The Salzburgers at sea—Conduct during the voyage—Arrival at Charleston, S. C.—General Oglethorpe—Departure from Charleston—Arrival at Savannah—Sentiments of the emigrants—Their reception at Savannah—Notes of Mr. Bolzius—Baron Von Reck—Conduct of the Indians—Disembarkation of the Salzburgers—Liberality of General Oglethorpe—Expedition into the country—Description of the country—Devout conduct of the Salzburgers—Ebenezer—Foundation of the colony—Location of their settlement—Uchee Indians—St. Matthew’s Parish—Lord Effingham—Town laid out—Salzburgers remove to their new home—Impressions in relation to the nature of the country—Baron Von Reek’s enthusiastic description—Real character of the country—Assignment of lots—Hardships incident to colonization—Scarcity of mechanics and materials for building—Other trials—Sickness and death among the colonists—Extracts from Mr. Bolzius’ journal—Influence of affliction—Arrival of a second company of Salzburgers—Improvement in the condition of the colony—Progress of the town, &c.
To one who has always resided at a distance from the sea-board, few objects appear more awfully grand than the mighty ocean, with its seemingly boundless space of waters. Nowhere will man be more fully impressed with a sense of his dependence than when he is isolated from the rest of the world, and left to the mercy of the winds and waves. If at any time the soul is disposed for holy contemplation, it must be when man is removed far away from human succour and in the consciousness of his own helplessness is forced to meditate upon the power and goodness of his Creator.
Such was now the situation of the Salzburgers. Coming from the interior of Europe, they knew nothing of the ocean, except what they had heard; and to them the perils of a voyage at sea no doubt assumed a fearful character. Launched upon its bosom, every thing was new to them, and they knew not which to admire most, its strangeness or its sublimity. But though its wonders inspired them with awe and humility, their hearts, sustained by a holy fortitude, experienced no fear; and no sooner did the shores of England vanish from their vision, than they broke forth in psalms of praise to Him “who measures the waters in the hollow of His hands.” Every day furnished them with new subjects of contemplation. The ocean hushed into repose, or lashed by the winds into furious commotion; the dark and lowering storm howling through their vessel; the gentle breezes wafting them gayly on their course, all supply them with themes of thanksgiving, and awaken in their souls new emotions of gratitude.
Nor did they, in the exciting scenes which surrounded them, neglect their spiritual improvement. Blessed with the presence of two pious teachers, much of their time was spent in religious conversation. Daily worship was observed; and when the Sabbath arrived, their ship became their Bethel, where they were favored with the faithful preaching of the gospel, and enjoyed, as far as their situation would permit, all the privileges of the sanctuary.
After a perilous passage of one hundred and four days, they reached Charleston, S. C., early in March, 1734. Here they providentially met General Oglethorpe, who had gone thither for the purpose of making a voyage to England, with a view to procure reinforcements for the colony. As soon, however, as he heard of the arrival of the Salzburgers, with his usual benevolence of heart he relinquished his intended journey, and returned to Georgia to aid these exiles in making an advantageous settlement.
Remaining in Charleston a few days, the Salzburgers re-embarked on the 9th day of March. On the 11th they entered the Savannah River. This, according to the Lutheran Calendar, was “Reminiscere Sunday.” Here was indeed a striking coincidence, and the occasion suggested a train of very pleasing reflections. No doubt they recalled the memories of other days, when they endured so much affliction for conscience sake; and in dwelling upon the scenes of trial through which they had passed, the kindness with which God had safely conducted them through every danger, and the favourable prospects which now opened to them, their hearts were oppressed by a sense of gratitude too great for utterance. But amid the associations of this hallowed day their minds were calm. The promises of peace and mercy tranquillized their spirits, and no anxious cares for the future disturbed their repose. One of their number, in a letter to a friend in Germany, speaks thus of this occasion: “While we lay off the banks of our dear Georgia, in a very lovely calm, and heard the birds singing sweetly, all was cheerful on board. It was really edifying to us, that we came to the borders of the promised land this day, when, as we are taught by its lessons from the gospel, Jesus came to the sea-coast after he had endured persecution and rejection by his countrymen.”* To commemorate this day, it was resolved to celebrate it as an annual festival of thanksgiving to God; and this practice was observed for a very long period.
