William Bimeler photograph   Save
Zoar, Ohio Photograph Collection
Description: This portrait shows William Bimeler (1876-1929), resident of Zoar, Ohio, posing with a cornet. He is wearing a cap and what likely is a band uniform. He was a descendant of Joseph Bimeler, founder of the religious separatists known as Zoarites. These separatists were originally from an area of Germany known as Wurttemburg. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, they had separated from the official German religion, the Lutheran Church. Separatists faced severe persecution in Wurttemburg, including confiscation of their properties and imprisonment. Joseph Bimeler (sometimes spelled "Bäumeler) decided to bring the Separatists to the United States. They arrived in Philadelphia with few resources. The Quakers (Society of Friends) in Philadelphia helped the separatists to find jobs and eventually loaned them the money to buy land in eastern Ohio, where they established the small community of Zoar in Tuscarawas County in 1818. The inspiration for the town's name was found in the Book of Genesis, which includes the story of Lot, who escaped to Zoar from Sodom. In Zoar the group established a communal society. Both male and female members of the community signed the Articles of Association, which created the Society of Separatists of Zoar on April 15, 1819. The Articles were revised in 1824 and in 1833 the Society was incorporated. Bimeler continued as one of the Zoarites' leaders until his death in 1853. Although the society struggled at first, it soon became economically prosperous. By the time of Bimeler's death, Zoar's wealth was more than one million dollars. In keeping with the Zoarites’ German heritage, making music was one of the community’s pastimes. Zoar had an orchestra and a brass band. After Bimeler's death, however, the society of Zoar began to decline. Although the community was still economically prosperous, the members' commitment to the society's original goals began to deteriorate in the second half of the nineteenth century. Over time, many of the original residents died. The younger generation did not have memories of the persecution back in Europe or of the society's early struggles in Ohio. The outside world increasingly influenced the Zoarites, as strangers visited Zoar and stayed in the town's hotel. In 1898 the remaining members decided to dissolve the society, and they divided up the community's property. Throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Zoar has continued to exist as a small town in rural eastern Ohio. View on Ohio Memory.
Image ID: AL05973
Subjects: Society of Separatists of Zoar; German Americans; Musical instruments; Religious societies; Multicultural Ohio -- Ethnic Communities
Places: Zoar (Ohio); Tuscarawas County (Ohio)