Ohio History Journal






The name Moraviantown is well known to students of the

War of 1812, for it was near this place that General William

Henry Harrison defeated Colonel Henry A. Procter, and the

famous Indian Chief Tecumseh was killed. The Battle of the

Thames is also known as the Battle of Moraviantown. American

histories of the war, following official accounts, usually omit to

mention the sequel to the battle, the plundering and destruction

of the village called by the Moravians Fairfield. Of little moment

in the course of a war, this event was tragedy to the Christian

Indians of the settlement and their missionaries.

The Moravian missions in Ohio had been abandoned in the

fall of 1781 on orders from the British at Detroit. Although their

religion forbade fighting, they were looked upon with suspicion

by both sides in the American Revolutionary War. The follow-

ing March a hundred of the Indian converts, returning to gather

the standing corn, were massacred at Gnadenhutten by a party

of American frontiersmen. The remainder founded a settlement

on the Clinton River near the present Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

In 1787 they returned to Ohio, forced to leave because of the

hostility of the Chippewas. Four years later, feeling themselves

in grave danger from   the warfare being waged between the

western Indians and the American militia, the Moravians secured

permission to move across the Detroit River, at the entrance to

Lake Erie, near where Amherstburg now stands. This place

they called the Warte, or Watch-Tower. It was but a temporary

refuge. It was still too close to the scene of fighting; and they

were terrified by threats from Indians who attempted to draw

them into the war with the Americans. They decided to with-

1 Extension of a paper read at Amkerstburg, Ontario, June 9, 1938, before the

joint meeting of the Ontario, Michigan, and Detroit Historical Societies.





draw to a safe distance within British territory, into a wilder-

ness where they would be undisturbed by friend and foe alike.

David Zeisberger says they were advised to settle on the

Thames River (then called La Tranche) by the trader Abiah

Parke, who knew it well and praised the beauty and fertility

of the land. Alexander McKee, Indian agent, also suggested

the Thames. At this time there were a number of white squat-

ters between the mouth of the river and the forks, where the

city of Chatham now stands.2 Above this were no habitations

until the Indian towns of the Munseys and Delawares, far up

the river.3 The surveyor Patrick McNiff had surveyed the

course of the river in 1790,4 and had but recently completed the

laying out of farm lots fronting on it, through two and a half

townships.5 The Land Board of the District of Hesse began to

issue certificates of location to retired soldiers and Loyalists about

the time the Moravians arrived.6

For a number of years, perhaps since before 1780, there

had been some white settlers on the lower part of the river,

either by virtue of Indian grants, or without any right. The

land on both sides for some distance back had been granted by

the Chippewas to various individuals in the early 1780's, some

of them    Detroit merchants.7     An Indian woman named           Sally

Ainse, widow of the famous interpreter, Andrew Montour, had

received a grant in 1780 of all the land on the north side be-

tween the mouth of the river and the forks.8 Some of this

she had sold to others, and when the Moravians first came to

this settlement they called it the "Sally Hand." These Indian

grants were eventually all disallowed by the government, although

those who had made improvements were given lots of 200 acres.9

2 Patrick McNiff's plan of the Thames River (partial), made in 1790, in the Sur-

vey Office, Department of Lands and Forests, Toronto, Ontario; see also Ontaric

Archives, Reports (Toronto), III (1905), xciv.

3 "Came to Brother Senseman's camp above the fork at the end of the settle-

ment, and further on no white people live." David Zeisberger, Diary; tr. by E. F.

Bliss (Cincinnati, 1885), II, 258.

4 "McNiff brought today a plan . . . of River LaTranche up to the second

fork delineated from actual surveys, made in the years 1789 and 1790." D. W. Smith

to Henry Motz, January 25, 1791, Land Report Hesse, MS. (Public Archives of

Canada, Ottawa), Report B, p. 13-4.

5 Ontario Archives, Reports, III (1905), xciv.

6 Ibid., 198.

7 Notarial Registers, Detroit, MS. (Public Archives), II, 43, 45; III, 398-402,

431-2; VI, 221, 228, 232.

8 Ibid., VI, 143.

9 The dispute over Sally Ainse's claims dragged on for several years. By




On the morning of April 12, 1792, the band of about 150

Christian Delaware Indians set out for the Thames.10 They

were led by four Moravian missionaries,--David Zeisberger and

Gottlieb Senseman with their families, and William Edwards and

Michael Jung who were unmarried.                    Lieutenant-Governor John

Graves Simcoe had promised them                     a grant of land when he

should come to Detroit, but they felt they must start at once

so they could clear and plant their fields and thus secure pro-

visions for the coming winter. McKee and Colonel Richard

England, the commandant at Detroit, gave them permission to go,

and loaned them     a transport, which, along with nine canoes,

would carry them to their destination. Jung and several of the

Indian brethren went overland driving the cattle; the rest began

their voyage by way of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair.

