THIS fourth volume contains the diary, written during the year 1737 by two Lutheran ministers assigned to a group of Protestant exiles from Salzburg who had settled at Ebenezer, near Savannah, Georgia, in the year 1734. Readers unfamiliar with the expulsion of these persecuted Protestants from their alpine homeland and their journey to the New World will find sufficient information in the introductions to the previous three volumes of this series and, in greater detail, in that to Henry Newman’s Salzburger Letterbooks.1 Most entries in the diaries were written by the older of these two divines, Johann Martin Boltzius, whose assistant, Christian Israel Gronau, wrote only on the days that Boltzius was absent in Savannah or else sick in bed.
After the tumult and turmoil of the year 1736, in which the Salzburger settlement had been moved, despite Oglethorpe’s objections, from Old Ebenezer to the more fertile and accessible Red Bluff on the Savannah River, the year 1737 was a period of calm after the storm. Unfortunately for most readers of the diary, Boltzius could now give even more attention to the spiritual condition of his flock; yet, behind his predominantly religious concerns, we can still see his efforts to cope with the depressing problems of food and health, particularly with the suffering of the Third Transport, or third group of immigrants, whose supplies had been sent to Frederica on St. Simon’s Island instead of to Ebenezer.
Boltzius’ accounts of his dealings with Thomas Causton, the harried “mayor” or chief magistrate of Savannah and keeper of the storehouse, give us an insight into the chaotic conditions prevailing in that confused paradise, in which the grandiose schemes of the Lord Trustees and other benefactors were being so poorly realized. They also give us a glimpse of the religious life there, of the spiritual apathy of the English and the contrasting fervor of the Moravians. The latter, a cenobitic sect from Saxony in eastern Germany, left soon afterwards for Pennsylvania, partly because of the discouraging economic and health conditions in Georgia and partly because, as pacifists, they were unwilling to bear arms against the Spaniards in the War of Jenkins’ Ear.
Boltzius calls these sectarians Herrnhuters, a name derived from Herrnhut, a religious community on one of Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s estates, in which they had sojourned after escaping religious persecution in Moravia. Boltzius’ virulent prejudice against the Herrnhuters, which so amazed John Wesley and other Englishmen in Savannah, resulted in part from their literal acceptance of the priesthood of all believers, which made ordained ministers like Boltzius superfluous. It will be noted that Samuel Urlsperger, the contemporary editor of Boltzius’ journals, removed all references to the delicate matter of the heretical Herrnhuters, who had previously caused embarrassment for the orthodox clergy at Halle. [Incidentally, all bracketed passages in the following text were deleted by Urlsperger from his edition2 and are now being restored from the letterbooks of the Francke Foundation in Halle,3 into which Boltzius’ reports were regularly transcribed in their unexpurgated form.]
Boltzius’ abhorrence of the Herrnhuters was so intense that his long entry for Wednesday, July 27, even suppresses the fact that Wesley had visited Ebenezer on that day in the company of August Spangenberg, the leader of the Georgia Herrnhuters. This journey must have taken place, for Wesley wrote in his journal under that date:
In the evening we came to New-Ebenezer, where the poor Saltzburghers are settled. The industry of this people is quite surprising. Their sixty huts are neatly and regularly built, and all the little spots of ground between them, improved to the best advantage. On one side of the town is a field of Indian com; on the other are the plantations of several private persons; all which together one would scarce think possible for a handful of people to have done in one year.4
It will be noted that Boltzius did mention in his entry for 13 October that Wesley had visited Ebenezer on the previous Tuesday. This could hardly have been the same visit, in view of the great discrepancy in dates, since both of them used the old, or Julian, calendar. In any case, Boltzius failed to mention Spangenberg’s visit.
