Affairs at Ebenezer after Dr. Muhlenburg’s departure—Rabenhorst and Triebner—Pastors cease to be Trustees, and the trust transferred to the church officers—Mr. Rabenhorst created first pastor—State of feeling between the two pastors—Inventory of church property—Its estimated value—Church funds—Views of the propriety of creating them—A case of necessity with the Salzburgers—General state of the colony—Prosperity of Ebenezer—A fancy sketch—Commercial relations of Ebenozer—Gradual extension of the settlements—New settlers come in—Commencement of the Revolution—Stamp Act and tax on tea—State of the public mind in the Province of Georgia—Position of the Salzburgers—Provincial Congress in Savannah—Salzburgers in that Congress—Majority of them side with the Colonists—Protest of a portion of the Salzburgers—Adherents to the Crown in St. Matthew’s Parish—Patriotic and noble sentiments of the Salzburgers—Mr. Triebner sides with the Crown—Judicious course of Mr. Rabenhorst—His long and successful labours, and death.
THE departure of Dr. Muhlenburg from Georgia was universally regretted by all the Salzburgers, and particularly by Mr. Rabenhorst and his family. To this family he became very strongly attached, and he makes frequent mention of them in his journal, and especially of Mrs. Rabenhorst, whom he calls his “foster-mother,” adding, “The king’s daughter is all glorious within.” “Like a precious gem, is so humble a soul.” Mr. Rabenhorst was very deeply affected in separating from Dr. Muhlenburg. In him he had found a prudent friend, a judicious adviser, and a warm-hearted and affectionate brother. Besides, Dr. Muhlenburg seems to have formed a just estimate of the talents and sincere piety of Mr. Rabenhorst; and as there was great congeniality of spirit between them, they became united in the bonds of an indissoluble friendship. Mr. Rabenhorst was likewise apprehensive, from the known character of his associate, (Mr. Triebner,) that the absence of Dr. Muhlenburg would furnish an opportunity for new difficulties, if not for the opening of the old breach.
Against the recurrence of any further disruption between the two pastors and their respective parties, Dr. Muhlenburg had endeavoured to guard, as far as a wise foresight would accomplish such an object. He carefully investigated all the financial affairs of the church, and placed in the hands of the trustees a statement of the property belonging to the congregation, together with the deeds, grants, &c, and arranged that the trustees, and not the pastors, should as far as practicable superintend the management of all the temporal affairs of the congregation. He further inducted Mr. Rabenhorst as first pastor or senior minister, and made such an arrangement in reference to the relations which he and Mr. Triebner should in future sustain toward each other, as to prevent any further jealousy or disaffection. With a man of Mr. Triebner’s disposition it was, however, almost impossible to live upon terms of friendship, and for the simple reason, that he was in a great measure destitute of that spirit of Christian humility and brotherly love, which was necessary to make a “true yoke-fellow” in the gospel. Besides, the rupture between him and his colleague had been of such a character, that it was difficult, if not impossible, to induce a man like Mr. Triebner, having, it is to be feared, but a small share of grace in his heart, cordially and sincerely to forgive the past, and to become fully reconciled to his brother. If, therefore, there was no open hostility between the parties, the asperity of feeling on the part of Mr. Triebner was never fully subdued.
It has been stated that Dr. Muhlenburg made a careful investigation of all the property belonging to the church, at the time of his last visit to Ebenezer in 1774 and 1775. For the satisfaction of those who may feel interested in this matter, a copy of the inventory which he left is here inserted:
1. In the hands of Pastor Rabenhorst, a capital of 300l. 16s. 5d.
2. In the hands of John Caspar Wertsch, for the store, 300l.
4. Pastor Triebner has some money in hands, (400l.,) the application of which has not been determined by our Reverend Fathers.
5. Belonging to the church is a Negro boy at Mr. John Floerl’s, and a Negro girl at Mr. David Steiner’s.
6. A town-lot and an out-lot, of which Mr. John Triebner has the grant in his hands.
7. An inventory of personal goods in the mills belonging to the estate.
8. And, finally, real estate, with the mills, 925 acres of land.
At a very reasonable estimate, this property must have been worth about twelve thousand dollars. To this sum additions were subsequently made, by donations from the patrons of the colony in Germany, and by legacies from private individuals; so that it is not assuming too much to say, that the church property could not have been worth much less than twenty thousand dollars.
