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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
Country United States
State Ohio
County Tuscarawas
Township Lawrence
 • Total 0.67 sq mi (1.74 km2)
 • Land 0.58 sq mi (1.51 km2)
 • Water 0.09 sq mi (0.23 km2)
 • Total 169
 • Estimate 
 • Density 305.32/sq mi (117.93/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 330
FIPS code 39-88168

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 German religious dissenters as a utopian community, which survived until 1898.

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. Some of the historic buildings are now operated as museum properties.


Zoar was founded by German religious dissenters called the Society of Separatists of Zoar in 1817. It was named after the Biblical village to which Lot and his family escaped from Sodom. It was a communal society, with 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 Society, Zoar is an island of Old-World charm in east-central Ohio.

The 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.

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), along the Tuscarawas River.

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.

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.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 249
1860 252 1.2%
1870 326 29.4%
1880 291 −10.7%
1900 290
1910 182 −37.2%
1920 178 −2.2%
1930 146 −18.0%
1940 208 42.5%
1950 200 −3.8%
1960 191 −4.5%
1970 228 19.4%
1980 264 15.8%
1990 177 −33.0%
2000 193 9.0%
2010 169 −12.4%
2019 (est.) 178 5.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census 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.

Flooding threat

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.

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."

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.

  • Fritz, Eberhard: Das Liederbuch des Ulmer Separatisten Michael Baeumler (1778–1853) aus Merklingen. Ein Separatist in Ulm und seine Beziehungen zu Rottenacker.In: Wolfgang Schürle (Hg.): Bausteine zur Geschichte 1. Kleinode aus vier Jahrhunderten. Ulm 2002. S. 125-145.
  • 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.
  • Hinds, William Alfred. American Communities and Cooperative Colonies. [1902] Second Revision. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1908.
  • Woolson, Constance Fenimore. "The Happy Valley", Harper's Weekly, July 1870.

Financing and economics

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. The Quakers had much in common with them, like their similar ideas of pacifism and religion. In 1817, the settlers bought roughly 5,500 acres of land from Godfrey Haga. 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.  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.

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