Readers of the previous volumes in this series will be acquainted with the situation of the Georgia Salzburgers at the beginning of the year 1740. Those who come upon this volume first are advised to read the introduction to the preceding volumes or else be content with the knowledge that these reports were written by John Martin Boltzius and his assistant, Israel Christian Gronau, two Lutheran divines assigned to a small group of religious exiles from Salzburg who settled in Georgia in 1734 and the following years. This little flock, a minute fraction of the more than 20,000 Protestants who renounced their homeland rather than their faith, was joined in Georgia by religious exiles from Upper Austria and later by individual German redemptioners, or indentured servants, from Savannah. Because so many of these redemptioners came from the Rhenish Palatinate, they were all lumped together under the term “Palatines.”
Upon arriving in Georgia, the Salzburgers established the town of Ebenezer some twenty-five miles northwest of Savannah on pine barrens surrounded by cypress swamps, an area that soon proved inaccessible, infertile, and unhealthy. Fortunately, bureaucratic bungling delayed the distribution of land until it had become obvious that the settlement would never succeed on such sterile soil. Consequently, James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, reluctantly allowed the surviving Salzburgers to move to the Red Bluff on the Savannah River. The name Ebenezer was transferred to the new town, while the older settlement was henceforth called Old Ebenezer. After their fiasco at Old Ebenezer and their initial hardships at New Ebenezer, the surviving Salzburgers at last received good land and achieved some success in agriculture. In his journal entry for 25 June 1740 George White-field, the English preacher and benefactor of the Georgia Salzburgers, wrote:
Went on Monday to, and returned this evening from Ebenezer, which I have seen with no small satisfaction. Surely there is a difference, even in this life, between those that serve the Lord, and those that serve Him not. All other places of the colony seem to be like Egypt, where was darkness, but Ebenezer, like the land of Goshen, wherein was great light. For near four miles did I walk in almost one continued field, with a most plentiful crop of corn, pease, potatoes, etc., growing upon it, - all the products of a few months’ labour. But God blesses the labourers; they are unanimous, the strong help the weak, and all seem hearty for the common good. In a few years, the Saltzburghers, I believe, will be a flourishing people. Their land is good, and lies very near the river. They already provide food, and before long, will be capable of providing raiment for themselves. I shall send them up cotton, spinning wheels, and a loom to begin a manufactory for themselves; and next year they hope their own land will produce enough flax, cotton, etc., to carry it on. I had communications with their ministers. Our sister Orphan House there, is blessed by their means. Yesterday was set apart as a day of thanksgiving for assistance sent the orphans from Germany and Savannah. The people seemed very grateful. They willingly received me into their clean little huts, and seemed proud when I accepted any thing from their hands. As I said formerly, so I say again, they who help the Saltzburghers will do a good work. They want assistance. Lord, raise them up benefactors.1
This favorable view was shared by Thomas Jones, the keeper of the storehouse in Savannah, who wrote on 18 September 1740:
Having mentioned Darien, which is a town inhabited by the Highland Scotch, under the Care of Mr. McCloud, the People live very comfortably, with great Unanimity: I know of no other Settlement in this Colony more desirable, except Ebenezer, a Town on the River Savannah, at 35 Miles Distance from hence, inhabited by Saltzburghers and other Germans, under the pastoral Care of Mr. Bolzius and Mr. Gronau, who are discreet, worthy Men; they consist of 60 Families on upwards. — The Town is neatly built, the Situation exceeding pleasant, the People live in the greatest Harmony with their Ministers, and with one another, as one Family: they have no idle, drunken, or profligate People among them, but are industrious, many grown wealthy; and their Industry hath been blessed with remarkable and uncommon Success, to the envy of their Neighbours; having great Plenty of all the necessary Conveniences for life (except Cloathing) within themselves; and supply this Town and other neighbouring Places with Bread Kind, as also Beef, Veal, Pork, Poultry, &c.2
As Boltzius well knew and often reported to his superiors, the Salzburgers’ belated success was owed primarily to private enterprise, which had succeeded where their earlier communal endeavor had failed. Once the settlers owned their own land and cattle, progress was rapid; for, as Swiss farmers discovered long before, cattle fatten best under their master’s eye (Dein selbers aug daz vich macht faiss). Despite the difficulties incident to frontier life, many of the Salzburgers had “grown wealthy,” to use Thomas Jones’ somewhat exaggerated expression. Georg Kogler, for example, owned fourteen head of cattle besides other livestock, as his wife Maria wrote to her sister on 21 February.3
Despite their desire to work independently, the Salzburgers were still rural enough, and Christian enough, to look out for each other, as we see from their willing support of the orphanage. White-field was to the point where he wrote, “they are unanimous; the strong help the weak, and all seem hearty for the common good.” This sense of communal effort was splendidly manifested in 1740 in the building of the grist mill on Ebenezer Creek, a feat not equalled elsewhere in Colonial Georgia and worthy of being commemorated by an excellent etching by the celebrated engraver Tobias Conrad Lotter of Augsburg, which was printed in 1747 by Matthaus Seuter of that city.4 Needless to say, this cooperation was furthered by Boltzius who, through both Christian and economic arguments, had persuaded the church builders to be content with modest wages (26 January) and used similar arguments later with regard to the mill (1 July).
