COMMISSIONER BARON VON RECK
on Georgia and the Indians There.
As there are many nowadays who want to go either to Pennsylvania or to Georgia in America, I want to give them a conscientious report on these countries and tell them what they may encounter in the New World, based on my own experience there. I consider this a matter of duty and of Christian love.
The report below will be divided into three parts:
I. It will deal with the resolve and purpose of those who want to go to the New World.
II. It will tell about the nature of the land, especially Georgia and the accommodations there.
III. It will tell about the inhabitants of this land, particularly the Indians or so-called Savages.
Regarding the first point, anyone wanting to go to America must weigh the reasons for his decisions. Is he driven by avarice and the desire for greater enjoyment of this worldly life, or has he heard the call of God? Since there are so few in Christendom that deserve to be called Christians, he would do well, if he has not been converted to God, to turn to God in all sincerity, to tell Him with prayer of his intention and to beg, in the name of Jesus, that He may let him see His Will.
Thus, if someone gives himself over to the Will of God in this manner and in addition has good reason for wanting to go to America, he may put his life and his death into God’s hands. If he lives, he will live in the Lord; if he dies, he will die in the Lord; he will be with the Lord always. If he encounters distress and danger he will not be afraid, for he is strengthened by the Word of God, and by divine pledges which, together with his divine calling and the omnipresence of his Saviour, the Creator of the whole world who maintains everything with His word, give him a rod and staff; His countenance will be before him and prepare a way for him in the midst of fear; even in danger of death it will lead him to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the multitude of many thousand angels and to the flock of the firstborn whose names are recorded in heaven.
But him who has the idle thought and the assurance of the flesh that he is good enough, that he needs nothing, that he will be saved as well as others, that many thousands have gone to America without paying heed, and that he too will dare to go there, as I have heard it said, not to sing psalms but to work and to accumulate riches, him I want to assure that he will be subject to great distress. Fear and terror, an ever present death, and the obvious danger which he will frequently meet will awaken his sleeping conscience and gnaw on him like a worm. Not to mention other things such as famine, thirst, windstorms, sickness, etc.
One should ask those who went to America for material gain what they had to suffer at sea and in that country. Often more than half of those who boarded a ship have died, some from hunger, some from thirst. Many became sick, some ships were on the way 17 weeks and some 24 weeks. Those who managed to land half dead have been sold in order to pay the ship’s captain. Those who had some means did not have enough left to get established, build houses, acquire stock, seed, tools, and the servants necessary to cultivate the wild, tree-covered soil, or to maintain themselves until their land could feed them; thus they too had to go into servitude. And one is surprised to hear that these people curse the day they boarded the ship because they had been misled by reports and letters from America in which people told about their happy circumstances and which made them decide to go. This always happens when the bestial desire for a life of pleasure governs man. These are judgments of God being executed in our days.
On the other hand, the dear Saltzburgers with whom I traveled were en route no longer than 8 weeks; and, although distress and sadness were not lacking, everything turned out for the best; and because of the kind love of our Saviour all of us, large and small, old and young, landed in good health and good spirits. God, through the Trustees of Georgia and the praiseworthy Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, gave us abundant and fatherly care on the voyage and after we landed.1* In addition, experience has already shown in Ebenezer, where the Saltzburgers have settled, that a devout singer of Psalms is also a good worker and that everything he does succeeds well.
So much for point one. I have purposely gone into detail because such is required by the importance of the matter and because on it will depend the future well-being and suffering of those who decide to go to America.
Thus I will proceed to point two, in God’s name. In general I shall rely on the description of Georgia which came out last year,2* but will add some brief comments here and there.
