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What's in a Name?

Posted by Tiffany Gerber on

Tuscarawas County is a mouthful to say and ironically it means "Open Mouth" In Deleware Indian language. It refers to the river running through the area that eventually joins the mighty Ohio. The area was once the center of the Delaware nation and played a pivotal role in the formation of the Ohio territory and the United States. Today visitors can take a tongue-twisting journey through time by visiting several historic attractions.

Ohio's first schoolhouse, church and code of laws were the bedrock of the settlement of Schoenbrunn Village (German for 'beautiful spring'). Located within today's New Philadelphia, the village was founded in 1772 by Moravian missionary David Zeisberger and a group of Christian Delaware converts. The village existed for five years until local events leading to the Revolutionary War forced the abandonment of the site. Today visitors can tour reconstructed cabins on the original foundations invluding the church and school as well as an onsite museum. Events such as the October Colonial Trade Fair, seasonal lantern tours, Children's Day and Moravian Christmas and Easter events offer a glimpse in to the frontier life for the Christian Delaware and Moravians.

Eleven miles to the south of Schoenbrunn Village is the quiet village of Gnadenhutten (German for 'Huts of Grace'). At the center of the village is a cemetery surrounding a small museum with a big story. In 1782 American militia from the Fort Pitt area marched in to the village, home to the members of the Delaware who were Christian converts known for refusing to choose a side prior to the American Revolution.  

Accused of housing or possibly participating in raids on homesteads in the region, 96 Christian Indians from newborns to the elderly were murdered by the militia members led by Colonel David Williamson. In addition to the museum, the historic site includes the reconstructed church and cooper's cabin (The two building s that housed the victims in the hours prior to the massacre), the mass grave of the martyrs and Ohio's oldest gravestone - That of Joshua, a Village elder. A monument to the event was erected so the the events would never be forgotten. 

Tuscarawas County's southern-most city is Newcomerstown. Located along the Tuscarawas River and within miles of several smaller Moravian missions, it was once capital of the Delaware nation. Its original name was Gekelmukpechunk but traders and travelers began to call it Newcomerstown after Chief Netawatwes (Newcomer). Two museums tell the story of Newcomerstown's history and a monument is dedicated to the Turtle - connected with the lineage of Chief Netawatwes. The grave of David Zeisberger can be visited in the former mission village of Goshen. The story of his arrival in the Tuscarawas Valley, founding of Schoenbrunn Village and the sad massacre at Gnadenhutten is told on stage in the summer at Ohio's first and longest-running out-door drama, 'Trumpet in the Land' at Schoenbrunn Amphitheater in New Philadelphia.

Fort Laurens, Ohio's only American commissioned Revolutionary War Fort also played a role in the events leading to the massacre and a museum, grounds and the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot of the American Revolution round out the story of Tuscarawas County, Ohio's most historic and hardest to pronounce county.