Zoar, Ohio

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Zoar, Ohio
Former canal tavern
Former canal tavern
Location of Zoar, Ohio
Location of Zoar, Ohio
Detailed map of Zoar
Detailed map of Zoar
Coordinates: 40°36′47″N 81°25′18″W / 40.61306°N 81.42167°W / 40.61306; -81.42167Coordinates: 40°36′47″N 81°25′18″W / 40.61306°N 81.42167°W / 40.61306; -81.42167
CountryUnited States
 • Total0.67 sq mi (1.72 km2)
 • Land0.58 sq mi (1.49 km2)
 • Water0.09 sq mi (0.23 km2)
 • Total172
 • Density298.61/sq mi (115.36/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code330
FIPS code39-88168

Zoar is a village in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, United States. The population was 169 at the 2010 census. The community was founded in 1817 by Radical Pietists as a utopian Christian community, which survived until 1898.[2]

Much of the village's early layout survives, as do many buildings from its utopian origins. Most of the community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 as the Zoar Historic District, and was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2016.[3] Some of the historic buildings are now operated as museum properties.


Zoar Society[edit]

Views in Zoar 1875

Zoar was founded by Radical Pietist Christian dissenters from Germany called the Society of Separatists of Zoar in 1817.[2][4] It was named after the Biblical village to which Lot and his family escaped from Sodom. It was a communal society: all property was communally owned, and the farms, shops, and factories were managed by regularly elected trustees. The society attained its greatest prosperity in the 1850s, when it owned over 10,000 acres of land and was worth approximately $1 million. Many German-style structures that have been restored and are part of the Zoar Village State Memorial. There are presently ten restored buildings. According to the Ohio Historical Connection, Zoar is an island of Old-World charm in east-central Ohio.[5][6]

These Radical Pietists, also known as Separatists, or Zoarites, emigrated from the kingdom of Württemberg in southwestern Germany due to religious oppression from the Lutheran church. Leading among their group were some natives of Rottenacker on the Danube. Having separated from the established church, their theology was based in part on the writings of Jakob Böhme. They did not practice baptism or confirmation and did not celebrate religious holidays except for the Sabbath. A central flower garden in Zoar is based on the Book of Revelation with a towering tree in the middle representing Christ and other elements surrounding it representing other allegorical elements.

The leader of the society was named Joseph Bimeler (also known as Joseph Bäumler or Bäumeler, born 1778), a pipemaker as well as teacher from Ulm. His charismatic leadership carried the village through a number of crises. Bimeler led the society until his death, which occurred in 1853.[7]

An early event critical to the success of the colony was the digging of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The Zoarites had purchased 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land sight unseen and used loans to pay for it. The loans were to be paid off by 1830. The Society struggled for many years to determine what products and services they could produce in their village to pay off the loans. The state of Ohio required some of the Zoarite land to be used as a right of way and offered the Zoarites an opportunity to assist in digging the canals for money. The state gave them a choice of digging it themselves for pay or having the state pay others to dig the canal. The Zoarites then spent several years in the 1820s digging the canal and thus were able to pay off their loans on time with much money to spare.

Bimeler's death on August 31, 1853, led to a slow decline in the cohesion of the village. By 1898, the village voted to disband the communal society and the property was divided among the remaining residents.


Zoar is located at 40°36′47″N 81°25′18″W / 40.61306°N 81.42167°W / 40.61306; -81.42167 (40.613102, -81.421686),[8] along the Tuscarawas River.[9] That is 2.9 road miles east of I77 via Ohio route 212 and 16.1 road miles south of Canton, Ohio in Stark County.[10] (Canton itself is 24 miles south of Akron and 58 miles south of Cleveland and Lake Erie.)

Zoar village is 3.2 road miles north of Zoarville, Ohio, an unincorporated community.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 0.67 square miles (1.74 km2), of which 0.58 square miles (1.50 km2) is land and 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2) is water.[11]

Zoar is located at Mile Post 84.5 on the main line of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway between Cleveland and Wheeling, West Virginia, which parallels the Tuscarawas River for much of its length.[citation needed]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[13] of 2010, there were 169 people, 77 households, and 58 families residing in the village. The population density was 291.4 inhabitants per square mile (112.5/km2). There were 85 housing units at an average density of 146.6 per square mile (56.6/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 98.2% White, 0.6% Asian, and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.6% of the population.

There were 77 households, of which 19.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.2% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 1.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 24.7% were non-families. 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 2.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.50.

The median age in the village was 52.6 years. 10.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 14.8% were from 25 to 44; 42.6% were from 45 to 64; and 26% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 52.1% male and 47.9% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 193 people, 79 households, and 62 families residing in the village. The population density was 350.8 people per square mile (135.5/km2). There were 81 housing units at an average density of 147.2 per square mile (56.9/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 97.93% White, 1.04% Asian, and 1.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.52% of the population.

There were 79 households, out of which 22.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.4% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.3% were non-families. 17.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.73.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 20.2% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 18.7% from 25 to 44, 42.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 89.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.8 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $46,964, and the median income for a family was $55,625. Males had a median income of $45,417 versus $33,750 for females. The per capita income for the village was $22,828. About 3.6% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.4% of those under the age of 18 and none of those 65 and older.

Flooding threat[edit]

The future of the village is threatened because a Tuscarawas River levee that protects the village has been given the lowest safety rating by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The village sits at the base of the levee, which was built by the Corps in 1936 as part of its water management program in the region.

With the levee in failing condition, the Corps was evaluating three alternatives:

  • Repair the levee
  • Purchase the village, tear it down, and let the area flood
  • Relocate the village to higher ground.

