David Zeisberger – Missionary to Red Indians

This is the day that … David Zeisberger was married – at the age of 60 – to Miss Susan Lecron, at the suggestion of the Moravian Mission Board. It was in 1781.

For the previous 40 years he had devoted his life to preaching of the Gospel among Red Indians. “He had made himself so truly their brother than they adopted him into their tribe and gave him the Indian name of Thaneraquechta …” (Torchbearers of the Faith, by A. Smellie, page 227).

Zeisberger’s translation of the Scriptures into the Iroquois language is described as “outstanding”. He pressed on with his work, despite being continually harassed by the French/Indian war, and the American Revolution. There are stories of massacres and imprisonment and hardship enough to daunt the most valiant of souls. Zeisberger persevered.

During a Moravian synod meeting the strong suggestion was made that David take himself a wife, which he did. He then returned to his Red Indians with the Gospel.

During the Revolutionary War, “The wrath of the British was directed mainly against Zeisberger… He and two fellow missionaries were arrested as spies. Practically starved, they appeared before the governor to defend themselves against vile and unjust accusations” (Early Missionary Endeavours Among the American Indians, by J. Mueller, page 92). Eventually Zeisberger was free to lead his Christian Indians across the border into Canada, where there was freedom – and “where the Moravian testimony continued for many generations”.

He died on 17 November, 1808, saying: “The Saviour is near; He will come and take me home…” He departed this life at the age of 87, over 60 years of which was spent in missionary service.

“No other Protestant missionary exercised more real influence, and was more sincerely honoured among the Indians, and none … excelled him in the frequency and hardship of his journeys through the wilderness” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, page 2570).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.