|The First Impressions
|25-year-old Baron Philip von Reck, who accompanied the settlers, wrote the following optimistic
description of the site, which would later be found to be unsatisfactory, in his journal. On March 15,
1734, James Oglethorpe, von Reck, Reverend Israel Gronau and two Salzburgers left Savannah to
search for a site for settlement. They agreed on a location two days later on a creek about twenty
miles northwest of Savannah. At first, they were excited by it:
"We continued our Journey, and set out by Break of Day, and at nine arrived at the Place where the
Saltzburgers were afterwards settled. I shall here give a short description of it. The Lands are
inclosed between two Rivers, which fall into the Savannah. The Saltzburg Town is to be built near
the largest, which is called Ebenezer...and is navigable, being twelve Foot deep. A little Rivulet,
whose Water is as 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 Pains: there are Hillocks, very fit for Vines. The Cedar, walnut, Pine, Cypress, and Oak, make
the greatest Part of the Woods. There is found in them 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 Herbs of which Indigo is made, and Abundance of
China Roots. The Earth is so fertile, that it will bring forth anything 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 one may ride full gallop 20 or 30 Miles an end. As to Game, here
are Eagles, Wild Turkies, Roe-Bucks, Wild Goats, Stags, Wild Cows, Horses, Hares, Partridges &
Buffaloes." An Extract of the Journals of Mr. Commissary Von Reck, Who Conducted the First
Transport of Saltzburgers to Georgia;
An Account of Reverend Mr. Bolzius, One of their Ministers. 1734. 'The Salzburgers arrive in
Mar. 5. A. S. S. W. arose, which carried us, through the Mercy of Jesus Christ, within sight of
Carolina. We sung Te Deum, and the 66th Psalm, which was the Psalm for the Day, and seemed
adapted to our Condition and Circumstances: and we trust it will be a Psalm of Rememberance to us
upon the Day, which is to be celebrated every Year, as a Thanksgiving unto the Lord, for all his
Mercies vouchsafed unto us. At Eleven in the Forenoon, we discovered the Coast of Carolina, all
covered over with large Pine Trees. The Wind being N. W. by W. contrary, we could not reach the
Point of Charlestown, so that we were forced, as we had been in our Voyage from Rotterdam to
Dover, to stand off and on several times, in order to get more Wind. God acts, with us, as he did
with the Israelites: Joshua was to circumcise all those who were willing to enter into Canaan: so God
is willing to circumcise; amend, and convert our Hearts, before he let us disembark. Towards
Evening, we met an English Ship, which came from Charlestown this Afternoon, and was bound for
London. He told us the agreeable News of Mr. Oglethorpe's being safely arrived the Night before at
Charles-town, in his Way to England, which mightily rejoiced and comforted us.
Mar. 6. At six in the Morning, the Wind blowing hard at West, we lost Sight of Land; though at
Noon, the Wind coming to the South, we saw Land again: but Night approaching, we lay off and on.
Mar. 7. At Nine, there came from Charles-town, a Pilot on Board our Ship, we immediately cast
Anchor; and at Ten, the Captain, the Reverend Divines, and I went into the Pilot's Boat. At one in
the Afternoon, we came to Charles-town, where I immediately waited on his Excellency Robert
Johnson Esq; and Mr. Oglethorpe. They were glad to hear that the Saltzaburgers were come within
six Leagues, all safe and in good health, without the Loss of any one Person. Mr. Oglethorpe showed
me a Plan of Georgia, and gave me the Liberty to choose a Settlement for the Saltzburgers, either
near the Sea, or further in the Continent. I accordingly accepted his Favour, and chose a Place 21
Miles from theTown of Savannah, and 30 Miles from the Sea, where there are Rivers, little Hills,
clear Brooks, cool Springs, a fertile Soil, and plenty of Grass.
Charles-town is a fine Town, and a Sea-Port, and enjoys an extensive Trade. It is built on a Flat, and
has large Streets: the Houses good, mostly built of Wood, some of Brick. Wheat Bread is very dear
here, there being no Wheat Flour but what Gentlemen raise upon their Plantations for their own Use,
and that is very good; or what they receive from the Northern Colonies, or from England; Rice is
here excellent and cheap.
There are five Negroes to one White, and there are imported generally 3000 fresh Negroes every
Year. There are computed to be 30,000 Negroes in this Province, all of them Slaves, and their
Posterity for ever: They work six Days in the Week for their Masters without pay, and are allowed to
work on Sundays for themselves. Baptism is rarely here administer'd to the Children of the Negroes,
and Marriage is not in use amongst them; but they are suffer'd promiscuously to mix, as if they were
a Part of the Brute Creation. Being thus used, lays amongst them a Foundation of Discontent; and
they are generally thought to watch an Opportunity of revolting against their Masters, as they have
lately done in the Island of St. John and of St. Thomas, belonging to the Danes and Sweeds; and it is
the Apprehension of these and other Inconveniences, that has induced the Honourable Trustees for
Georgia, to prohibit the Importation and Use of Negroes within their Colony.