The Zoar Village Government and the Zoar Community Association are working to preserve the Village where it stands and have created the Save Historic Zoar Association.[15]

Initial Corps estimates, as of mid-2012, put the cost of repairing the levee at about $130 million, slightly less than $1 million per resident. In June 2012 the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Zoar on its annual list of "America's eleven most endangered historic places."[16]

In November 2013 the Corps, following further review, reclassified the levee's safety rating from 1 (lowest) to Dam Safety Action Classification 3, meaning the possibility of failure is moderate to high. An expedited full evaluation is to occur within a year. In so doing, the Corps also dropped the option of breaching the levee from the list of solutions being considered, and study options for repairing the existing levee, thereby significantly reducing the likelihood that the village will have to be destroyed or relocated.[17][18][19]

Financing and economics[edit]

After fleeing from Germany, due to the financing of their emigration and the settling in Ohio, the settlers needed help. The Quakers in both Great Britain and Philadelphia were able to aid in their goals.[2] The Quakers had much in common with them, like their similar ideas of pacifism and their practice of the Christian religion. In 1817, the settlers bought roughly 5,500 acres of land from Godfrey Haga.[20] The Quakers loaned them money to support part of the purchase. Joseph Bimeler vowed to pay $15,000, the remaining balance of the purchase, off within 15 years. The following years of the society was not met with economic prosperity. In the early years of the village, community leaders required celibacy among their residents. The additional cost of bearing many children in a communal society was too large. In the 1830s, the Ohio and Erie Canal was being constructed. To accumulate money from the state, Zoarites constructed part of the Canal on their own, and received $21,000 from the state. During this period, blacksmithing and tin shops were flourishing in the village, as well as flour and wool mills.[20]  In 1853, after Joseph Bimeler's passing, the village was worth around $5 million. Preceding Joseph Bimeler's death, the village peaked. After 1853, the village began its decline. At its dissolution in 1898, there were 222 members of the community with an estimated worth of $3.5 million.[20]


As construction of the village began, the buildings were subsequently numbered in the order that they were built. Many of the original buildings are still completely original.

Number One House[edit]

King's Palace

Originally built, in 1835, to house the elders of the village, Joseph Bimeler and his family made this building their home.[21]

Town Hall[edit]

The town hall for the Society was built in 1887. Since the Society disbanded in 1898, this building was actually one of the last ones to be constructed. Restoration of town hall took place in 2002 with help from private funds. The lower level is used as a governmental chamber and the two upper floors house artifacts that were commonly used throughout the village.[21]

The Zoar Hotel[edit]

Built in 1833, the hotel is said to have been a home for anyone- rich or poor.[21] President William McKinley had a favorite room here. He is said to have enjoyed the German cuisine and he favored staying here. It is currently only open on special occasions, unlike most other museum buildings. Renovations have been made on the outside of the hotel, but the inside is worn down and unsafe for regular use. The preservation committee, Zoar Community Association, is currently waiting on funding for inside renovation.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Frizzell, Robert W. (2020). "Frizzell on Fernandez, 'Zoar: The Story of an Intentional Community' | H-TGS | H-Net". Michigan State University. Retrieved 31 August 2022. In 1817, in the southwest German kingdom of Württemberg, a group of some 150 radical pietist adults plus accompanying children from some 36 villages decided to emigrate to the United States.
  3. ^ "Secretary Jewell, Director Jarvis Announce 10 New National Historic Landmarks Illustrating America's Diverse History, Culture". Department of the Interior. November 2, 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  4. ^ Mangus, Michael; Herman, Jennifer L. (2008). Ohio Encyclopedia. North American Book Dist LLC. p. 592. ISBN 978-1-878592-68-2.
  5. ^ "The Ohio Historical Connection, Zoar Village".
  6. ^ Kathleen M. Fernandez, Zoar: The Story of an Intentional Community (Kent State University Press, 2019) online review.
  7. ^ "Joseph Bimeler - Ohio History Central". www.ohiohistorycentral.org. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  9. ^ DeLorme (1991). Ohio Atlas & Gazetteer. Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme. ISBN 0-89933-233-1.
  10. ^ Microsoft Streets & Trips 2001
  11. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 12, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  14. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  15. ^ "Historic Zoar's survival hinges on levee". New Philadelphia Times Reporter. March 22, 2011.
  16. ^ Ray Rivera (August 27, 2012). "Levee Needing Costly Repairs Lands Ohio Village on Endangered List". New York Times.
  17. ^ Jon Baker (November 22, 2013). "Historic Zoar saved from levee breaching". TimesReporter.
  18. ^ Alan Johnson (November 22, 2013). "Historic Ohio village to be spared". The Columbus Dispatch.
  19. ^ Alan Johnson (November 23, 2013). "Levee near Zoar won't be removed". The Columbus Dispatch.
  20. ^ a b c "Finding aid for the Society of Separatists of Zoar Records". ead.ohiolink.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  21. ^ a b c d "You are being redirected..." historiczoarvillage.com. Retrieved 2018-11-01.

Nixon, Edgar Burkhardt. The Society of Separatists of Zoar.

    Ph.D. dissertation. The Ohio State University, 1933.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fernandez, Kathleen M. Zoar: The Story of an Intentional Community (Kent State University Press, 2019) online review
  • Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. [1902] Second Revision. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1908.
  • Woolson, Constance Fenimore (July 1870). The Happy Valley. Harper's Weekly. pp. 282–285.
  • Fritz, Eberhard: Roots of Zoar, Ohio, in early 19th century Württemberg: The Separatist group of Rottenacker and its Circle. Part one. Communal Societies 22/2002. p. 27-44. - Part two. Communal Societies 23/2003. p. 29-44.
  • Fritz, Eberhard: From Wuerttemberg to Zoar: Origins of a Separatist Community.In: American Communal Societies Quarterly, Vol 13 No. 1 (January 2019). p. 32-57.

External links[edit]