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Br. Reuter’s map of Salem, as he laid out the April 12, 1766, selected site of Salem Square, 380 feet by 300 — uh, 270 — feet.
John Ettwein by Valentin Haidt; Moravian Historical Society
Br. Ettwein’s copy of the Brethren’s address to Governor William Tryon.
Governor William Tryon’s reply to the Moravians’ address to him.
“Below the Ens” detail of Christian Gottlieb Reuter’s February 1766 map of Wachovia. E is meeting house. 1 is Adam Spach. 6 is Christian Frey. 7 is George Frey. 9 is Peter Frey. 11 (on the left) is Valentine Frey.
Catalogue of the Inhabitants of Bethabara in Wachovia
John Edwin [Ettwein], Clerk
John Michael Graff, Clerk
Jacob Loesh, Esqr.
Christian Reuter, Surveyor
Matthew Micksh, Shopkeeper
Gottlieb Fockel, Tailor
Daniel Schnepf, Planter
Christoph Kühnast, Shoemaker
John Shaub, Cooper
James van der Merk, Millwright & Turner
George Schmid, Blacksmith
Gottfried Aust, Potter
Jonas Nilson, Tailor
Jacob Kapp, Turner & Miller
George Baumgarten, Baker & Tavern keeper
Peter Sehnert, Farmer
Jacob Blum, Farmer
George Holder, Farmer & Carpenter
Ener Enerson, Cabinet maker
Lorenz Bagge, Joiner
Adam Koffler, Weaver
Joh. Henr. Herbst, Tanner & Currier
Jacob Lung, Gardener
Christian Merkly, Baker
Jac. Fredr. Pfeil, Shoemaker
Andrew Betz, Gunsmith
Jos. Miller, Gunsmith
Valentine Beck, Gun stocker & Tin man
Jeremias Shaaf, Farmer & Soap boiler
John Ranke, Farmer
Jacob Steiner, “
Michael Ziegler, “
George Göpfert, “
George Renner, “
Christian Pfeiffer, Brewer
Christian Triebel, Carpenter
Melchior Rasp, Bricklayer
Peter Stoz, Potter
Henry Zillman, Tailor
John Würtele, Shoemaker
Jacob Ernst, Tanner
John Richter, Tailor
Nils Petersen, Stiller & farmer
Gottfried Braezel [Praezel], Weaver
James Hurst, Weaver
John Birkhead, Clothier
Bernhard Shill, Weaver
John Priem, Farmer
John George Stockburger, Baker & farmer
Daniel Hauser, Blacksmith
Boys & Prentices.
Matth. Reitz, Tanner
John Lanius, “
Jos. Miller, Potter
Rud. Christ, “
Peter Sehnert, Shoemaker
Nathanael Kaske, “
John Nilson, Tailor
John Miller, “
Peter Mücke, Brewer & Stiller
Nath. Bibighaus, in the Store
John Stoz, Gardener
Rud. Straehle, Carpenter
Inhabitants of Bethany [Bethania]
Gottl. Bachoff, Schoolmaster & Reader
Gottfried Grabs, Shoemaker & farmer
Adam Kremer, Tailor & farmer
Michael Ranke, Farmer
Balthasar Hege, “
John Beroth, “
Phil. Transou, Wheelwright,
John Chr. Kirshner, Shoemaker & farmer
Henry Spoenhauer, Cooper & farmer
George Hauser, Blacksmith
Henry Shore, Farmer & carpenter
Philip Shaus, Farmer & shoemaker
Peter Hauser, Weaver & farmer
Mich. Hauser, Weaver & farmer
John Strub, Baker & farmer
By the bye, Salem’s Town Builders report on their returning to Bethabara on May 17, 1766, for church services that they have discovered a “good spring below the square.” Is that the Brothers House spring in the garden today?
Our Brethren should pay attention to the way they treat strangers who visit Salem or who work here at times.
For example, when people from Stinking Quarter [it’s in southeast Guilford County, where the Christmanns are from] come to visit we should give them opportunity to meet other Brethren [than just the Christmanns] to see how the community works. And we should talk to them about the Lord now and then, so they really consider it a spiritual enjoyment to come to Salem.