The construction of the mill posed a dilemma for Boltzius. A clergyman devoted to God rather than to Mammon should have put church construction first, especially since Whitefield had provided money collected specifically for that purpose (11 January). On the other hand, Oglethorpe was urging the Salzburgers to plant wheat, barley, rye, and oats, grains which were of little use to the Salzburgers as long as they had no mill. Putting economic need before religious obligation, Boltzius interrupted church construction (after token work to pacify Whitefield) and directed all efforts to the mill. In this his chief workers, such as the master-builder Kogler, received “just” wages, whereas the rank and file contributed their efforts in return for future use of the mill (20 August). It is to be noted that work on both projects was discontinued during the spring planting season.
Whereas fieldwork at Ebenezer was usually either private or communal, we find one case of an economic system that was later to play a baneful role in Georgia history, that of the share-cropping agreement between the clockmaker Mueller and a Palatine redemptioner (1 March). Being an “old” man of about fifty and too weak to work his land, Mueller shared it with the landless Palatine in return for half the crop. In this case, however, social and economic equality survived, since Mueller’s son, Johann Paul, helped the share-cropper in his work. Incidentally, share-cropping does not appear to have been a German custom.
Another evil soon to be inflicted on Georgia was already in the offing, namely, the slavery that was still illegal but was being advocated by the Malcontents, a group of disgruntled inhabitants in Savannah, mostly lowland Scots.5 It is sometimes pointed out that Boltzius’ objections to slavery (all of which proved true) were chiefly of a practical rather than a moral nature, since he argued that slavery was uneconomic and dangerous (as he did, for example, in his entries for 23 April and 14 July). But it should be remembered that his arguments were usually aimed at the British authorities, who, he assumed, would be more receptive to worldly reasons. His entry for 20 July proves that he considered slavery morally as well as economically wrong.
When the Georgia trustees, or administrators of the colony of Georgia, held up Ebenezer as proof that white men could subsist in Georgia without African slaves, the Malcontents countered that the Salzburgers were “yearly supported from Germany and England.” To this the Earl of Egmont, the leader of the Trustees, rejoined that “their friends may make them presents but they support themselves.”6 There was some truth in the Malcontents’ claims, for the Salzburgers did receive funds for building their parsonages, church, and orphanage, to say nothing of liberal donations of clothing. In this regard, 1740 was a banner year. Whitefield arrived in Savannah on 11 January bearing gifts for Ebenezer, which were duly itemized in Boltzius’ entry for 16 January, namely, foodstuffs, clothing, and 73 b 18 Sh., a bell, and a barrel of hardware for the church. On 8 February the congregation received a large chest that had been dispatched two years earlier from Halle and had been lost en route, and on 19 May they received another crate that had been intended for the Lutheran missions in Cuddalore, India, but had been misdirected to Ebenezer. A third crate, apparently even larger, arrived on 3 August.7 These chests held linens, books, and medicines.
The various sums received, including the ministers’ stipends, circulated in Ebenezer and served as an economic catalyst, changing hands many times before leaving the community, because the frugal Salzburgers bought little from outside except cattle. However much sacrifice these donations may have cost the charitable donors in Germany and England, they were only a small fringe benefit in comparison to the hard work the Salzburgers themselves performed. It would have been far better for them if they had been settled on healthy and fertile land in Pennsylvania or Western Maryland without any benefactions.
Not so near home as the new grist mill, but potentially far more important, was Oglethorpe’s siege of St. Augustine, the Spanish bastion in Florida, of which Boltzius gives secondhand reports in his entries for 27 June and 15 July. Although these reports tell us nothing new about the campaign, they do show how it affected his little community. Like the mill, the war posed a dilemma for Boltzius. A naturalized British subject and protégé of Oglethorpe should have supported the British offensive; and the leader of a band of expelled Protestants should have welcomed a chance to help rid Florida of the subjects of his Most Catholic Majesty of Spain. However, as a native of war-torn Central Europe, Boltzius knew that military life brutalizes enlisted men. Officers, often from noble families, were gentlemen who practiced a code of chivalry amongst themselves, whereas the enlisted men, unless draftees, were usually the dregs of society and acted accordingly. On 12 April Boltzius expressed this view about military service: “Righteous people do not let themselves be used for this purpose; but rather those who like to roam around and find pleasure in such a life.”