It has been questioned by many wise and judicious minds, whether the funding of a large capital for the benefit of a congregation is to be commended. Whatever objections may be urged against this policy as a general rule, we think in the case of the Salzburgers it was not only wise, but absolutely necessary. Amid the persecutions which they had endured in the fatherland, their property had been confiscated, and they had been driven from their homes, and thrown upon the charity of their Christian friends. They came to America as exiles—poor, and houseless; and but for the liberality of their patrons in Germany and England, they could not have subsisted, much less could they have provided the means to build churches and school-houses and support their ministers. In their circumstances, the establishment of a church fund was an act of necessity; and though in other cases such a measure may be deemed objectionable, with them it was perfectly justifiable, as without it the colonial churches could never have been sustained. It is true, that when the descendants of the Salzburgers became able to support their pastors, at least to a considerable extent, they withheld their contributions, and relied too much upon the income of their funded capital; yet this dereliction of duty on their part, furnishes no just ground of objection against the provision which was made for the churches and their pastors in the infancy of the colony. The true policy for every church to adopt is, to support its pastor and to maintain itself by voluntary contributions on the part of its members. This is according to apostolic injunction, as well as the practice of the primitive church; and God seems wisely to have connected the spiritual prosperity of a church with the liberality of its members, in bestowing their worldly goods to the support of the cause of Christ. There is certainly a “withholding which tendeth to poverty,” and it is only the “liberal soul” that is to “be made fat” As a general rule, God has ordained that “they who preach the gospel shall live of the gospel,” and a people assume a fearful responsibility who, while they enjoy the labours of a minister, seek to relieve themselves of the obligation to support him, by throwing him upon his own private resources. They thus rob the labourer of his just reward, and force him into some secular calling to gain a maintenance for himself and family, that the church, for which he is spending himself, is bound most solemnly and religiously to furnish. No church can expect to prosper, and be “enriched with all spiritual gifts,” that pursues such a course. God will be honoured with the bestowal of our substance, as well as the dedication of our personal service to himself; and where the former is intentionally withheld, there is very little ground for hope that the latter will ever be acceptable. These remarks, however, will not apply to the first settlers at Ebenezer, how much soever some of their descendants may have been in fault.
The general state of the colony at Ebenezer was on the whole very favourable. It is true, as has been noticed, there were some unpleasant occurrences in the congregation, but they did not seem to affect very seriously the temporal prosperity of the Salzburgers. They prosecuted their various pursuits with their accustomed industry and perseverance, and their labours were abundantly rewarded. The town of Ebenezer attained about this time to the height of its importance. The population of the town proper was not less than five hundred persons. Almost every kind of trade was successfully carried on. The mechanic, the artisan, and the merchant followed their respective avocations with zeal and energy, and their thrift met with due reward. There is an old picture representing the appearance of Ebenezer at this period. It is a mere outline of the principal points in and around the town ; but the Savannah river is distinctly delineated, and in the distance may be seen two schooners riding at anchor not far from “Ebenezer landing.” This may be in some respects merely “a fancy sketch,” but there is no doubt of the fact, that a regular trade was carried on between Ebenezer and Savannah, and perhaps also with Charleston, by means of these schooners or sloops. Through Savannah the people also conducted some foreign trade, for it has already been stated that silk was exported to England, and the Salzburgers were constantly receiving drugs and medicines and other supplies from Germany.
There was also a gradual increase of the population, and new farms were constantly settled in almost every part of the country. This was particularly the case in relation to the lands on the water courses, and along the main road leading from Savannah to Augusta, and which passed through Ebenezer. There was, however, with this increase of the population, a change in the character of the inhabitants. A number of settlers came over from Carolina, and some from other portions of Georgia. The majority of these, however, located in the upper part of the parish, or on its western borders, near the Ogechee river. Many of these settlers became among the most respectable and useful citizens in the parish, and the descendants of not a few are still residing in the counties of Effingham and Scriven.
New scenes, however, were about to be enacted in the Province of Georgia, and the Salzburgers were called upon to take part in some very important measures, and to mingle in strange and thrilling scenes. The passage by the British Parliament of the Stamp Act, the tax on tea, and the subsequent blockade of the port of Boston, because of the resistance of the people of Massachusetts to these unjust and tyrannical measures, had excited the indignation of all the colonies in America. The public mind in the Province of Georgia was, as a matter of course, considerably agitated in common with the people of the other colonies; and at an early period in this controversy Georgia declared herself opposed to the enactments of Parliament, and expressed, in unmistakeable language, her sympathy with her sister, Massachusetts. A Provincial Congress was held at Savannah on the 4th of July, 1774, consisting of delegates from the different parishes in the province. The Salzburgers could not remain indifferent or inactive spectators. When a call was addressed to the parishes, requesting them to send delegates to this congress, the Parish of St. Matthew promptly responded, and the following persons were duly chosen.* John Stirk, John Adam Truetlen, George Walton, Edward Jones, Jacob Waldhauer, Philip Howell, Isaac Young, Jenkins Davis, John Morel, John Floerl, Charles McCay, Christopher Craemer. Thus the Salzburgers, or a very large majority of them, identified themselves with the cause of American Independence even in its very incipiency, and, as will hereafter appear, they bore their full share in all the dangers and sufferings of the struggle which ensued.
There was a portion of the Salzburgers, however, who (no doubt from conscientious motives) refused to unite in any remonstrance against the proceedings of the mother country, or to take any part in the revolutionary measures which were afterwards adopted. The following document is inserted to show the feelings of these Salzburgers:
Wednesday, September 21, 1775.