This holds true also for strangers who work in Salem. Brethren should be friendly with them, discuss Brothers House topics with them, and thus avoid their forming cliques of their own for lack of company in Salem, which could have disastrous results for our young people.
If people do not realize that ultimately we only want their best, we have missed our main goal of why the Lord has brought us here. Outsiders can surely see all our faults, but if they see nothing but gaiety, materialistic pretensions, and self-centered strivings, they will not see that we actually live for the sake of the Lord.
Meanwhile, we in the 21st century can celebrate the 225th anniversary of George Washington’s visit to Salem on May 31 and June 1, 1791. That brought out the neighbors and other congregations to flock into town to see “the most notable man in this country.” And he returned the favor by giving them “opportunity to gratify their wish.” The president inspected Salem’s trades and businesses, expressed approval “especially of the waterworks,” and attended a Singstunde (singing service) and expressed pleasure in it. In the evening he retired to Salem Tavern while the town’s musicians played “sweetly” nearby. Then at 4 in the morning on June 2, 1791, Washington and his entourage set out for the battleground at Guilford Courthouse, pausing for lunch in Kernersville on the way.
In its year-end Memorabilia of notable events, Salem made note of the president’s visit with just one sentence: “We also had the great pleasure of a visit of some days from our dear president, His Excellency, Mr. Washington.”
Salem Tavern, where President George Washington spent two nights in 1791
Salem’s First House as reconstructed. According to Br. Reuter’s plans it measures 38 x 26 feet.
Town Builder Nils Petersen
Born April 3, 1717, in Danish Holstein, Nils Petersen lived more than 87 years, and was the last of the Town Builders to die. In his old age he loved to tell the rising generation stories of the founding of Salem. He was the Town Builders’ cook and Diary writer back then in 1766, and together with Gottfried Praezel he held morning and evening prayers for the company.
Petersen never married, but passed his days in the Brothers House, which he had helped to build, superintending the distillery, one of the industries carried on for the support of the house. When Salem Congregation was organized he was elected to the Aufseher Collegium (board of trustees) and “by the choice of his Brethren and of the whole congregation” he remained a member for 30 years. During the same period he was by turn business manager and spiritual leader of the Single Brethren, and “his industry, faithfulness, and punctuality” won for him the love and high esteem of all.
In 1774 he was considered for ordination, but he lacked two skills essential for Moravian ministers at the time, for Br. Petersen had “no gift either for singing or speaking.” And so he remained a “silent, priestly Brother.”
Though increasing deafness finally forced him to resign his official positions his general health remained good, and he rarely missed a church service, saying that though he could hear little “he could still feel the presence of the Savior, and could rejoice to be with the assembled congregation.” His last months were a gentle slipping away. “If weakness is illness then am I indeed ill” he often said with a smile, as he eagerly awaited the summons home, which came November 4, 1804.
Gravestone of Nils Petersen in Salem God’s Acre
Town Builder Jens Schmidt
Poor Br. Jens Schmidt. It seems he spent his life in torment, the first half spiritual, the second half physical, with only a few brief years of “blessed walk” in his beloved Gemeine, the Moravian Church.
Br. Schmidt was born July 25, 1731, in Seeland, Denmark, to pious parents who “tried to bring me up before God,” he tells us in his memoir. But on coming of age “I learned to love the world and sin above everything else” despite the tuggings of the Holy Spirit on his heart. “It went so far,” he tells us, “that I wished I had never been born.”
When he was almost 25, he turned to his Savior, only to fall away again. In 1758 he learned of the Moravian Church and thought that it might have the “correct doctrine which was lacking in my heart.” Setting out from Copenhagen, he arrived at the Moravian community of Zeist, Netherlands, on May 18, 1761 with the “lovely Text”: Fear not, nor be dismayed (1 Chron. 29:20).
And yet the doubts and discouragements persisted.
But “in 1765 it was proposed to me that I go to Wachovia with a company of Brothers, which I accepted gladly. With praise and thanksgiving we arrived on Jan. 30, 1766, in dear Bethabara.”