At Fighting Island near Detroit the little fleet was detained

for three days by unfavorable winds. Then the transport sailed

for Lake St. Clair, but the canoes were forced to stay behind

for several days longer. The wind was so strong that the trans-

port lost its mast and sail on the lake. Another was soon rigged,

and by nightfall they had reached the mouth of the Thames.

Here they ran aground in the darkness, after striking a floating

tree, and spent a miserable night drenched by the cold waves that

continually broke over them.

The next morning, with the aid of some Chippewas who

came in their canoes and partly unloaded the transport the ship

was floated. A day later they came to the settlement of the

"ally Hand," as Zeisberger called it.       Here they secured one

hundred bushels of corn which they had bought in Detroit, prob-

ably from John Askin, whom they had seen there while detained

at Fighting Island. Zeisberger lodged at the home of Coleman

Roe, who lived just below the forks. They found the settlers


Order-in-Council dated October 17, 1792, she was to be invested with certificates for

"eight lots in the centre of the first township of the first concession on the north

side of the river." Letters Received, MS. (Survey Office, Toronto), 1, 288-9. The

Land Board of the District of Hesse had already granted these lots to other settlers,

except one lot to Sally herself. This lot was all she was ever able to secure. On

April 9, 1798, the Council refused her petition to be put in possession of the rest.

Land Book D, Upper Canada, 1797-1802, MS. (Public, Archives), 93. She continued

to address petitions to the government until as late as 1815, without success. Upper

Canada Land Petitions. Miscellaneous, 1789-1795, MS. (Public Archives).

10 Except where otherwise indicated, the account of the founding of Fairfield,

and incidents up to 1798, are based on Zeisberger, Diary, 11, 255-527.



very friendly, refusing to take payment for bread or provisions;

but when Zeisberger preached on Sunday only the women at-

tended, the men having no use for religion.

Jung and the Indians with the cattle arrived April 21, but

it was not until four days later that all the canoes appeared with

the brethren who had been detained near Detroit. The Sense-

mans and William Edwards had gone above the forks, where they

had erected a hut. It was decided that they should remain there

while the rest went on and found a suitable place to settle. Ac-

cordingly the transport was sent back to Detroit, and on the

27th Zeisberger set out with some twenty canoes, Jung and the

Indians with the cattle following along the bank. That night

they ate a supper of turtles taken on the way; and the next day

several of the sisters landed and picked cranberries, returning at

nightfall. By May 1 they had gone a considerable distance above

the "Big Bend," east of the present village of Wardsville. They

then decided to retrace their steps, and the following day took

possession of a height not far below a vacant hut belonging to

a French trader.

On May 6, after the arrival of Senseman, Edwards, and the

rest of the Indians, they abandoned this site, and moved to an-

other three miles farther down stream, where there was better

land for farming. Three days later all had moved except the

old Indian Thomas, who died worn out with labors. His body

was taken to the site of the future Fairfield, and was buried in

"a beautiful graveyard upon a little height," which they laid out

for the purpose.

The same day, May 10, they cut down the hardwood timber

which covered the sandy soil of their town-site on the north bank

of the Thames. The rich bottom lands, mostly across the river,

were divided up, and the work of clearing and planting went on

for nearly two weeks. Most of the hundred bushels of corn

they had brought from the lower settlement was used for seed.

Thirty-eight lots were laid out in the village, nineteen along the

river, extending westward from a ravine and creek which ran

into the Thames, and nineteen opposite, with a single long street

between. Vegetables were planted in the gardens at the back of




these lots; and finally they began to make preparations for build-

ing their houses. Until these were built they lived in huts

"under the green trees," plagued by swarms of mosquitoes and

flies. There was little time for hunting, but some deer and a bear

were brought in for food. During the early days of June the

supplies of 'corn were exhausted, and they were fortunate in being

able to buy some from the Munsey village for a dollar a bushel.

The work of building houses and fencing fields went on

rapidly. By the middle of June the Zeisbergers and the Sense-

mans were able to move into their homes, which were to do until

better ones could be built. A month later a temporary chapel

or meeting-house furnished with wooden benches had been com-

pleted, and the bell hung in the little tower. The day after

Christmas they began to cut and square timber, and split it into

boards. This was drawn in on sledges, and was used to build

a schoolhouse, which was finished by January 10, 1793.

A plan of the village, dated August, 1793, shows the church

on the fifth lot from the ravine on the side farthest from the

river. Just west of this is Zeisberger's home. Directly opposite

it is the house occupied by Edwards and Jung; next to them is

Senseman's house, and then the schoolhouse, extending down river.

The remaining houses were occupied by the Indians, whose names

are given in the plan. The graveyard, on a little elevation called

Hat-hill, is almost directly opposite the lower end of the village.