Because of Boltzius’ attitude, no Salzburgers volunteered. It was primarily the redemptioners who saw a chance to redeem themselves from servitude in the short period of four months, instead of in an equal number of years; and it is for this reason that the three orphanage servants, to wit, the English boy Robinson and the two Palatines, father and son Held, volunteered. It was beyond Boltzius’ comprehension that his servants would jeopardize body and soul to win their freedom, apparently unaware of the indignity attached to servitude.
Jacob Reck, a hard-drinking cobbler of Purysburg who had become a non-commissioned officer in James Richard’s polyglot South Carolina battalion, was none too discriminating on 21 April when he recruited a Swiss inhabitant of Ebenezer named Zant, who had been almost totally blind the previous year, and the consumptive Jewish convert, Johann Christ. The latter he soon lost again when some pious women dissuaded him from serving and refunded his bonus money. The efforts of the recruiters in Savannah are described in the journal of Colonel William Stephens, the Trustees’ representative in Georgia, who wrote on 24 April, “Enlisting Men was now the principal Affair in hand; which had drained the Town, that it was hard to find a Man more to enter.”8 This shortage of able-bodied men in Savannah explains the impudence of Major Richard’s soldiers there in impressing one of Gronau’s rowers into service, as recorded by Boltzius on 9 and 14 May. To supplement Boltzius’ confusing entry of 14 May (which may have been garbled by his editor, Samuel Urlsperger), we have a dramatic account in Colonel Stephens’ journal under the date of 13 May.9
Gabriel Bach, already in Boltzius’ disfavor, was the only real Salzburger to enlist. He had enlisted in a pique when Boltzius required his fiancee, Margaret Staud, to perform humiliating church penance before letting them marry. By the time penance was done (3 February) and they were duly married (4 February), it was too late for Bach to obtain his release, even if he really wished to. He quickly became a skilled and renowned ranger but was one of the first casualties when hostilities began. Boltzius reported on 4 June that he had been beheaded by the Indians, but it was more likely that he was merely scalped, since beheading was not an Indian custom. He adds that Oglethorpe had the head cut off and sent in a box to the governor of St. Augustine with the warning that, if he would not restrain his Indians, the same fate would be suffered by all Spanish prisoners.
Bach was the only one of Boltzius’ parishioners killed in action. The older Held died of fever on the campaign and Leonard Rauner died of dysentery soon afterwards. The other six, Zant, Robinson, Held, Jr., Leitner, Reiter, and Zettler, returned in various degrees of ill health. Boltzius seems to have been almost pleased with these tragic results (tragic, of course, only in a worldly sense, but spiritually very salutary), for they confirmed his predictions of 15 April that the campaign would last longer than four months and would be a costly affair. However, even though he tried to discourage his parishioners from going to war, he held their share of linen for them during their absence and later allowed the survivors to settle again in Ebenezer.
It seems that Boltzius made all such decisions himself; for among his many duties were those of administering justice and maintaining law and order. Maintaining law and order meant not only punishing infractions but also anticipating misunderstandings. For example, on 14 April he required Elisabeth Sanftleben to postpone her marriage to Hans Michael Schneider until her former fiance, Andreas Grimmiger, renounced all claims on her. It is possible that Grimmiger had already planned to marry the widow Bischoff, as he did on 2 June; but it was still wise of Boltzius to take this precaution. The congregation seems to have accepted their pastor’s judgments willingly; for they knew that he was able, as he implied on 10 February, to request a “judiciary” to represent the authorities in temporal affairs. Such a man would surely have been more severe than the benign cleric, for “It’s good living under the crozier.” (Unter dem Krummstab ist gut leben).
It was exceptional when, on 21 June, Boltzius sent an incorrigible thief to Savannah for punishment rather than try him in Ebenezer, as he had tried Grimmiger for stealing five pounds from his fellow Austrian Johann Pletter. It is to be noted that, after Grimmiger had confessed, repented, and served his very mild sentence, he was welcomed back into the community and no one was allowed to refer to the incident again. It is even possible that the widow Bischoff did not know she was marrying a former thief. The same tolerance was shown to Margaret Staud: once she had confessed her sin of whoredom, it was officially consigned to oblivion. Margaret had cohabited with a redemptioner named John Staud (Stout) in Savannah until Boltzius interrupted their common-law marriage, which had been ignored by the more tolerant British authorities who, according to the elderly Stephens, often had “housekeepers” of their own.10 After the death of her husband Bach, she was married to the pious Leimberger (6 December).