Those must have been the happiest days when Br. Schmidt was chosen to be one of the eight Town Builders of Salem. Though certainly landlocked with his training as an anchor-smith, “he always did everything that he could,” his memoir reports, “although he had many a change in his work.”
But about then his health began to fail. He suffered attacks of fever, and they combined with a return of “great confusion of spirit” that “tested and tried the Savior and his Brethren very much.” His illness increased so that Salem’s Poor Fund had to assist him.
Relief for Br. Schmidt came briefly in 1778 when he was assigned to teach Salem’s little boys, “which he liked particularly and in which he manifested all faithfulness.” But that lasted only a little more than a year.
Then toward the end of 1780 a cancerous sore opened on his tongue causing him great pain. He was moved into the Brothers House, for he never married, where he was cared for, taking only sips of liquid amid the pain. His life’s sufferings ended on March 12, 1781, amid the “blessings of his Choir and of the entire congregation.”
Gravestone of Jens Schmidt in Salem God’s Acre
Town Builder Gottfried Praezel
Gottfried Praezel was the youngest of the eight Town Builders, yet he rose the highest of them in official rank in Wachovia.
He was born on December 27, 1739, in Ebersdorf, Upper Lusatia, just a few miles from Herrnhut, where his father often took him. Like Jens Schmidt, as a young adult Praezel felt torment over his soul. But unlike Schmidt, Praezel spoke to a Moravian Brother about it. The Brother assured Praezel of his own sinfulness, but that he had turned to the Savior and had found help. That did it for Br. Praezel. He cast himself upon the Savior, and “from that hour on I felt that my sins were forgiven.”
In 1763 he moved to Herrnhut, and in 1765 “the proposal was made to me to go to Wachovia in America with a company of Brethren, which I accepted gladly and wholeheartedly.”
On reaching Bethabara on January 30, 1766, “I soon became adjusted to conditions here,” and as one of Salem’s Town Builders, “I helped with the work wherever needed, and then I began to set up a small weaving establishment.” His business in the First House on Main Street was the beginning of industry in Salem.
Br. Praezel was appointed assistant leader of Salem’s Single Brothers Choir in 1773 and leader in 1780, having been ordained a deacon on July 14, 1778. In 1781 he was called as “Gemein Diener” — treasurer — of Salem.
In the midst of the Revolutionary War in 1779 the Moravians sent Br. Praezel to the state Assembly in Halifax to appeal for an affirmation (rather than an oath) of allegiance, and exemption from military service on payment of a three-fold tax. His memoir states: “The Savior gave His blessing to this commission so that the request was granted.”
He married twice, to Johanna Elisabeth Leibert widow Nielsen in 1781, and after her death in 1782, to Maria Elisabeth Engel in 1783. The latter gave him two daughters. One married Friedrich Christian Meinung; the other, Karsten Petersen.
Br. Praezel died August 15, 1788, and is buried in Salem God’s Acre. He was not yet 49. His memoir states: “It was his joy to live in peace with everyone and to serve and help each individual, especially the poor.”
Gravestone of Gottfried Praezel in Salem God’s Acre
The Daily Texts for many years underlined the suggested date for Holy Communion generally on a Saturday each month, so that the worldwide Gemeine could partake “together.” This is for June 21, 1766.
Town Builder John Birkhead
Perhaps the most well-known of Salem’s Town Builders today is John Birkhead. For above his gravestone in Salem God’s Acre is a second, much smaller stone. It reads: FIRST GRAVE.
Br. Birkhead was born September 28, 1739, at Huddersfield, Yorkshire, where his parents were members of the Moravian Church. They apprenticed him to another Moravian to learn the cloth-weaving trade, but the preaching of Br. Johannes von Watteville in November 1759 convinced Br. Birkhead that he “wanted to be the Lord’s.”
In one month’s time he abandoned his apprenticeship and moved to nearby Fulneck. He tells us in his memoir: “I came with the intention of becoming wholly the Savior’s, both soul and body, although I wavered and trembled, and thought, ‘Will they receive such a sinful creature as me?’”
