Early settler cabins. Submitted photo
Early settler cabins. Submitted photo

The early settlers of Hope had to live in primitive conditions, and exactly how primitive those were is clear from the journal of an early visitor to Hope, the Rev. Lewis David von Schweinitz.

Von Schweinitz was the cultured Moravian who undertook the difficult journey to Hope in 1831, to see what the support of the Moravian Church had produced. His trip to Hope (then called Goshen) is described here. After the exhausting journey north from Madison, it was early June when von Schweinitz finally arrived at Jacob Hauser’s farm at Haw Patch on the Flatrock River.

Jacob had been clearing the land for seven years, but his brother Martin had just settled on a patch of land around 14 miles away. The journey there took Jacob and von Schweinitz them through “dense woods” and “a wellnigh vanishing footpath,” across many creeks, and finally across the well-named Tough Creek: “The crossing was really very hard.”

On the way Jacob told Von Schweinitz that “the settling of the Moravians is causing quite a stir,” and described the strife between different religious groups, which were struggling for supremacy.

Von Schweinitz had known the Hauser family back in Salem, North Carolina, and he describes his delight in seeing his old friends, if peering at each other through the darkness could be called “seeing”:

“The great joy of seeing each other was shared by all members of the household, although we really saw each other only in the morning, since, during our entire stay, we were without any light in the evening, except at supper, unless it was cool enough to have a flickering fire in the fireplace.”

Martin Hauser’s one-room cabin was occupied by eleven people: Martin and his wife Susannah Chitty Hauser, their five children, three unmarried Chitty relatives, and a shoemaker named John Proske, who had come from the Moravian mission to the Indians to buy land near the Hausers.

Hauser’s house was ambitious enough to include a loft and two windows, but the cooking and dining were done elsewhere.

“A smaller log house or cabin close by, which however is still entirely open — that is, not filled in between the logs — forms the kitchen and dining room, where we always betook ourselves with our chairs at meal times. Yet its chimney is still lacking and an open fire is kept in the house on some large flagstones. Most things, however, are cooked outside in the yard, if it is not raining.”

The cabins of the nearby settlers, John Leinbach, Daniel Ziegler, Ludwig Ried, and others, were similarly unfinished. Von Schweinitz noted, “Few have yet had the gaps between the logs stopped up and plastered: I even noticed a twig, with leaves still green, on one of the logs of Philipp Essig's house.”

Even cut down, the forest was still impressive: “At Brother Dan. Ziegler’s house the road passes between two poplar stumps which are seven feet in diameter each — the felled trunk of one forms the fence for seventy or eighty feet and is still over four feet thick at the smaller end.”

Despite the primitive housing, the settlement seemed promising, providing the animal life could be kept at bay.

Von Schweinitz observed, “Martin has a splendid wheat field, to say nothing of Dan Ziegler’s and Ried’s. As soon as the ground is got into proper shape, an acre yields one hundred bushels of corn.... As soon as it does, another trouble commences, for the numerous squirrels pull up whole rows and nibble off the seeds. Thus it becomes necessary to keep shooting all day long around the fields. Besides this, on Monday night, all the young men were summoned for a wolf hunt, because packs of wolves were around howling during the nights.”

There were other drawbacks to the town. Haw Creek and the Flatrock River were powerful, but “Every rain causes them to rise in an unconceivable manner. In wet weather the mud on the rich, black ground is indescribable...”

And manmade provisions were still in short supply. In a statement that may still resonate with citizens today, he noted, “the inhabitants are obliged to go to Columbus, also, for all their necessities, even for the smallest nail. Nothing, therefore, would be more desirable for the settlement than the establishment of a little store or trading post in Goshen [Hope] which would save them this trouble .... Nothing would be more welcome to the brethren and their neighbors here than to see Goshen becoming a little town with the most necessary artisans at hand; this has been Brother Martin’s design.”

The struggle to keep the “most necessary artisans” in town continues.

Meanwhile the intrepid traveler’s journal, The Journey of Lewis David von Schweinitz to Goshen, Bartholomew County, in 1831, can be read free online at https://archive.org/details/journeyoflewisda85schw.