On the 12th of March the Salzburgers reached Savannah, and here a truly cordial reception was given them. They were greeted with the acclamations of the colonists, and entertained with every mark of hospitality. General Oglethorpe himself went down to the river to meet and welcome them to their new homes, and with his accustomed liberality offered to give them any of the un appropriated lands upon which they might prefer to settle, and to furnish them with every facility that he could command. Such were the favourable circumstances under which these pilgrims reached the land of their adoption.
Mr. Bolzius, in his journal, under date of March 11, 1734, says, “At the place of our landing almost all the inhabitants of Savannah were gathered together. They fired off some cannon, and cried huzza! which was answered by our sailors, and other English people in our ship, in the same manner. A good dinner was prepared for us. We, the commissary, and Dr. Twiffler, our physician were lodged in the house of the Rev. Mr. Quincy, the English missionary.”
Baron Von Reck thus records the same event: “The citizens returned our salute of five guns with three; and all the magistrates, the citizens, and the Indians came to the river side. The two divines, (Messrs. Bolzius and Gronau,) Mr. Dunbar, some others, and myself went ashore in a boat. We were received with all possible demonstrations of joy, friendship, and civility. The Indians reached their hands to me, as a testimony of their joy also for our arrival. The Salzburgers came on shore after us, and we immediately pitched a tent for them in the square of the town.”
The Salzburgers having all safely disembarked, the next object of interest was to select a location for their settlement. General Oglethorpe informed Baron Von Reck (who conducted this expedition) that his people might exercise their own choice in this particular. This fact being communicated to them, they expressed a desire to be removed to some distance from the sea, where the scenery was diversified with hill and dale, and they might be supplied with springs of water. This wish, no doubt, originated in the associations connected with home, such having been the nature of the country in which they had been reared. To carry out their views, General Oglethorpe, in company with Paul Jenys, Esq., Speaker of the South Carolina House of Assembly, Baron Von Reck, Mr. Gronau, Dr. Twiffler, their physician, and one of the Lutheran elders, together with some Indians, made a tour of observation into the adjoining country, while the great body of the Germans remained in the city to rest themselves from the effects of their long and tedious voyage.
The “corps of observation,” in the accomplishment of their mission, penetrated nearly thirty miles into the interior, where they discovered a location which, it was supposed, would meet the wishes of the emigrants. The place was described as being on “the banks of a river of clear water, the sides high, the country of the neighbourhood hilly, with valleys of rich cane-land, intermixed with little brooks and springs of water.” The Salzburgers who were of this company expressed themselves as highly gratified with the situation and the general appearance of the country. But as they had been wont to sanctify every act by thanksgiving and prayer, and as the events of this day would probably exert an important influence upon their future prosperity, they meekly bowed beside the water, and invoked the divine protection and blessing. They finished their journey, as they commenced it, with fervent praise to God for his great goodness as displayed in their past history, but especially in bringing them to so goodly a land. After singing a psalm, they set up a rock, which they found upon the spot, and, in the spirit of the pious Samuel, named the place Ebenezer, (the stone of help,) for they could truly say, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.” Thus, with devout gratitude to God, and humble reliance upon his goodness, the foundation was laid for the COLONY OF THE SALZBURGERS.
It may be well here to remark that the lands alloted to the Salzburgers bordered on the possessions of the Uchee Indians, from whom General Oglethorpe obtained them some time previously. It is worthy of note that though these Indians were near neighbours to the Germans, they never manifested any hostile disposition. On the contrary, there is reason to believe that the most friendly relations always subsisted between them. It may be proper to state here that the place selected was about twenty-five miles from the city of Savannah, in a district of country afterward known as St. Matthew’s Parish, and subsequently erected into a county, which was called Effingham, after an English nobleman—Lord Effingham—who defended, in the British Parliament, in 1775, the resistance of the American Colonies to the usurpations of the mother country, and resigned his commission in the British army when he ascertained that his regiment was about to be ordered to America, to aid in enforcing the unjust exactions of the crown. The county still bears that title.
