A Brief History of Tuscarawas County OH

Tuscarawas County, Ohio


Supt. J. M. Richardson.

Note: Only certain sections of this book will be included on this site. Names have been capitalized to help with identification.


We have no apology to make for writing this Brief History of Tuscarawas County, other than to state that it resulted from a desire, on our part, to place the history of our county within easy reach of the boys and girls, especially the pupils of the public schools. We do not feel that we are able to add anything to the histories already written, nor to preserve the record of any event from oblivion. The story has been well told by able writers, and, to a casual observer, it may seem that this unpretentious volume was not needed. All previous publications on this subject are so voluminous and high priced as to be within the reach of those only, who are blessed with abundance of means to purchase.

Carl LANGE, in his Theory of Apperception, would have the German boy begin the study of history by studying the fables and folk-lore of his locality. Our modern educators would have the child first study local geography. These educational opinions rest upon good psychological reasons. A newly settled country like ours, into which civilization has been transplanted from older countries, is without the legends and folk-lore of a people who have wrought out a civilization in the land which they, as a primitive race, inhabited. We believe that teaching the legends of Europe fails in its application to American youth. Then, in the absence of local folk-lore with which to begin the study of history, we know of nothing more fitting to supply the deficiency than the story of our early pioneers. The life of the story largely consists in the child's acquaintance with the locality, or the proximity it bears to him with respect to time and place. Therefore, it is to the pupils of the public schools that we respectfully dedicate our Brief History.


Name. The name Tuscarawas, like a great many geographical names of our country, is one of Indian origin. The Tuscaroras of North Carolina migrated northward in the year 1711, and became a part of the Confederation afterward known as the Six Nations. It is claimed that a portion of this tribe afterward wandered westward, selected this portion of the state as their hunting-ground, and gave their name to the locality. The orthography of the word has been changed by substituting "aw" for "or" and thus changed it became the name the white men gave to the river and valley. In one of the Indian dialects the name means "open mouth." The definition, however, given by HECKENWELDER is probably more correct. He says that Tuscarawas means "old town," and that the oldest Indian town in the valley was situated near the present site of Bolivar and was called "Tuscarawa." If the Tuscaroras ever occupied the valley it must have been for only a short time, for the Delawares inhabited it when the first white men began to enter it.

Geographical Position. The meridian of 80 degrees, 30 minutes, W. divides the county into nearly equal eastern and western parts, and the parallel of 40 degrees, 30 minutes, N. nearly bisects it into northern and southern parts. The point of intersection of these lines is about two miles west of New Philadelphia. The area of the county is about 550 square miles. The surface is partly level and partly rolling and hilly. The soil is very fertile, especially in the valleys of the Tuscarawas River and Sugar Creek. The hills abound in coal, iron ore and fire clay, and quarries in different parts furnish excellent building stone. The country was formerly covered with dense forest which the hand of industry has cleared away to give place to finely cultivated farms.

First White Men. --Perhaps the first white men in the county were English and French traders. In 1750 the Ohio Land Company sent out Christopher GIST to explore, survey and find the best land embraced in a grant of half a million acres lying on both sides of the Ohio River. Leaving the Potomac River in October, GIST crossed the Ohio near the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela. From there he traveled to the mouth of Beaver River and then crossed the country, reaching the Tuscarawas on the 5th of December, at a point near the site of Bolivar. On the 7th he crossed over to the Indian Town and found the natives to be in the interest of the French. He then followed the course of the river southward to where it unites with the Walhonding. Here he found a town of about one hundred families, a portion of whom favored the French, and a portion of whom favored the English interests. Arriving in sight of the village he saw the English colors floating over the tent of a chief and also over the cabin of an English trader. He learned that several depredations instigated by the French had already been committed, and that the property of English traders was being seized and sent to the French forts on the lakes. These were some of the beginnings of the war between the two nations for supremacy in America.

Moravian Missionaries. --Earliest amont the Moravian missionaries to visit the Indians of the Tuscarawas, came Christian Frederick POST. He was born at Conitz, Prussia, in 1710, came to America in 1742, and from 1743 to 1749 labored as a missionary among the Moravian Indians in Connecticut and New York. In 1761 he visited the Delawares at Tuscarawa (Bolivar) to instruct them in the doctrines of Christianity. He erected a cabin on the north bank of the Tuscarawas about a mile above Bolivar, in what is now Bethlehem township, Stark Co. This was the first house built by white men in Ohio, except for a few cabins that had been put up by traders and French Jesuits. Having performed the business entrusted to him, he returned to Bethlehem, Pa. Being impressed with the belief that he could convert the red men to Christianity, he returned again to the Tuscarawas in 1762, accompanied by John HECKENWELDER, then a young man nineteen years of age, who afterwards became famous in the mission fields of our country.

