Introduction to the Moravian diary

Photograph of the Moravian seal rendered in stained glass.  The seal depicts a lamb with a halo and a white flag with a red cross.

The Moravian seal, symbol of the Moravian church. . About the photograph

The Moravians made their first settlement in America, in 1735, on the lower Savannah River, where Count Zinzendorf had obtained from the Georgia Trustees a grant of five hundred acres. Rather than bear arms against the Spaniards they removed to Pennsylvania in 1738–1740 and settled Bethlehem and Nazareth. Here by their industry and sobriety they won the good opinion of Thomas Penn, the proprietor, and with his assistance the Moravians procured, in 1749, an Act of Parliament expressly designed to encourage their immigration to the British colonies in America, there to enjoy full liberty of conscience, exemption from military service for reasonable compensation, and permission to make a solemn affirmation instead of taking an oath.

Under the new conditions the Moravians immediately set about to acquire a large tract of land in America on which to build a central town with administrative offices, and with trades, industries, and schools, the town to be also a center from which to carry on missionary work among the Indians, and the remainder of the tract to be sold to and occupied by Moravian farmers. Land was cheaper in North Carolina than in any of the colonies to the northward. Lord Granville, President of the Privy Council, was proprietor of the northern portion of that colony, and he made a liberal offer. Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, a bishop in the Moravian Church and superintendent of Moravian affairs in Pennsylvania, was commissioned to select a suitable site. With five of the brethren, all on horseback, he set out from Bethlehem the 25th of August, 1752. The party reached Edenton, North Carolina, the 10th of September and was there joined by Lord Granville’s agent and surveyor-general. Weeks of hardship followed, but late in December a site was selected in the region of the head waters of the Yadkin, and here a tract of 98,985 acres was surveyed and named Wachovia. Bishop Spangenberg returned to Bethlehem, and in August, 1753 Lord Granville deeded the tract to the agent of the Church for £500 and a yearly rent of three shillings per hundred acres.

The next step was to establish a settlement, and to this end a party of twelve single men set out from Bethlehem the 8th of October with six horses and a wagon loaded with their effects. The party consisted of Rev. Bernhard Adam Grube, the first minister of the new settlement; Jacob Loesch, business manager; Hans Martin Kalberlahn, physician; Henrich Feldhausen, carpenter; Erich Ingepretsen, carpenter; Hans Petersen, tailor; Jacob Lunge, gardener; Herman Loesch, farmer; Christopher Merkli, baker; Friedrich Jacob Pfeil, shoemaker and tanner; Jacob Beroth, farmer; and Johannes Lischer, farmer. Brethren Gottlob Koenigsderfer, Nathaniel Seidel, and Joseph Haberland accompanied them, but these three soon returned to Bethlehem. The road which they traveled the greater part of the distance was that from the Yadkin River to Philadelphia by way of the Shenandoah Valley, a road which at the time was in the making as the result of a general movement of Germans from Pennsylvania to the “back parts” of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

It is the account of their journey that is given in this Diary which was written by one of the party, most likely by Brother Grube. The original document is preserved in the Archives of the Moravian Church at Winston-Salem, North Carolina; the translation which is here printed is by Miss Adelaide L. Fries, the Archivist.