Some distance behind the church is a small field belonging to

Zeisberger, which he used for pasture and turnips. One of the

Indians, named Ignatius, had a large wheat field on the eastern

side of the ravine, extending across the present Longwoods road.11

Twenty years later, when the town was burned, it had grown

no farther westward, but there were several houses across the

ravine, which had been bridged. There were also a number of

houses on a cross street which ran back some distance from the

main street, just east of the chapel.12

A couple of months after this plan was made, new and bet-

ter homes were completed for the Zeisbergers and Sensemans,


11 Plan of Fairfield (Archives of the Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Penn.).

12 Plan of Fairfield, October, 1813, Robert B. McAfee, "Journal," Kentucky

State Historical Society, Register (Louisville), XXVI (1928), 129.




and their old ones served as stables. A year later a new meeting-

house was constructed of planks split from wild cherry timber the

winter before. It was not until this time, November, 1794, that

a name was chosen for the town. It was named Fairfield, or in

German, Schonfeld. Nevertheless the old name of Moravian-

town persisted, and was commonly used by travelers and the

inhabitants of the river.

The village was fortunate in having a good spring of water

at the head of the ravine, which fed the little creek running into

the Thames. There was also a salt spring on the bank of the

river less than half a mile away. This was not discovered until

October, 1793, as the bank here was steep and the cattle could

not get to it. Salt was an expensive necessity to the early set-

tlers, having to be bought from traders who brought it in from

the East. The oil from a petroleum spring not far away had

long been used by Indians as a medicine, but the Moravian mis-

sionaries used it in their lamps.13

In December, 1792, some of the Indians had built a road to

the white settlement below them. This must have been little more

than a trail, for five years later Zeisberger notes that the people

below had laid out and cleared the road as far as their township,

which the brethren completed through their land. It was only

now, 1797, that the trees were cleared away from the village

street. The previous summer they had constructed a bridge

across the ravine, which had been almost impassable because of

the steep bank. Senseman directed the building of the bridge,

and while doing so fell from it and was severely injured. This

may have hastened his death from tuberculosis less than four

years later.

Simcoe, lieutenant-governor of the newly formed province

of Upper Canada, was the most distinguished visitor to Fairfield.

His first visit was made in February, 1793, on his way to Detroit

from Niagara. He and his suite stayed a couple of hours and

examined the town. On their way back nine days later they

stayed overnight. Simcoe informed the missionaries that the gov-


13 McNiff's plan of the Thames, January, 1794 (Survey Office, Toronto), shows

a petroleum spring near Fairfield, with the notation: "The Moravian Indians burn it

in their lamps."




ernment would grant them land on both sides of the river, but not

a whole township as they requested, because he intended to settle

the river thickly, and he did not think they could use so much. He

also agreed to advance the colony two hundred bushels of corn,

as their crops had failed, and gave them an order for it on the

commandant in Detroit.14

On April 8, 1793, a memorial was addressed to the Land

Board at Detroit signed by the four Moravian missionaries at

Fairfield, requesting a grant of land. They suggested that a

township, or nine miles square of land, would answer their pur-

poses.15 A week later Senseman wrote to England, the com-

mandant, that the surveyor McNiff had finished surveying the

third township, and that they saw with concern it came too near

them. "It takes away some of our people's improvements, and

most all their sugar places," Senseman complained. He there-

fore suggested that the upper six lots of the third township

should become part of the Moravians' grant. England sent the

letter on to Simcoe, with the remark that he thought the request

rather unreasonable.16 In July Senseman journeyed to Niagara,

where the Council was sitting, to present his petition. It was

favorably received, and an Order-in-Council dated July 10, 1793,

granted the colony "a tract of land on the River La Tranche,

on a width of six and three quarters miles about their village,

extending twelve miles back on the south side, and northward

to the purchase line."17 The following January McNiff surveyed

twelve lots on each side of the river, through their lands, adding

to it, on orders from the governor, six lots from the third town-

ship. They were thus put in possession of a tract of land eighteen

lots in width, and the township below them was reduced to the

same size.18 By a second Order-in-Council of June 11, 1798, a

survey of the tract was ordered made, and the land was appro-


14 Details of his visits are given in Zeisberger, Diary, II, 299-302, 349. The second

visit was on March 31, 1794. See also Major Littlehales' "Journal," London and

Middlesex Historical Society, Transactions (London, Ont.), VIII (1917), 9-11.

15 Letters Received, 1, 82-4.

16 Ibid., 94-7.

17 Ontario Historical Society, Papers and Records (Toronto), XXIV (1927), 97;

Ontario Archives, Reports, III (1905), 248.