Boltzius’ relations with John Wesley were generally cordial, despite the latter’s great admiration for the Herrnhuters and his inability to make the proper distinction between these dangerous innovators and the orthodox Lutheran clergymen in Ebenezer. Wesley, for his part, admired Boltzius and envied his control over his docile and obedient little flock. Despite Boltzius’ disparaging remark in his entry for 13 January about Wesley’s insistence upon total immersion, he seems to have respected his British counterpart. Wesley’s sudden flight from Georgia, briefly related by Boltzius in his entry of 15 December, was caused by a conflict with Causton, whose niece Wesley had repelled from Holy Communion. 5
In his entry for 23 August, Boltzius writes that he is imploring Causton, or in his absence Wesley, to come up to Ebenezer to inspect the damage wrought by the com worms; and his next entry records that Causton is unable to come because of a “complicated matter.” This was surely an understatement, for Boltzius must have heard of the furor in Savannah after 22 August, when Causton convoked a grand jury of fifty men to try Wesley for the crime of repelling his niece, Sophie Williamson, from Holy Communion. Since we do not have Boltzius’ unexpurgated report, but only Urlsperger’s bowdlerized edition, it is probable that Boltzius had given far more details about this sordid affair, which quickly divided Savannah into two hostile factions, motivated, no doubt, by political considerations more than by Wesley’s rejection of his former fiancée from Holy Communion. Boltzius surely felt malicious satisfaction in Wesley’s discomfiture, since Wesley had once repelled him too from Holy Communion for not having been confirmed in the proper (i.e. Anglican) church, which alone enjoyed the Apostolic Succession through the laying on of hands. (It will be noted that in his unfavorable entry for 13 January Boltzius had revealed Wesley’s name, which Urlsperger later deleted.)
In addition to a steadily growing number of Lutherans in Savannah, mostly “Palatines” or indentured servants from the upper Rhineland, Boltzius and Gronau also tried to serve the few Lutherans and other Protestant Germans in Purysburg, South Carolina, across and down the Savannah River from Ebenezer. Boltzius’ journal describes the misery not only of the Swiss in Purysburg but also of other Swiss settlers who passed by Ebenezer on their way up the Savannah River to Savannah-Town near Augusta. The leader of the Swiss settlers at Savannah-Town was Johannes Tobler, a former governor (Landeshauptmann) of the canton of Appelzell, who had the following words to say about Ebenezer a few years later: “They are all Germans there, yet they are in a flourishing state. They have two ministers. One of them, who is my esteemed friend, is named Martin Boltzius. He spares no pains to make the people there happy both in this world and in the next. There are, to be sure, people who claim that he meddles too much in secular matters, but who can please everybody?”6
The reader of these reports will probably agree with those who claimed that Boltzius meddled too much in secular matters, for example in discouraging the Salzburgers from seeking employment elsewhere or chastising them for accepting outrageous and unChristian wages for their labor, as he did in his entry for 5 July. However, Ebenezer soon became the most prosperous settlement in Georgia, and this was due in no small part to its pastor’s shrewd understanding of economics and human nature.
Although primarily concerned with saving his parishioners’ souls, Boltzius soon found himself responsible for their bodies as well, especially after he had successfully ejected the two commissioners, von Reck and Vat, and had lost the apothecary Zwifler. In a short time Boltzius assumed the functions of magistrate, quartermaster, business manager, town planner, deputy, doctor, and pharmacist. Health was, of course, the most serious single problem; for, as Boltzius confides in his entry of 30 July, his congregation had lost a quarter of its adults and more than a third of its children in slightly more than three years in Georgia. Malaria, which had afflicted the entire community the previous summer, had never entirely disappeared even in the cold winter months; and it raged again as soon as warm weather returned. It is safe to say that most of his people were sick most of the time; and it is a wonder that they were able to build their new settlement despite their constant chills and fever and racking pains. No doubt they would have been better off without the medications they received, to say nothing of blood-letting. It is sad to see Boltzius blaming the weather for diseases like dysentery, which we now know to result from lack of sanitation.
Boltzius’ almost daily weather reports should help throw light on the activities reported in other chronicles of colonial Georgia. Also of interest are his references to cattle raising, an enterprise in which the Salzburgers and the Swiss surpassed all other colonists. Whereas agriculture was impeded by poor soil, bad weather, worms, and wild animals, enough progress was made in 1737 to prove Boltzius’ contention that free enterprise was more productive than the communal work urged by Oglethorpe.
