Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘village blacksmith’

Zoar Village – 1800s Communal Living

Bimeler Cabin was built in 1817.

Bimeler Cabin was built in 1817 by their original leader, Joseph Bimeler.

Desire for religious freedom caused about 200 German Separatists to escape their homeland and eventually make their new American home at Zoar Village in 1817. The town received its name from a Biblical source as Lot sought refuge in Zoar from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The group’s leader, Joseph Bimeler, first led the group to Pennsylvania, where they received help from the local Quaker community. The Quakers gave them jobs and finally loaned them money to buy about 5000 acres in northeastern Ohio.

Many in the group were having financial problems so they decided to put all their money together. The Society of the Separatists of Zoar held all property and finances, as they established one of the most successful communal settlements in American history.

Ohio & Erie Canal Museum with an original firehouse door as background

Ohio & Erie Canal Museum with an original firehouse door as background

In their early days, constructing the Ohio & Erie Canal gave work for the people of Zoar, plus easy access to receiving and shipping goods. Zoar actually became a shipping port during the days of the canal. The settlement lasted about 80 years before a public auction sold all communal property, and people began working for themselves.

Today, ten historic buildings offer a peek into life of the people who lived here. Guides dressed in costume give valuable information to make the day entertaining and informative. Special programs are held throughout the year that are educational and fun – from speakers to making hands-on projects. Take a step back in time and explore their way of life.

Residents in the 1800s would meet in the Assembly House each morning where they would be assigned daily tasks. The German women honored cleanliness in all things, so whitewashed walls and even scrubbed trees in their front yards.

The village blacksmith became responsible for making wheels for the buggies that the Zoarites used. Perhaps he had a hand in making the keg wagon that took beer to the workers in the fields. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get any beer!

Zoar School

Today, the former Zoar Public School contains memorabilia and a perfect place for educational programs.

Zoar Public School instructed students grades 1–8 from the village and surrounding area. Grades 1-4 studied downstairs with easy access to the playground, while older students in grades 5-8 were instructed upstairs until the school closed in 1960. At its beginning all instruction was in German, but over the years it gradually switched bit by bit to English.

Zoar Baker

Baker explains how the brick ovens were used.

A bakery contained three main rooms.  One room held bins of various kinds of flour, potatoes, and ingredients necessary for making the baked goods. Another contained a 6′ deep, brick oven, which filled an entire wall. Here 80-100 loaves of bread, each weighing 4-5 pounds, were baked each day. Finally, the distribution room handed out baked goods to students, who delivered various goods each day after school.

Two museums are located at the Town Hall. The Ohio & Erie Canal Museum is downstairs and contains pictures and memorabilia from the days of the canal through that area. Upstairs, The Museum of Zoarite Artifacts contains tools, pictures, spinning wheels, and toys used in those early days.

Pipe Organ at the old Meeting House

Pipe Organ at the old Meeting House

The Meeting House, built in  1853, contains Zoar-made bricks and sandstone from Zoarite quarries. Their unique sounding bell perhaps resulted from silver dollars being mixed with the ore while the bell was being cast. The beautiful pipe organ, purchase in 1892, filled the air with hymns while visitors joined their voices.

The original cabin of the founder still looked like a place this gypsy wouldn’t mind living. In many ways, these people were way ahead of their time!

Zoar Village is off I-77 at State Route 212 between Canton and New Philadelphia, Ohio. Their spectacular garden and greenhouse calls for a return trip and a separate posting. Don’t forget to stop at the Firehouse Grille & Pub for a relaxing break…everything was delicious.

Rural 1890 Village at Meadowcroft Rockshelter

Blacksmith at work in his shop

Blacksmith at work in his shop

Peace and charm of living in a small rural community, previously the Miller family homestead, came to life at the 1890s Rural Village at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village. Set at the far end of the complex, a visit here provided a relaxing spot in the day.

The village blacksmith demonstrated making a hook for a Dutch oven. Heat for the red-hot forge was produced by coal or coke. “Fanning the flame” provided the hottest heat needed for the perfect hook.

Miller home with garden

Miller home with garden

Betty Lamp

Betty Lamp was originally called the Better Lamp because it burned all night long using animal fat with a wick of twisted cloth.

The Miller Log House, constructed in 1795 by their great-great-grandfather, has been moved to the village. A garden planted nearby gave easy access to fresh vegetables.

While the children’s bedroom was upstairs, parents slept downstairs to protect them and keep the fire going through the night. All the furniture in the large downstairs’ room sat against the walls. That made it possible to come in the front door and walk straight to the fireplace on those cold winter days.

The guide explained that a second frame for a bed usually existed under the other beds so unexpected company could easily be handled. Their beds were made of straw and tightened with ropes to give them shape. Sometimes insects would get in the straw during the night, thus the saying: Good night, Sleep tight, Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Desks with slates in old schoolhouse

Desks with slates in old schoolhouse

Bancroft Schoolhouse served as a one-room school for 10-20 students from 1834-1921. At that time, there were seven schools in a given mile radius. During the visit, a schoolmarm presented lessons of long ago to those in attendance. Original signatures of Bancroft students covered the blackboard while pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln decorated the walls. Atop the double desks, two slates provided a place for students to write their lessons.

Entering the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1870 provided a glimpse back to the bare essentials of the church. Floors were bare with little ornate decorations around the church. A buggy, which brought the minister to the church service, waited outside.

Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church with minister’s buggy outside

The Rural Village is just one part of the Meadowcroft Historical Complex, which also contains the famous Rockshelter archaeological site and Indian Village. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day exploring, when they reopen in May.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is found near Avella, PA off the beaten path. Your easiest bet might be to have your GPS guide you to 401 Meadowcroft Road in Avella, PA.

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