18 Zeisberger, Diary, II, 339-40.




priated to the trustees of the Moravian Society for the use of

the Indians.19

The activities of the inhabitants of Fairfield were largely

confined to agriculture and maple sugar making. Corn was the

principal crop from their fields, and they had their gardens in

which they grew vegetables and tobacco. Turnips, potatoes, beans,

and pumpkins, were among the vegetables grown. In October,

1797, Zeisberger noted the sowing of winter wheat, seemingly on a

rather large scale. The plan of Fairfield made in 1793 shows

one wheat field belonging to the Indian Ignatius. Apple trees

were soon planted, but until they were of age to bear fruit frequent

trips were made to the lower settlement or to Detroit to obtain

apples. Probably few were grown on the lower Thames much

before the Moravians' own orchards were ready to bear.20 Maple

sugar was produced in large quantities in a sugar bush near the

village, where the Indians erected huts for the purpose. Corn,

sugar, pelts, and cattle, were the principal products sold to the

traders for clothes, implements, and other necessities. The sis-

ters also made baskets to barter; and the colony's buying power

was augmented by the labor of the Indian brethren in the fields of

the white settlers.

They had little time for hunting, and Zeisberger frequently

complained that game was scarce. In 1796, however, it was un-

usually plentiful, and many deer and bears were shot. Other

years the hunt brought in little, but some meat was secured for

food when they were working together on public buildings such

as the meeting-house, or when harvesting the crops. The river

also supplied them with food, especially in the spring when the

fish came up in schools. They built a "bound" or fish dam, which

enabled the children and older people to catch large quantities,

and then everyone in the village ate nothing but fish. In the sum-

mer the women picked and dried berries; and in the autumn they

gathered great quantities of chestnuts and walnuts. One of the


19 Peter Russell, Correspondence (Toronto, 1932-1936), II, 177; Ontario Historical

Society, Papers and Records, XXVI (1930), 312-3.

20 However, McNiff states that in April, 1791, Sally Ainse had a small orchard

on her land on the LaTranche. Letters Received, II, 344-5.




Indians had brought with him from Ohio a hive of bees, and soon

they were plentifully supplied with honey.

The proximity of Fairfield to the Munsey and Delaware

Indians on the upper Thames, the Mohawks on the Grand River,

and the Chippewas who wandered about the country, was the

source of much annoyance. The Thames River was a well

traveled highway between Niagara and Detroit, used by Indians

and whites alike. At times the younger and wilder spirits among

the Moravian converts were enticed away by war parties bound

for Ohio. Bands of Indians passed up and down the river almost

daily, usually encamping overnight or for days and weeks near

the town, and sharing its hospitality. The Chippewas were usually

beggars, but on the infrequent occasions when they had plenty

of venison they exchanged it for such products as corn, milk, and

butter. At other times they begged and stole. Each New Year's

day was the occasion for crowds of them to assemble and perform

their beggar dance through the village, although this might also

be done at any time during the year. In preparation they would

smear their bodies with white clay, and their faces with black, so

that they were hideous to look at. Then they would dance from

house to house, refusing to go away until they were given some-

thing. This happened so often that it became a terrible nuisance.

The village was also disturbed by the drumming and carousals

within the camps of these Indians. The French traders supplied

them with rum, and murders were frequent. After the departure

of a band of Munseys who had caused much trouble, Zeisberger

wrote thankfully in his diary: "Then followed great stillness in

town, and our King of Peace, to whom we are gladly subject, came

again to his rule."21

During the early years Joseph Brant and his Mohawks from

the Grand River were often seen as they stopped on their way

to or from the Miami, where the various Indian nations and

American representatives held assemblages to treat for peace.

Until the treaty was signed in August, 1795, the river was thronged

with canoes passing up and down. Sometimes the village was

saluted with the deathhallow, as warriors returned with scalps.


21 Zeisberger, Diary, II, 358.




Sometimes it was a salvo from the guns of Brant and the Mo-

hawks, which the Moravian Indians answered in like manner.

During November, 1794, they had to feed and support many

Indians fleeing from the Miami. Their fields and dwellings had

been laid waste, and they were drifting about in search of some-

thing to live on.

Many white people also visited Fairfield on their way up

or down the river. In June, 1793, there came first the famous

Moravian, John Heckewelder, and then six Quakers who accom-

panied the American peace commissioners.    The latter gave

Matthew Dolsen an order for one hundred dollars worth of pro-

visions for the mission. In October, 1795, Zeisberger notes in his

diary: "White people arrive almost daily. The road to Niagara

is much used, for it costs much by water over the lake;" and again

in May, 1797: "Hardly a day passes that some or more do not

come here;"22 and so it continued. Some of these people were

passing through to Detroit or Niagara, many others were look-

ing for land on which to settle, or driving cattle through to their


Parke, Dolsen, and Askin's clerk, were the traders who came

most to Fairfield during its early years. Dolsen wished to estab-

lish a store in the village, but the missionaries would permit no

white person to settle within their reserve. He came often from

Detroit accompanied by his boat laden with supplies. Then for

two or three days it would be "like a yearly market," as the In-

dians bartered cattle, corn, maple sugar, and pelts for his goods.

