The New International Encyclopædia/Separatists
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|Edition of 1905. See also Zoar, Ohio on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
SEPARATISTS (Ger. Separatisten). A religious social organization which originated in Württemberg, Germany, about the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its members, seeking a deeper religious life than prevailed in the Church, and freedom from military service, to which they were conscientiously opposed, and refusing to send their children to the clerical schools, where principles contrary to theirs were taught, were severely dealt with. Aided by members of the Society of Friends in England and led by Joseph Bäumeler (q.v.), they came to America in 1817, and were received by Friends in Philadelphia. In the same year they bought a tract of land in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, and founded their settlement of Zoar. In their Code of Principles they avow belief in the ordinary doctrines of evangelical Christianity; all ceremonies are banished and declared useless and injurious; honors due to God, such as uncovering the head or bending the knee, are refused to mortals; separation is declared from all ecclesiastical connections and constitutions; the necessity of the political government is recognized; and fidelity to the constituted authorities is professed. Although a rule of marriage was laid down, complete sexual abstinence was held to be more commendable; and marriage was not practiced till about 1830, after which time it became common. Articles establishing a community of goods and interests were adopted in 1819. An act of incorporation for ‘the Separatist Society of Zoar’ was obtained from the Legislature of Ohio in 1832. Joseph Bäumeler was chosen the principal executive officer, or ‘general agent,’ and continued its spiritual as well as temporal leader till his death in 1853. The members of the society were of two classes, novices and full members. The novices or probationers served for one year before being admitted to membership of the second class. Their obligations were renewed on entering into full membership, and in addition the candidate made a full and final surrender of all his possessions, and of all that he might acquire. Religious services were held on Sundays, with singing, reading of the Bible, and at the principal meeting a discourse by Bäumeler, or, after his death, the reading of one of his printed discourses, but no audible prayer. Baptism and the Lord's Supper were not recognized. Marriage was not permitted outside of the society. Disputes were settled by arbitration. (See Zoar Community.) Consult Nordhoff, Communistic Societies (New York, 1874); Randall, History of the Zoar Society (Columbus, 1900), with a full account of the dissolution of the society; Hinds, American Communities (Chicago, 1902); Bäumeler, Die wahre Separation, etc. (Zoar, 1856).