Life in 1832 Zoar


Photo courtesy of the Ohio History Connection

In the preface to my next Zoar mystery, Tree of Heaven (fall, 2017), Ludwig writes to his brother in Germany, urging him to bring his family and come to America. Here’s what he tells him about their life in Zoar:

“When we finally made our way from Philadelphia to the land in Northeast Ohio that Josef had purchased—sight unseen—and we saw its wildness, we almost lost faith. There we were—nearly three hundred souls but more than two hundred were women or frail elderly ones. However would we clear the land, plant fields, or even build cabins to shelter us?

Although I rued it, Josef steered us to the right. We needed the women’s work without fear of child bearing. So, Josef outlawed marriage! Yes, I left my dearest Olga to live with the men, and the women worked alongside us for seven years.

Then Josef saved us once again. He signed a contract with the state of Ohio for us to build their canal through our lands. Hard work, it was, but finally, we finished the digging. When Josef received payment for the work, he paid the mortgage on our land. With our settlement established and no more debt, Josef freed us to marry. I need not tell you how grateful I was to return to my beloved wife’s bed!

Today we have all we need. Homes, buildings to house our work—dairy, bakery, weaver, tinsmith, blacksmith, cabinet maker, cobbler and more along with mills to saw wood, grind flour, and spin wool. Fresh drinking water bubbles from five springs around the village. Our cattle, sheep, and hogs have plentiful pastures, and a forest of oak, ash, and walnut trees provides ample wood for building and for fires. This autumn we had an exceptional harvest, reaping wheat, oats, rye, and barley more than enough for the winter. We even built a smelter to cast iron stoves just like the ones you have there!

In fact, dear Bruder, our little village will seem familiar to you so much like home it is. With one difference: we are free to worship as Separatists with no fear that the authorities will intervene. No one will be arrested, flogged, nor imprisoned. Nor will our homes or our children be taken from us. You cannot imagine how comforting it is to join in silent prayer with your fellows, knowing that nothing untoward will shatter that peace. I want only for you to receive such freedom.”

One note…in 1832 Zoar, Adelaide had yet to solve a murder!



1 Comment

  1. Cheryl Thomas says:

    Oh my! My taste buds are hungry for more and fear I will starve to death before the Fall of 2017! Cannot wait. Zoar is so interesting and especially since there is a close connection with it’s most famous author!

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