POST found his cabin as he had left it, and he and young HECKEWELDER proceeded to make it a tenable home. Three acres of land were granted him by the Indians, which he at once began to clear. When the savages saw how rapidly the forest trees were felled by his ax, they called a council and summoned him to appear. They told him they feared the results of his cutting away the forest, for soon others would come and settle there and make many and larger clearings, just as the white men had farther east. He explained to them that he only desired a small field that he might plant and raise vegetables for his subsistance, so as not to become a burden upon his friends, the Indians. They replied that if he was sent to them by the Great Father, as he said, that he should also secure his support from the same source. That the French missionaries at Detroit desired only a very small garden spot in which to cultivate flowers which the white men love so well. The council then decided to give POST even a larger garden spot than the missionaries at Detroit possessed. They agreed that it should be fifty steps each way, and the next day Captain PIPE, one of their chieftains stepped it off for him, and though small, the white man had secured an inheritance on the banks of the beautiful Tuscarawas.

An Indian treaty meeting had been appointed at Lancaster that summer, and Mr. POST attended. He induced several of the Indian to attend with him. Young HECKEWELDER was left in charge of the mission to instruct the children during POST'S absence. In a short time after POST'S departure it became known to HECKEWELDER that the Indians, at the instigation of the French, were taking up arms against the English. He wrote to POST telling him of his critical situation, and received an answer advising him to quit the mission and leave the country lest he should be murdered. He set out in October with some traders, for Pittsburg, and on the way met Mr. POST and Alexander MCKEE, an Indian agent, and apprised them of the danger of attempting to visit the Indian towns. MCKEE was on his way to receive some captives whom the savages had agreed to liberate. MCKEE returned without any prisoners and POST saved himself by flight. This first attempt at establishing a mission among the Indians was a failure. POST married an Indian woman named Rachel who died in 1747, and two years later married another Indian woman named Agnes. After her death in 1751, he married a white woman. It is said that on account of his Indian marriages he did not secure the full co-operation of the Moravian authorities.

After leaving Ohio in 1762, POST proceeded to establish a mission among the Mosquito Indians on the Bay of Honduras, Central America. He afterward untited with the Protestant Episcopal Church and died at Germantown, Pa., April 29, 1785.

Schoenbrunn. --In the spring of 1771 ZEISBERGER visited Gekelemupechunk, capital of the Delawares in the Tuscarawas valley, for the purpose of making arrangements for the establishing of a mission. While among the Indians on this trip he preached a sermon to them. The small-pox was raging among them at this time. Early in 1772, with a number of Christian Indians he again visited the Delawares and asked permission to settle in the valley and to establish a mission. He was received with great favor and was the guest of NELAWOTWES the chief of the nation, who granted him land wherin to establish this mission. The reason the Indians were so pleased with his coming was because the scourge of small-pox had disappeared from among them, which disappearance they attributed to the effects of his sermon the year before. The grant he received consisted of the land lying between the mouths of Stillwater and Old Town creeks, nearly opposite New Philadelphia. On this grant the missionary and twentyeight persons settled a place they called Schoenbrunn (Beautiful Spring).

In the same year a large body of Christian Indians, about three hundred in number, left their settlement on the Susquehana, and marching westward under the leadership of Rev. John ETWIN arrived at the missionary settlement on the Big Beaver early in August. They carried with them all their agricultural implements and household effects besides a large number of horses and about seventy head of cattle. The entire company left Big Beaver August 5th, accompanied by ETWIN, ZEISBERGER and HECKEWELDER, and arrived at Schoenbrunn on the 23rd of August, 1772. They decided at once to make a permanent settlement, and sent a delegation to Gekelemukpechunk announcing their arrival. The chiefs in council met the delegation with many expressions of friendship, and the event was celebrated by holding a grand feast. The new comers were visited daily by their neighbors who came to see them putting up buildings, plowing the ground, etc.; but what surprised them most was that so many Indians could live peaceably and happily together and devote themselves to laboring in the fields. Encouraged by the manifestations of friendship on the part of the uncivilized Indians, the missionaries decided to build a chapel at Schoenbrunn. It was built of square timber, thirty six by forty feet, shingle roofed with cupola and bell. How that bell must have rung out glad tidings to the children of the forest! They laid out their town regularly, with wide streets, and kept out the cattle by good fences, and adopted a code of rules of government which are given here verbatim from HECKEWELDER'S narrative:

1. We will know of no God, nor worship any other but him who has created us, and redeemed us with his most precious blood.
2. We will rest from all labor on Sundays, and attend the usual meetings on that day for divine service.
3. We will honor father and mother, and support them in age and distress.
4. No one shall be permitted to dwell with us, without the consent of our teachers.
5. No theives, murderers, drunkards, adulterers, and whoremongers shall be suffered among us.
6. No one that attendeth dances, sacrifices or heathenish festivals, can live among
7. No one using Tschappich (or witchcraft) in hunting, shall be suffered among us.
8. We will renounce all juggles, lies, and deceits of Satan.
9. We will be obedient to our teachers, and to the helpers -- national assistants - who are appointed to see that good order be kept both in and out of the town.
10. We will not be idle and lazy; nor tell lies of one another; not strike each other; we will live peaceably together.
11. Whosoever does any harm to another's cattle, goods, or effects, &c., shall pay the damage.
12. A man shall have only one wife -- love her and provide for her, and the children. Likewise a woman shall have but one husband and be obedient unto him; she shall also take care of the children, and be cleanly in all things.
13. We will not permit any rum, or spirituous liquors, to be brought into our towns. If strangers or traders happen to bring any, the helpers -- national assistants -- are to take it into their possession, and take care not to deliver it to them until they set off again.
14. None of the inhabitants shall run in debt with traders, nor receive goods on commission for traders, without the consent of the national assistants.
15. No one is to go on a journey or long hunt without informing the minister or stewards of it.
16. Young people are not to marry without the consent of their parents, and taking their advice.
17. If the stewards or helpers apply to the inhabitants for assistance, in doing work for the benefit of the place, such as building meeting and school houses, clearing and fencing lands, &c., they are to be obeyed.
18. All necessary contributions for the public ought cheerfully to be attended to.

The above rules were made and adopted at a time when there was profound peace; when, however, six years afterward (during the revolutionary war) individuals of the Delaware Nation took up the hatchet to join in the conflict, the national assistant proposed and insisted on having the following additional rules added, namely:

19. No man inclining to go to war -- which is the shedding of blood, can remain
amid us.
20. Whosoever purchases goods or articles of warriors, knowing at the time that such have been stolen or plundered, must leave us. We look upon this as giving encouragement to murder and theft.

Any person desiring to live in the community was requested to promise to conform strictly to the above rules. In case any person violated them, he or she was first admonished and reprimanded and if that proved ineffectual the offender was expelled. Other rules were adopted as the circumstances encumbent on the growth of the community demanded.

Gnadenhutten. --The absence of ZEISBERGER from Big Beaver soon induced the Indians at that place to abandon their settlement in order to join the settlers on the Tuscarawas. A portion traveled across the country under the leadership of their missionary, ROTHE. The remainder with HECKEWELDER embarked in twenty-two canoes and paddled down the Ohio to the mouth of the Muskingum and thence up that river and the Tuscarawas to Schoenbrunn, where, after much suffering and many hardships, they joined their brethren. Besides this, new converts from the Delawares were constantly coming in, and it became necessary to establish a new settlement. A site was selected ten miles down the river and a town was laid out in regular order, with wide streets. They put up a chapel with cupola and bell, the same as at Schoenburnn, and gave the place the name of Gnadenhutten, which it retains to this day. The name Gnadenhutten means "Tents of Grace." This home of the Christian Indians is mentioned by Longfellow in his "Evangeline." The heroine of the poem visits the village on her search for Gabriel...

Needing a resident minister, they sent some Christian Indians to Bethlehem, Pa., to bring Rev. SCHMICK and his wife, who arrived at the village on the 18th day of August, 1773, and took up their residence in a new house built expressly for them.

Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten grew and prospered, and soon another settlement was established at Salem, the site of which is about three-fourths of a mile from Port Washington.

The year 1774 brought trouble to the missionaries and their settlements at Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten. A war broke out between the white settlers of Virginia and the Mingo, Wyandot and Shawanese tribes dwelling on the north side of the Ohio. War parties came and hovered around the missions, so that the few white people living there were constantly in danger of their lives, and dare not leave their houses. The peril of the missionaries became so great that their Indian converts guarded their homes day and night. The Christian Indians and the Delawares eserted all their influence to bring the war to a close and establish peace. They were the objects of suspicion from the Virginians and from the hostile tribes. This border war lasted throughout the year, but a peace was finally concluded, and the year 1775 found the mission station of the Tuscarawas again prosperous and happy.

During the troubles of 1774, New Comerstown seems to have been the rendezevous for noted white men as well as for the Indians. There at times met MCKEE, ANDERSON and SIMON GIRTY and we notice the fact that while ZEISBERGER and HECKEWELDER at Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten were civilizing the Indians, the other Indians at New Comerstown were making savages of the white men. MCKEE, ANDERSON and GIRTY were of Irish descent and came to Ohio from the Susquehanna where their parents had settled at an early day.