Though now living in the security of a Moravian settlement congregation, he announced himself ready for mission service. What he got was a call to Wachovia in 1765. He accepted, and soon was sailing with the rest of the colony of Moravians who arrived in Bethabara on January 30, 1766.
As one of the eight Town Builders, Br. Birkhead moved to Salem’s First Cabin on February 19, 1766. He worked as mortar carrier in those early days. When the Single Brothers House opened in 1769 he moved in and practiced his trade of cloth weaving with some degree of success.
Br. Birkhead’s fatal illness came at a time of great excitement in Wachovia. Royal Governor William Tryon was fresh from his victory over the Regulators when he marched through Salem with his troops on June 4, 1771. He was on his way to Bethabara to celebrate the official birthday, June 6, of King George III. Hastily the German-speaking Brethren asked Br. Birkhead to “afford them his service” since he was an Englishman. But Br. Birkhead was on his deathbed and departed at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on June 5 “with touching liturgy and blessing of his Choir.”
The next day, June 6, Governor Tryon and his army celebrated the king’s official birthday in Bethabara. In Salem Br. Birkhead was buried to become FIRST GRAVE in the newly laid-out God’s Acre. His memoir puts it this touching way, that “on the 6th his earthly house was planted as the first seed-corn on God’s Acre in Salem, which had been put in order this spring, and the graveyard at the same time was solemnly consecrated.” He was just 32 years old.
Footnote: In the hubbub of governor and troops passing through, Salem’s diarist, Br. Richard Utley, recorded the dates of Br. Birkhead’s death and burial as June 6 and 7, 1771. See https://archive.org/stream/recordsofthemora01frie#page/442/. But as an Englishman himself, Br. Utley most likely was attending the governor in Bethabara. All other documents recorded Br. Birkhead’s death and burial as June 5 and 6.
And you wonder why we can’t say precisely this or that when the records say this and that.
Town Builder Jacob Steiner
Not one word in Jacob Steiner’s memoir hints at his being a Town Builder of Salem. Probably that is because he spent most of his time then at Bethabara’s mill sawing Salem’s mammoth old trees into boards before they were carted back to Salem for building.
Br. Steiner was born on July 25, 1734, in Warwick Township — today’s Lititz — near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His parents were Mennonites, and they raised their children according to their faith, but when he was 12 he attended the preaching of Moravian ministers. It was “the first time I heard the doctrine of free grace and Jesus’ blood for poor, perplexed sinners,” he tells us in his memoir. From that time on, he knew where he belonged.
When his parents died while he was still young, the one who took him in had Moravian connections. “He once asked me if I wouldn’t like to move to Bethlehem,” Br. Steiner tells us. “This was exactly what I wanted to do, and thus I became the first in our family to join the Brethren’s Church.”
Br. Steiner arrived in Wachovia on June 13, 1755, just one day before the Brethren of Bethabara celebrated their move into their brand-new Single Brothers House from the old hunter’s cabin that had first sheltered them. There he helped in the housekeeping and went on trips for the community, and most important, his memoir states, “he also helped out in the mill and there cared especially for the sawmill.”
So when it came time to build Salem in 1766, it was Jacob Steiner at the Bethabara mill sawing Salem trees to make Salem building boards.
In fact, milling became Br. Steiner’s life work. In 1771 he oversaw the building of Salem’s mill and then operated it for the next 24 years.
On June 13, 1771, Br. Steiner married Catharina Beroth, and they enjoyed a “contented marriage,” but one fraught with tragedy. Of their five children all four sons died young. One, not yet 2 years old, drowned in the mill race. Nonetheless, he rejoiced in his later years that his nephew Abraham Steiner had begun mission work among the Cherokees, and he could surround himself with his great nieces and nephews.
Br. Steiner’s end came with great pain from infection of his leg, yet he was “completely conscious” on July 21, 1801, when in the sixth hour in the evening he slipped away before those attending him were aware of it.
