The Moravian Church in America began missionary work among the Delaware and Mohican tribes of North America in the mid-18th century. David Zeisberger, one of the best-known Moravian missionaries, came to the Ohio country with Delaware converts from a mission in western Pennsylvania and founded Schoenbrunn in the Tuscarawas Valley on May 3, 1772. Josua, a Mohican convert and missionary leader, led Mohican and Munsee Christians downriver and settled Gnadenhutten ("Tents of Grace") on October 9, 1772. Zeisberger served as lead missionary at both villages. By 1775, there was an estimated 200 inhabitants in the village. The British, along with Wyandot and Delaware allies, suspected the Christian Indians of aiding the Americans. To ensure their allegiance to the British, the inhabitants of Gnadenhutten were forcibly removed in 1781 and taken to Captives' Town on the Sandusky River.
The Gnadenhutten Massacre, "A Day of Shame"
The Gnadenhutten Indians were facing starvation on the Sandusky. A group was permitted to return to Gnadenhutten early in 1782 to harvest crops that were left when the village was abandoned. While gathering their harvest the Gnadenhutten Indians were mistaken for Indian raiders who had struck in western Pennsylvania a few weeks earlier. They were captured without incident and sentenced to death by a group of Pennsylvania militia seeking revenge. The Christian Indians, men in one cabin and women and children in another, prayed and sang all night before their executions. On March 8, 1782, an estimated 90 men, women, and children were brutally killed. Only two young boys were known to have escaped. The massacre did not ease hostilities in western Pennsylvania, but fueled more attacks by Wyandot, Delaware, and Shawnee Indians.