The following five paragraphs are taken from the introduction to the previous volume of this series and therefore should be skipped by those who have already read it or who are otherwise familiar with the history of the Georgia Salzburgers. For those who come new to the field, the following resumé should suffice.1 When the Lutherans were expelled from Salzburg in 1731, not all the exiles went to East Prussia and other Protestant lands in Europe: a small number, some two hundred, were taken to the colony of Georgia, then in its second year. Georgia, the last of Britain’s thirteen North American colonies, was founded according to the grandiose schemes of a group of benevolent gentlemen in London, called the Trustees, who wished to provide homes for impoverished Englishmen and persecuted foreign Protestants, to protect the more northerly colonies from the Spaniards in Florida, and to provide raw materials for English industry.
The first Salzburger transport, or traveling party, consisted of recent exiles who had been recruited in and around Augsburg, a Swabian city just north of Salzburg. This group arrived in Georgia in 1734 and settled some twenty-five miles northwest of Savannah, where they founded a settlement which they named Ebenezer. By the time the second transport arrived a year later, it had been discovered that the land that had been chosen was sterile and that the stream on which it was built, Ebenezer Creek, was unnavigable. When a third transport arrived in 1736, composed mostly of Upper Austrian exiles, the survivors at Ebenezer joined them on the Red Bluff on the Savannah River, bringing the name of the earlier settlement with them. The original site, which became the Trustees’ cowpen or cattle ranch, was henceforth called Old Ebenezer.
A fourth and last transport, consisting of Salzburger exiles who had been sojourning in Augsburg and other Swabian cities, arrived in 1741. The Salzburgers were joined by Swiss and Palatine settlers from Purysburg, a Swiss settlement a short way down the Savannah River on the Carolina side, and also by some Palatine servants donated by the Trustees. Not finding enough fertile land on the Red Bluff, many Salzburgers moved their plantations to an area along Abercorn Creek where the lowland was flooded and enriched each winter by the Savannah River. This explains the terms “the town” and “the plantations.” After some gristmills and sawmills were built on Abercorn Creek, it was usually called the Mill River (Mühl-Fluss).
Despite appalling sickness and mortality and the hardships incident to settlement in a wilderness, the Salzburgers were the most successful community in Georgia. This relative success was largely due to the skill, devotion, and diligence of their spiritual leader, Johann Martin Boltzius, the author of most of these reports. This young divine had been trained at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and had taught in that city at the Francke Foundation, a charitable institution that was to have great influence on the development of Ebenezer. Although Boltzius was at heart a minister, his secular responsibilities in Georgia moulded him into a skilful administrator, economist, and diplomat. A few of the reports were written by Boltzius’ admiring younger colleague, Israel Christian Gronau, who officiated whenever Boltzius was away in Savannah or elsewhere.
Boltzius’ journals were edited contemporaneously by Samuel Urlsperger, the Senior of the Lutheran clergy in Augsburg. Comparison of the original manuscripts surviving in Halle with Urlsperger’s published edition shows that he took considerable liberty in deleting unpleasant reports and suppressing proper names, which he replaces with N. or N.N. The original documents for 1743 no longer exist, so there is no way to know how much Urlsperger changed or deleted; but there is reason to believe that Boltzius made an entry for every day, as he had been instructed to, and that Urlsperger made major deletions both for diplomatic and for economic reasons. In some cases he simply consolidated the material for two or more days into one. Urlsperger’s deletions are very illogical: he often deletes a name in one passage even though it appears in another and can be easily recognized. For example, he deletes the name of a sinful town immediately after discussing Purysburg; and, when the Schwartzwalder child dies, the blame is put on N., who can be none other than its father.
Strangers to the Pietists’ otherworldly value system should be reminded that they gave deeper meanings to many common words. For example, “misery” (Elend) meant “sin,” it being an alienation from God; and wealthy people were in the greatest danger of living in misery. “Indolent” (träge) meant lax in prayer and could therefore be applied to a man who spent his whole day in chopping and plowing. All sicknesses were “salutary”; for, although harmful for the body, they were wholesome for the soul by humbling it and making it dependent on the merits of Christ.