Parke was a much more frequent visitor, and was welcomed as an

"honorable dealer." In May, 1793, Parke took away in payment

a heavy load of pelts and over 1500 pounds of sugar. A year

later he and Dolsen obtained 2000 bushels of corn at Fairfield.

Askin's clerk came less frequently. French traders passed

through often, but were disliked by the missionaries because they

sold rum to their Indians. When they stayed overnight, as they

frequently did, the missionaries took charge of their liquor until

they left. Nevertheless passing traders caused much drunken-

ness. Finally, Zeisberger told them that if they did not stop carry-


22 Ibid., 422, 483, passim.



ing rum through Fairfield he would smash their casks. After this

they were careful to go around the town.

The missionaries had much to complain of in their associa-

tions with the white settlers on the river. Whenever the Indian

brethren worked among them, or went down to the mills or

stores, many of them returned drunk. "This is a godless people on

this river," Zeisberger writes, "and if they can lead our Indians

astray they do so gladly."23 Many were jealous or suspicious of

the Moravians, and accused them of stealing. In June, 1797,

Zeisberger records in his diary:

Trouble begins again with the white people, that if they lose cattle,

or these are killed or torn to pieces by wolves, they always accuse our

Indians of it. We heard today that the people in the lower townships

write and wish to hand in a petition about this, although they know well

enough that they themselves kill, steal, or slaughter the cattle of one

another, and that sometimes the Chippewas do it. If they could drive

us away from here, so as to take possession of our land, they would do

so gladly.24

Nevertheless the connection of Fairfield with the settlers

along the Thames, especially those near the present village of

Thamesville, and those below the site of Chatham, were close.

During their first winter they had gone to the settlement below

the forks for corn, but were able to get none because "the settlers

are new beginners and have little." They were able to buy what

they needed from the Munsey town above them. Frequently after-

wards, however, the Indian brethren worked among the white

settlers to earn corn and flour.

Fairfield always had to depend on the mills below them to

grind their grain, despite the fact that the creek offered a suitable

site for a mill within the village. Several white men offered to

build and operate one there, but this was not permitted. Corn and

wheat were taken to a mill at Cornwall's settlement seven miles

away, a little below the present Thamesville.

The Moravian mission was the religious center of the Thames

for many years. Nearly every Sunday white people came from

the lower settlements to attend services in the chapel. Soon the

missionaries were called upon to extend their work outside the


23 Ibid., 518.

24 Ibid., 485.




town. Senseman and lung were much occupied with this. The

former was chiefly in demand for marrying and baptizing. Some-

times this was done at Fairfield, but more often in the settlements.

Sometimes he went down to preach, and rarely left without baptiz-

ing several children, once as many as eleven. Often he was sent

for to visit the sick. He was held in such esteem that in 1796

the inhabitants of the river wanted to choose him as their repre-

sentative to the Assembly, but this he declined.

On February 19, 1796, Jung went to the house of Francis

Cornwall, seven miles away, to deliver a sermon which had been

requested. After this he preached there every alternate Sunday.

Zeisberger says of Cornwall that he was "a man who loves the

good and arouses his neighbors to hear the preaching of the Gospel.

If there is no sermon he reads something to them."25 In Decem-

ber Jung wished to give up his sermons for the winter, due to the

difficulty of traveling, but the people begged him to continue, offer-

ing to buy him a horse so that he should not have to walk. Jung

declined this offer, but suggested that he hire a horse when he

had to go down. This was approved, and his visits continued.

Like Senseman, he frequently baptized children and conducted


The fame of the missionaries was such that in November,

1796, two white men came from a new settlement far up the river,

and requested that one of them preach in a church which they

intended to build the following year. The Moravians replied

that they were willing to serve their neighbors, but that the settle-

ment was too far away, and they were not there to preach to

whites, but to Indians.