Town Builder George Holder
Like Jacob Steiner, George Holder’s memoir fails to mention that he was a Town Builder of Salem. That is understandable, since for many years he was a farmer in Wachovia.
Br. George Holder was born on January 27, 1729, in Oley, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles southwest of Bethlehem. Though as a youngster he knew of the Moravians, he “pursued the usual way of the world,” as his memoir put it. All that changed when he had a talk with a Moravian minister who pointed him “toward the Redeemer, who blots out our transgressions.”
On Christmas Day 1748 he entered Bethlehem where he worked as a weaver and farmer.
On October 26, 1754, Br. Holder arrived at Bethabara from Bethlehem with the first company of reinforcement Brethren. Aside from weaving and farming he exercised other skills in the Carolina wilderness. He was a hunter, bagging bears and a wildcat. The court appointed him road master for all of Wachovia. He was “Express,” delivering important correspondence and packages. And as one of Salem’s Town Builders, surely he employed his skill as carpenter when he wasn’t needed at the Bethabara farm. It must have been with a sense of pride that on November 17, 1766, he and his brother Charles moved into a room of Salem’s First House on Main Street. Charles Holder made saddles, and as road master George searched best ways for roads to other settlements.
Br. George Holder was married twice. He and the widowed Sr. Barbara Lick (m.n. Steiner) were one of seven couples in Bethabara and one in Bethania to be the first Moravians in Wachovia to marry, on July 18, 1762. She died in childbirth in 1765. On May 15, 1769, he married Elisabeth Bühler, and they had five children. Their first child, Johann David, was the first born in Salem, on May 7, 1770.
From 1770 to 1772 Br. and Sr. Holder were in charge of the Salem farm across Salem Creek. Then on November 2, 1772, they bought 170 acres on Grassy Fork, two miles north of Bethabara. There they raised their children until in 1785, when he was worn down with old age, Br. and Sr. Holder sold the farm to retire to Bethabara.
They attended services in their twilight years as they could, but as 1804 opened it was evident that the end was near. He “first discussed everything with his dear wife and asked her to forgive him for having troubled her.” Then on January 15, 1804, severe chills overtook him. “He held out his hand to his wife,” and “before anyone could foresee, attained the blessed moment of his redemption.”
He was buried not in Salem, but in the hilltop God’s Acre overlooking Bethabara. He was 75 years old.
Town Builder Melchior Rasp
Melchior Rasp “goes along in a sweet, humble manner and lives in peace with all.” Such a gentle description for the one with the hardest job as Town Builder of Salem — chiseling and laying stone foundations as Wachovia’s master mason.
Br. Rasp was born on January 8, 1715, in the archbishopric of Salzburg and was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. At some point he drifted into Protestantism, for at age 15 in 1730 he was among the many thousands of Salzburgers banned from their homeland for their faith. He learned his trade in Frankfort am Main, where he also encountered the Moravians. That made a lasting impression on him, his memoir says, as he “gave himself” to the Savior “as His eternal property.”
Br. Rasp spent eight years at the Moravians’ Herrnhaag, and since much building was going on there “he was able to give good service through his profession.” When Herrnhaag had to be abandoned, he was sent to Bethlehem, where he also practiced his trade in the building of nearby Nazareth Hall.
He came to Wachovia with the second great company of reinforcements, arriving in Bethabara on November 4, 1755.
When it came time to build Salem, Br. Rasp was the master stonemason, active, his memoir states, “in all the building at the time, including the Gemein Haus and the Single Brothers House.”
The job had its hazards. In 1778, a sliver of stone flew up, blinding him in one eye, and the other eye often became so inflamed that he was “frequently quite blind.” Earlier, on April 14, 1766, he tripped and jammed his pipe stem into the back of his throat. The injury afflicted him for the rest of his life.
It seems that despite his ailments and approaching old age, Br. Rasp kept to his occupation until a year before his death when he was confined to the sick-room of the Brothers House. To his end he clung to his Savior and his “gracious calling” to the Moravian Church. On March 19, 1785, “he had this beautiful Text for the day of his homegoing,” Psalm 118:24: This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
And so today as you drive through the intersection of Main and Academy Streets in Salem, give a nod to the stonemasonry of “sweet, humble” Br. Melchior Rasp in the old half-timbered northern section of the Brothers House, which he built and where he died.