Last of the Moravians in Ohio. --On the 4th of August, 1823, a treaty was entered into at Gnadengutten, between Lewis CASS, Gorernor of Michigan, on the part of the United States, and Lewis DE SCHWENNTZ, on the part of the society, as a preliminary step to the retrocession of the lands to the government. The members of the society agreed to relinquish all their right and title in the lands on condition that the government would pay $6,654, being but a small portion of the money that had been expended. In order that the agreements of the treaty might be legal, it was necessary to have the written consent of the Indians for whose benefit the land had been donated. These embraced the remainder of the Christian Indians formerly settled on the land, including KILLBUCK and his descendants, and the nephews and descendants of the late Captain WHITE EYES, Delaware chiefs. The Goshen Indians as they were now called, repaired to Detroit for the purpose of completing the contract. On the 8th of November they signed a treaty with Gov. CASS, in which they agreed to relinquish the twelve thousand acres in Tuscarawas county, for twenty four thousand acres in one of the territories, to be designated by the U. S. government, together with an annuity of $400. A provision went with this latter stipulation, which rendered its payment uncertain. The Indians never returned. Most of them took up their habitation at a Moravian mission station on the River Thames, Canada. By an act of congress passed in May 1824, their former inheritance at Schoenbrunn, Gnadengutten and Salem, was surveyed into farm lots and sold.

New Comer's Town --It is difficult to obtain the accurate history of New Comerstown previous to the settlement of the county by the whites. We know that near the present town of that name, there was an Indian village of considerable size; that the chieftain, NETAWOTWES, lived in a house built of logs, with board floors, stairway and shingle roof, in fact a kingly palace compared to the ordinary Indian hut. It was a rendezvous for traders, hunters, trappers and renegades. The Indian name of the place was Gekelemukpechunk. By this name it was known to ZEISBERGER and the other missionaries. Translated it means "New Comer's Town." The Indians named the place New Comerstown, probable in honor of king NEWCOMER, their former chief. It consisted of about one hundred houses mostly built of logs. This gave the place some appearance of permanence, and the Indians cultivated as much as three hundred acres of the contiguous territory. As the Indians were driven westward, the traders, hunters and trappers moved with them. The first permanent white settlers of the town cannot be determined definitely. John MULVANE was dwelling in the valley as early as 1804, as shown by a running account he then had at the Gnadengutten store of David PETER. David JOHNSON and a Mr. SILLS settled in the valley soon after.

Rev. David Jones at New Comerstown. --In the year 1773, Rev. David JONES, a Presbyterian minister, was sent out from Philadelphia city to the Scioto and Muskingum valley, with the view of establishing a mission. On his arrival at Schoenbrunn, he found ZEISBERGER had planted colonies along the Tuscarawas, and as they gave evidence of success, Jones proceeded on south and spent some time among the Shawanese, but found no encouragement among them. He therefore returned to the Tuscarawas valley to New Comerstown. Here the Indians were holding a great feast and dance in which whisky, procured from traders, was the principal performer. Very naturally they were in no mood to listen to sermons, and refused to give Mr. JONES permission to preach. They shut him up in one of the huts and put a guard around it, and some proposed to kill him, but one of their chiefs, called KILLBUCK, interfered and saved his life.

The festivities over, they listened to the preacher who spoke much against the use of whisky, and made such an impression on the mind of Chief KILLBUCK that he became a convert and was opposed to intemperance ever afterward. KILLBUCK did not believe in any halfway measures in the matter of reform and while Mr. JONES remained at New Comerstown, destroyed all the liquor on hand, and notified the traders that if they brought any more whisky among the Indians they (the traders) would be scalped. Such a decided position on the temperance question did not give much room for argument. It aroused the enmity of the drinking Indians against the preacher and they again threatened his life. His danger becoming very great, the chief escorted him to Gnadenhutten, and from there to Schoenbrunn, from which place the Moravian Indians saw him safe to Fort Pitt.

In the year 1774 the Delawares removed their capital to Goshockunk (Coshocton.) As a tribe they usually used their influence to maintain peace between the white settlers and the Indians; but when the Revolutionary War broke out the tribe became divided in its allegiance to the Colonists and the British. GIRTY, MCKEE, ANDERSON and ELLIOT went among them trying to inflame them against the Americans. They were seconded in their efforts by a number of deserters from Fort Pitt. The greater portion of the Delawares under the leadership of Captain PIPE, were drawn over to the British cause, while a portion with KILLBUCK as leader, remained friendly to that of the Americans. KILLBUCK with his followers returned to the old capital at New Comerstown, where they did good service in the cause of the colonies by giving the settlers on the frontier timely warnings of the intended raids of their hostile brethren, and acting as a check upon their movements. Associated with KILLBUCK in his friendly offices in behalf of the colonies, was another chieftan, Captain WHITE EYES, who should be remembered with feelings of gratitude on account of his unwavering devotion to the interest of the Americans.


J.M. Richardson. Used with the permission of author's daughter 1999 -