Georgia is situated on the 32nd parallel. The great Ocean touches the shores of Georgia. The boundary between South Carolina and Georgia is formed by the Savannah River, which is filled with oysters, sturgeon and other fish. On both sides of it are great forests in which some of the trees have reached such age that they represent, so to speak, the first days of creation. The river Altamaha separates Georgia from the Spanish colonies. Thus this province is situated on the mainland. The air is healthy but it can be improved by draining the swamps and clearing the forests so that the wind can go through them. The climate is warm and it is hot in June, July, and August, but the nights are very cold. On the whole, one finds there, so to speak, everlasting spring. Even though a frost comes in the morning in winter, it is melted away by the sun in a few hours so that it is possible to work in the fields in winter and summer.
The shores of the sea and the riverbanks are very low, but higher ground and hills are found further inland. The soil is very fertile in spots but it varies greatly. There is sandy soil, clay soil, a heavy, black and rich soil, and swampland which is very wet. Each serves a useful purpose. The sand soil is used best in the winter, when it is wettest, and it does well with various root and garden crops as well as tobacco. The loam is good for general agriculture, also for making brick. The heavy soil is good for Indian corn and other grain, also for hemp and flax. The swamps and watery places are best for the growing of rice, which is the most profitable and useful crop here.
The forests consist mostly of fir or pine, oak, of which there are many varieties, bay-wood, which has a beautiful grain and is very heavy; also cedar, cypress, walnut, mulberry with juicy and very good berries, wild orange trees that bear no fruit, laurel, white cinnamon, cabitch trees or cabbage trees that have leaves like aloe that are cooked and taste like white cabbage, alder, etc. The trees are extraordinarily thick and have a height of 60 to 100 feet. The firs yield some excellent mast trees and it is from these trees that pitch and turpentine are collected in large quantities. The woods are full of wild grapes that climb up to the treetops and some of which are several times thicker than the trees. The grapes are sour, but experience has taught already that they will become sweet if the plants are put into fresh soil and tended in a place where there is no shade.
In the woods there are many sassafras trees, the roots of which are very useful. There are also China root and Indian figs, from which the cochineal worms are collected and made into a fine pigment. There are herbs from which indigo is extracted, also a kind of shrub called myrtle which grows green berries. People collect these, boil them, skim off the wax which floats on top and make candles from it. Two bushels will make about 25 pounds. There is also a grass called silk grass, which is so tall and tough that it can be used in place of rope; and an Indian pepper which is very strong and hot. There is sufficient game in the forests, especially deer, roe, and wild goats, but also hares, squirrels, buffaloes that are not as large as oxen, have two horns, and wool like a sheep; there are bears, wolves, as well as Indian roosters and hens, quail, parrots, eagles, and many other kinds of birds, some known and some unknown.
Those rivers that are connected with the sea contain sea-crayfish, crabs, lobsters, and oysters that are sweeter than the seaoysters, also dolphins, which the English call porpoises. Further inland people take from the rivers sturgeon, eel, and catfish, an extremely good tasting fish that has no scales and has a large and broad head, also bass, etc., turtles, and crocodiles which some of the Indians like to eat. When a crocodile is killed, people cut from the thick flesh under its mouth two sacks that smell like musk. No crocodile has ever been reported to have hurt a man, yet it must be admitted that they are fearful to behold and that they often make frightful noises. The shield or armor on their backs is so thick that a bullet cannot penetrate it. But the Indians know very well how to handle them. The shoot them under or in the head. Otters are also to be found here.
The rattle snakes are very dangerous if you go too close to them and arouse them. If they strike a vein a person will die in a few minutes. They are very big and strong and carry at the end of their tail 12, 17, 20 and sometimes even more rattles with which they make a noise when moving. To counteract their deathdealing bite God’s kindness has provided a certain root in this country which is known to nearly everyone. If placed on the wound in time it will heal it. It has been observed that rattlesnakes disappear from places where there are many pigs. The pigs fight them and, since the bites cannot penetrate their fat and thus cannot hurt the pigs, the latter always kill and eat the snakes.
A small kind of fly discomforts strangers very much by biting them so painfully that they swell up quite a bit at first. However, you get used to it with time and they don’t do you any more harm, or at least you don’t feel it any more.
