New Ebenezer—Its location, and the plan upon which is was laid out—The environs of the town—Its rapid growth—Municipal and other regulations—Rules originally adopted for the government of the congregation—The duties of pastors set forth—Elders and wardens—Parochial schools—Church members, &c.—Dr. H. M. Muhlenberg—Salaries of the pastors—Their responsibilities—Relation to the church in Germany—Sale of rum prohibited, and the introduction of Negro slaves—Effects of these regulations on the colony at Ebenezer—Mr. Bolzius, Rev. George Whitfield, and Baron Von Reck on slavery—Position of Mr. Bolzius—Views of Hon. James Habersham and Rev. S. Urlsperger—Controversy settled, and slavery allowed—The Salzburgers and the Lutheran Church in Germany—Liberality of the latter—Education—“Bethany” church—Favourable condition of the settlement—Religious character of the inhabitants—Their industry, frugality, &c.—Letter of Mr. Bolzius—Rev. George Whitfield at Ebenezer—His testimony in favour of the Salzburgers—He visits the Orphan House—Letter of Thomas Jones—Principal settlers at Ebenezer up to 1741—The invasion of Georgia by Spaniards—Another letter of Mr. Bolzius—Extracts from his journal—Statement of Mr. Benjamin Martyn—New arrivals—Emigrants bind themselves as servants—Frederick Helfenstein—Lutheran church in Savannah founded—Rev. U. Driesler—His death—Rev. Mr. Zublii—The town of Frederica—Dr. H. M. Muhlenberg visits Ebenezer—Mr. Gronau—“Jerusalem” church at Ebenezer—“Zion’s” church—Extracts from Mr. Bolzius’s journal—Death of Mr. Gronau.
THE site selected for a new town was on a high ridge within a short distance of the river, and which, from the peculiar colour of the soil on the margin of the water, was called “Red Bluff.” The spot was quite a romantic one. On the east, lay the Savannah with its broad, smooth surface, and its ever-varying and beautiful scenery. On the south was a small stream, then called Little Creek, but now known as Lockner’s Creek, and a large lake called “Neidlinger’s Sea.” While to the north, not very distant from the town, was to be seen their old acquaintance, Ebenezer Creek, sluggishly winding its way to mingle with the waters of the Savannah. The surrounding country was gently undulating, and covered with a fine growth of forest-trees, while the jessamine, the woodbine, and the beautiful azalia, with its variety of gaudy colours, added a peculiar richness to the picturesque scene. But unfortunately for the permament prosperity of the town, it was surrounded on three sides by low swamps, which were subject to periodical inundation, and consequently generated a poisonous miasma prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants.
The new town was laid off after the plan of the city of Savannah, and covered an area of a quarter of a mile square. This space was divided into small squares, each containing ten building lots, and the latter numbered one hundred and sixty. Three wide streets passed through the town from east to west, which were intersected at right angles by four others running from north to south; beside which there were a number of narrow lanes, but these extended in only one direction—north and south. Four squares were appropriated to the sale of produce, and called “market-places,” and four were reserved as public parks or promenade grounds. Two-thirds of a square were appropriated to the church, parsonage, and academy, and an equal quantity to the orphan asylum and the public storehouse respectively. On the east, a short distance from the town, was the cemetery. On the north and east was a large pasture for cattle, and on the south was one for sheep and goats. On the north and south, garden-lots were laid out, and still farther south, beyond Little Creek and Mill Creek, and upon their waters, the farms were located, each farm consisting of fifty acres. The country to the north, beyond Ebenezer Creek, was occupied by the Uchee Indians, that section not having been included in any of the grants made by them to the Trustees. The whole plan of the town, with its environs, was well conceived, and one can but admire the great judgment displayed in the whole arrangement.
In the course of a few years, Ebenezer began to give evidences of its future growth and prosperity. Houses were again erected. Gardens and farms were enclosed and brought under cultivation, and the community assumed an air of great activity and industry. Whether it was owing to the want of means, or materials, or both, there was no church erected here for several years ; as, however, funds had been received from Germany for the establishment of an orphan asylum, and as that building was among the first that was erected, it was temporarily used as a place of worship.
Having now described the location of “Ebenezer” and its environs, it may be proper here to notice the government under which the colony was placed. As a religious community, the Salzburgers may be properly viewed as a missionary station, under the fostering care of the English Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany. It was required of the pastors and each member of the congregation to subscribe to the “Augsburg Confession” and the “Symbolical Books,” and to submit to a code of regulations drawn up by the Rev. Samuel Urlsperger of Augsburg, Rev. Frederick M. Zeigenhagen of London, and Rev. Gotthelf Augustus Francké of Halle. These regulations were prepared in 1733, and continued in force, with some few alterations, (which were made principally by Dr. Muhlenburg, in 1774,) until 1843. It is not asserting too much to say, that no better church-discipline is needed than that laid down in these regulations.