The site for a settlement having been agreed upon, General Oglethorpe marked out the town, and sent up workmen to assist the colonists in clearing lands and erecting temporary dwellings, which consisted of tents and sheds constructed of rough planks. In a few weeks, the preparations for the accommodation of the settlers being in a suitable state of forwardness, the whole body of Germans, in company with their pastors, went up to their new homes at Ebenezer. Here in the wilderness of Georgia, far distant from the land of their birth and the graves of their fathers, these exiles ended their wanderings, and found at last a resting-place, where, freed from the censorship of man, and unawed by fears of violence, they could enjoy repose and worship God, “under their own vine and fig-tree.” Hitherto they had been driven from place to place, and nowhere had they found “A sheltering home of sympathy and love.” But now their conflicts were measurably ended. The providence of God had placed them beyond the reach of persecution, and they could erect their spiritual temples, enjoy the teachings of their faithful pastors, rear their offspring to virtue and to usefulness under the benign influences of the gospel; and living in the grateful use of the bounties of a kind Providence, and the faithful improvement of the means of grace, pass their days in contentment and peace, and acquire continually a fitness for that still more glorious heritage prepared for them in heaven.
We may learn from the journal of Baron Von Reck how the Salzburgers esteemed their new residence. He states that “the lands are enclosed between two rivers which fall into the Savannah. The town is to be built near the largest, which is called Ebenezer, in remembrance that God has brought them hither. It is navigable, being twelve feet deep. A little rivulet, whose water is clear as crystal, glides by the town. Another runs through it and both fall into the Ebenezer. The woods here are not so thick as in other places. The sweet zephyrs preserve a delicious coolness, notwithstanding the scorching beams of the sun. There are very fine meadows, in which a great quantity of hay might be made with very little trouble. The hillocks are also very fit for vines. The cedar, walnut, pine, cypress, and oak make the greatest part of the woods. There are likewise a great quantity of myrtle-trees, out of which they extract, by boiling the berries, a green wax very proper to make candles with. There is much sassafras, and a great quantity of those plants of which indigo is made, and an abundance of China-root., The earth is so fertile, that it will bring forth any thing that can be sown or planted in it, whether fruits, herbs, or trees. There are wild vines, which run up to the tops of the tallest trees, and the country is so good that any one may ride in full gallop twenty or thirty miles. As to game, here are eagles, wild turkeys, roe-bucks, wild goats, stags, wild cows, horses, hares, partridges, and buffaloes.”
To one living at this distant period, and who is at all acquainted with the locality of old Ebenezer, and the general character of the surrounding country, the above description by the enthusiastic baron appears to partake somewhat of the marvellous. We must either make considerable allowances for the warmth of his imagination, or conclude that the country has undergone a very great change. The site of their town was about four miles below Springfield, the present seat of justice for Effingham county, in a region which is composed of hills and plains that are very sterile, and upon which no one, having a correct knowledge of the character of the soil, would ever think of settling a farm. But circumstanced as the Salzburgers were, exiled from their country and worn out by the fatigue of travelling both by sea and by land, they no doubt were inclined to regard with favour any spot, which promised them rest from their toils and a period to their cruel sufferings.
Upon the arrival of the Salzburgers at Ebenezer, it was deemed proper to assign a lot of land to each family, according to the design of the Trustees. This having been done, arrangements were made for the erection of more permament and comfortable dwellings, and a plan was adopted for a house of worship. But now these devoted people were to experience many of the difficulties and hardships which are always incident upon a new settlement. In building their houses, they were very much hindered by the scarcity of materials. It is true, the Trustees had furnished a supply of plank and other timber, but not in sufficient quantities to meet the demand of the settlers. Besides, there were among them very few mechanics; and not being able to erect either saw or grist mills, their situation became very trying. In a newly-settled country, too, the means of transportation were necessarily very limited; and having no boats or wagons of their own, they were entirely dependant on the government for the conveyance of their supplies; and such were the straits to which they were at times reduced, that they were compelled to carry their provisions upon their backs from Savannah, a distance of twenty-five miles. To add to their sufferings, much sickness prevailed among them, superinduced no doubt, by exposure and excessive fatigue in a warm climate. The mortality which ensued was very distressing; but we learn from the journal of Pastor Bolzius, that those who became victims to disease and death endured their afflictions with Christian resignation, and closed their earthly pilgrimage with joy and triumph.
