Zeisberger, David

Zeisberger, David a Moravian missionary among the Indians of North America, was born in Moravia, Germany, in 1721 whence his parents emigrated to Herrnhut, in Upper Lusatia, for the sake of religious liberty. He was educated by the Moravians in Saxony, and afterwards lived at their settlement of Nerrendyk, Holland. In 1738 he came to Georgia, where some of his brethren had begun a settlement, that they might preach the gospel to the Creeks. Thence he removed to Pennsylvania, and assisted in the commencement of thle settlements of Bethlehem and Nazareth. Soon afterwards he became a missionary to the Indians, and labored among the Delawares. at Shamokin, and the Iroquois at Onondaga, N.Y., till after the breaking out of war in 1754. On the return of peace, after the conspiracy of Pontiac, he led the remnant of the Christian Indians, who had found a refuge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Wyalusing, on the Susquehanna. in Bradford County. In 1767 he established a Church among the Monseys, on the Alleghany. In 1772 he penetrated still farther, exploring the Muskingum region, and laving out the town of Schoenbrunn, on the Tuscarawas, about ten miles from the present Canal Dover, Ohio. Here he was joined by all the Moravian Indians of Pennsylvania, and the mission was greatly enlarged. In 1781, at the instigation of the British commandant at Detroit, a party of Wyandots broke up these settlements, and compelled the Christian Indians to remove, to Sandusky. The missionaries were shamefully abused. In the following year a party of ninety-six of those who had been driven to Sandusky returned to their former homes to gather their corn, and were treacherously murdered at Gnadenhiitten by a party of the white settlers. After this melancholy incident most of the converts dispersed, and Zeisberger, with a small remnant, went to the Clinton River and formed a settlement in the present state of Michigan. In 1786 he returned to the southern shore of Lake Erie, and soon began another settlement, which he called New Salem. In 1791. however, he was obliged to remove to Canada on account of the hostility of the other Indians. There he founded Fairfield on the Thames. In 1798 the Moravian Indians received a grant from Congress of the tract of land which had been their former home in the valley of the Tuscarawas. To this locality Zeisberger returned with some of his converts, and established a new station, which he called Goshen. Here he remained until his death, November 17, 1808. Perhaps no man ever preached the gospel so long among the Indians, and amid so many trials and hardships. He was a man of small stature, with a cheerful countenance, of a cool, intrepid spirit, with a good understanding and sound judgment. His portrait is prefixed to Heckewelder's Narrative. Amid all his privations and dangers he was never known to complain, nor ever regretted that he had engaged in the cause of the Redeemer. He would never consent to receive a salary, although he deemed it proper for some missionaries. He trusted in his Lord for the necessaries of life, and he looked to the future World for his reward. Free from selfishness, a spirit of universal love filled his bosom. A more perfect character has seldom been exhibited on the earth. It is a melancholy fact that he suffered more from white men, called Christians, by reason of their selfishness and depravity and hostility to the gospel, than from the Indians. Had the back settlers of our country participated in the benevolent spirit of the Moravians the benefit to the natives would have been incalculable. Amid all obstacles the brethren, in the days of Mr. Zeisberger, instructed and baptized about fifteen hundred Indians. The calm death of those who were murdered at Muskingum, in 1782, is a striking proof of the influence of the gospel on men, concerning whom it is sometimes said they cannot be made Christians. About 1768 he wrote two grammars of the Onondaga, in English and German, and a dictionary, German and Indian, of more than seventeen hundred pages. In the Lenape, or language of the Delawares, he published a spelling-book, sermons to children, and a hymn-book, containing upwards of five hundred hymns, translated partly from German and partly from English. He left in manuscript a grammar in German of the Delaware language, which has been translated by Mr. Du Ponceau; also a harmony of the four gospels, translated into Delaware. See De Schweinitz, Life and Times of David Zeisberger (Philadelphia, 1870); Heckewelder, Narrative of the Missions. among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians (ibid. 1820); Allen, Amer. Biog. Dict. (1857); Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.

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