History of Clinton Township
Clinton Township’s History Begins in Ohio!
The Moravian Years
Clinton Township’s history begins with David Zeisberger, a Moravian missionary, who practiced in the Ohio Country throughout the American Revolution and during the new nation’s early years.
Zeisberger was born in Moravia (the Czech Republic) in 1721 and immigrated to British North America in the late 1730s. He joined the Moravian Church, eventually settling near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and became a missionary to various Native American groups in Pennsylvania and New York. Zeisberger’s missionary work emphasized how Christianity could be beneficial to the natives. However, this often led to the end of the traditional ways of life of the American Indian converts.
During the 1760s, Zeisberger lived with the Lenape (Delaware) in Pennsylvania. However, as the colonial population grew in British North America, more land was needed, and the Lenape were forced westward, reaching Ohio in 1772. Upon their arrival, Zeisberger established the village of Schoenbrunn, located near modern-day New Philadelphia. The missionary intended this village to be a refuge for so-called “Christian Delaware” and a location where further outreach efforts could be made. At Schoenbrunn, the Delaware lived like the Anglo settlers in the region – planting crops, serving as skilled craftspeople, attending school, and participating in religious services. The Moravians required the Delaware to abandon much of their traditional heritage. They could no longer engage in war or the ceremonies associated with it, such as painting their faces. The Moravian missionaries urged them to follow European social customs, including monogamous marriage, and take new Christian names. Schoenbrunn and its cultural assimilation scheme was such a success that the Moravians built towns at Lichtenau and Gnadenhutten.
Zeisberger found many converts among the Delaware in eastern Ohio, but some rejected the forced changes in their lifestyles. As the American Revolution began, the Moravians and their Christian converts found themselves in a difficult position. Neither the American colonists nor the British and their Indian allies felt they could trust them. In 1781, the British commandant at Fort Detroit, Major Arent DePeyster, feared Zeisberger’s influence among the Ohio Delaware, so he arrested him for being sympathetic to the American cause. Charged with treason, Zeisberger convinced British authorities of his neutrality and was released.
Throughout the revolution, Zeisberger’s followers also faced opposition from other Delaware, who had retained their traditional belief system. Fearful for their lives, the Christian Indians abandoned Schoenbrunn in 1776. Zeisberger then concentrated his efforts on Gnadenhutten, but after its destruction in 1782 due to a brutal militia attack that killed upwards of 96 Delaware, the missionary moved his attention to new villages in northern Ohio and Michigan.
Source: Ohio History Central