In the summer of 1798 Fairfield said goodby to Edwards

and the venerable Zeisberger. They left for the Tuscarawas Val-

ley in Ohio to found a colony there, accompanied by some forty

or fifty Indians. As Zeisberger's canoe passed down the river the

white settlers, now comprising more than one hundred families,

gathered on the banks to bid him farewell, and bring him presents

from their gardens and orchards. He left forever the settlement


25 Ibid., 454.




whose destinies he had guided for six years. Fairfield now had

300 acres of land under cultivation, and each year produced and

sold 2000 bushels of corn and 5000 pounds of maple sugar. It

also carried on an extensive trade in canoes, baskets, and mats.26

This exodus of part of the colony gave rise to rumors that

the mission was to be abandoned. Those who had for some years

cast covetous eyes on the Moravian lands took new heart. As

early as October, 1795, the deputy surveyor Abraham Iredell had

received orders from Surveyor-General D. W. Smith to make con-

fidential inquiries relative to the missionaries, no doubt to dis-

cover if they    intended   to  leave.27 A  few   weeks after the

departure of Zeisberger and the others, Iredell reported it to

Smith, who immediately relayed the information to Peter Russell,

acting lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada.28 The Moravians

were alarmed at the rumors that they were only waiting to sell

their lands to move back to the Muskingum,29 and Senseman

journeyed to York in the summer of 1798 to see Russell. The

latter assured him that they would not be disturbed in their settle-

ment on the Thames, and the government would protect them

in it.30  Their fears were augmented by the fact that no steps had

been taken to survey their lands, despite an Order-in-Council

dated June 11, 1798.31

In August, 1799, the Reverend Gottfried Sebastian Oppelt

and his wife arrived at Fairfield to assist Senseman and Jung.32

Senseman was ill with consumption, and his death occurred the

following January. In the summer of 1804 Oppelt and another

missionary named Haven led out a colony from Fairfield and be-

gan the settlement near the site of New     Salem.33   John Schnall

arrived during the summer of 180134 and remained until 1813.

26 Edward de Schweinitz, The Life and Times of David Zeisberger (Philadelphia,

1871), 647-53.

27 Abraham Iredell to D. W. Smith, November 2, 1795, Letters Received, IV, 1124.

28 Iredell to Smith, Iredell MSS. (Survey Office, Toronto), 116; Russell, Cor-

respondence, II, 288.

29 Ibid., III, 150.

30 Ibid., II, 177; III, 100.

31 Gottlieb Senseman to Smith, February 5, 1799, ibid., 120; Ontario Historical

Society, Papers and Records, XXVI (1930), 312-3.

32 John Askin, Papers; ed. by M. M. Quaife (Detroit, 1928-1931), II, 243.

33 Schweinitz David Zeisberger 663.

34 Gottfried S. Oppelt and Christian F. Dencke to John Askin, May 28, 1801,

Askin MSS. (Public Archives), Vol. 32.




Christian Frederick Dencke had come from Bethlehem in August,

1800, for the purpose of founding a mission among the Chippe-

was.35  After two attempts had failed, first on Harsen's Island,

then on the River Sydenham below the present village of Florence,

he returned to Fairfield in December 1806, and remained as mis-

sionary there with Jung and Schnall.36

When Oppelt came to Fairfield he found that many of the

Indians had long standing accounts with the traders, especially

with Askin, and that it was difficult to get them to pay their debts,

After struggling with the situation for some time, Oppelt finally

wrote to Askin on May 6, 1801:

It is a very hard thing to collect old debts by the Indians, because

they look upon old debts as if they were paid. Therefore I will recom-

mend to you, to give no Indian much upon credit. Their intention is to

pay, when they take the goods, but they do not consider if they ever will

be able to do it. If you wish to continue trading with them, the best would

be, that you send early in the spring a boat with goods here and give the

men, who sells the goods strict orders, to give nothing out upon trust

and to fetch the corn directly down. Because it is very difficult to save

up corn here during the summer, on account of the vermin. We know

out of experience, that no Indian understands to trade. In the beginning

they pay good, but at last both the merchant and the Indian will lose


Askin wrote back a week later agreeing to this, and stating

that he was sorry to have bothered the missionaries about the

Indians, but the affair had become so mixed up that he had to have

assistance.38  The relations between Askin and Fairfield remained

cordial. Mrs. Askin had sent Oppelt two rose twigs, which he

grafted onto wild rose-bushes.      In return Oppelt sent her a

present of some sugar, and seeds of Spanish beans and a good

kind of pumpkin.39

Another problem which confronted Oppelt and his fellow

missionaries at Fairfield was the tendency of the Indians to get

drunk whenever liquor was available. Zeisberger had prohibited

35 Askin, Papers, II, 303.

36 See Henry A. Jacobson, "Narrative of an Attempt to Establish a Mission

among the Chippewa Indians of Canada, between the Years 1800 and 1806," Moravian

Historical Society, Transactions (Nazareth, Penn.), V, pt. 1 (1895), 3-24.

37 Askin MSS. (Public Archives), Vol. 32; Askin, Papers II, 335-7. See also

Dencke to Askin, May 5, 1801, Askin MSS., Vol. 32 and Senseman's and Askin's

letters in December, 1798, and February, 1799, Askin, Papers II, 158-9, 164, 186.7.

