Gnadenhutten Pioneer Days scheduled for Aug. 6-7

Gnadenhutten Pioneer Days scheduled for Aug. 6-7

Image Credit: Teri Stein

The buzz from pioneer reenactors is there will be more of them attending this year’s Gnadenhutten Pioneer Days than last year’s event. This is something John Heil, in his last year as coordinator of the Gnadenhutten Historical Park and Museum, is happy about.

Pioneer Days will be held Aug. 6-7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Gnadenhutten Historical Park and Museum is operated by the Gnadenhutten Historical Society and located at 352 S. Cherry St. in Gnadenhutten.

“We’re actually going to have a wedding on Saturday morning,” Heil said. “The couple got married last spring, and they’re going to get remarried here too.”

The wedding will be held in the church around 10 a.m.

Heil also is excited about the annual crock auction, which raises funds to support the historical park and museum. In addition to crocks commemorating the Pioneer Days and the 250th anniversary of Gnadenhutten, Wayne Dyer of Port Washington made two replicas, one of the cabin and one of the church, to be auctioned off.

The replicas are copies of the cabin and church that have been displayed on the mantel in the museum for about 20 years. Rosemary Hall of Dover painted the replicas, which will be auctioned off individually. Bob Hall will serve as auctioneer.

At the 1840s-style pioneer encampments, there will be demonstrations and games from that era. Messdad’s Concession will be onsite, and bean soup will be cooked over an open fire. Corn bread also will be available.

A reenactment of talks between Rev. David Zeisberger and Chief Netawatawees is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

A performance by Trumpet in the Land actors and singers will be featured at noon on Saturday. Joe Bonamico from Trumpet in the Land will speak following the presentation on the connection between Trumpet in the Land and Gnadenhutten.

On Sunday there will be a church service at the Mission House at 8 a.m.

“The service lasts about 15-20 minutes at most. It’s a short service because (the pioneer reenactors) need to get back into their camps and get started for the day,” Heil said.

The crock auction will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday. A number of various arts and crafts vendors will be set up both days.

There has been a lot of activity at the historical park this year. Trevor and Kristy Biggs of Newcomerstown have started ministering at the site.

“They have a prayer group that comes out once a month,” Heil said.

The group prays around the burial mound of the 96 Christian Delaware Native Americans brutally killed on March 8, 1782, by the Pennsylvania Militia.

Heil has been pleased with the number of visitors to the site this year.

“We’ve been doing pretty good. I’m surprised because I was kind of worried about the gas prices and people not traveling,” Heil said, adding so far this year they have had visitors from Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida and Arizona. “I’m surprised we’re getting people and from further away than I thought.”

The historical site also draws international visitors. One man from Japan has made the trip each year for a number of years. Heil doesn’t know what his connection to the area might be.

“I just think he’s a history buff that fell in love with the area,” Heil said. “They actually bring some people with them, and they take about an hour going around. And then at the end, they all sit around the mound and have a prayer session.”

Other international visitors have travelled to the historical site from Germany, Austria and one from the Czech Republic, where Zeisberger was born in 1721.

“That gentleman had actually seen the film, ‘David Zeisberger - Apostle to the Indians,’” Heil said. “He decided he was going to come and see the area they were talking about, so he came over here and visited. It’s amazing that people are traveling that far, but the massacre story is compelling.”

Heil, who has volunteered as museum coordinator for 16 years, feels he’ll leave the museum in good hands as a couple who has yet to be announced is interested in taking over managing the museum. The couple has already volunteered at the site, which will remain an all-volunteer organization.

Heil said he is ready to pass the torch and has plans to travel to watch his grandchildren in school sports and activities. He also may still work as a referee for basketball.

Volunteers are needed to help prepare the historical park for Pioneer Days on Saturday, July 30. They will do some general cleaning and clean the concession stand from 9-10 a.m.

Volunteers are always needed to staff the museum, which is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is open weekends only in May, September and October.

Heil is looking forward to the last big event on his schedule this year, which is Apple Butter Days. That event is always held the second weekend of October.

Donations are welcome. Make checks payable to the Gnadenhutten Historical Society and send to John Heil, 156 Spring St., Gnadenhutten, OH 44629. For more information or to volunteer to help at the museum, call Heil at 330-691-1474.