty town similar to Pittsburgh but there are signs of life with new business. But never enough to keep the blighted neighborhoods in the background.

Youngstown1When we are in areas like this we try to visit the local food establishments. I got on Yelp and found a few good ones but of the three I had chosen all were closed. One appeared to be open on weekends only. We finally did find a really nice italian delicatessen.  The help there was very patient we my wife and her picky diet.

There is another thing that surprised me about the Cleveland area and that is just how diversified it is. There are many different ethnic restaurants and such around. But when I got to studying the exhibits in the historical center I remembered that many people throughout Europe and Russia immigrated to work in the mills.

After the historic center we had enough time to also visit the Butler Institute of American Art. It was a first-class place and totally dedicated to American artists. Homer Winslow was one of the most celebrated ones there.  Of course no photos in the museum so no pictures to show of that.

Youngstown2The temperatures continue to be in the 30s today but they say it will be in the 50s tomorrow. I certainly hope so as we plan to visit the Cleveland Zoo and particularly the rainforest area. It is supposed to be world-class.  More on that tomorrow.