ZOAR, zo'ar, Separatists Society of. The Separatists Society of Zoar was a communistic religious organization located at Zoar, on the Tuscarawas River, Tuscarawas County, Ohio. They were German Protestant peasants, 225 in number, who emigrated from Wurttemberg in April 1817. Their chosen leader was Joseph Baumler, whose name was later changed, for the sake of euphony, to Bimeler. Bimeler was of humble origin, but a man of unusual ability and independence, well educated, a natural leader, and a fluent speaker; he purchased in his own name, in the locality named above, 5,000 acres of farm land, at an average value of $3 per acre, giving a mortgage at long time for the entire amount. This Separatist Emigration had been primarily for the pur pose of securing religious liberty; and for better opportunities in obtaining a livelihood. It was expected that each family would, by its industrious labor, secure separate ownership in a portion of the land held by Bimeler, but the colonists being diverse in age, strength, experience, education and enterprize, they soon realized that their personal inequality stood in the way of the collective success of the colony, and early in 1819 they decided to organize into a community of property and effort. Articles of agreement were signed by 159 adults— 53 males and 104 females. The articles created a community of interest, present and prospectke, whereby all the property, movable and im movable, of the individual members, and their Notre earnings should become the common stock of the association, to be held and man aged by chosen directors. Death of a mem ber passed no property interest to his heirs, and withdrawal from the society, voluntary or compulsory, carried with it no claim upon a divided or undivided right in the association. Bimeler was to retain the realty in trust until the societey by its earnings could pay the mort gage and assume title.
In 1832 the society reached its highest membership of 500, and was incorporated un der the then existing laws of Ohio by the name of 'The Society of Separatists of Zoar.• This conferred upon the society the ordinary powers of a corporation, with perpetual suc cession, power to hold property, purchase and sell, pass by-laws, etc. Under this reorganira
tion the members were divided into two classes, known as the novitiates and the full associates; the novitiates were obliged to serve at least one year before admission to the second class, and this applied to the children of the mem bers if, on becoming of age, they wished to join the society; the full associates must be of legal age — the males 21 and the females IS; all officers were elected by the whole so ciety, the women voting as well as the men, all elections being by ballot and a majority vote; the government of the community vested solely in a board of three trustees (or direc tors) to serve three years each, one to be elected annually; these trustees had unlimited power over the custody and management of the property and all the temporalities of the society, but were bound to provide clothing, board and dwelling for each member "with out respect to person.' and use all means confided to their charge for the best interests of the society; they directed the industries and detail of affairs of the society; assigned each member his especial work, and the portion of necessaries each should receive. Beside the board of trustees there was a standing com mittee, or council, of five, one member being elected each year. This council was the su preme judiciary, or board of arbitration, of the society, in cases of disagreement, dissen sion or complaint; it had power to excom municate members or deprive them of partic ipation in the affairs of the society. They also elected once in four years a cashier or treasurer who had custody of all moneys, kept the books, and had immediate oversight over the finances of the society. In addition there was an official known as the 'agent general,* who acted as the trader to buy and sell for the society in its dealings with the outside world, make and enforce contracts, etc. The office of agerrt general was regarded as the position of honor and influence, and to it Joseph Bimeler was elected for life; after his death the office remained vacant, its duties being performed by the cashier or the trustees.