On the whole, the province has such a good climate that you can grow everything that is grown in the West Indies, Jamaica, and Barbados, such as sugar, lemons, limes, pepper, cotton, tea, coffee, pineapple, etc., and in addition nature provides the opportunity for growing olives, wine, and silk. In some places you can find large quantities of oyster shells which make a white and very useful building lime.
At present all of the houses here are built of wood, for building stones are not to be found in Georgia and there has not been time to make bricks. Because of the great hurricanes that blow with great force the houses are built no higher than one story and an attic.
People here make a beer, well liked by the Englishmen, which is called spruce-beer; they take the tops of young trees that look very much like firs, a little sassafras, and Indian corn and boil all of it together. Then they add a little sirup and everything is finished.3*
On the Savannah River the English have laid out a large city which they named Savannah. Already sixty to seventy houses have been put up in good order, with pretty gardens around them. The city is situated on the river of the same name and is planned regularly and divided into 4 parts. In each of these a large square was left open to be used for market days or other community affairs. The region is pleasant, the streets are wide and laid in straight lines; all the houses follow the same plan, symmetrically and in proportion, and they are well laid out to suit the country. Considering the short time that it has been here, the city is well populated. All of the inhabitants are white, and so far God’s blessing has been given to all of their undertakings. Industriousness is in high regard and justice is being meted out irrespective of rank; on the other hand, debauchery and loafing are being eliminated as much as possible. Dissension and quarrels are counteracted with good order, and there is a night watch providing safe rest in the wilderness to the tired workers.
Mr. Oglethorpe has had an avenue cut through the forest which leads to a large garden near the city. This was established by order of the Trustees, and experiments are being conducted in it to determine whether various plants, trees, and other agricultural crops will grow here. It covers 10 acres of land, is situated on the river; it has been cleared and put into such good shape that there is already a nice nursery of orange, olive, white mulberry, fig, and peach trees in addition to a large number of strange and curious plants and herbs, not to mention the European fruits and plants such as cabbage, peas, etc., all of which do well here. In the middle of the garden is an artificial hill which the Indians say was built over the body of one of their earliest emperors.
The city of Savannah is about 18 miles distant from the sea, yet the largest ships come all the way up to it on the river. It is remarkable that the Jews in Savannah enjoy all of the freedoms enjoyed by the other inhabitants. They get land free, they work hard. When their turn comes they do guard duty with shoulder and side arms, and they do their military exercises as well as the English. May God also give them the freedom of the Children of God through His beloved Son Jesus Christ! Amen.
Seven miles from Josephs Town is Abercorn, a small village settled by English colonists on the Abercorn River.5
Twelve miles by land from Abercorn is Ebenezer, to where God has led our Saltzburgers. There a city has been laid out on Ebenezer Creek. May God let the recently begun building and agriculture there progress with His blessing! To give a brief description of the region, it is bordered by two rivers both of which flow into the Savannah. The town of the Saltzburgers is laid out on the larger one which is also named Ebenezer to remind us forever that God has helped us to reach this place. It is twelve feet deep and navigable.6 A small stream with water as clear as crystal passes with gentle murmurs on one side of the town; another bigger one goes through it and both of them flow into Ebenezer Creek.
The forest here is not as dense as in other places. Comfortable westerly winds bring cool refreshment in spite of the great heat of the sun. There are several beautiful meadows which could yield large quantities of hay without much trouble. And there are hills well suited for vineyards. Cedars, walnuts, firs, cypress, and oak trees make up most of the forest. The myrtle bushes, which are very common, bear green berries. As previously mentioned, these yield a green wax when boiled, which is very useful for making candles. Large quantities of sassafras, china root, and the plant from which indigo is made are to be found here. There are also many wild grapes, and the countryside is so nice and open that it is possible to ride for many miles at full gallop and without stopping.