It seems incredible that the Salzburgers were nearly starving in a land teeming with game and along rivers abounding in sturgeon, eels, and catfish, all of which were rich men’s fare in the old country. Perhaps centuries of harsh game laws in their homeland had discouraged the German settlers from learning to feed themselves from the bounty of the forest; for a single good coon-dog should have kept the community supplied not only with raccoons but also with opossums, which are as succulent as suckling pigs. And, with a hundred beaters at their command, they should have been able to surround and kill the deer and bear that so greatly damaged their crops, as well as quantities of marsh rabbits. Wild turkeys were then less wild than now, and wood ducks could have been trapped and netted. When Boltzius was finally offered an indentured professional hunter, he refused him because his heavy drinking might set a bad example. It is possible, of course, that Boltzius failed to report the taking of fish and game because his reports aimed to persuade the Trustees to continue provisions for another year.
As the dutiful pupil of his Pietist professors back at the University of Halle, Boltzius went to great pains to show in his diary, which he knew they would read, that he was teaching their doctrines in undiluted form. Over and over we see him contrasting the “true path of full conversion” with the “wrong, independent way of self-sufficient justice and piety” (5 June). The Pietists were afraid of “natural honesty” and “bourgeois respectability,” through which some misguided sinners expected to achieve salvation without being reborn in the wounds of Jesus. To be reborn, one must acknowledge his absolute depravity and throw himself entirely on the mercy of Jesus. Consequently, Boltzius was often skeptical when his parishioners believed themselves saved.7
Like other Pietists, Boltzius was optimistic through all his hardships. Since God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, He can only do what is best for us. Therefore, what seems a curse can only be a blessing in disguise; for a loving father chastises his child for its own good. “How beneficial it is for our soul, if matters do not go the way our flesh would want them to go, but we are instead led through many dark and perilous paths” (8 January). Boltzius repeated this thought in so many variations that even his congregation endorsed it, at least while talking to him. For example, a woman who had had only a mild attack of malaria explained that “she felt the need of being chastised with illness by the Lord; for days of health, while pleasing her flesh, might not be so wholesome for her soul as some suffering in her physical body” (23 June).
All entries in this diary are taken from Boltzius’ unexpurgated reports as copied into the Halle letterbooks except for those from 1 August through 14 November, which were taken from Urlsperger’s bowdlerized edition, since the original reports were lost in the mail. To be sure, Boltzius subsequently sent another copy that arrived in time to appear in Urlsperger’s edition but, as far as the present editors know, was never copied into the letterbooks and was presumably lost. Facts revealed in the earlier unexpurgated parts make it easy to identify most of the names that Urlsperger so discreetly deleted. The number of notes in these volumes has been greatly diminished by identifying all proper names in the index. Biblical quotations in the diary, which were, of course, from Luther’s translation, have been rendered in the language of the King James version. Because Boltzius was so steeped in the Bible, we can assume that he always quoted from memory; and it is not always certain that he was aware he was quoting.
This fourth volume, together with its three predecessors, represent only a fraction of the voluminous reports sent from Ebenezer by Boltzius before his death in 1765 and by his successors for a generation thereafter, to say nothing of a vast amount of correspondence likewise preserved in the archives of the Francke Foundation in Halle, in the DDR. The present editor, who will not live long enough to complete the task of translating and editing this material, will gratefully accept the aid of collaborators who might care to help in this interesting task. All that is required is a knowledge of the German language and enough perseverance to become familiar with the rambling literary style affected by the eighteenth-century Pietists.
As in the case of the previous volumes, the editors wish to thank the authorities of the University and State Library of Sachsen-Anhalt in Halle, DDR, for graciously supplying microfilms of Boltzius’ diary, from which Urlsperger’s deletions have been recovered. We also wish to thank both the American Philosophical Society for supporting the original research and the General Research Board of the University of Maryland for defraying typing costs; and we are especially indebted to the Wormsloe Foundation for publishing this volume.
George Fenwick Jones