Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Zoar Village’

Fort Laurens – Only Revolutionary War Fort in Ohio Country

Fort Laurens Entrance

Fort Laurens is in Bolivar Ohio just minutes off I-77.

   Add a little history to your summer fun by visiting Fort Laurens near Bolivar. A Revolutionary War fort was built in Ohio back in 1778 by General Lachlan McIntosh on the banks of the Tuscarawas River. Fort Laurens was the only Revolutionary War fort built in the Ohio Country by the Continental Congress.

Fort Laurens Original Fort

This drawing captures the design of the original fort.

   Fort Laurens was named after Henry Laurens, the fifth president of the Continental Congress. The Americans built Fort Laurens with three purposes in mind.

Fort Laurens rifleman

Riflemen dressed in linen shirt and overalls helped build Fort Laurens.

   First, they hoped to use it as a base to attack the British garrison at Detroit Second, they hoped it would keep the American Indians, who were loyal to the British, from conducting raids against American settlers in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Finally, by offering protection to the neutral Christian Delawares, the Americans might convince them to forsake their neutrality and join the patriots’ cause.

Fort Laurens Men suffering in winter

That cold winter, men suffered at Fort Laurens in cold huts with little food.

   However, conditions were so cold during that first winter that most of the men were moved to Fort Pitt. Learning of the terrible conditions inside the fort, the British and a couple of hundred Indian warriors laid siege to the fort. The men inside the fort were reportedly reduced to making a soup broth of boiled moccasins. Two men snuck out and returned with a deer carcass. It is said that the men were so hungry they ate it raw.

   General Brodhead reported to General George Washington that the fort was too far from Detroit to stage an attack and not close enough to the Delaware Indians to offer protection. General Washington ordered the fort abandoned in August 1779.

Fort Laurens Picnic Shelters

Picnic shelters provide a great place for family gatherings.

   In July of 1887, Christian L Baatz visited the fort and became interested in preserving its history. Baazt with his friends Ed Pease and William Lowe became acquainted with landowner David Gibler. David and his brother had leveled the fort in 1853 for farming. 

   After much promotion on their part, in 1908 Ohio Archaeologists and Historical Society indicated they would like to purchase the land and create a state park. DAR and SAR also wanted to preserve the location for historical purposes.

Fort Laurens School Group

School groups participate in demonstrations to learn more about the history of our country.

   When nothing had been done for several years by these three organizations, Baazt, Pease, and Lowe drew up a petition to gather signatures to present to the Ohio State Legislature to create a proper memorial on the site. In 1915, legislation was passed to preserve the Fort Laurens site.

   It had only served as a fort for one year before it was abandoned in 1779. Part of the fort was destroyed during the building of the Ohio and Erie Canal. None of the original fort remains above ground, but the outline of the fort is still highly visible. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, an 80-mile long recreational trail, goes through the site today.

Fort Laurens Museum

The outline of the original fort can be seen in the vicinity of the museum.

   A museum tells the story of soldiers on the frontier. There is an informative video that you won’t want to miss telling the fort’s history. A display of archaeological items discovered during excavation is displayed in the museum.

Fort Laurens soldiers guarding tomb

Uniformed soldiers were present at the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot.

   There is a Tomb of the Unknown Patriot of the American Revolution paying tribute to the unknown defenders of the fort. In 1976, the year of the bicentennial of the American Revolution, a special military ceremony was held to bury the remains of the first soldier excavated in 1973. Twenty-one men lost their lives there in the year it served as a fort and the remains of some of those men are in a crypt in the museum wall. 

Fort Laurens crypt

This crypt in the museum wall contains the remains of some of the men who lost their lives here.

   Events are held here throughout the year from February through December. Check their website for up-to-date events at www.fortlaurens.org . Almost every month they have an interesting speaker. In July, they will be talking about “Women of the Revolution” presented by Sharon Snowden of Ohio First Ladies Museum.

Fort Laurens Reenactment

Reenactments bring to life the conflict of Revolutionary War days.

   Revolution on the Tuscarawas: Revolutionary War Encampment and Reenactment takes place on July 18-19. Explore British and Continental camps to meet soldiers from both sides of the conflict. Children can enjoy musket drills, colonial America games and crafts throughout the day. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time for this event.