Among those of whom special mention is made, was a Mrs. Goshwandel. Speaking of her, Mr. Bolzius remarks: “It had pleased Almighty God to lead her through tedious and painful hours previous to her death. She improved the Passion Week to derive spiritual strength and comfort from contemplating the sufferings of her Saviour, and would have been rejoiced had the Lord called her home on the anniversary of his death. No complaints escaped her lips; and when visitors noticed her distress, she would say: ‘Our Lord is kind to me, and he can restore me, if it is his will, and resignation to that will is all I desire.’ God granted her great comfort during the last moments of her life.”
Speaking of a visit to another about the same time, Mr. Bolzius remarks: “Our sick friend expressed his dissatisfaction with himself on account of his negligence and carelessness toward all that was most valuable to man; he observed that the zeal he had felt during the persecutions in Salzburg had left him, which grieved him very much. He remembered perfectly well, he said, how the most ignorant people in Salzburg had frequently assembled in mountains and among the cliffs of rocks for the purpose of singing, praying, and the reading of the Scriptures, being full of hunger and thirst after the word; and how they had experienced the goodness and mercy of God in these meetings. In this frame he expired.” In recording the death of another person, this faithful pastor says: “To-day our friend departed this life. In the midst of great pain, her trust and confidence were in the will of the Lord, and she was anxious to be with him.”
Having visited a sick -man by the name of Schofpach, the pastor states: “I found him very low-spirited, and spoke to him about our dear Saviour, setting forth to him how we might both live and die happily in communion with Christ. He assented to all that I had said, and stated that he was now experiencing that man, in himself, was nothing at all; that sin was the greatest of all evils; and that it was necessary to treasure up much of the grace of God and the hopes of the gospel for the contest of the last hour. Having prayed with him, I left him in hopes that the Lord would bless that visit. A few days after, this man expired with a joyful confidence in the atonement of Christ.”
Thus it will be seen that death was making inroads upon the infant town, and filling many a family with sorrow and mourning. But these seemingly adverse circumstances were not without their salutary effect, in checking every thing like worldly-mindedness and indifference to religious duty, and in endearing to the hearts of this people that religion, which could not only cheer and support them under every trial of life, but was capable of imparting serenity and triumph in the hour of death. Amid all these scenes of suffering and distress, the emigrants laboured patiently, though they were exposed to sickness and hunger, and even death, hoping for better and happier days.
Such was the state of things at Ebenezer, when a second party of emigrants arrived. These were likewise Salzburgers, who had been sent over by the Trustees in the ship “Prince of Wales,” which vessel left England in November, 1734, and arrived in Georgia the early part of the next year. This expedition, which consisted of fifty-seven persons, was conducted by Mr. Vatt. On reaching Savannah, they immediately set out to join their brethren at their new town. They were kindly received, and provision made for them as far as the means of the colonists would warrant. It was with difficulty, however, that they could be furnished with lodgings, and the stock of food in the colony was not very abundant. Nevertheless, by this accession to their numbers, the colonists were greatly benefited, for among the new comers were many mechanics, whose labours were of essential service. By their aid, planks were soon sawed, timber hewed, boards and shingles split, and the good people went cheerfully to work to improve their dwellings. As to their church, they were compelled as yet to worship in a large wooden tent, which during a part of the time had been the residence of their ministers. By degrees, many of their houses were finished; and here in the wilderness of Georgia, upon the very borders of an Indian tribe, sprung up a thrifty little town, with its humble cottages; and here, far away from the abodes of civilization, a Christian community was established, in which the pure doctrines of the gospel were taught, and God was worshipped in the simplicity and sincerity which characterized the first ages of the church. Would to God that this state of things had always continued! That it did not, was not attributable to any want of fidelity on the part of their religious teachers, or to any heterodoxy in doctrine or laxity of discipline. But it will not do to anticipate the future.