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Treasure Trove of Records

John Schaub’s 300 acres

Christian Gottlieb Reuter’s 1769 survey for John Schaub’s 300 acres in Wachovia has finally made it to the Moravian Archives.

A little ‘Indiana Jones’ music, if you please

It’s the archivist’s version of Indiana Jones.

Someone brings into the Archives a mess of papers and says, “Here, if you don’t want them you can toss ’em out.”

The papers are very old and filthy. You treat them with utmost respect.

Gingerly you vacuum off the coal dust, imagining generations of locomotives belching the soot into the air to gently settle on these mysterious bundles of papers. Carefully you unfold them. At last you can read what they are.

You can hardly believe your eyes.

Lying before you is a collection of records two centuries old that you knew should have existed but you had never seen before.

Now at last those papers have come home to the Archives.

* * *

That is precisely what happened at the Moravian Archives last December 8 when Mark Leinbach brought in two large cardboard boxes from his office as property manager of Salem Congregation. One box contained mostly printed materials that the Archives already had. But the second box . . . .

The first sheet of paper lying casually atop the second box was a hand-drawn survey for 300 acres of land for John Schaub. It was dated August 4, 1769, and signed by Christian Gottlieb Reuter, the Moravian Church’s resident surveyor in the 1700s.

We were holding in our hands the survey for the first local sale of property in Wachovia, the 100,000-acre tract of land that the Moravian Church had bought from the Earl of Granville, the last remaining Lord Proprietor of the Carolina colonies.

That one survey introduced the entire box. Here were 12 inches deep of papers, maps, and booklets, almost all pertaining to Wachovia land matters from 1769 to about 1811. That means they were all Provincial papers, not Salem Congregation, which is probably why they sat ignored in Salem Congregation offices for a century and a half or more.

What else did the 12-inch stack of papers hold?

A large booklet, 10 by 18 inches, was labeled “Drafts.” It opened to reveal four vividly colored maps stitched into the binding. Each map, measuring 19 by 16 inches, showed a section of Wachovia: northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest. They were a miniature version of Reuter’s “Great Map” of Wachovia, only they weren’t done by Reuter but by another surveyor, probably Reuter’s successor, Ludwig Meinung.

Also stitched into the booklet was a map of Salem, dated July 1799 and signed “Fr. M., sec.” — Friedrich Christian Meinung, Ludwig’s 17-year-old son who also became a church surveyor. The map had an accompanying list of lot holders.

Placed loose in the “Drafts” booklet was a map of Friedland, drawn by Christian Gottlieb Reuter and as brilliantly colored as if he had done it yesterday.

Thanks to the generosity of our Friends of the Archives, the Friedland map and the maps stitched into the “Drafts” booklet have been sent to a conservator for proper preservation so they can be fully opened and studied.

Other items in the “Drafts” booklet included

  • a list of names of water courses in Wachovia;
  • a map of John Ettwein’s 1761 trip to “Doople Creek” 14 miles north of Pilot Mountain;
  • a packet of papers about Ninety-Six, the Moravians’ attempt to begin a settlement congregation in South Carolina;
  • a map of North Carolina along the Virginia line showing water courses;
  • a map of “Tennassee,” probably c. 1803.

A folder titled “Diversa” held a map showing Wachovia lands sold to 1787. This map is similar to the one published inRecords of the Moravians in North Carolina, v. 3, p. 1342.

There were surveys from 1770 to 1811, and survey booklets from 1851-1860 (these latter were noted as copied into Survey Book No. 2, already on file at the Archives).

Christian Gottlieb Reuter’s survey of the Salem Town Lot, dated Nov. 1771, was in a second folder titled “Diversa,” as was a map of Gnadenhütten, Ohio, drawn in 1799 by Carl Gotthold Reichel.

Any of the above items by itself would be a superb acquisition. The crown jewel, though, in that 12-inch stack of papers was a brown booklet humbly titled “Deed Book, 1771-1809.”

For years — centuries — the Archives lacked a “deed book” and so had been turning away genealogists who wanted to know about the land their ancestors had bought in Wachovia. Go to the appropriate register of deeds, we had to tell them, whether at Salisbury for when Wachovia was in Rowan County, or Dobson for Surry County, or Danbury for Stokes.

It was frustrating to send people away un-helped. Adelaide Fries, our long-time archivist and church historian, even tried to construct a kind of “deed book” using 3-by-5 inch file cards. She got only as far as names of purchasers. What Miss Adelaide needed was a “deed book” with all the proper details.

The Moravian Church for decades after the Revolutionary War tried to collect the ancient English fee called quitrent from purchasers of Wachovia land. It makes sense, then, that the church had to keep track of who owned the land and owed the quitrent.

It had to keep an accurate and detailed “deed book” of land transaction.

Salem Town Lot

Now it was home at last in the Archives.

Yes, receiving a pile of records like this is the dream of a lifetime for an archivist, an Indiana Jones moment.

No, it’s better than that. Indiana Jones never filed away his Ark of the Covenant so he could lay his hands on it again.

But we have.

Yup, it’s now official. Salem Town Lot was surveyed by Christian Gottlieb Reuter in 1771.