Schoenbrunn celebrates 250th anniversary

Schoenbrunn celebrates 250th anniversary
Teri Stein

Theresa Johnson reads the book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” in English and Delaware at Schoenbrunn Village on Children’s Day.


A ceremony to honor the 250th anniversary of the founding of Historic Schoenbrunn Village was held May 3, exactly 250 years from the village’s founding, at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University at Tuscarawas in New Philadelphia. The location was a last-minute scramble by organizers from an outdoor event at the village to an indoor one after the weather forecast changed to rain.

The return of the Delaware voice to the village was an important part of the ceremony and in new interpretive displays installed at Schoenbrunn this year and next. Special guests representing the Delaware tribe attended the celebration.

Levi Randoll, a representative from the Delaware tribe in Oklahoma, participated in the program. Though his family is not Christian nor were they among those at Schoenbrunn, he feels it’s important to be involved in activities where he can demonstrate Delaware traditions. Randoll did a performance of a traditional Delaware memorial song in the Delaware language.

Another special guest, Theresa Johnson, a representative of the Delaware tribe from Canada, spoke at the event with her great-grandson Kayson Doxtator, 7, of London, Ontario at her side.

Johnson is a seventh-generation member of the Schebosh family that once lived in Tuscarawas County 250 years ago. The Schebosh family has Lenape, Mohican and Munsee backgrounds.

About six years ago, Johnson was working on her family tree and went on a trip to learn more about their family history when she made a discovery.

“Maybe five years ago or six years ago, I was working on a family tree, and then I decided to go on the road,” Johnson said. “That week is a long week. I’m still learning. There’s a lot to learn.”

One stop was the Gnadenhutten Museum, where Johnson picked up some information.

“I came down to the area before, but I didn’t know my family tree. We were in a restaurant one day, and I was reading that little book from the Gnadenhutten Museum, and I read the names. It was the first time that I saw the names of the people that were massacred there. When I saw that Schebosh name, I started to cry because that name was in my family tree,” Johnson said.

Later that afternoon as part of the continuing celebration at Schoenbrunn, Johnson told the Schebosh story in the newly reconstructed Schebosh log home at the village.

Pastor John Wallace of Dover Moravian Church served as emcee for the 250th ceremony. The crowd was welcomed in three languages: English, Delaware and German. Pastor Lloyd Gooden of Sharon Moravian Church gave the opening prayer.

President of the Tuscarawas County Historical Society David Hipp spoke about the organization, which was formed to rebuild Schoenbrunn Village 101 years ago. They currently operate the Tusc/Kent Archives.

New Philadelphia Mayor Joel Day also welcomed the more than 300 people attending the ceremony.

“We are blessed to be living to celebrate the 250th anniversary. Without the reconstruction of Schoenbrunn Village, the importance of it to our city, our state and our nation would probably have been lost,” Day said. “Now you can walk the same streets as the Moravian and Delaware brothers, enter their homes, the schoolhouse, the church, and view some of their final resting places.”

Day also related the influence of Schoenbrunn to the founding of New Philadelphia.

“In the case of John Knisely, founder of New Philadelphia, he knew missionary Zeisberger. Knisely made several hunting trips to this area before settling here and founding New Philadelphia in 1804. I have to think the memories of the Schoenbrunn settlement and his friendship with brother David influenced him to name our city New Philadelphia — the new city of brotherly love,” Day said.

Congressman Bill Johnson of Ohio’s 6th Congressional District recognized Schoenbrunn’s place in Ohio’s history of having firsts.

“We recognize some of the really important ones, the first Christian settlement, church, schoolhouse and code of laws,” Johnson said. “Today, we honor Schoenbrunn Village, a historic place for all ages and a must-stop spot for any historian interested in Ohio’s significant contributions to our country.”

Johnson also presented a flag that had been flown over the nation’s capital to Schoenbrunn.

Also performing during the ceremony were the New Philadelphia Welty Middle School choir and the Moravian trombone and flute choir.

Megan Wood, director of cultural resources for the Ohio History Connection, which currently owns the site and oversees its operation through the Dennison Depot Railroad Museum, introduced the audience to the Schebosh home via photos.

“This reconstruction represents the ongoing cooperation here at Schoenbrunn, and it’s a moment in the ongoing journey where we get to learn and understand from this special place,” Wood said.

Also presented via photograph was a new metal sculpture at Schoenbrunn in honor of the Delaware people. The sculpture was a gift from the Moravian Church Northern Province.

Tom Chema of the Ohio History Connection Board of Trustees told of how it is so important to bring stories to life.

“In taking an event like a 250th anniversary and translating that into the stories of people’s lives, of their culture, of their aspirations for the future, we can internalize those stories and help us create aspirations for our future,” Chema said. “History is a collection of stories. Harry Truman once said that the only new thing is the history you have not read.”

Also participating in the program was commissioner Al Landis, Matt MacLaren of Tourism Ohio, Todd Kleismit of the Ohio Commission for the U.S. 250th, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Miller of the Moravian Church Northern Province, commissioner Chris Abbuhl and Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, director of the Center for Moravian Studies and Moravian Theological Seminary at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The success of the 250th anniversary celebration, despite the wet weather, was evident.

“Landmark anniversaries such as this one present a moment, an opportunity to step back from the daily clutter of our lives and to reflect on the historic moments that are significant and important to us. We decided that this moment, this 250th anniversary, should not be fleeting, but it should be an opportunity to celebrate,” said Wendy Zucal, executive director of the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum.

The celebration continued with Children’s Day on Wednesday, May 4 at the village with hundreds of elementary students from Claymont and Garaway participating. The celebration will continue for the next year with a monthly speaker series in conjunction with Kent State University at Tuscarawas.

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