|In 1984, Albert Winter of Salzburg, Austria
visited Ebenezer for the 250th anniversary of
the landing, and upon his return home, he
requested that Austrian officials donate a
monument to the Georgia Salzburgers. Anton
Thuswaldner was commissioned to sculpt the
monument of stone cut from the Austrian
mountains and it was brought to Savannah
and dedicated in 1994. In June, 1996, a half
acre area around the monument was named
Salzburger Park. Monument, left (click)
|Around Ebenezer, the few entities which still had "German sounding" names during the W W One
anti-German hysteria were changed. German Mutual Fire Insurance Co. became Atlanta Mutual
Fire Insurance Co. and the German- American Club was renamed the Lexington Society.
On the list of Settlers, you will recognize some names from the disappointed Holland group who
returned to Germany and then left on the later boats for friends and family in Ebenezer.
|Then there was Beer... Life in a Colony Continues
|The life of the Georgia Salzburgers was far from romantic. They had great challenges that needed
daily attention and problems of immediate urgency, one of the latter being a lack of beer. Oglethorpe
soon realized that he could not supply enough beer to guarantee the success in the settlement. The
thirsty settlers brewed a pitiful "desperation drink" made of molasses, sassafras and the tops of fir
trees and affectionately called it beer, but it was a poor substitute for the real suds so near and dear
to their old Germanic hearts. Although Georgia was designed to be a temperance colony, Oglethorpe
realized the gravity of the beer situation and expressed his desire to the trustees on October 7, 1738.
He urgently requested that "fifty or sixty tuns of beer from the brewery of Hucks at Southwark" be
sent him, and said: "cheap beer is the only means to keep rum out", apparently thinking he was
warding off one evil by substituting another less potent evil. Oglethorpe himself even accompanied
the fleet of beer-bringers in his scout boat and placed all the strong beer on board one boat where he
could personally keep an eye on it. The settlers also made sauerkraut out of collard greens, maybe as
an accompaniment to their horrid "near beer". An old Salzburger recipe dictates how one salts and
ferments the greens much in the same way as cabbage is prepared to make sauerkraut. The settlers
also brought something to sit under while they drank beer: the Austrian Pine, called Black Pine, its
seeds allegedly having been carried in the Salzburgers' baggage as a reminder of home.
The Salzburgers were not the only people with drinking habits Oglethorpe had settled in his dry
colony. The virtuous Moravians were mostly beer drinking Germans who had embarked for Georgia
with Oglethorpe and John Wesley, who so impressed Wesley that he studied German in order to
converse with them. He said that they were "the only genuine Christians he had ever met."
The Salzburgers occupied approximately 25 square miles on the eastern side of Effingham County.
By the fall of 1737, many farmsteads had also been established on the Mill Creek bluff, also known
as Abercorn Creek. This area became known as the Mill District after several mills were established:
the first grist mill, the first rice mill and the first saw mill, left, in the colony. The Salzburgers also
built the market squares in Savannah to sell their wares and opened the first orphanage in America.
The Trustees' Garden in Savannah gave each Salzburger family a white mulberry tree for producing
silk and two people were instructed in reeling in hopes of establishing a lucrative silk industry. They
had two machines in operation in 1749 in Boltzius’s yard which produced fifty pounds of spun silk.
Never was successful elsewhere, the silk culture provided some income in New Ebenezer.
While idealistic at first, the trustees in charge allowed their ideals to be compromised later with the
introduction of slaves* and liquor, yet they blamed the colony’s poverty to the " intemperance and
laziness" of the settlers. At length Parliament stopped its subsidy of the colony, and in 1751, the
trustees resigned their charter. The Salzburgers, however, played a prominent role in the affairs of
Ebenezer throughout the colonial era because of its strategic location in the defense of Savannah.
Cultural solidarity characterized the first 30 years of the colony. Boltzius was the force who set the
pace of the Salzburger communities and he dominated their direction for the rest of his life. During
this time, the settlements retained their strong German identity.
In 1740, Rev. George Whitefield had presented a small bronze bell cast in England to the first
Jerusalem Church and later gave them a bigger bell. The church was also visited by Rev. Heinrich
Melchior Muhlenburg who came in 1742 before traveling to serve Lutheran communities in
By 1752, Bethany settlement was established 5 miles north of Ebenezer Creek and 150 Salzburgers
moved there, mostly relatives and friends of the Ebenezer settlers. They opened the first schools and
the first orphanage in the colony at Bethany and Ebenezer. Others settled a new community called
Goshen 10 miles south of Ebenezer. Some Salzburgers moved into the settlements of Abercorn,
which had been settled with Scots, and Halifax, which was the only one of these settlements outside
present day Effingham County.
After the death of Boltzius in 1765, there were about 1,050 residents in Ebenezer and its sister
communities. The Salzburgers built the permanent Jerusalem Lutheran Church in 1769 with 21-inch
thick walls made of handmade brick created from Georgia clay fired in a nearby kiln, and some
bricks on the front of the church still bear the fingerprints of Salzburger children who helped mold
and carry them. The bells adorned the church and rang every Sunday. Then, the population began to
fragment, a sad state further exacerbated by the events of the American Revolution.