Salem Town Builder, well done.
Town Builder Michael Ziegler
Salem’s Town Builder mystery man is Michael Ziegler.
He showed up in Wachovia on June 23, 1764, as a farmer. He was a good man to have around when an unruly Tavern patron must be subdued. (More on that in December.)
Truth is, Br. Ziegler had no idea whether he could live in the Gemein way of living with the Savior. Typically, Br. Ziegler’s Elders told him “the doors were open for him to leave if he has no inclination to stay.” By then the Single Brethren were whispering about him, but since this was a personnel (personal) matter, Wachovia’s Elders clammed up.
He went away early January 1767, then returned in two days “going around everywhere in confusion.” Yet he “begs us to accept him again.”
He even attended Holy Communion in early 1768 “for the first time.”
But later in the year, though “he is behaving in entirely the wrong way,” the Elders “intend to take no further notice of it until he declares himself . . . whether he wishes to remain here or leave.”
And so dear Br. Ziegler, wracked with the Gemein way of life or the open door to elsewhere, chose the latter. He moved to his sister’s in South Carolina, and though he returned to Bethabara on September 26, 1769, to pick up the clothing he had left behind, from that point on he is lost to our Moravian Church history.
And now for a few additions courtesy of Br. Thomas J. McCullough, Assistant Archivist at our Northern Province Moravian Archives.
Michael Ziegler was born September 29 – Michaelmas – 1741, perhaps to Friedrich Ziegler, a married Brother living in Bethlehem. He was at Christiansbrunn, the Single Brethren’s settlement in Pennsylvania, when he left for Wachovia in March 1764.
We conclude with Br. Lorenz Bagge’s November 21, 1766, estimation of Michael Ziegler:
“He is not doing well. It is hard to say what is the trouble; also, what keeps him staying with us I cannot understand. He has a sister on the road to Charleston who is said to be very rich; he has visited her twice on the way to Charleston. She would like him to come and live with her. The Savior have mercy on him; at the same time may He rid us of such imperfect people! He is a rough person.”
Dear Br. Ziegler, the Town Builders’ youngest, peace be to thee in the arms of thy Savior.
Detail of Br. Reuter’s c. 1768 map of Salem, showing something where the Vorsteher’s House was built in 1797.
The Leinbach boys’ childhood home on Main Street in Salem. Henry’s photography shop, since removed, is on the right.
Many years ago at the Moravian Mission Station in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, a little girl said to her mother, “I am tired of the Cherokee world. I want to go back to the English world.”
But when the sad time came to leave this western world, there were some scenes enshrined in her memory — her father’s grave, her visit to the home of John Ross, Chief of the Cherokees, another visit to the home of Dr. Worcester, Presbyterian missionary and translator of the Scriptures into the Cherokee language, and the orchids that grew at the spring near her home.
At last, after journeying by private conveyance for seven weeks, the end of the 1,400 miles was reached. We had crossed mountain and river, even the mighty Mississippi (on a “flat”), under the guidance of that Pioneer, our friend Augustus Fogle. On a dark night in November at 9 o’clock we entered the confines of the English world, the heart of which was Salem in North Carolina. As we saw the twinkling lights the mother asked: “Is this Winston?” And in her heart she said: “Ebenezer — thus far hath the Lord helped us.”
[Sarah Vogler’s father, Miles Vogler, died on August 1, 1854, while serving the Moravian mission to the Cherokees. He is buried at New Springplace, now known as Oaks, Oklahoma. Sarah Vogler, age 5, arrived in Salem on November 25, 1854, with her brother and sister and her mother Sophia Dorothea m.n. Ruede. Br. Augustus Fogle, the Moravians’ frequent long-distance hauler, brought the family home.]
