David Zeisberger was born on April 11, 1721 in Zauchtenthal, Moravia. There is no mention of his parents. However, at the age of six, he moved with his family to the newly established Moravian Christian community of Herrnhut, on the estate of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf in the German Electorate of Saxony and remained in Europe to complete his education when his family migrated to the newly established colony of Georgia.
In 1738 he came to Georgia in the Thirteen Colonies where he later rejoined his family in the Moravian community at Savannah, During this time the United Brethren began a settlement for the sole purpose of preaching the gospel to the Creek Indians. From there David moved to Pennsylvania and assisted in starting the settlements of Nazareth and Bethlehem. In 1739, Zeisberger was prominent in developing the Moravian community in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and attended its dedication on Christmas Eve 1741. Four years later, he came to live among the Mohawk. He became fluent in the Onondaga language and assisted Conrad Weiser in negotiating an alliance between the Thirteen Colonies and the Iroquois in Onondaga (near present-day Syracuse, New York). He also produced dictionaries and religious works in Iroquoian and Algonquian, making him the father of Lenape writing.
Following his ordination as a Moravian minister in 1749, David began as a missionary to Native American peoples. As senior missionary of the United Brethren, he worked in Kuskusky among the Lenape (Delaware) of Pennsylvania, with his main focus on converting as many Indians as possible to Christianity.
However, his relations with the British took a downturn during the American Revolutionary War when he was suspected of providing aid to the American patriots. And for that reason in 1781 he and his assistant John Heckewelder were arrested and detained at Fort Detroit. While David was at Ft. Detroit, ninety-six of his Native converts were brutally murdered in Gnadenhutten, Ohio by Pennsylvania militiamen, an event known as the Gnadenhutten Massacre.
After being found innocent of the charge of treason, David and John were released. violent conflicts between other Native tribes and white settlement expansions forced many Moravian Christian settlements to move to present-day Michigan and Ontario. David later returned to live the rest of his life among the Native converts remaining near the village of Goshen as a missionary among the Indians. He died on November 17, 1808, at Goshen, Ohio, on the river Tuscarawas, at the age of 87 years and is buried in Goshen.
- OhioPix: David Zeisberger
- Jump up to Brock, Daniel J. (1983). “Zeisberger, David”. In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
- Eben Horsford (editor) (1887) Zeisberger’s Indian Dictionary: English, German, Iroquois, Algonquin, Cambridge Massachusetts
- “Official Site of the Delaware Tribe of Indians » Frequently Asked Questions About the Lenape or Delaware Tribe”.
Accessed Wikipedia.org 10 April 2022.
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