We, who have just put our names to this paper, inhabitants of the Parish of St. Matthew and town of Ebenezer, think it necessary in this public manner to declare that about the 4th day of this inst. (August) we were told by certain persons that we must send a petition home to our king in regard to the Bostonians, to beg for relief, as a child begs a father when he expects correction; and that all those who would not join must sign their names, that they might know how many would be in this parish; and that should we decline what was recommended, we must expect the Stamp Act imposed upon us. By these and like flattering words we were persuaded to sign, but we find we are deceived, for that the people who met at Savannah on the 10th inst. did not petition our king, but made up a paper, which we think is very wrong, and may incur the displeasure of his Majesty, so as to prevent us from having soldiers to help us in case of an Indian Avar. We therefore disagree entirely from said paper, and do hereby protest against any resolutions that are, or may hereafter be, entered into on this occasion. Signed, Urban Buntz, George Gnann, John Paulus, George Gruber, Matthew Biddenbach, George Ballinger, John 0. Rentz, George Buntz, John Pillager, Henry Ludwig Buntz, Jacob Metzger, John Metzger, John Adam Freymouth, Jacob Feberl, George Zittrauer, John Heckel, Solomon Zandt, Jacob Gnann, Jacob Kieffer, Christian Steiner, John Remshart, Israel Linlberger, Leonhart Krauss, George Bechly, Batlas Kieffer, Michael Mack, Jr., Peter Freyermouth, Solomon Prothero, John Gravenstine, Christopher Rottenberger, Andrew Gnann.
We, the subscribers, do hereby certify that we are against all resolutions: Philip Dell, Paul Pirick, Matthew Meyer, Jacob Meyer, John Maurer, George Maurer, Daniel Weitman, Martin Reylander.
These latter persons, at this time, belonged clearly to that class who advocated the doctrine of “passive obedience and non-resistance,” recognising, no doubt, the divine right of kings, and yielding uncomplaining acquiescence in the will of their sovereign.
The views of these remonstrants were, however, subsequently very materially changed, and the majority of them espoused warmly the Whig cause, and took a very active part in favour of American Independence.
The adherents to the crown in St. Matthew’s Parish proved ultimately to be comparatively few. Yet they were sufficient to create an angry controversy among the inhabitants, which imbittered their feelings, and interfered very materially with the peace and prosperity of the church. The largest portion of the Salzburgers espoused the cause of the colonies. They exclaimed, “We have experienced the evils of tyranny in our own land; for the sake of liberty we have left home, lands, houses, estates, and have taken refuge in the wilds of Georgia; shall we now submit again to bondage? No, never.” A truly noble sentiment! and one which all the boasted patriotism of New England never surpassed. They had realized the sweets of freedom, they had sat beneath the tree of liberty, reposed in its shade, and partaken of its precious fruits; they therefore resolved that they would be freemen, and maintain their just rights at all hazards.
But they dreamed not as yet of the difficulties and privations which awaited them, nor the scenes of severe conflict through which they would have to pass. They were divided among themselves. Even one of their pastors (Mr. Triebner) openly espoused the cause of the king, and used all his influence to suppress the spirit of resistance to the usurpations of the British government, which was everywhere manifesting itself. And it was as much owing to his efforts, as to those of any other man, that the Salzburgers suffered so severely during the Revolutionary War. Mr. Rabenhorst pursued a more manly and judicious course, which was, however, to have been expected from his known character for prudence. If he did not openly espouse the cause of liberty, he did nothing to injure it. He laboured to calm the turbulence of passion, and endeavoured to enforce, by precept and example, the cultivation of a spirit of moderation and forbearance among those who had taken opposite sides in this controversy. This, however, was impossible in the very nature of things; and it was perhaps fortunate for him, that in the midst of the commotion and the scenes of strife which ensued, he was called by the great Head of the church to receive his reward in heaven.
It has been found impracticable to ascertain the precise time when Mr. Rabenhorst departed this life, nor any of the particulars connected with his death. He arrived at Ebenezer in 1752, and probably served the congregation about twenty-five years. His character for piety, learning, Christian humility, and unyielding devotion to the cause of Christ was fully established, and the testimony of his life is the best guarantee that he closed his earthly pilgrimage in full prospect of a better inheritance. His remains were deposited in the cemetery connected with Zion’s church, about four miles below Ebenezer. It was near this church that Mr. Rabenhorst always resided, the other pastor being settled in Ebenezer.
The influence of Mr. Rabenhorst’s example upon the Salzburgers was very salutary; and, but for the counteracting effect of Mr. Triebner’s efforts and deportment, he would have accomplished a vast amount of good. Even amid the adverse circumstances which surrounded him, he did very much for the spiritual welfare of the congregation; and the pious Salzburgers in Savannah, and throughout his whole charge, held him in very high esteem. But, like his worthy colleagues, Bolzius and Lembke, he passed away from earth, and now sleeps calmly among those for whom he laboured well and profitably for a quarter of a century.
* Salzburgers in italics.