Fort Laurens Towpath Trail

This shady Towpath Trailhead leads to the Ohio & Erie Canal after a walk through an enclosed walkway over the interstate.

   Today Fort Laurens is managed by the Zoar Community Association and remains a special memorial to those who died during the Revolutionary War. While there, bring a picnic and enjoy a relaxing walk on The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The trail goes through a shady woods before crossing the interstate on an enclosed walkway. On the other side is part of that original Ohio and Erie Canal. You can walk the three miles to Zoar Village on the towpath trail if you have the time and energy.

   Add history to your summer adventures!

Fort Laurens is easy to reach off I-77 in Ohio. Take exit 93 for OH-212 W, then turn left on Mulberry Steet. Fort Laurens is on the left hand side. There is no admission fee to the grounds but a small fee for the museum.

Zoar Village Garden’s Symbolic Design

Day Lilies greet visitors to the Zoar Gardens.

Day Lilies greet visitors at Zoar Garden.

Summer time and the flowers are blooming! The beautiful garden at Zoar Village seems most spectacular during the month of July. An entire block of vegetable and flower beds will have you wanting to find a seat and enjoy the scenery, or casually stroll down the pathways.

Long ago this garden began as a place for the communal village to grow their vegetables as well as brighten their life with flowers. Who tended those early gardens at Zoar? School boys and elderly men received this assignment as the female occupants all had household chores that must be done daily, while the men were either working the fields or building the Ohio and Erie Canal.

The center of the block garden has a special spiritual significance.

The center of the block garden has a special spiritual significance.

The spectacular Zoar Garden symbolized New Jerusalem to those German Separatists in the early 1800s. At its center stands a tall, slightly bent, Norway spruce, which represents Jesus. Surrounding the tall pine, twelve smaller junipers depict the twelve disciples.

These in turn are circled by an arbor vitae hedge, indicating heaven. Paths in the garden are proclaimed as pathways to paradise showing that no matter what path you take, if you look to Christ, you will be led to heaven.These people had strong religious beliefs now that they were free to worship as they pleased in the United States.

During the winter months, the greenhouse is filled with tropical plants.

The Gardener’s House had a conveniently attached greenhouse.

At the north end of the garden stands the Gardener’s House, which served as residence for gardener, Simon Beuter, and his family back in 1835. Shortly thereafter, a greenhouse, or hothouse, was added. Since they grew oranges, lemons and other fruit in the middle of winter in the greenhouse, it was also called the Orangerie.

Tropical plants were stored in the greenhouse during the winter months.

Tropical plants were stored in the greenhouse during the winter months.

Hothouses were unheard of in Ohio at this time. The tropical fruit trees were kept outside in large wooden tubs in the summer, but could easily be moved into the greenhouse during the cold winter months. After the Ohio and Erie Canal was built, wealthy Clevelanders would send their plants during winter to Zoar to be kept in the greenhouse, because of its unique underground heating system.

A vegetable garden would naturally have been part of the Zoarites Garden.

A vegetable garden would naturally have been part of the Zoarites’ Garden.

Research shows the Separatists frequently used many home remedies for ailments so grew medicinal types of herbs in their communal garden. They also grew fresh fruits and vegetables to provide strawberries and cabbages for the Zoar Hotel, where President William McKinley often dined on a Sunday afternoon.

Charming flower boxes on local fences added to the beauty of the village.

Charming flower boxes on local fences add to the beauty of the village.

Along the streets of town, many residents have beautiful flower gardens of their own. Baskets of flowers grace fences, and bushes bloom with beauty. There is much to see and do throughout the village with costumed guides telling about life there long ago.

While in the area take a stroll through Zoar Wetlands Arboretum or find the Trailhead nearby for the one-hundred mile long Towpath Trail of the old Ohio and Erie Canal.

Plan a visit to delightful Zoar Village on the banks of the Tuscarawas River where a guide remarked, “You could live your whole life here and never need cash. They believed cash was corrupting. It turns out they were right.”

Zoar Village can be reached just three miles off I-77 at Exit 93 between Dover and Canton, Ohio. 

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.

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