As far as hunting is concerned, there are eagles, wild Indian roosters, roebucks, deer, small deer, chamois, wild goats, wild cows, horses, hares, quail, buffaloes, etc. The nearest neighbors to Ebenezer are the Spaniards and Frenchmen; but they are separated by great wildernesses, swamps, and rivers so that there is no communication with them. At present the Indians are the friends and allies of the English and 100 of them could easily destroy an enemy corps of 2,000 to 3,000 men. They can do so partly because, knowing the country, they can cut off their provisions, and partly because they wage their wars from behind trees, they hide in cane as big as trees, and in swamps, and suddenly attack the enemy with great cunning.8
The arrangements made for Georgia by the Trustees are very praiseworthy and Christian. They are designed so that even a poor man who cannot enjoy the same benefits as the Saltzburgers but has to go across at his own expense can still make a fair living if he is willing to work. For 1) they give him 50 acres of land. So, if someone can pay for his passage, which amounts to 10 to 12 pounds, he can get along there. And since 2) the slave trade is prohibited in Georgia,9* a white person can find steady daily work there which is highly paid, 3, 4, 5 shillings per day, which is 2 gulden 30 creutzer. But those who go to other parts of America where slave trading has been introduced must work like the slaves even though they wish to live otherwise. A master who has many blacks permits them to learn a trade, and those that are not fitted for it must work in the fields. Everyone goes into debt in order to purchase a slave, for you cannot live without one. And as there are Negroes everywhere who must work hard day and night, as well as on Sundays, which is terrible, all of it for bare sustenance, a white person wanting to settle there who does not have enough money to buy a slave must become a slave himself and work like one. Thus Georgia has a great advantage in this respect, that a good worker can earn his daily bread here with God’s blessing, and can soon get into the position to set up his own household.
Concerning point III, you can compare the Indians in many ways with the old Germans that were described by Tacitus.10 They are of medium height, robust, and strong. Their skin is blackish yellow. It is made that way not only by the sun but also by their disorderly way of life. They paint their faces with various colors, especially black shaded with red. When they go to war against their enemies they plaster their entire face with different paints and color it in a way which, in their opinion, makes them appear frightful to the enemies. They always go bareheaded, and all of them have short, black hair which they trim somewhat at the crown. To dress up they put small white feathers in their hair and behind their ears, which they consider a symbol of bravery, and they also tie up their short hair with a red band. The people of each tribe have a different way of cutting their hair and they distinguish one from the other by it. In war they cut off the top part of the hair of the defeated in order to learn from which people or tribe they come.11
Most men and women have stripes painted on their necks, faces, and bodies. Around their necks they wear coral, and on their ears they have rings or, as stated, colored feathers. To get such finery, also to obtain knives, etc., they trade game which they have killed. They have no beards, and if any should grow they pull it out. Instead of trousers, which they consider indecent, they cover themselves with a short cloth. Occasionally they cover their body with a deerskin or a woolen blanket. When they go to hunt they wear very loose woolen gaiters which reach from their feet up to the loin. These protect them against the rattlesnakes, which cannot bite through thick woolen cloth. Their shoes are cut from deerskin and are laced on the foot.
The women are fully clothed, almost like the peasant women in Germany. Those who have no clothes cover themselves completely with a woolen blanket, and in this respect they show more modesty than the English ladies. They also go bareheaded and braid their hair, which only the widows let fly about their faces.
The Indians believe that all peoples have descended from two fathers: they from a red one and other people from a white one; and since the former was a hunter and the latter a farmer and city dweller, they consider it right for themselves to dwell in the woods and live from hunting. Others may live in the cities and tend their business there, and in all of this they seem to allude to the story of Esau and Jacob. They believe that we have a great hero for our benefactor and, although they do not know him, they sing songs in his honor.
