Elimination: The Moravian Tracts

 

The three photos in this post are from a September bicycle ride. Each shows a visible trace of the old boundary of one of the three Moravian Tracts in Tuscarawas County, Ohio: the Schoenbrunn Tract, the Gnadenhutten Tract, and the Salem Tract.

The boundary between the cornfield on the left and the grove of trees to its right is the south boundary of the Schoenbrun Tract. Seen from Hwy 416. (Clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version of it on my SmugMug photo site where I’ve posted a series of photos from the entire ride.)

These tracts, of 4,000 acres each, were granted by Congress as “indemnities” to the Christian Delaware (Lenape) Indians in Ohio, and put under the trusteeship of the Moravian Brethren, the pacifist missionary group under whose guidance these Indians had been Christianized. (That’s not a good theological term, but it’s one I’ll use here.)

Ninety-some of these Indians had been massacred at Gnadenhutten in 1782. This massacre wasn’t a one-sided fight labeled “massacre”; it was a cold-blooded, systematic killing by a Pennsylvania militia company that appointed itself to retaliate against a wartime raid by other Indians. The pacifist Indians were easy picking and did not expect harm from the Americans. They were lured from their fields into the town by promises that nothing bad would happen. They were then disarmed, locked up in cabins overnight, then brought out in the morning in small groups and killed with blows to the skull by a cooper’s hammer. The site of their mass grave is at the edge of the town cemetery/historical park in Gnadenhutten.

You could say it was an act of elimination. However, two badly wounded boys did escape to tell the others.

The whole story leading up to this event is complicated, as is the aftermath, and I’m not going to attempt to retell it here. One summary of this theater of the Revolutionary War has it as a place where “whites killed Indians, Indians killed whites, Indians killed Indians, and whites killed whites in guerrilla warfare that was localized, vicious, and tolerated no neutrals.”

This incident complicated the relationship between the remaining Christian Delawares and the Moravian Brethren but did not eliminate it. Most of the Christian Delaware Indians spent the next years elsewhere in Ohio, Michigan, and Canada, some with the Moravian missionaries and some elsewhere. Some Native people have ever afterward blamed the Moravian missionaries for what happened, saying their plan had been to first tame the Indians and then kill them.

The tracts were finally surveyed in 1797, after a third act of Congress was passed, each act stating the grant in more specific terms. But they were never much used for the purpose intended by Congress. Not many Lenape people came back to them to stay. In the 1820s the tracts were sold to European-American settlers.

On the south boundary of the Gnadenhutten Tract. I got distracted by this car and forgot to look for the boundary, but it turns out to have been at the edge of the yard, behind the car.

The effect of the event on our history has not been eliminated, nor have all traces of physical boundaries of the tracts been eliminated. Property boundaries formed by the tract boundaries still serve as field and property boundaries, as shown in the photos.

Looking through a fence that follows the south boundary of the Salem Tract in the Tuscarawas River valley. Here it is also the boundary between Salem and Oxford townships.

Associated with this story is a more recent act of elimination that I found bothersome. It’s one I found while writing this article, at the website known as Ohio History Central. I have often found this site to be a useful resource, but its explanation of the Moravian missionary effort at Schoenbrunn (up the river from Gnadenhutten and established earlier) can be misleading to those who don’t know more of the story.

In the first paragraph, there is this sentence: ” The purpose of this community was to provide Moravian missionaries a place to enforce the assimilation to Christianity of the Lenape (Delaware) residing in Ohio.”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what the Moravians thought their main purpose was.

And there is more in the same vein, such as: “Moreover, Lenape children were forced to attend schools designed to provide them with instruction in both English and the missionaries’ religious beliefs. By requiring these rules of the Christian Lenapes, the Moravians drove a wedge between those Lenape who converted and those who did not.”

It is true that the Moravians tried to foster a sense of community among the believers here in America. They had also done that back in central Europe, where they had often lived as a community somewhat separate from the rest of the world, and where community sometimes took priority over family. And there may well have been a bit of “Our way or the highway,” to their dealings with the Delaware.