One would think their labor, sacrifice and patience would be rewarded, but it was not to be for our
star-crossed Salzburgers. During the Revolutionary War, the British under Col. Archibald Campbell,
71st Rgmnt., Highlanders head quartered at the town on December 29, 1778. Although most
Salzburgers were neutral in the conflict, Campbell ordered cottages plundered, then targeted for
cannon practice. They then burned many of the buildings. His troops seized the Salzburgers'
possessions, ruined their gardens and chased out and terrorized the people. They used the old church
as a hospital, a storehouse and as a holding center for prisoners. Finally, as they realized that England
was losing the war, they spitefully used the brick-floored church as a stable for their horses. They
burned the pews, hymnals, Bibles, library and copies of daily journals of its pastors. One especially
bitter British soldier fired a round through the swan weathervane on the church steeple, which had
survived an ocean voyage from the Old World.
It's interesting to note that the British instigated slaves to flee their masters and rally to the Loyalist
cause with an implied promise of freedom. An estimated five thousand slaves joined the British in
Georgia during the 1778 campaign. But the freed slaves reaped no benefit from the British and most
were simply abandoned.
In the Spring of 1781, Georgia's first elected Governor, John Adam Treutlen, who had been raised in
Ebenezer, was murdered by a gang of Tories in South Carolina. Finally, the Patriots under General
"Mad" Anthony Wayne drove the British out, but not fully until 1782. Church members immediately
cleaned and repaired their church and resumed worship. The Georgia Legislature also met in the
church and named Ebenezer the Capital of Georgia for two weeks ( this makes this church the oldest
"public building" in Georgia ).
The Georgia Germans were pressured to assimilate after the Revolution, and many surnames were
Anglicized and no longer German. Sadly, with their beloved town in ruins, most of the Salzburgers
found new homes elsewhere. By 1782, most of the colonial Salzburger settlements were abandoned.
New Ebenezer, Abercorn, Bethany, and the Mill District were essentially ghost towns. After an
interval, Georgia was reorganized, whereupon some new growth, already begun in response to the
trustee’s relaxations, put the colony on a more prosperous footing. But 2,000 residents had relocated,
New Ebenezer declined even more until 1855, when it all but vanished. Many had not gone too
terribly far and were still able to visit the church on Sundays, so the church remained active.
* The Salzburgers were generally opposed to slavery and part of the community agreement they all
signed bound them to reject it. However, three years after their arrival, their minister Rev.Boltzius
uncovered the fact that a Mr. Kiefer was secretly housing slaves on his farm. By 1750, because of
pressure from the trustees, Boltzius himself decided, much against his personal convictions, in favor
of slavery. By 1770, two slaves who were Boltzius’ personal servants were listed as part of
the church inventory.Two other Lutheran pastors kept slaves as well. The Reverands Rabenhorst
and Lemcke owned 12 of the 59 young slaves baptized between 1753 and 1781. Boltzius and the
others seemed to justify slavery not only because of political pressure, but from the thought that if
one took slaves with the intent of leading them to Christianity, it would not be a sin, but a blessing.
There is also some evidence of Lutheran-Muslim interaction found in the journals of the Salzburger's
pastors John Martin Boltzius and Israel Christian Gronau because of the presence of Muslim slaves
originally from West Africa who lived in the area around the Salzburger community.
Alas, there were more hard times to come. Ebenezer was the historic setting of an infamous Civil
War incident during Sherman's March to the Sea campaign. When Federal troops filed across
Ebenezer Creek with Confederates close on their tails on December 8, 1864, they destroyed their
pontoon bridge behind them, intentionally leaving hundreds of freed slaves who had been following
them stranded on the wrong side of the river. With the Confederate cavalry rapidly approaching,
many slaves panicked and drowned as they tried to flee across the creek.
|The Salzburgers had company:
|Some of Sherman's Union soldiers encamped on the Eden Road after passing through Springfield.
Other troops camped at the old town of Ebenezer and occupied Jerusalem Church, once again using
its picket fence, Bibles and hymnals for fires and engaging in skirmishes on the grounds. The Church
is an amazing testament to survival, both of villains and of heroes. Up until 1803, all services were
still conducted in German. The church, along with the cemetery and one home, are all that remain
from the original community today. A small group of descendants continue to worship in the brick
church, giving Jerusalem Lutheran Church the longest continual congregation in America, and the
oldest church bells in Georgia still ringing from its heights.
In Germany, the plight of the Salzburg exiles gave fodder to imaginative story tellers for many
generations. At one time, even Goethe donned a wide brimmed Salzburg hat, as was the latest fad,
and wrote his timeless tale of 'Hermann und Dorothea' based on the Salzburg exiles' story. However,
Goethe adapted it to more recent times and the poor maiden is represented as a German from the
west bank of the Rhine fleeing from the turmoil caused by the French Revolution. Goethe kept some
of the characters original and he invented others, while weaving historical accounts of the Salzburgers
journey into modern fable. Schubert later wrote and overture for it.
|THE SALZBURGERS: GEORGIA