We insert here a copy of the original rules, with a view to show the character of the discipline which our pious forefathers adopted for the government of the churches. It is worthy of preservation, both on account of its antiquity and its intrinsic excellence. It reads thus :
“In the name of God:—The fundamental constitution, articles, and rules upon which a German Evangelical Lutheran congregation was formally established, upon the basis of the Holy Bible, our Augsburg Confession, (and the other Symbolical Books,) since the year 1733, in and about Ebenezer, in His Great Britannic Majesty’s province of Georgia : and which were unanimously approved, confirmed, and unalterably determined upon, under hand and seal, by the reverened founders, viz. Messrs. Samuel Urlsperger, Frederick Michael Zeigenhagen, Gotthelf Augustus Francké, most worthy members of the venerable society in England, instituted for the promotion of the knowledge of Christ ; together with the first ministers, elders, deacons, and regular church-members, His Great Britannic Protestant Majesty’s faithful subjects. (Vide Preface to the first article of the Americanische Ackerwerck Gottes, p. 3.)
“That no congregation can preserve its establishment and regulations, and maintain good order for the furtherance of its true interests, unless there be elected as deacons men who are members of the congregation,’ and who have both the qualifications and authority to provide for the maintenance of good regulation and wholesome discipline of the whole congregation, is taught by sound reason, the Holy Scriptures, and experience. Therefore, as we are taught in the important admonition contained in the last verse of the fourteenth chapter of 1 Cor.: ‘Let all things be done decently and orderly,’ (or in accordance with good regulations and decorum.) And that we may be the more encouraged to obey this injunction, the holy apostle declares, in the twenty-eighth verse of the twelfth chapter, preceding, ‘that God, being a God of order in his churches purchased with a precious price, appointed not only apostles, prophets, and ministers,’ but also adjutors and rulers: that is, men highly gifted and favoured, who have, both by word and in deed, contributed, as the wants and ordinances of the churches required, every thing that was possible for the good regulation and the maintainment of the churches. It is also a fact, clearly taught by the word of God, that such men were appointed in the church of God, even in the Old Testament dispensation, from the time of Moses, for the purpose of maintaining good order. Accordingly, it is in perfect keeping with the will of God and the example, not only of the primitive, but also of the succeeding Christian churches, that such church elders, or adjutors and rulers, have been jointly elected by the whole congregation ; also among us, whose duty it is to promote the best interests of this our parish, as is directed by the English ecclesiastical canon. As, however, our congregation does not properly belong to the English Church, and consequently cannot, in all points, exist under its ecclesiastical canon, but must enact its own regulations for the worship of God and for edification, it becomes necessary for the members of our congregation to invest the proposed church-elders, as is the practice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in London, (and others which need not be mentioned,) with special authority to support our congregation; and intrust to them also their establishments and regulations. For all this, if made incumbent upon the ministers alone, is a burden far too onerous and insupportable.
“If, now, men thus chosen and empowered are to promote by word and in deed, both the existence and the welfare of the congregation, so that it may endure and be maintained by its establishments and regulations ; and as such well-being of the congregation cannot be promoted without means, it follows quite naturally, that the requisite means must be placed in their hands by the members of the congregation, as is done by the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in London, before alluded to, and also by all other Christian congregations.
“Hence, inasmuch as the government, or the English ecclesiastical constitution, provides nothing for this purpose, and as, in consequence of the troublesome and warlike times in our German fatherland, we cannot, with certainty, expect as much aid as was received in former years from our beloved benefactors in Germany, toward the maintainment of our church and school establishments, and also toward the alleviation of the wants of the poor and sick, it becomes a stern demand of necessity, that is, the honour of God and our spiritual welfare require, that the members of the congregation bind themselves, in love, mutually to contribute from year to year as much money as is and will continue to be requisite to the support of the school-teachers, and the preservation of the church and school edifices and the parsonage. Those persons, therefore, who are members of the congregation, and who are desirous of participating in its spiritual benefit and privileges, will, it is hoped, also be disposed to lend their assistance in bearing the expenses of the congregation, by contributing cheerfully their share toward the sustainment of the said proposed regulations and establishments. Those, however, who are unwilling to take upon themselves any of the labours, and who will not perform what is their covenant duty with feelings of gratitude, notwithstanding their ability to do so, debar themselves and their families, by these very means from the congregation and its spiritual benefits ; which will not surely tend to their advantage : ‘ God loveth a cheerful giver.’ ‘He that soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Cor. ix. 6, 7, 8; (ix. 10.) Such as are members of this our evangelical congregation, and are willing to contribute as much as may, from time to time be found requisite, according to the amount which the appointed church-deacons may compute and deem proper, toward the support of the school-teachers, the parsonage, the church, and school edifices, and also the supplying of any other necessities, will please subscribe their names to this writing, and annex the sum that they will give. And as, through the gracious providence of God, our beloved inhabitants have, in this respect, a great advantage in point of privilege and ease from cares over many other Christian congregations, because they are not required to compensate their pastors, nor minister to their temporal support, it is expected that they will be the more prompt in contributing their quota toward the sustainment of the above regulations and establishments, which are designed for the support of the congregation and the upholding of the worship of God. They should even rejoice that the opportunity is afforded them to manifest the activity of their faith, through the love of God, to his word, the church, and the schools; but when there is no active love, there is no true faith. ‘ Show me thy faith by thy works.’ James ii. 18.
