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Jun 18, 2021

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June 12, 2021

Moravian heritage of Hope, Indiana - Encore

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Early members of the Hope Moravian Church in Hope, Indiana, posed for a photograph. Seated are Jonas Rominger, Mary Bachman, Mrs. E.J. Regenas, Mrs. Sanford Rominger and Ed B. Richel. Standing are Shepherd Lienback, Calvin Blume, John Albright, Ed Gruhl and Sanford Rominger. Image courtesy Yellow Trail Museum.

Columbus, Ind., in Bartholomew County, south of Indianapolis, is known as a "Modernist Mecca" for its striking examples of midcentury architecture, which draw visitors from far and wide. The nearby small town of Hope in the county's northeast Haw Creek Township is much less well known, but has its own distinctive cultural heritage, which we explore in this encore of a show that originally aired in September of 2016. The show is guest-hosted by Hoosier History Live producer Molly Head.

Hope was founded in 1830 by Protestant Moravian Martin Hauser. Like many persecuted religious minorities seeking autonomy and religious freedom, Moravians moved into different parts of Europe and on to America, where they settled mostly in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. German was the language spoken by Moravians coming to America.

The Hope Moravian Church in Hope, Indiana, is pictured c. 1880. To the left is the parsonage, and in the background to the right is the church cemetery. Image courtesy New York Public Library.As Hope was originally founded, the church owned and ran the town. Somewhat similar to social experiments in New Harmony with communal property, the "congregational town" concept ended in Hope in 1837 when the town was opened up to individual property ownership, and non-Moravians also were allowed to settle there.

Some early residents of Hope were descendants of the settlers of the ill-fated Moravian Mission that operated near Anderson, Ind., along the White River, from 1801 to 1806. The mission's purpose was to bring Christianity to the Native Americans in the area. The mission members and its Native American "converts" were met with strong resistance by local tribes, and in particular by The Prophet, or Tenskwatawa, the brother of Shawnee leader Tecumseh. The Prophet, full of his own religious zeal, carried out "witch hunts" against converted Native Americans, and the Moravian missions in the area eventually disappeared.

Barb Johnson.The Hope Moravian Church, founded in 1830 and originally housed in a log cabin on the town square, remains the only Moravian Church in Indiana. Many of its traditions continue today, such as display of the "putz," or elaborate Christmas scene in miniature, in the church at Christmastime, the tradition of hanging Moravian stars, and the making of Moravian sugar cakes, a type of sweet, raised coffee cake widely sold at local festivals.

Beth Newman.Since the 1830s, Hope Moravians have also gathered in God's Acre, the historic section of the Hope Moravian Church Cemetery, for the Easter Sunrise Service, which includes a trombone choir and a processional by all church members that involves singing songs and watching the sunrise.

Molly's guests include two retired Hope elementary school teachers who also are great storytellers: Barb Johnson and Beth Newman. Both Barb and Beth have taught 4th-grade Indiana history and also have played the role of schoolmarms at the Simmons School, which is a brick one-room schoolhouse that was moved from its original location in the country to the back yard of the Hope Elementary School in 1989. Guests Barb and Beth are also involved in the Yellow Trail Museum, the history museum located on the town square. Much of downtown Hope and surrounding residential areas is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Editor's note: Since the original airing of this show in 2016, Barb Johnson has passed away.