They further believe that they are all of noble blood and therefore they are very careful not to do anything that may be unbecoming to a nobleman. At the same time they have an idea that nothing is better suited for them than hunting, fishing, swimming, and fighting; and they practice all of these from childhood on with great diligence. Consequently they are so skilled in shooting and tracking of game that they never miss a shot. They do not work and do not till the soil, both of which they consider slavish and not in keeping with their noble blood. They consider it an even greater shame to work for wages; thus anyone who urges them to work is not their friend. They live only by hunting and fishing. They frequently wage wars solely to win glory and not because they want to extend their boundaries or gain additional land. They like to be praised although they will divert praise from themselves to others. At various times and under different circumstances they give each other certain names of honor which are considered prizes and rewards that are to spur on the young people to bravery, industriousness, faithfulness, and other virtues. Anyone insulting their honor is subject to their undying hatred. Old people are held in high esteem by them; one must always address them first and make them presents before turning to the young people. They immediately divide the presents among themselves.
Their living quarters consist of small huts covered with bark or skins, in which they sleep around a good fire. They change locations frequently and they consider human life much too short to be wasted with the building of houses which would be of more use to the descendants than to the builders. At the same time they don’t want to be robbed of the freedom to leave a place which they do not like any more.
Their trade items consist of skins and furs which they swap to the English merchants for rice, rum, which is a kind of brandy, and for woolen cloth. Money or gold they will not take and it is completely unknown to them.
They divide all the Indians into four peoples. Among them the Creeks are said to be the most civilized and strongest nation which speaks a single language. This is the nation comprising the neighbors of Ebenezer. Its people are honest, open minded, truthful, not interested in personal gain, and appreciative, which can be seen in part from various examples that will follow. Conversely, among the other tribes, there is much robbery, thievery, lying, lack of chastity, etc. The nation of the Creeks is ruled by several kings who must gain their position or title through particularly brave deeds. Except for that the king is no different from his subjects; he eats, drinks, sleeps, and lives with them. He reigns only by giving good advice, which is nevertheless always followed very faithfully.
When they have a council, the king always presents the problem to the old people, the old ones present it to the young, and then it is carried out. They do not contradict each other. Rather, they follow orders and, if it cannot be carried out, the older ones do not get angry with the young ones. It is the job of the kings to apportion the time for various enterprises. They announce when it is time to go hunting, to gather food, etc. They also take care of the sick, give out medicine, and care for the widows. If one of them is not capable of filling his office, they choose another one. The wisest among them is their king. The ones who are in command in times of war are different persons. The king is given one tenth of everything. If he receives presents he does not keep them but distributes them amongst the rest so that nothing is left over for himself. Then he gets one tenth of them. They enforce justice, observe the right of reprisal, and punish vice. For example, adultery is punished with cutting off nose and ears, whoring with cutting off ears and hair; and lying by not letting anyone eat, drink, or shake hands with the liar.
They are very compassionate, which can be seen from this example: The Indian king Tomo-Chachi had learned that in one of the English colonies many people were sick and also suffered from lack of fresh provisions. So he went on a hunt with 10 Indians, shot a great deal of game and sent it there. When he heard shortly thereafter that the poor had benefited very little from it, he went hunting again; and this time he distributed his game in person to the sick and the poor. When he was asked about this, he replied that the first gift had not been put to proper use and that this time he wanted to make the distribution himself.
They do not talk much, answer briefly, observe everything, and think all the more. They think highly of community life and they will find much pleasure in our Saltzburgers’ communal living, eating, and working. They love each other very much and will give their lives for each other. They observe people’s attitudes very closely, and they despise selfish persons. They never deny any requests, yet they do not make a promise lightly because they fear that they may not be able to keep it and will thus have lied. But once they make a promise they will keep it even if it should cause their death. For example, if you should ask one of them to go along to England or to travel to some other place, he will agree immediately. The most important thing that sometimes holds them back is having an old father who cannot take care of himself.