“Finally, touching the office and duties of the church-elders, in regard to the ministers in the churches, the teachers in the schools, the whole congregation, and the money intrusted to them, it shall, in conclusion, be indicated in the words of the printed London German Church Discipline, given to us, altered, however, in several instances, to accord with our peculiar circumstances, as follows:—
“1st. They shall employ the utmost diligence in providing that the word of God be declared unto the Christians of our congregation,- in its purity and without admixture, by pious teachers and ministers ; that the holy sacraments enjoined and instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ be administered, and that the pure doctrines be preserved and transmitted to our posterity. And in order that this object may be attained, some of them, at least, in case all cannot, shall always be present when the word is preached.
“2d. It shall be their duty to see that the school-teachers receive duly their stipulated salary semi-anuually: likewise, that every thing else which may concern the congregation be fully performed. For this purpose they shall also collect, half-yearly, the contributions of the congregation, and enter the receipts regularly into the church register. They shall also, semi-annually, receive from the parents whose children receive instruction in the schools, a certain amount of payment for tuition, proportionate to their means ; so that the contribution of the whole congregation for the defrayment of the congregational expenses, may be somewhat diminished.
“3d. The church-deacons shall make it their duty, in conjunction with the ministers, to see that all sins, disgraceful conduct, and scandal be avoided ; or, otherwise, duly punished and corrected.
“4th. They shall keep a particular account of all expenditures made on behalf of the congregation, and also of every thing which any one may have voluntarily vowed or promised to give toward the support of the churches. And, after the expiration of his office, each one shall submit his account to all the other church-deacons collectively.
“5th. They shall, at the end of the year, and when leaving their office and service, render an account to the contributing portion of the congregation, of all the money which they received during their official year for the use of the church ; so that each one may know how the funds of the congregation are applied and expended, and thus be the more willing to contribute again.
“6th. They shall submit the church register to the inspection of any one of the contributors who may desire to see how the money has been employed.
“7th. Those church-deacons who have served their term of office shall be in duty bound to assist on all occasions, by word or deed, at the meetings of the deacons and of the congregation, if desired ; and when cited to do so, they shall appear without refusal.
“8th. The church-deacons newly inducted, and at all times those coming into office successively, shall also be held responsible for the performance and fulfilment of all measures which may have been resolved and agreed upon by their predecessors, conducive to the tranquillity, peace, prosperity, and advantage of the congregation.
“9th. On those Sabbaths when the Lord’s Supper is administered, they shall also stand at the doors of the church with suitable vessels (dishes or bowls) to receive and collect from the congregation while leaving the church, gifts and contributions for the benefit of the church and the poor. It is also reasonably expected that not only residents should contribute something for the administration of the rite of baptism, the performance of the marriage ceremony, and for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but strangers should also be held to the performance of this duty. For if the congregation is not sustained by its institutions, these can also not enjoy the privileges mentioned.
“These above-mentioned deacons, of whom not less than seven shall be elected annually from among the members of our Evangelical Lutheran congregation, conscientiously and according to the best of their knowledge, have the power to apply the money intrusted to them to this purpose; yet, in very important matters, as when a church is to be built, or an important repair is to be undertaken, &c., the acquiesence and approval of the whole congregation convened in mass must be obtained. To these establishments may God, who is a God of order, add his heavenly grace, for the sake of Jesus Christ! Amen.”
It has been stated that this was the original discipline, subsequently amended by Dr. Muhlenburg in 1774. It is impossible to state to what extent it was altered, but that Dr. Muhlenburg made some additions to it, and changed several of the articles, cannot be questioned. In another place it will be necessary to refer again to the subject of church discipline, when a synopsis will be given of the one signed by the pastors, elders, and deacons, and all the male members of church, in 1774 and 1775.
It will be seen, from this extract, that the principal objects for which collections were made in the congregation, were the proper support of schools, the relief of widows, orphans, and the superannuated, and the maintenance of the church edifice, whenever erected. It is worthy of remark that the salaries for the support of the pastors at Ebenezer were for many years contributed by the patrons of the church in Germany. At first, the amount allowed was about forty pounds for the senior pastor, and thirty pounds for his assistant. This allowance continued until 1770, when Rev. Mr. Urlsperger decided that the salaries should not be less than sixty pounds and fifty pounds, respectively, and that the deficiency should be made up from the revenues arising from those institutions which had been founded by European benefactions.