Mr. Oglethorpe sent on Board our Ship, by the Pilot's Sloop, a large Quantity of fresh Beef, two
Butts of Wine, two Tunn of Spring Water, Cabbage, Turnips, Radishes, Fruit, &c. as a present from
the Trustees, to refresh the Saltzburgers after their long Voyage; for which Kindness (under God) we
cannot be sufficiently thankful to them.
Mar. 8. We thought this Morning to have gone with the Pilot's Long Boat, on Board our Ship the
Purrysburg, for the Captain had taken here a Pilot, to bring us into the River Savannah. Mr.
Oglethorpe had given us for our Guide Mr. Dunbar, who knows the Country very well, and was
already settled in Georgia, near the Place appointed for us. We thought, I say, to have gone this
morning; but the Boat was too much loaded, and theWind, which was E. S. E. though favourable for
Georgia, was contrary for us to reach our Ship. We returned to the Town, and lay there.
Mar. 9. We beg'd of God, that he would permit us to go to our Georgia. . We went away this
Morning at ten, and got on Board our Ship at two in the Afternoon.
Mar. 10. God blessed us this Day with the Sight of our Country, our wish'd for Georgia, which we
saw at ten in the Morning; and brought us unto the Savannah River, and caused us to remember the
Vows we had made unto him, if He did through his infinite Goodness bring us hither. We were to
day very much edified with the xxxii Chapter of Genesis, and the xxvi of Leviticus. At Noon, we cast
Anchor because of the Tide: at eight, during the Evening Prayers, we enter'd the River of Savannah;
and were shelter'd by the Divine Goodness, from all Dangers and Inconveniencies of the Sea. This
River is in some Places broader than the Rhine, and from 16 to 25 Foot deep; and abounds with
Oysters, Sturgeon, and other Fish. Its Banks were cloathed with fresh Grass; and a little beyond were
seen Woods, old as the Creation; resounding with the Musick of Birds, who sung the Praise of their
|Ebenezer Creek is a tributary of the Savannah River and the unusual river swamp consists of unique
virgin dwarfed bald cypress trees, some estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. Eight miles of the
tributary creek are a type of stretched out lake created by the damming effect of natural levees and
water levels of the Savannah River, which, when it rises to a certain height during seasonal floods or
heavy rains, backs up water in the Ebenezer tributary like the action of a tide. This "lake" section
rarely goes dry, and its water levels can fluctuate as much as 8 feet and stay high for prolonged
periods. The creek does not always have water of good quality, but it has alligators, fish, turtles,
snakes and many species of birds and, unfortunately, a great deal of insects.
Baron von Reck kept a vivid diary and made detailed sketches and maps of New Ebenezer during his
visit to that settlement in 1736. Many of the invaluable sketches depict native plant and bird species
as well as noting the customs and dress of the local Indians and give us an accurate impression of
what greeted the Salzburgers and what a culture shock it must have been for the simple mountain
folk who had never seen the ocean, let alone alligators. Not much is known about the elusive Baron
von Reck. Von Reck provided the only real glimpse into the early days of Ebenezer.
A short time after they arrived, the Salzburgers were followed by missionary John Wesley, founder
of Methodism, and a large group of Scottish highlanders who also found a new home in Georgia.
Wesley was not so romantic in his assessment: "The land is a hungry barren sand; and upon any
sudden Shower, the Brooks rise several Feet perpendicular, and overflow whatever is near them, and
the Water is generally so low in Summer that a Boat cannot come within 6 or 7 miles of Town."
Indeed, of 44 named passengers on the ship Purysburg, 20 of them would die in 1734 and 1735,
mainly from malaria and dysentery, and by January of 1736, another 21 Salzburgers had perished.
Ebenezer's first location proved too far from the Savannah River, the soil quality was poor and there
was frequent flooding in the area. The Salzburgers received permission to move to a far better new
site on a knoll where the Ebenezer Creek entered the Savannah River, and here they built New
Ebenezer in 1736, which was laid out on a grid pattern with open squares.
In 1735, Britain's Parliament not only funded the entire £25,800 requested by the Trustees for
support of Georgia for the coming year, they threw in an additional £200. The Salzburger settlement
grew later to 1,200 after another 300 Immigrants joined them in 1741. Other transports arrived until
1752. In 1769, they formed bricks with clay dug from the Savannah River banks for a new church,
the Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church.
|Above (click), the London Merchant sails for America in 1738, some of Von Reck's sketches, a
map of area of New Ebenezer on the Savannah River, prepared for Samuel Urlsperger and
published by Matthaeus Seutter in 1747. A period London newspaper on the right makes mention
of the Salzburgers: "The trustees for the colony of Georgia gave instructions to Mr Von Reck to
fetch more Protestants from Germany to be provided for in Georgia; those already there proving a
very religious, diligent, and governable people". Back in London, the emigration was of interest
and updates would be printed in the London media.
|THE SALZBURGERS: GEORGIA