38 Askin MSS., Vol. 32.

39 Ibid.; Askin, Papers, II, 335-7.



traders from bringing it into the village, but he could not prevent

them from selling rum to the Indians outside. In 1801, on peti-

tion from the missionaries, a bill was introduced and passed in the

Provincial Parliament to prevent the sale of spirituous liquors

within the tract occupied by the Moravian Indians.40

News of the war between England and the United States was

received at Fairfield on July 1, 1812. Two weeks later the In-

dians fled to the woods when they heard that the enemy was ap-

proaching.41  The day before, a detachment of soldiers from

William Hull's army at Sandwich, under Colonel Duncan Mc-

Arthur, had penetrated as far as Chatham on a foraging expedi-

tion.42 Ten days later, when they heard that the Americans

had gone back, the Indians returned from their hiding place. For

the next twelve months they were filled with alarm, and wished

to move away, but could not agree among themselves where to go.

On September 10, 1813, they heard the sound of guns from

Lake Erie, where the British fleet under Robert H. Barclay was

defeated by Oliver H. Perry. Late in the month Harrison's army

landed at Fort Malden, and the British and Indians under Procter

and Tecumseh began their retreat up the Thames. Procter arrived

in Fairfield on the 29th in advance of his army and installed his

family in Dencke's home. Three days later the church and school-

house were used as hospitals for seventy sick and wounded

soldiers; and the members of the mission families spent the day

in tending them and in preparing lint for bandages.

On October 3, as the Americans pursued the British forces

up the Thames, Procter advised the Moravians to abandon their

town, as he intended to make his stand east of it. The Indians

thereupon fled to the woods. Dencke and his wife followed them

on the 5th, but were captured by the enemy the next day. The

other missionaries remained.    Procter had his wife and the

wounded hastily removed to Delaware, some distance up the river,

and announced he would occupy the village with his soldiers. He


40 Ontario Archives, Reports, VI (1909), 200, 206-9.

41 Unless otherwise indicated the following account of Fairfield until its destruc-

tion on October 7, 1813, is based on Henry A. Jacobson, "Dispersion and Flight of

the Missionaries and Indians Living at Fairfield, Canada, in October, 1813," Moravian

Historical Society, Transactions, V, pt. 1 (1895), 24-47, and McAfee, "Journal,"


42 An Ohio Volunteer, The Capitulation (Chillicothe, 1812), 34.




changed his mind, however, and met the enemy on the 5th about a

mile and a half below Fairfield. The British made little resis-

tance, and Procter fled up the road through the village, leaving his

Indian allies to hold out for some time longer, until Tecumseh


Fairfield was occupied by Colonel Richard M. Johnson's

cavalry and the officers, the rest of the American army encamping

on the battlefield. That night and the following day the town was

given over to plunder. Everything of value was loaded onto

rafts to be floated down the Thames. The missionaries were

accused of hiding some English officers and their possessions, and

were roughly commanded to produce them. All the houses and

especially the garrets of the church and schoolhouse were searched;

mattresses were torn apart, and chests and boxes opened for valu-

ables or correspondence; but nothing incriminating was found.

Schnall pleaded with Harrison to stop the plundering, but he re-

fused to listen, saying only that the missionaries might leave.

They had a friend in Perry, who obtained permission for them to

take away their personal property. John Dolsen, son of Matthew,

who had a farm below Chatham, had fled to Fairfield just before

the battle. They departed in his wagon drawn by a team of

horses. The next day the whole town was burned to the ground.

Schnall and his family, with Jung, eventually made their way

back to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but Dencke and his wife, who

were soon released after their capture on the 6th, followed the

Indians and remained to care for them. After nearly two years

spent near Burlington Heights, at the western end of Lake On-

tario, the band returned to the site of Fairfield in August, 1815.43

For a few weeks they lived in huts there. Brother John G. Cunow

came from Bethlehem to visit them, and in September it was de-

cided to remove to the opposite side of the river, where the village

of New Fairfield was founded. In 1818 Dencke went back to

Bethlehem, and Schnall returned to the mission to take his place,

dying there the following year.

Early in 1814 the Moravian Mission Board wrote to Presi-

dent James Madison and to Congress asking compensation for the

43 Schweinitz, David Zeisberger, 695.




destruction of Fairfield. The committee in charge of the petition

reported that "the evidence showed that the Fairfield Indians had

been in sympathy with the opponents of the Americans and that

some of them had been in some of the battles on the English side.

Of the early and persevering hostility of the Fairfield Indians there

can be no doubt." This had been the reason given for the burn-

ing of Fairfield, and on this ground the petition was refused. It

is true that some of the younger and wilder Moravian Indians had

at times been induced to join the other Indians in the war against

the Americans, and several had been killed at the Battle of the

Thames, but the colony as a whole had remained neutral. There

seems little justification for its destruction.