The civil and military affairs of the entire colony, including the settlements at Ebenezer, Savannah, Frederica, &c, were under the control of the Trustees, who, through their agent, General Oglethorpe, assigned lands to the colonists, planned and laid off towns, built fortifications, and so regulated the whole industrial economy as in his judgment was best calculated to promote the welfare of the settlers and carry out the designs of the Trustees.
The immediate superintendence of the settlement at Ebenezer was assigned to the Rev. John Martin Bolzius and his colleague, Mr. Gronau; and we doubt very much if the affairs of the colony could have been more judiciously managed than they were by these eminently pious and prudent men. Their duties were at times not only arduous, but distressingly embarrassing; but they performed them with a conscientious faithfulness worthy of all praise, and with a degree of success that is truly surprising. Sustaining an indirect relation to the Trustees in England, and a direct connection with the society above mentioned, (from whom they derived part of their support,) as well as with the Lutheran Church in Germany, and having to superintend and manage the civil, as well as the ecclesiastical interests of the colony, it required no small degree of judgment and discretion to meet the wishes of their benefactors in England and their Christian friends and advisers in Germany. But we believe they fulfilled their trust to the satisfaction of all parties.
Among the municipal regulations adopted by the “Trustees,” was one forbidding the introduction and sale of rum, and another inhibiting the importation of Negro slaves. The enforcement of these measures was attended with very serious difficulty in all parts of the colony, except at Ebenezer. The first measure was one, the propriety of which the Salzburgers never questioned. Temperance societies were then unknown; but no such agency was necessary to teach our pious ancestors that the use of alcoholic drinks is attended with incalculable evils, and that the most specific remedy for these evils, is not to pass license laws to regulate the sale of spirits, but to remove entirely the cause that produced them. It is mentioned as a striking fact in the subsequent history of Ebenezer, that the exclusion of ardent spirits had contributed materially to promote the health of the inhabitants, while sickness prevailed in all those places where the sale was permitted. We wish that this wholesome regulation had always been enforced, not only at Ebenezer, but throughout our country; and especially that the descendants of the Salzburgers had always imitated, in this respect, the example of their pious forefathers.
It is difficult to ascertain fully the grounds upon which the Salzburgers opposed so strenuously, and for so many years, the introduction of Negro slaves. Whether their own history, with its many scenes of wrong and oppression, had predisposed them against every species of servitude, or whether they judged that the existence of slaves among them would render the colonists indolent, and perhaps weaken and embarrass their community by exposing it to the evils of a servile war, are questions which it would not be easy to answer satisfactorily. We may, however, gather some instruction from a remark of Baron Von Reck. He says, in one of his letters, “The purchase of Negroes is forbidden, on account of the vicinity of the Spaniards. The colony also is an asylum for the distressed, and slaves starve the poor labourer.”
It is a matter of history, however, which need not to be disguised, that the Salzburgers, including their pastors, did very warmly oppose the importation of slaves; and if the question had been left for them to decide, without any influences from abroad being employed to bias their minds, slavery would not have existed in the colony. Mr. Bolzius was, perhaps, among the very last to yield his opposition. He even reproved Mr. Whitefield very sharply, for his vacillation, in changing his opinions, after having in the first instance expressed his disapprobation of this measure, and then subsequently favouring it. Mr. Whitefield denied having any participation in the matter, and said that he believed, with Pope, “Whatever is, is best;” that God had some wise ends to accomplish in reference to African slavery; and that he had no doubt it would terminate in advantage to the Africans.
When Pastor Bolzius yielded his objections to this measure, the ground which he assumed, as far as we can learn from his letters, was as follows:—He admitted that there was wrong, in the abstract, to place our fellow-men in a state of bondage; yet if, by removing the African from the heathenism of his native land to a country where his mind would be enlightened by the gospel, and provision made for the salvation of his soul, the evils of slavery might be endured in consideration of the moral and spiritual advantages which it bestows upon its unfortunate victims. By this mode of reasoning, and by means of an essay from the pen of James Habersham, Esq., the Salzburgers, including their pastors, after considerable hesitation, consented to have slaves brought into the colony. They did not do so, however, until after they had freely conferred with their Christian friends in Germany. The Rev. S. Urlsperger, in advising them upon this subject, says: “If you take slaves in faith, and with the intent of conducting them to Christ, the action will not be a sin, but may prove a ‘benediction.’ “This advice determined their future course in reference to this important question. The discussion of this subject had, however, produced great excitement in the colony. In the language of another, “The whole province dwelt, as it were, on the brink of a volcano, whose intestine fires raged higher and higher, threatening at no distant period a desolating eruption.” It was under these circumstances, and when the community seemed to be on the brink of a civil war, that Mr. Bolzius wrote to the Trustees, withdrawing, on behalf of himself and the Salzburgers, their objection to the repeal of the law.