Although Boltzius’ secular activities interest us more than his pastoral cares do, we should remember that he considered the latter far more important, as seen by the space he gave them in his reports. Boltzius was undeviating in his religious convictions; during his long service in Ebenezer he never strayed from his Halle-style Pietism. In 1740 he and Whitefield were soul mates, both believing in salvation by faith; but in time Boltzius would have to denounce his benefactor for accepting the dreadful error of predestination. As a good Pietist, Boltzius never lost his optimism in the face of adversity, for it is the Lord’s to give and the Lord’s to take away. This Christian resignation is demonstrated by his acceptance of his kinsman Peter Gruber’s death on 2 December, which was both an emotional and economic blow.
In addition to informing us about his own flock, Boltzius provides occasional glimpses of the Palatine servants in Savannah, a major element of the population in that city that has not yet found its historian. Boltzius’ attitude towards them was ambivalent. As a good Lutheran he upheld the authorities as divinely ordained; and he found the redemptioners disorderly when compared with his own docile parishioners (28 February). On the other hand, he realized that their physical situation was as miserable as their spiritual condition. White-field, who was perhaps more socially conscious, vividly described the situation of three German orphans he accepted into his orphanage, and we may assume that some of the other German children were not faring much better. He wrote:
Tuesday, Jan. 9. Took in three German orphans, the most pitiful objects, I think, I ever saw. No new negroes could look more despicable, or require more pains to instruct them. They have been used to exceedingly hard labour, and though supplied with provisions from the Trustees, were treated in a manner unbecoming even heathens. Were all the money I have collected, to be spent in freeing these three children from slavery, it would be well laid out.11
Of musical and cultural interest are the many new hymns introduced in 1740, apparently for musicological rather than theological reasons. During the previous year Boltzius and the physician Ernst Thilo had instructed the congregation in polyphonic singing; and this had enabled them to increase the hymn repertory greatly, as was done, for example, on 20 and 25 January and 20 February.12 As in the previous volume, this one also leaves the titles of the hymns in German but puts their translations, along with the names of the composers when known, in an appended alphabetical index, thus obviating many footnotes. A number of annotations are also disposed of by numbering the ten commandments according to the English system, instead of calling to the reader’s attention each time that their numbering differs in the German system. For example, Boltzius’ reference to das 4te Gebot on 25 January is translated as “the fifth commandment,” it being the injunction to love and honor one’s parents.
Unfortunately, there are no copies of Boltzius’ unexpurgated reports for the year 1740; and consequently we must rely on the bowdlerized version found in Samuel Urlsperger’s Ausführliche Nachricht, which was issued currently for devotional and promotional purposes. Such purposes may explain the gaps in the present reports, such as that between 21 and 24 January, which must have contained something distasteful to Urlsperger, since Boltzius’ unexpurgated reports were usually complete. In his entry for 7 June Boltzius explained how Urlsperger had edited his reports “in such a way that not the slightest scandal or misunderstanding is to be feared.” Because Boltzius knew that all scandalous matter would be deleted anyway, we may assume that he himself tried to suppress as much of it as he could.
Very annoying is Urlsperger’s policy of suppressing proper names, often for no apparent reason and seldom with any consistency. Even though a name is omitted, the description sometimes identifies the party, as is the case of the unnamed widow on 5 December whose husband had been drowned, for Andreas Lorentz Arnsdorf was the only inhabitant of Ebenezer who had died that way. Boltzius himself made identifications difficult. For example, he never distinguished between himself and Gronau, even though Gronau sometimes did so; and he never used Christian names except to distinguish between two bearers of the same surname. When brothers were involved, he usually omitted their Christian names and referred to the oldest (even of two!) and the younger. In the case of the Kieffer brothers this is no problem, since outside sources tell us that the older was Johann Jacob and the younger was Theobald, Jr. In the case of the Zuebli brothers we assume that the older was Ambrose and the younger one Johann Jacob, because elsewhere Ambrose is usually listed first. Should contrary evidence come to light, future indexes will have to be altered accordingly.
We, the editors, wish to acknowledge the kind editorial assistance of Renate Wilson, the coeditor of the previous three volumes of this series.
Like the previous volumes of this series, this one is indebted to the American Philosophical Society for supporting the original research in Halle, which was kindly aided by the authorities of the University and State Library of Sachsen-Anhalt in Halle, DDR. Support for the translation was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and publication has been made possible by grants from the General Research Board of the University of Maryland and from the Provincial Government of Salzburg (Salzburger Landesregierung). Salzburg also deserves thanks for the steadfast Christian exiles on whom this volume reports.
George Fenwick Jones
Don P. Savelle