But the highway was wide open to any of the Delaware people who didn’t care for the Moravian Christian life. It wasn’t even a Hobson’s choice. Many of their relatives resisted the Moravian missionaries, and nothing I have read has indicated they would not have welcomed the Christian Indians back into their communities at any time. It doesn’t seem right to use the word “enforce” quite the way it’s used.

Some Christian missionaries among the North American Indians did engage in cringeworthy activities at this time and later, and their involvement with the government in removal of Indians from their lands and destruction of their culture was too often dishonorable. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the Moravians sometimes had mixed motives, too. The Apostle Paul noted that even our most righteous acts come from motivations that are not always so righteous. But this web page makes no acknowledgment of the complicated motives and situation of the Moravians, nor of the complicated situation of the Delaware. There was something that drew some of the Delaware to these communities, and nobody (to my knowledge) has explained that in this case it was access to European goods or help in getting an advantage over their enemies, as was often the case in associations between Native Americans and Europeans.

People trying to do good for others often find themselves engaging in coercion of others for their own good. But would I say (for example) that those who are trying to provide a system of universal health care for the people of this country are really doing it in order to control the people?

Well, come to think of it, I would say that and have said it. And historians have said that of Bismarck’s introduction of nationalized health care in Germany. But should we project that sort of understanding onto the Moravians and their dealings with the Delaware? I say that to do so risks elimination of the possibility of understanding people and their choices.

There are 21 comments.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I see that Ricochet still has the problem of mangling the photo captions after editing a post. Rather than attempt to fix it, I’ve just left the captions in normal text, preceded by the words “Photo caption:”

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The Reticulator: (Clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version of it on my SmugMug photo site where I’ve posted a series of photos from the entire ride.)

    I hope readers do click on to your site. Beautiful pictures.
    A very sad story, however, about the massacre. It is hard to fathom such brutality.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    MarciN (View Comment):

    The Reticulator: (Clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version of it on my SmugMug photo site where I’ve posted a series of photos from the entire ride.)

    I hope readers do click on to your site. Beautiful pictures.
    A very sad story, however, about the massacre. It is hard to fathom such brutality.

    I’m glad you liked the photos.

    A warning: If you click on one of the photos, Ricochet doesn’t open up a new window for you. You might find it more difficult than usual to find your way back to Ricochet. I’ll report this as a bug. 

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    I really enjoyed your SmugMug photos.  A perspective and “roads eye view” that one just can’t get whizzing along at seventy miles an hour.  Thanks.

     

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Great post. This isn’t something you would read everyday.BTW is that car a Studebaker or Packard?

    • #5
  6. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    The Reticulator: There was something that drew some of the Delaware to these communities, and nobody (to my knowledge) has explained that in this case it was access to European goods or help in getting an advantage over their enemies, as was often the case in associations between Native Americans and Europeans. 

    Associations between people are often  rooted in complex motivations filled with compromise, error, selfishness. On both sides. 

    • #6
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Great post. This isn’t something you would read everyday.BTW is that car a Studebaker or Packard?

    Good call. I had thought it had an American Motors look to it, but I just now figured out that it’s a Studebaker Commander, probably a 1957 model.  It says “Commander” on the front fender, and on Google Images I found a 1957 model that looks like a good match. 

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    She (View Comment):

    I really enjoyed your SmugMug photos. A perspective and “roads eye view” that one just can’t get whizzing along at seventy miles an hour. Thanks.

    Thank you. Some people go to a lot of work to keep the roads (and power lines, etc.) out of their photos, but I finally decided that I usually want the roads in.  I’m not always so crazy about the power lines and utility poles, but if they’re part of the scene, they’re part of the scene.

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    The Reticulator: (Clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version of it on my SmugMug photo site where I’ve posted a series of photos from the entire ride.)

    I hope readers do click on to your site. Beautiful pictures.
    A very sad story, however, about the massacre. It is hard to fathom such brutality.

    I’m glad you liked the photos.

    A warning: If you click on one of the photos, Ricochet doesn’t open up a new window for you. You might find it more difficult than usual to find your way back to Ricochet. I’ll report this as a bug.