We have already intimated that the Lutheran congregation at Ebenezer was connected with the church in Germany, and it was accordingly required that the pastors should keep up a regular correspondence, especially with the authorities at Augsburg and Halle, which were then the two principal Protestant cities on the continent. This correspondence contained a minute detail of all the occurrences at Ebenezer, and the most important part of it was published in the Nachrichten of Rev. S. Urlsperger, of Augsburg, and much of it is still extant.
But while the church in Germany kept up its ecclesiastical connection with the church at Ebenezer, and sought to direct its spiritual affairs, it was not backward in raising means for its maintenance. Even prior to the emigration of the Salzburgers, collections had been taken up in various parts of Germany, and after their settlement at Ebenezer they continued to receive donations from their transatlantic brethren; and such was the liberality displayed toward them, that a church fund was raised amounting to twelve thousand guilders, for the support of the pastors, and other benevolent purposes.
It ought to be mentioned that, in the establishment of the colony, the cause of education was not overlooked, and in every instance in which a pastor was sent over, a schoolmaster accompanied him, unless one was already provided. A fund, too, was subsequently created for his support; for our pious forefathers judged, and very correctly too, that no country can prosper in which provision is not made for the mental culture and improvement of the rising generation. Thus we find that there was a regular school kept up during the lifetime of Mr. Bolzius and many years afterward, at Ebenezer, and one at Zion’s Church, four miles below Ebenezer. Subsequently, when the church called “Bethany” was built on the bluff above Ebenezer, a school-house was also erected, and a fund established for the support of the teacher. From this it will be seen how much importance was attached to the subject of education, and how careful the Salzburgers were to make provision for the support of their teachers. In this respect there is another striking parallel between the Salzburgers and the Puritans of New England; and if the former had been as favourably situated as the latter, there is no doubt that they would have accomplished fully as much in making provision for the proper intellectual training of their offspring. At all events, they showed most conclusively that they had enlightened and liberal views upon the subject of education, and employed every means in their power to promote it.
Such were the circumstances under which the colony at Ebenezer was commenced. The foundation was laid by the Trustees for the colonization of Georgia, aided by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and the liberal donations of Christian friends in Germany. Let us now take a look at this little community. In the year 1736 the place began to assume the appearance of a village, giving evidence, by its neat cottages, of the presence of civilization almost in the midst of savage tribes of Indians. Within its precincts stand the school-house for the education of the children, and the asylum for the widow and orphan, within whose walls the pastors and their flocks, as yet, meet for the worship of God. There, too, is the comfortable parsonage, in which dwell those holy men whose greatest happiness is derived from the spiritual prosperity of their people, and who labour patiently and unremittingly for the temporal and eternal welfare of those committed to their charge, pointing them, by their precept and example, to a holier and happier state above. The people, too, are obedient to the voice of their shepherds. They receive their instructions respectfully and dutifully; and yielding their hearts to the influences of Christian principles, they become “living epistles” to the power of our holy religion to change the heart and regulate the conduct.
One cannot well conceive of a community more happily constituted than this was. The civil and municipal laws were few and simple; their church-discipline scriptural and rigid. At the head of the community stand the pastors and elders of the congregation. These constitute the umpire before which all questions both civil and religious are brought; and such is the integrity of those who compose this tribunal, and such the prudence and wisdom and impartiality which characterize all their proceedings, that their decisions are always satisfactory, and no appeals are ever made from their judgment.
Under these circumstances Ebenezer, as might have been expected, was destined to enjoy, for a season at least, a good measure of prosperity. Its inhabitants were not only accustomed to hardships, but being industrious and frugal in their habits, and living always in the fear of God, they possessed within themselves all those elements necessary to the success of any enterprise. It is true, there were many difficulties to be surmounted at the outset, arising from the want of arable land and the scarcity of provisions; but as soon as their lands could be brought under cultivation, which was done in this and the following year, and a communication opened with the city of Savannah, which was effected by the purchase of a boat for that purpose, their circumstances were greatly improved.
Their easy access, too, to the river, which abounded with fish and wild-fowl, enabled them to obtain supplies of food, which tended greatly to relieve their necessities.
That the reader may form some idea of the condition of affairs at Ebenezer about this time, the following letter from Pastor Bolzius, dated the 13th of February, 1738, is inserted: “With great satisfaction we perceive that, through the grace of God, general contentment prevails among our people. The longer they are here the better they are pleased; and we are sure their utmost wishes will be gratified when they shall be able to live by their own industry.
“They are satisfied, because they are enjoying the privileges which they had long sought in vain—to have the word of God in its purity. Our heavenly Father will perhaps provide the means for building a house for worship. At present we worship in the Orphan-House, and feel that God is with us.”
It was about this period that the celebrated George Whitefield visited Ebenezer. Speaking of the state of the colony, he remarks: “Their lands are surprisingly improved. They are also blessed with two such pious ministers as I have seldom seen. They have no courts of jurisdiction, but all differences are immediately settled by their pastors. They have an orphan-house, in which are seventeen children and a widow.”
