|Apart from the colonies in Effingham county, some Salzburgers went to other more exotic areas in
Georgia such as what is now St. Simons Island. In part, Georgia was established to protect the other
colonies against Spanish invasion from the south, and a year after Savannah was settled, James
Oglethorpe sailed south on the inland waterway in search of a place to build a fort. He chose St.
Simons Island, approximately seventy-five miles south of Savannah. The trustees seemed to prefer
Salzburgers and Scottish Highlanders as settlers, and Oglethorpe returned to America in 1736 along
with a carefully selected group of 275 settlers, soldiers, and staff, including John and Charles Wesley.
John came to be a missionary to the Indians and a pastor to the colonists, and Charles was to serve
as a private secretary to Oglethorpe.
When their ship arrived on February 6, 1736, the Wesley brothers continued to stay on the ship a
while and the local Yamacraw chief went on board to present John Wesley with a gift of milk and
honey. During the voyage across the Atlantic, John Wesley was amazed at the inner calm of the
twenty five Moravian Germans on board even in frightening weather, and when they finally
disembarked, the brothers initially stayed with the Moravians. It was decided that John Wesley move
into a parsonage there while Charles and Reverand Ingram would go on to Fort Frederica.
A problem had arisen on the ship when some of the Salzburgers were reluctant to move onto their
new island home after finding out that it was to be a military settlement where they might have to
fight, and most of them preferred to join the Salzburger community at Ebenezer.
Some of the former mountain folk were also reluctant to continue when they discovered that the
remainder of the voyage was to be made in small boats. Believing it unwise to take anyone to the
outpost who was unwilling, Oglethorpe then recruited from within the group, and part of the
Salzburgers remained at Savannah while the others agreed to continue to St. Simons Island, where
Fort Frederica was soon built.
By March, 1736, forty-four men and seventy-two women and children began life in the new town,
each with a lot for a house. There was also a large public garden, a common meadow for cattle and
two wells. There was a doctor, carpenter, baker, shoemaker, bricklayer, locksmith and others with
necessary skills. Within a short time from 1736 until 1758, Frederica was developed as an
industrious, self-contained society. The island Salzburgers mingled with the Scottish settlers and
made their living by planting, fishing and selling their products.
Despite his good intentions, Charles Wesley angered some of the settlers so much with his strict
sermons that when some local women started spreading gossip about him, he ended up sleeping on
the ground. His experience was so miserable that he left the Island for Savannah after two months of
constant illness and disagreements with both Oglethorpe and the settlers. Charles later returned to
England, never to return.
In Savannah, even after preaching all day, John Wesley would attend the Moravians' Sunday evening
German services. After his brother left, he visited the Fort and was dismayed at the settlers' dire
"spiritual condition". He twice returned later, but the settlers rejected him in the same way they had
his brother, and on one occasion one of the female trouble-makers tried to shoot him. When he
snatched her gun, she went after him with a scissors, and when she failed to strike him, he grabbed
her and she bit him. The Wesleys probably regarded their time in Georgia as a spiritual failure. John
later wrote in his Journal, "I came to convert the Indians, but, oh, who will convert me?"
Greatly impressed by the pious Moravians he had met on his journey, however, John Wesley started
the first known gathering of children together on Sundays for religious education in Savannah. He
would later translate thirty-three German hymns into English, including 'Befiehl du deine Wege':
"Give to the winds thy fears" by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). After his return to England, he
continued to visit with Moravians regularly.
Despite the brothers' difficulties, however, they managed to establish a congregation on the island
which was served by Benjamin Ingham and later the famous preacher George Whitefield in 1737.
Today it is known as Christ Church, Frederica (Episcopal). George Whitefield, the Wesleys'
successor, had better luck with the colonists and apparently survived bite-free. When Oglethorpe's
regiment was disbanded in 1749, most of the Salzburgers left St. Simons Island. By the early 1800s,
"German village" was absorbed into a plantation called "The Village." Today, as in the rest of the
early Georgia settlements, all that is left is an historic marker.
Note: Even though James Oglethorpe founded Georgia as a place where "neither slavery nor strong
drink" was to be allowed, he recognized that wine growing was a basic economic activity. "We shall
certainly succeed," he muttered; The Trustees' Garden in Savannah, Georgia was deemed "the first
agricultural experiment station in America," and the garden was intended as a source of grapes among
other plants for the new colony. It did not do well. The earliest American wine on record was,
however, made much earlier in 1564 on St. Simon's Island, only a few miles north of a Huguenot
outpost in Florida.
Later, Colonel William Cooke sent out sixteen different sorts of vine cuttings to St. Simon's Island
from France in 1737, but they apparently did not produce well and he tried to make wine from native
grapes. An enthusiastic neighbor of Cooke's named Lieutenant Horton described the experiment to
the trustees in 1740 in glowing terms (although a year later the trustees heard from others that the
wine experiment was a failure). Undaunted, Horton was among those who received 3,000 cuttings
sent to the settlement of Frederica by William Stephens in 1744. Supposedly, within a year,
Oglethorpe received a cask of wine made at Frederica. The colonists at Ebenezer experienced failure
with grapes and had no great interest in wine production. They preferred beer.
One of the late comers to Ebenezer was one Johann Wilhelm De Brahm, an engineer and
mapmaker of no small repute. He was a native of Germany and a military engineer in the army of
Karl VII. Three years after he resigned his commission, he led a group of immigrants to America
in 1751, settling in Ebenezer. He received an appointment as surveyor general for Georgia in 1754
and a commission from South Carolina in 1755 to repair the fortifications of Charles Town. De
Brahm was also hired to design Fort Loudoun. De Brahm accompanied the first garrison of
troops under the command of Captain Raymond Demeré in the summer of 1756 to the proposed
site on the Little Tennessee River. De Brahm did not approve of the site, which led to hard
feelings between he and Demeré. Demeré perceived De Brahm's actions as inciting mutiny and
rallied the officers of the garrison behind him, forcing De Brahm to abandon the project and
abruptly leave on Christmas Eve, 1756. In 1757, he oversaw construction of a small fort at
Ebenezer to protect against Indians.
De Brahm continued his valuable work as an engineer and surveyor. When Colonial leaders
wanted a fort on Cockspur Island to protect the growing port of Savannah from Spanish attack,
de Brahm supervised the construction of Fort George in 1761. When his appointment as surveyor
general of Georgia ended in 1764, he became surveyor general for both East Florida and the
Southern District. He learned a great deal about the Cherokee Indians and in 1773 issued his
"Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America," which included
information obtained during his stay among them. At the onset of the Revolution, De Brahm
returned to England and stayed a few years, enduring financial hardship. He returned to
Charleston in 1789, then moved to Philadelphia, where he died in 1796.
|The Island Salzburgers
|THE SALZBURGERS: GEORGIA