    Fixed now, for this post.  @Arahant pointed out that there is an option whereby I can specify that the link should open in a new window.

    • #9
  10. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    That’s a lovely part of Ohio to visit.  I love too the finding of old canal locks and paths.

    There is a line of them in southern Ohio, coming out of Nelsonville, that is very much worth a visit too.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    That’s a lovely part of Ohio to visit. I love too the finding of old canal locks and paths.

    There is a line of them in southern Ohio, coming out of Nelsonville, that is very much worth a visit too.

    I didn’t know about that one. I’ve not been to Nelsonville.  Yet. I did a ride from Van Wert to Marietta five years ago. The last day was a long and hilly one: Zanesville to Marietta. I thought my knee was ruined for good, but by the next year I forgot it had ever bothered me. That’s the closest I ever got to Nelsonville or Athens.  So many rides remain undone. And there are so many places I’d like to revisit. 

    • #11
  12. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    That’s a lovely part of Ohio to visit. I love too the finding of old canal locks and paths.

    There is a line of them in southern Ohio, coming out of Nelsonville, that is very much worth a visit too.

    I didn’t know about that one. I’ve not been to Nelsonville. Yet. I did a ride from Van Wert to Marietta five years ago. The last day was a long and hilly one: Zanesville to Marietta. I thought my knee was ruined for good, but by the next year I forgot it had ever bothered me. That’s the closest I ever got to Nelsonville or Athens. So many rides remain undone. And there are so many places I’d like to revisit.

    Nelsonville used to be the 3rd busiest switchyard in the nation.  Now, the only locomotive that runs there is a historical sight-seeing one, and even that only runs part of the year.  Still, if you pick the right weekend, they bring out a coal-burning locomotive.  But as pretty as the ride is, it is also a bit forlorn as you pass through mile after mile of yesterday’s glories and industries – the ruins of old brick kilns, the derelict and boarded up train stations at empty stops and empty factory towns, and the grass-grown forks of where the other line spurs split off and into the hills.  And ghosting along, parallel to the rail line, is the even older canal line, with the lock walls occasionally peeking up through the soil.

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    That’s a lovely part of Ohio to visit. I love too the finding of old canal locks and paths.

    There is a line of them in southern Ohio, coming out of Nelsonville, that is very much worth a visit too.

    I didn’t know about that one. I’ve not been to Nelsonville. Yet. I did a ride from Van Wert to Marietta five years ago. The last day was a long and hilly one: Zanesville to Marietta. I thought my knee was ruined for good, but by the next year I forgot it had ever bothered me. That’s the closest I ever got to Nelsonville or Athens. So many rides remain undone. And there are so many places I’d like to revisit.

    Nelsonville used to be the 3rd busiest switchyard in the nation. Now, the only locomotive that runs there is a historical sight-seeing one, and even that only runs part of the year. Still, if you pick the right weekend, they bring out a coal-burning locomotive. But as pretty as the ride is, it is also a bit forlorn as you pass through mile after mile of yesterday’s glories and industries – the ruins of old brick kilns, the derelict and boarded up train stations at empty stops and empty factory towns, and the grass-grown forks of where the other line spurs split off and into the hills. And ghosting along, parallel to the rail line, is the even older canal line, with the lock walls occasionally peeking up through the soil.

    Now you’re making me want to go there now. But I suppose there is snow on the ground, just like here in southwest Michigan.

    • #13
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    That’s a lovely part of Ohio to visit. I love too the finding of old canal locks and paths.

    There is a line of them in southern Ohio, coming out of Nelsonville, that is very much worth a visit too.

    I didn’t know about that one. I’ve not been to Nelsonville. Yet. I did a ride from Van Wert to Marietta five years ago. The last day was a long and hilly one: Zanesville to Marietta. I thought my knee was ruined for good, but by the next year I forgot it had ever bothered me. That’s the closest I ever got to Nelsonville or Athens. So many rides remain undone. And there are so many places I’d like to revisit.