With the orphans’ school Mr. Whitefield was very much gratified. He had it in contemplation to establish a similar institution in Georgia, for the benefit of the numerous orphans whom he found in Savannah and its vicinity. His heart had first been directed to this subject by what he had heard and read in reference to the celebrated orphan-house founded at Halle, by Dr. Franke. When he visited the Orphans’ Asylum at Ebenezer, he was so much pleased, that his purposes were confirmed, and he projected his orphan-house, which he called Bethesda. This was located about eight miles from Savannah.
While on the visit above alluded to, Mr. Whitefield was so much delighted with the order and harmony at Ebenezer, that he gave part of his own “poor stores” to Mr. Bolzius, to be distributed among his orphans. Mr. Whitefield thus describes the scene: “Mr. Bolzius called all the children before him; catechized and exhorted them to give thanks to God for his good providence toward them; then prayed with them, and made them pray after him; then sung a psalm. Afterwards the little lambs came and shook me by the hand one by one, and so we parted!”
Mr. Whitefield never forgot this visit to the Salzburgers; and he became so deeply interested in their welfare, that a year or two afterward he interested himself to procure an English teacher for one of their schools, and offered to educate two pious young men in his orphan-house, whom the pastors at Ebenezer might select for this purpose.
In a letter written by Mr. Thomas Jones, dated Savannah, Georgia, on the 18th of September, 1740, occur the following remarks : “Thirty miles distance from this place is Ebenezer, a town on the Savannah river, inhabited by Salzburgers and other Germans, under the pastoral care of Mr. Bolzius and Mr. Gronau” who are discreet, worthy men: they consist of sixty families and upward. The town is neatly built, the situation exceedingly pleasant; the people live in the greatest harmony with their ministers and with one another, as one family. They have no drunken, idle, or profligate people among them, but are industrious, and many have grown wealthy. Their industry has been blessed with remarkable and uncommon success, to the envy of their neighbours, having great plenty of all the necessary conveniences for life (except clothing) within themselves; and supply this town (Savannah) with bread-kind, as also beef, veal, pork, poultry, &c.”
For the gratification of the reader, and especially for the benefit of the descendants of the Salzburgers, we subjoin a list of the principal residents at Ebenezer in 1741 :
Rev. John Martin Bolzius,
Rev. Israel Christian Gronau,
John Jacob Zubli,
Frederick Wilhelm Moller,
Carl Sigismund Ott,
John Peter Arnsdorff,
John and Carl Floerl,
John Michael Reiser,
The invasion of Georgia by the Spaniards, about this time, created considerable excitement throughout the colony; and the Salzburgers not only sympathized with their English neighbours, but cheerfully contributed to the defence of the country, and bore their part of all the burdens and inconveniences incident upon such occasions. Still they never lost sight of the object of their removal to America. They seem, however, not to have been very seriously embarrassed by the war, as may be learned from a letter of Mr. Bolzius, dated the 23d of July, 1740, addressed to Dr. Franke, of Halle. He says, in that letter:
“Together with these spiritual blessings and the salutary effect of the word of God, in the conversion of many souls, we enjoy this year also, by the mercy of God, many temporal good things. The present war, and the burden of it, has not affected us much as yet, and in the great dearness the colony suffered last year we have not been in want of necessary provision. As to the present year, we have a very hopeful prospect of a good harvest, every thing in the fields and gardens growing so delightful as we have never seen before in this country. If Isaac, by the blessing of the Lord, received from what he had sowed an hundred fold, I believe I dare say, to the glory of God, our Salzburgers will receive a thousand-fold, notwithstanding the corn when it came out of the ground was entirely eaten up by worms, of which no one can form a right idea, unless he sees it with his own eyes. The land is really very fruitful, if the sins of the inhabitants, and the curse of God for such sins, does not eat it up, which was formerly the unhappy case of the blessed land of Canaan.
“And I am heartily sorry to acquaint you, that I do not find in some of the inhabitants of the colony, a due thankfulness for, and contentment with, the many blessings bestowed on them for several years together; although those who are industrious and will labour for their maintenance may, as we do, live contentedly and subsist under the blessing promised by Paul, (Heb. xiii. 5,) ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;’ which blessing the idle and unthankful are not entitled to.”
In the journal of Pastor Bolzius is found the following minute: “10th of August, 1741.—We have this year plenty of peaches, and as this fruit does not keep, some of the people try to make a sort of brandy of them; others give them to the swine. This is more than anybody could have promised himself or others some years ago. Even at this time when I am writing, a man brings a large dish of blue grapes to me, grown wild in the woods; they are of a sweet taste, and pretty like our European grapes, so that I am very apt to believe, the wild vines, if properly managed, would give good wine. Thanks to our gracious God, who gives us here every good thing for our support!”
