Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James Axtell


In 1767 David Zeisberger began his Moravian mission to the Delaware Indians in Ohio. He led this mission until his death in 1808. While Zeisberger and his assistants required conformity in matters religious, the converts did not have to make enormous changes in their traditional beliefs. The Delaware converts also did not have to alter their traditional economic, medical, housing, and diplomatic practices.;The goal of this study is to understand why hundreds of Delawares chose to convert, and why as many more chose to live at the mission. Many Delawares hoped to return to the peaceful life they had previously enjoyed. Many chiefs joined the mission and maintained their influence within the mission structure, and many followed these important men to the mission, believing that the latter must "know something right." Others joined the mission because family members had converted. Many came to live at the mission to escape the destruction and danger of the revolutionary war, while others came to find an escape from the increasing disruption of drunkenness and witchcraft.;Previous studies have failed either to study the full chronological scope of the mission or have made serious errors in their conclusions. Unlike previous studies, it analyzes the structure and operations of the mission and the changes that were required of the converts.;Zeisberger's success lay not only in the numbers of converts he gained but also in the relationships he forged with the Delaware and other Indian nations of Ohio. Even in the worst of circumstances, the Delaware converts chose to remain with or rejoin the mission. at all times Zeisberger managed to maintain friendly relations with most nations, even during times of war. Because of his leadership and tolerance, the converts continued to identify themselves as Delaware Indians; altering their religion did not remove their primary identity nor their sense of loyalty to their people. The converts, although now Moravian in faith, remained Delawares.



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