What did we find in old Salem? The houses were built along Main Street a little beyond Cemetery Street. Above was a thick forest. The limit on the south was the old Hotel. The Avenue was in its prime, the cedars grew as nowhere else but Lebanon. The unsightly electric poles were not then needed, the night watchman lighting the lamps when the moon gave no light. Below the Avenue were the school buildings, and there were houses on one side of Church Street as far as the George Hege place, which not long ago was removed for the Central School. A short distance below the Academy, where the home of Mrs. Will Pfohl now stands, was the school garden. The campus had not been thought of, and here, in the cool of the evening, when the afternoons were too warm for a walk, the teachers would come with their girls, where the summer house and tall lilac bushes gave their shelter.
On the hill east of the creek was the Brothers Spring where the young men and boys had a delightful and picturesque resort on Sunday afternoons with vine-covered arbor by a stream planted with for-get-me nots.
Although the boys and girls did not alternate in the direction of their walks as in the time described in Miss Fries’s history, still they were kept well separated.
[The magnificent cedars of the Avenue, now dying, were cut down in 1918-19, leaving only electric poles standing out. The Hampton house is on the left where Wachovia Gardens are now. Mrs. William S. Pfohl lived on the east side of Church Street at the intersection of Blum Street. The large George Hege house at the foot of Church Street was replaced by Central School in 1924-25.]
In November 1854 the New Academy was in process of erection and very near completion. The Gemein House, which had occupied the site, was now a memory. The girls who had been lodged here were temporarily quartered on the lower floor of the Widows House and a few in the Boys School, now the Historical Building.
The opening of the New Academy was a great event. There were ten room companies — eight in Main Hall, two in South Hall called the “old academy.” The Rev. Robert de Schweinitz, then a young man of 29, was the principal. The chapel with dining room was built soon after. The Rev. Emil de Schweinitz preached the dedicatory sermon. The text was, “In Salem is our [his] tabernacle” (Ps. 76:2). Before this time the chapel was on the floor above the present academy dining room.
[Main Hall (“New Academy”) and South Hall of Salem Female Academy, c. 1858.]
The old teachers of bygone years often described the beauty of the Christmas exercises celebrated here and the beautiful decorations. The dialogues were written by the principal, then called the Inspector. Each girl had some part in the performance. Long before Christmas the teams were hauling evergreens, and practicing reached over weeks. The piano was hidden by the pines, and Miss Antionette Bagge (Mrs. Ephraim Brietz) or Miss Betsy Crist (Mrs. Joshua Boner) was accompanist.
The Christmas exercises made a deep impression, and have often been referred to by former pupils from distant states.
Those who had taught in the Academy in the 1830’s often delighted us with their reminiscences. They told of Miss Peter, who had charge of the youngest room company. Here is a riddle that she propounded:
“Up goes the teter-mouse
Down goes the teter-mouse,
Everybody in the house
Plays upon the teter-mouse” (the door latch)
So anxious were the teachers of that time to learn English that they were often perplexed to find the correct pronunciation. The word “knowledge” puzzled them sorely, and it was finally decided to divide it into three syllables — thus: “know-led-ge.” When higher mathematics was introduced the name was so foreign that a conference was called — “faculty meeting” — and it was decided to say “alge bra.”
But these good women, although they could not speak English well, loved their girls and labored for their good.
[Susanna Elisabeth Peter taught in the school from 1807 to 1827. She was the third wife of widower Van Neman Zevely, and she died in 1873 at the age of 86 years.]
The question was raised, where did Br. Enerson get the glass for the First House windows? Nowhere in Moravian records is there mention of glassmaking in Wachovia. Evidently it must have been purchased in Charleston, South Carolina, and hauled the distance of 280 miles over washboard roads in horse-drawn wagons. It’s a wonder a single pane ever made it to Salem. The first mention of glass in the published records is 1771 when a shipment of glass for the Gemein Haus was prevented because of the “unfortunate controversy between England and the Colonies” (Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, 2:617).
Salem’s First House (reconstructed), where Br. Gottfried Praezel began Winston-Salem’s tradition of industry by setting up his loom on October 10, 2016.
The Fourth House (restored), built in 1768, is Salem’s oldest original structure.
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