“9th of September, 1741.—Some time ago I wrote to an honoured friend in Europe, that the land in this country, if well managed, brings forth by the blessing of God, not only a hundred-fold, but a thousand-fold; and I was this day confirmed therein. A woman, having two years ago picked out of Indian corn no more than three grains of rye, and planting them here at Ebenezer, one of these grains produced an hundred and seventy stalks and ears, and yielded to her a bag of corn as large as a coat pocket.
“True it is, notwithstanding the fertility of the land, the first tillers of it must undergo and struggle with great difficulties; but those that come after them will reap the benefit thereof, if they go on to do their labour in the fear of God. The land is able to provide every good, and more particularly is pasturage very plenteous.”
From these extracts it will be seen that the settlement at Ebenezer and its vicinity was fully as prosperous as could have been expected under the circumstances. Additions were constantly making to it by new arrivals of emigrants from the fatherland. It appears, from a statement made by Mr. Benjamin Martyn, Secretary of the Trustees, that up to 1741, over twelve hundred German Protestants had arrived in the colony. Most of these were sent over by the charity of their friends in England and Germany. There were, however, many who came in 1735, and subsequently, for whom no provision was made. So anxious, however, were they to escape persecution in their native land and find an asylum in Georgia, that they consented to bind themselves as servants to the Trustees, for five years after their arrival in Georgia, and to pay by their own labour the expense of their transportation. In fact, the indentures which they made bound not only themselves, but their children. The males who were under twenty were to serve until they were twenty-five, and the females who were above six were to serve until they arrived at the age of eighteen years.
These conditions, however, were not always rigidly enforced, for it appears, from the minutes of the Trustees, that on the 26th of July, 1742, a petition was presented to that body signed by Christian Steinharel, Theobald Keiffer, and others, stating that their term of service had expired, and praying the Trustees to grant them the freedom of their children at the expiration of the time (five years) for which the petitioners were bound. To the credit of the Trustees, it should ever be remembered, the prayer was granted.
Among the Salzburgers who were sold, and whose children were apprenticed, was one, who, from the romantic history connected with his family, deserves, perhaps, special mention. This was Mr. Frederick Helfenstein. If the tradition in reference to him is correct, he was a lineal descendant of the Count of Helfenstein, who, with his wife (a daughter of the Emperor Maximilian) and their youngest child, were butchered with seventy men under his command, in the servile insurrection which occurred in the time of Luther, commonly known as “the Rebellion of the Peasantry.” From that time the family were reduced to utter obscurity and the most abject poverty. Mr. Helfenstein, perhaps the last of the count’s descendants, having served out an apprenticeship at the tanner’s trade, and married a young lady to whom he became attached while learning his trade, emigrated to America, and arrived in Savannah without the means to pay his passage. Consequently he and his wife were sold as servants to defray the expenses of their passage. Having faithfully served out his time, he removed to Goshen, about twelve miles below Ebenezer, and established himself in business. In the course of time he acquired a handsome competency. But it will be necessary to speak of him hereafter.
Many of the Salzburgers remained in Savannah and its vicinity, and formed the nucleus for the organization of a church in that city. It was, however, regarded for a long time as missionary ground, and the congregation was supplied with preaching, from time to time, by the pastors at Ebenezer, and the Rev. U. Driesler, from Frederica.
This gentleman (Mr. Driesler) had been sent over in 1743, by “the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge,” to supply the spiritual wants of the Salzburgers, who had settled on St. Simon’s Island. In 1744, he visited the brethren at Ebenezer. Mr. Bolzius thus speaks of him, under date of Febuary 24, 1744: “Mr. Driesler arrived yesterday. He labours with the blessing of God in his small congregation at Frederica, consisting of sixty-two souls. Captain Horten, commandant of the fort at that place, gives him an honourable testimony; and we trust our friend will be an instrument to the salvation of many souls. Next Lord’s day he is to preach in Savannah. This day he preaches both in Zion and Jerusalem churches.”
Mr. Driesler was spared to the congregation at Frederica but a short time. The Lord called him to his rest in the early part of the year 1745. He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Zubli, from Switzerland, who had charge of the church for several years. He seems to have had no connection with the pastors at Ebenezer, and was probably supported by the English officers commanding the fort. Mr. Zubli continued pastor at Frederica only a few years, for as soon as the Spanish and French war began, he removed to Orangeburg, in South Carolina.*
It has been found impracticable to gather much information in regard to the German settlement at Frederica. It must, however, have been very flourishing at one time. A gentleman who visited the island in 1743, makes particular mention “of the quiet village of the Salzburgers ;” and says, “the whole town and country adjacent are quite rurally charming; and the improvements everywhere evince the greatest skill and industry, considering its late settlement.” This beautiful town was, however, destined to an ephemeral existence. As early as 1749 it began to decline, and in 1751 a journalist describes it “as presenting the melancholy prospect of houses without inhabitants, barracks without soldiers, guns without carriages, and streets grown over with weeds. All appeared to me with a horrible aspect, and so different from what I once knew it, that I could scarce refrain from tears.”