Unfortunately, because Urslperger shortened or deleted so many entries, these later volumes are less dependable for statistical purpose. For example, in the surviving entries for the year 1742 Boltzius reported only fifteen deaths, yet in the first entry of 1743 he summarizes that twenty-five people had died during the previous year.
Less tumultous than 1742, the year of the Spanish Invasion, and less tragic with regard to sickness and death, the year 1743 was less noteworthy; yet there was considerable progress in agriculture, cattle raising, and the new enterprise in viticulture and sericulture. Perhaps the greatest advance was in the introduction of the plow, which had been neglected as long as the ground was full of roots and the Salzburgers lacked horses. Seeing how much energy the Salzburgers were expending in tilling their fields with the hoe, Boltzius gradually persuaded them to invest in plows and horses, which enabled them to grow “German” crops such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats in place of just corn, rice, and beans. He failed, however, in persuading them to cultivate the piney lands, which he was sure would yield abundantly if only properly manured. In this belief he was wrong.
The beginnings made at this time in growing grapevines led to little, and gradually the effort petered out. The silk industry, on the other hand, continued progressing and became for a short time the chief cash crop, but only as long as the Trustees subsidized it. Cattle raising, which had been the most successful undertaking. suffered a serious setback when the cattle disease, called “blackwater” by the English, reached Ebenezer after plaguing the neighboring areas for more than a year. To judge by the complaints, it would almost seem that the Salzburgers regretted the mortality among their cattle as much as that among their children. Their cattle were their chief support, joy, and measure of their status and self-esteem.
In addition to greater productivity, the Salzburgers distinguished themselves in construction, both in replacing their huts with cottages and in undertaking communal projects, such as repair ofjerusalem Church, the construction of Zion Church on the plantations, and work on the all-important mill. While such mundane toil is seldom mentioned by historians, it was the basis of our national expansion.
During the uneventful year 1743 the Salz burgers were busy consolidating their position and enhancing their reputation as the most industrious element in the colony. By clearing the forests and building the first successful gristmills and sawmills, they were preparing the way for new arrivals from the Palatinate, Wurttemberg, and German Switzerland. These newcomers conformed to the ways of the earlier settlers, intermarried with them, and formed a close-knit religious community, which held together until the Revolution, by which time all nearby land was taken up and younger sons had to look elsewhere to establish their farms. Most of those who left Ebenezer moved to North Georgia and the Carolina frontier; but some of them moved southwards as soon as the Creek Indians ceded their lands.
Hardly more than a century after their first arrival in Georgia enough of the Salzburgers reached the extreme south of Georgia to maintain their identity, as is evidenced by the cemetary at Dasher, a town some nine miles south of Valdosta and not far from the Florida line. In this cemetary one finds stones to the Dashers, Flerls, Hinelys, Wizenbackers, and other Salzburger families. These settlers are commemorated by a handsome stone, illustrated on the frontispiece of this volume, on which is written:
THIS STONE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF OUR ANCESTORS, THE GEORGIA SALZBURGERS WHO EMIGRATED FROM GERMANY AND AUSTRIA IN PURSUIT OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, LANDING AT SAVANNAH 1734. SOME OF THEIR DESCENDANTS MIGRATED TO THIS AREA MID 1800 AND ARE LAID TO REST HERE. THESE BRAVE AND INDUSTRIOUS PEOPLE CARVED OUT A NEW WAY OF LIFE UNDER SEVERE ADVERSITIES, REMAINING PIOUS IN THEIR WORSHIP TO GOD AND SERVICE TO COUNTRY.
ERECTED 1984 BY JOHN VERNON HINELY, PRESIDENT, GEORGIA SALZBURGER SOCIETY—THE 7th GREAT GRANDSON OF EMIGRANT JOHN HINELY.