    Nelsonville used to be the 3rd busiest switchyard in the nation. Now, the only locomotive that runs there is a historical sight-seeing one, and even that only runs part of the year. Still, if you pick the right weekend, they bring out a coal-burning locomotive. But as pretty as the ride is, it is also a bit forlorn as you pass through mile after mile of yesterday’s glories and industries – the ruins of old brick kilns, the derelict and boarded up train stations at empty stops and empty factory towns, and the grass-grown forks of where the other line spurs split off and into the hills. And ghosting along, parallel to the rail line, is the even older canal line, with the lock walls occasionally peeking up through the soil.

    Now you’re making me want to go there now. But I suppose there is snow on the ground, just like here in southwest Michigan.

    There was, but it’s melted and we’re to warm up for the weekend before being plunged again into cold.  

    This is the site for the trains:  http://www.hvsry.org

    I think they may still be running some Santa trains, but those sell out rather quickly. 

    • #14
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Great moral story telling, illustrated wth great photos. 


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under November’s theme of Elimination. There are plenty of dates still available. Perhaps someone will even offer a page from the diary of a hit man, purely fictional of course. Or maybe we will read about eliminating excess inventory. Hmm, inventory control specialist by day, hitman by night? Sounds like a TV drama? What about those ads? You know what I’m talking about—even the Charmin bears! The possibilities are endless, Ricochet cool cats! Why not tell us about it and start a conversation. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. Caveat: Given the theme, please keep in mind the basic rules of R>. As you polish your little masterpiece, do ensure that it stays within the refined edge of tacky. Our December theme is “Veneration;” the sign-up sheet is now posted.

    • #15
  16. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I see that Ricochet still has the problem of mangling the photo captions after editing a post. Rather than attempt to fix it, I’ve just left the captions in normal text, preceded by the words “Photo caption:”

    It looks like some editor was nice enough to fix the captions for me, but now the problem of the photos not opening in a new tab/window is back.  If I go to fix that, I’ll probably end up breaking the captions again.

    • #16
  17. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    One of the best of Ricochet 2018.  Thanks!

    • #17
  18. Bunwick Chiffswiddle Member
    Bunwick Chiffswiddle
    @Kephalithos

    Great post! If ever you’re in the Tuscarawas River area again, and if you want fodder for a controversial blog post, you ought to pay the “Old Stone Fort” a visit. The stories surrounding it are fantastic, to say the least. (It’s too bad I believe none of them.)

    And amen. Amen x 10^14. In this era of identity politics, cynically reading into people’s actions (particularly dead, white Christian males’ actions) is faddier than hoola-hooping. It’s even infected architectural history. This semester, I read a piece arguing that ornamental woodwork serves as a tool of social segregation. Another theory floating around holds, apparently, that New Englanders overbuilt their houses because of class anxiety.

    This is what happens when conclusions inform reasoning.

    • #18
  19. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Bunwick Chiffswiddle (View Comment):
    Old Stone Fort

    http://www.midwesternepigraphic.org/croghan.html

    Been a while since I’ve been to Roscoe, I’m curious now to go see that fort.

    • #19
  20. The Dowager Jojo Inactive
    The Dowager Jojo
    @TheDowagerJojo

    There is an outdoor play that’s been produced every summer for almost 50 years now about the Gnadenhutten massacre.  Trumpet in the Land.  I saw it in my youth- my family drove some distance to see it.  Honestly I don’t remember much, except the story is heartbreaking.  Thanks for sticking up for the eighteenth century Moravians.  I think they were good guys and impressive people, generally.  They were pacifists in the Revolution, but took care of wounded colonial soldiers.  Medicine being what it was at the time, when they had an outbreak of infectious disease things went about as well for those soldiers as it did for the Lenape at Gnadenhutten.

    • #20
  21. CitizenOfTheRepublic Inactive
    CitizenOfTheRepublic
    @CitizenOfTheRepublic

    The Dowager Jojo beat me to the “Trumpet in the Land” mention.  I saw it when I was a little kid.  I think it was the week that Elvis died in 1977.  Seeing a dramatic performance of defenseless Indians being killed with a hammer was more than a little disturbing for 6 year-old me.

    • #21

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