It was about this time that Dr. H. M. Muhlenberg first visited Ebenezer. He had, up to 1741, been pastor of Hermersdorf, in Upper Lusatia, and inspector of the orphan-house in that place, but had accepted a call to the Lutheran church in Philadelphia. The object of his journey to Ebenezer is not definitely stated, but it is probable that he had been authorized by the friends and patrons of the Salzburgers in Germany to look into the condition of the colony, and report to them the result of his observations. He remained only six days, but even this short sojourn seems to have been highly gratifying to the pastors at Ebenezer, as well as their people, for Pastor Gronau makes special mention of it in his journal. He remarks: “This day (October 11, 1742) my dear colleague (Mr. Bolzius) and Mr. Muhlenberg were to start for Charleston, but evening came on before things were ready. The day had not, however, been spent in vain. The preparations for the journey having been made, my colleague took leave of us in a prayer.
“Never before have we spent so blessed and happy a season at Ebenezer. For the Lord had never before permitted us to embrace a dear friend from our native country, in whom we found a real brother in Christ.” Mr. Bolzius accompanied Dr. Muhlenberg as far as Charleston, but returned in a few days to his field of labour.
It has been stated that for many years the Salzburgers were unable to build a church, and were compelled to worship in the orphan-house; but, through the assistance of their friends in Germany, they had succeeded in erecting a plain but comfortable house at Ebenezer, called “Jerusalem,” and another about four miles below, called “Zion.” The latter had become necessary, because the colonists were rapidly settling on the river below the town, and along the road leading from Ebenezer to Savannah. These churches were both in use in 1744.
It would be profitable, if it were deemed expedient, to make copious extracts from the journals of the pastors, to show the character of the instructions which they imparted to their people; or rather to exhibit the deep-toned piety which the pastors at Ebenezer cultivated themselves, and which they sought to impart to their people. We may safely challenge a comparison between the ministrations of these devoted men, and those of any pastors in any other churches in point of fidelity and earnestness, in inculcating not only a refined and elevated morality, but more especially a pure and transforming system of evangelical Christianity. Mr. Bolzius states that a little girl came to him, confessing that she had stolen a peach, and that conscience disturbed her so much on that account, that she could neither sleep nor work. I informed her, says Mr. Bolzius, that when the commission of what is generally considered a light sin disturbs our conscience, a fire begins to burn within us like the fires of hell, and then we no longer think of the distinctions between gross and trivial sins. I advised her to learn that God frequently improves the occasion of a wrong lately committed by us to bring to our mind the mass of sin that fills our hearts, so that we may repent, and ask his forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Finally, I dismissed her by bringing the following text to her recollection. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”*
Such a course of religious training was not without its influence in forming the characters and regulating the conduct of the colonists. In fact, they became everywhere proverbial for the correctness of their external deportment, and especially for the Christian spirit which they displayed on all occasions. The testimony of their neighbours, of the citizens of Savannah, and even that of the colonial government, furnishes evidence that the congregation at Ebenezer had acquired a very enviable reputation for their unostentatious piety. Amid their trials and privations they never lost sight of their spiritual improvement, and laboured sedulously to attain to a high standard of Christian experience and practice.
These pious people, however, were about to experience a severe loss in the death of one of their devoted and godly pastors—Rev. Israel C. Gronau. This melancholy event occurred in the month of January, 1745; Pastor Bolzius, thus records the mournful event: “Last Friday, January 11th, it pleased the Lord to call my dear brother and colleague to his rest. He fell asleep full of joy in his Saviour. On a stormy and rainy day, nearly a year since, while preaching to the Germans in Savannah, he caught cold at church, so that he was hardly able to perform service here the succeeding Sabbath. From the effects of that attack he never recovered. During the last six weeks of his life he was afflicted with a continued fever. The time of his illness was a source of edification to all of us who were daily about his person. His heart continually enjoyed communion with his Redeemer. Nothing troubled him, for he had an abiding sense of reconciliation with God, and realized the joy and peace of the Holy Ghost.”
When one of the Salzburg brethren took hold of his hand, which Mr. Gronau had lifted up in praise of God, he desired that the friend might support his arms in the uplifted position in which he had held them. This being done, he exclaimed, “Come, Lord Jesus ! Amen, Amen !” With these words he closed his lips and eyes, and entered into the “joy of his Lord, full of peace.” On the following day, his remains were interred in the cemetery connected with Jerusalem church, amid the unfeigned lamentations of his colleague and the people for whose temporal and spiritual advantage he had laboured with unremitting diligence and fidelity. As he had in all things “adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,” so he went to the grave full of hope, leaving the testimony that “God was with him.”