To understand the circumstances and activities of the Georgia Salzburgers and other German-speaking inhabitants of Ebenezer during the years 1759 and 1760, one must be familiar with their origin and previous condition. For this reason, the following six paragraphs are repeated here from previous volumes for the benefit of newcomers to the series. Readers who have read the earlier volumes or are otherwise acquainted with the history of the Georgia Salzburgers are advised to disregard them.
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 a new home 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 manufacture.
The first Salzburger transport, or traveling party, consisted of recent exiles who had been residing in and around Augsburg, a Swabian city just northwest 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 a second transport joined them a year later, they had realized that their land was infertile and inaccessible, the stream on which it was built, Ebenezer Creek, having proved unnavigable. When a third transport arrived in 1736, composed mostly of Upper Austrian and Carinthian exiles, the survivors at Ebenezer joined them at 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 also joined by Swiss and Palatine settlers from Purysburg, a Swiss settlement a short way down the Savannah River on the Carolina side, as well as by Palatine servants donated by the Trustees. Finding insufficient fertile land on the Red Bluff, many Salzburgers moved their plantations to an area along Abercorn Creek, an almost blocked channel of the Savannah River, where the lowland was flooded and enriched each winter. 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 there 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 molded him into a skillful administrator, economist, and diplomat. Some of the early reports were written by Boltzius’ admiring younger colleague, Christian Israel Gronau, who officiated whenever Boltzius was away, in Savannah or elsewhere, until his untimely death in 1745. After that, some reports were written by Gronau’s successor, Hermann Heinrich Lemke. In 1752 Boltzius and Lemke were joined by Christian Rabenhorst, who wrote much of the journal for the years 1759 and 1760.
Boltzius’ and his colleagues’ journals were first edited contemporaneously by Samuel Urlsperger, the Senior of the Lutheran Ministry 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 replaced with N. or N.N. 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 for both diplomatic and 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 one, or else the person in question can be easily recognized.
Beginning in April of 1751, for reasons unknown, Urlsperger abruptly changed the title of his edition to Das Americanische Ackerwerck Gottes, or God’s American Husbandry. The symbolism is clear: in John 15:1 Christ says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” In other words, God’s American husbandry is His spreading of His word in North America through the Halle missionaries. Despite the change in the title of the original, the title of the Detailed Reports has been retained in this translation for the sake of uniformity since the content and style are almost unchanged.
In June of 1759 Samuel Urlsperger turned over the editing of the Detailed Reports, or the Americanisches Ackerwerck as they were now called, to his son and heir, Johann August Urlsperger. The son took even more liberties with the text than his father had taken, deleting large sections and rearranging others. Boltzius resigned from writing the official journal in June of 1759 and passed the responsibility on to Rabenhorst, yet he continued to keep a journal for his own use. The younger Urlsperger, however, published Boltzius’ journals for June and July of that year even though the months had also been covered by Rabenhorst. For that reason, this edition distinguishes between June (Boltzius) and June (Rabenhorst).
Johann August Urlsperger placed Rabenhorst’s contribution before that of Boltzius, but this edition puts Rabenhorst after Boltzius because he continues almost to the end of the year, before ceding again to Boltzius in December of 1759. Although Boltzius had kept strict chronology for twenty-five years, the new editor consolidated his entries for December 1759 and January 1760 into a single undifferentiated entry.
By the summer of 1759 Ebenezer had reached its peak. No new large groups had joined since 1752, but there was a steady trickle of new settlers up from Savannah and down from the northern colonies. Whereas the Trustees had envisioned a colony of yeoman farmers, emphasis gradually shifted to silk culture and lumber processing, activities encouraged by James Habersham, a merchant and President of the Council, who became their chief champion.
Ebenezer’s dependencies continued to grow. The planters along Abercorn Creek built and maintained Zion Church, larger than Jerusalem Church in Ebenezer; and even the more distant settlers southeast of Ebenezer at Goshen also maintained a church and school. In time the Swabian settlement at Bethany, five miles upstream from Ebenezer, had its own church but had to depend upon the visits of the Ebenezer pastors. The Salzburger orphanage, once the pride of the congregation, was found unnecessary and its building was converted into a silk filature.
In 1759 and 1760 Great Britain and Prussia were allies against France in the Seven Years War, and therefore the German readers of the Detailed Reports were avid to hear of the military events in the British colonies, and Boltzius and Rabenhorst obliged them by citing the latest military communiques printed in the Charleston newspapers. Naturally, the inhabitants of Ebenezer were most concerned with the Cherokee War, an Indian uprising in the western parts of the Carolinas. Although the Cherokees scarcely reached Georgia, the rumors of war did, being spread, Boltzius surmised, by the friendly Creeks, who were free to pillage the homesteads abandoned by the terrified settlers. All men of Ebenezer and its dependencies had to draw lots for service in the mounted patrols sent out to keep track of the Indians.
Although Ebenezer remained a German-speaking community, its inhabitants gradually increased their contacts with the English and adopted many of their ways. Even the pastors became familiar with English devotional works and soon recommended works by authors such as Isaac Watts, Thomas Willcock, and Thomas Goodwin. While all their pastors learned English, most of their parishioners did not, yet they still had to serve jury duty in Savannah.
Despite his many secular duties, Boltzius remained primarily a man of God and worked diligently to keep his flock well instructed in Pietist dogma. In view of the high infant mortality, it is not surprising that he sought to convince his listeners that God is an all-loving God who does everything for our own good, even if His purpose is beyond our human comprehension. He also had to free many parishioners from the Anfechtungen, the temptation to doubt that God, through the merits of Christ, can save even the worst sinner if he repents and crawls into the wounds of Jesus.
As in previous volumes, the titles of books are translated in the text to give some idea of their content, while the original titles are given in the footnotes. On the other hand, the titles of hymns are left intact in the text, and their meanings and authors, when known, are given in the appendix.
I again wish to thank Alice Ferrell for reading the proofs of this volume and to thank Pastors Hartmut Beck and Raymond Davis for hymnodic and theological suggestions. Above all, I wish to thank Mae Annette Hinely Gingher for covering the publication costs of this volume as a tribute to her Salzburger forebears.