Some years later the Mission Board presented a similar

petition for compensation to the Canadian authorities. After an

investigation, an appropriation was made to cover part of the loss.

This was paid in installments, the last in 1836.44

The ruined basements of Fairfield remained in view until

nearly the end of the century, and were remarked upon by various

travelers, including Patrick Shirreff and Sir Richard Bonnycas-

tle.45 One family of Indians named Jacobs continued to live on

this side of the river, but east of the ravine. In 1868 Chief Philip

Jacobs was residing there.46 This family was descended from the

white man Joseph Bull, who joined the Moravian church in 1742

and married an Indian woman. He was called Schebosch by the

Indians, which meant "Running Water." His son was the first

to fall in the massacre at Gnadenhutten in 1782. One of his

daughters married an Indian named Jacob, and their descendants

were known as the Schebosch Jacobs.47

By 1836 the Moravian Indians had been induced by the

government to surrender, for an annuity, all their land north of the

river, and much of that on the south.48 Their reserve was reduced

to a little over 3000 acres. The site of Fairfield thus passed to


44 Jacobson, "Dispersion," 45-7.

45 Patrick Shirreff, A Tour Through North America (Edinburgh, 1835), 191;

Sir Richard H. Bonnycastle, Canada and the Canadians in 1846 (London, 1846), 11, 105.

46 Plan of the village of New Fairfield, about 1868 (Archives of the Moravian

Church, Bethlehem, Penn.)

47 Zeisberger, Diary, I, 1, 259, 443-4, passim. See also Schweinitz, David Zeis-

berger, 131, 605.

48 William H. Smith, Canadian Gazetteer (Toronto, 1846), 188.




the Crown, but the Jacobs were not disturbed, and continued to

live beside the ravine until the latter part of the century. The

land between the Longwoods Road and the river, where one row

of houses in the village had stood, marked out as lot number 6A,

was granted to Thomas W. Johnston by patent dated November

18, 1861. On January 10, 1889, George Yates received a Crown

grant of "lot lettered B north of the Longwoods road, township

of Zone, containing 116 acres, reserving thereout and therefrom

the Indian burying ground as marked out thereon, containing about

51/100 of an acre."49 This comprised most of the village site

north of the road. In 1894 Yates sold the lot to Joseph Misner,

who lived there and was the first to plough up the land on this

side of the Longwoods Road. Mr. Misner, now living in Thames-

ville, says that he found four or five basements lined with cobble-

stones. These he filled in and leveled off so that he might plough

over them. They were near the ravine, and may have been on

the cross street running north.  Probably the remains of the

houses along the main street were destroyed by the widening of

the Longwoods Road, and the digging of ditches on either side.

The old graveyard is now neglected. Many of the trees in

it have been cut down; and the plough has apparently encroached

upon its unmarked boundaries. Only one gravestone remains

there, and it is broken in two. The inscription reads: "Simon, son

of John Schebosch and Polly Jacobs, born July 3, 1836, died,

February, 1864." Most of the Indian graves had wooden markers

which have long since rotted away. The gravestones of the mis-

sionaries, including that of Senseman, were removed some time

after 1900 to Bothwell Cemetery, where they may still be seen.

The last burial in the Fairfield Cemetery was that of Mary Ann

Vogler, in June, 1901. She was the wife of Jesse Vogler, Mora-

vian missionary at New Fairfield, who died in 1865. There were

few burials in the old cemetery after 1813, as another was laid

out across the river. This has been largely destroyed by the

falling away of the river bank, and a third is now used, about a

mile to the southeast, not far from the present Moraviantown.


49 Register for the Township of Zone (Kent County Registry Office, Chatham,





Between the road and the river, where the land seems never

to have been cultivated since Fairfield was destroyed, there are a

number of apple trees, as well as large and ancient hawthornes,

similar to those described by Shirreff over one hundred years ago.

These are evidently descendants of those planted by the Mora-

vians. The apple trees have now become wild.

The little creek still runs through the ravine into the Thames.

It is fed by numerous springs along its banks, and one at the head

of the ravine, where Fairfield secured its water supply. Un-

fortunately the once crystal-clear stream is now polluted by black

and evil smelling water from a small oil well on its bank, beside

the road.

Except for these things nothing now remains to show where

a thriving town once stood, a town that played an important part

in the spiritual and economic life of the settlements on the Thames

River. Even the church and mission buildings of New Fairfield

are deserted and in disrepair, with the river every year eating its

way towards them. The Moravian missionaries themselves have

long departed. On April 1, 1903, the Methodist Church in Can-

ada, whose workers had been invited to the reserve about forty

years before, took over the mission at New Fairfield. The church

and village of the reserve are now situated about a mile south-

east of the river. The name Moraviantown remains to com-

memorate the work of the self-sacrificing missionaries of the

United Brethren.