Fries Memorial can be seen as the first fruits of the great Sunday school movement of the late 1800’s following the Civil War.
In the latter part of 1876 Esther Linthicum White noted the need for a Sunday school in her sparsely settled neighborhood of East Salem, and she began gathering children in her home for lessons. For the beginning of a church, “there never was one more humble.” Soon, though, in 1877 help began to arrive. Sunday school materials were donated, ladies of Salem volunteered as teachers, George Frederic Bahnson, son of the bishop and fresh out of seminary, began preaching on July 15, and a little chapel was constructed.
But no one proved so devoted to the budding endeavor as young Henry E. Fries, a Davidson College student who learned of the little Sunday school in a letter from his mother. On returning home to Salem, Br. Fries pitched right in. In October 1877 when Br. Bahnson left for Europe, Br. Fries took charge of the East Salem Sunday School. Regular services were organized, the little chapel was consecrated on December 16, a Christmas program was given on December 23, and the following April an “anniversary” was held. When Br. Fries married, his wife, Rosa Mickey Fries, was already teaching in the Sunday school and leading its music.
All this devoted service bore fruit on December 2, 1888, when East Salem was recognized as a “Branch of the Salem Congregation.”
A fine brick church was constructed in 1915 on East Fourth Street. At first only the building was to have the name Fries Memorial, but soon the congregation itself adopted the name in honor of Br. and Sr. Fries’ many years of service. Br. and Sr. Fries had many more years of service to give until her death in 1938 and his in 1949.
Fries Memorial celebrated its jubilee on June 27, 1926, but in the 1930’s the surrounding neighborhood began to change, and the church faced hard choices. Finally the decision was made in 1943 to move. The new site was a perfect location in a fast-growing section of town on Hawthorne Road at Georgia Avenue. Fries Memorial fit right in and in short order was providing a kindergarten, which in 1959 became the first in Winston-Salem accredited by the state.
In more recent years George Hamilton IV, a son of the congregation and country music personality, has been bringing the Moravian Church to people in an entertaining way with a series of “Moravian Country Concerts.”