They are very easily satisfied. No one has more than one blanket, one pot, one hut, and one gun. If one of them has more he gladly gives to one who needs it more. At earlier times they probably grew to be very old but now, through the influence of European commerce and particularly the drinking of rum, they die in large numbers. Just a small amount of strong drink makes them drunk because they have never been used to anything but water. Heretofore they did not know anything about drunkenness, but now they have acquired this vice as well as others from the neighboring Christians.
Polygamy is unknown to them. Their poor, widows, orphans, etc., are taken care of first of all. Their entire language contains no words that express obscene things or oaths or curses, but they are learning them from their neighbors. Among all the Indian women that are married to Christians there is just one Christian wife12* who teaches the other Indians useful things from the Holy Writ. You might well wish that the rest of them did not know the Indian language, because they spread nothing but shame and vice among their people. If an Indian is beaten or insulted he suffers it in silence; but he never forgets, and he waits for an opportunity to make his revenge that much more impressive. If they are treated well they don’t forget that either but continue to love their benefactor. Thus they look upon Mr. Oglethorpe as their father and turn to him when the need arises, and as a result he has learned something of their language.
They like strangers very much and if they are in need they will take care of them before taking care of themselves and their families. Mr. Oglethorpe relates that, in the beginning, he forbade the English to carry on trade with the Indians because at that time they needed their provisions for themselves and could not afford to let others have them. Thereupon the Indians came to him and complained about it greatly. He attempted to show them his reason with a parable, a favorite form of conversation with them. A father could not give to strangers what his own children need, he told them. He must first take care of his children, then of the strangers. They replied that this was not the case with them, that they took care of strangers before taking care of their children and that they loved and esteemed strangers more than their own children.
With painted symbols, circles, and figures their doctors try to give themselves the appearance of magicians, but they risk their lives in doing so. For, if they offer to heal a sick person and that person dies, the Indians believe that the doctor is responsible for the death and they seek to kill him; but he is out of danger if he is asked to heal.
Whenever they do anything wrong they go through a certain kind of penance. On the first day they eat herbs that grow in the ocean and which have the effect of a laxative; on the next day they fast; on the third they build a fire, dance around it and make merry, singing songs about the great deeds of their old heroes: the one who brought fire to the world and the one who introduced agriculture. Then they eat and drink and afterwards take some of the fire home with them, believing that their sins have thus been extinguished.
They do not have any letters at all. But their language is said to have only about one thousand primitive words. Supposedly these can be written most conveniently in Greek letters because their language contains some Greek words and some of the sounds cannot be expressed with any letters other than Greek. The two pastors have let them pronounce some of the words from their language and have written them down with Greek letters as follows: tutka—the fire, ásse—the sun, tsukko—the house, tillipaika—the shoe, hapsalika—the socks, ipseka—the dog.
Ceremonial services or open worship are not to be found among them. They do not worship idols and they are reluctant to speak with profane people about matters of religion. Nor do they have any priests. They believe in a Superior Being that is everywhere and which has made them. They call it Sotolycate, that is the one who sitteth above. They pray to it and thank it for having made them. They show with hand and mouth, as well as with their actions, a great love for the Saltzburgers. And they express their heartfelt desire to be taught a better understanding of the Superior Being. They also want to be taught their language. They consider themselves crude and uneducated; and for that reason wish all the more to be taught and to become better informed. They tell us of their belief that the Superior Being has led us to them in order to teach them. They report that an old man, who had been the wisest amongst them, believed and told them often that the Superior Being would soon send them someone who could show them the way to Wisdom (that is what they call religion), although he himself might not live to see it. Since that time they have held some food in readiness every week in order to present it to the long awaited teachers. Some of them have the intention of sending their children to the school which the pastors will establish in Ebenezer. And to make them come more willingly Mr. Oglethorpe has given the pastors some golden letters and other charming things, and at the same time the pastors will have an opportunity to learn gradually some words from the children’s language.