From Ohio History Central
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Zoar, a small community in Tuscarawas County, was founded by a group of German separatists in 1817. These separatists, who soon became known as Zoarites, 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. The group's leader, Joseph Bimeler (or sometimes spelled Joseph
B�umeler), decided to bring the separatists to the United States.
When the separatists arrived in Philadelphia, they had few resources. The Society of Friends (Quakers) in Philadelphia helped the separatists to find jobs and eventually loaned them the money to buy land in eastern Ohio. Several members of the group traveled west to the land in the fall of 1817 and began to construct the community's first buildings. Ultimately, the rest of the separatists, approximately two hundred in all, arrived at Zoar in the spring of 1818. The separatists chose to name their town Zoar after the Biblical account of Lot, who escaped to Zoar from Sodom in the book of Genesis.
Joseph Bimeler died in 1853. Although Zoar 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 the society's early struggles in Ohio. The outside world influenced the community more and more, as strangers traveled to Zoar and stayed in the town's hotel. In 1898, the remaining members decided to dissolve the society, and the Zoarites divided the property among themselves. It was the end to the communistic experience at Zoar. Throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Zoar has continued to exist as a small town in rural eastern Ohio. Today, the Ohio Historical Society operates a portion of the town as a historic site. A number of the Zoarite buildings are restored and are open to the public.