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Last Updated 10/20/00

Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, I, 75-80.
edited by Adelaide L. Fries and others

The Journey

[The Diary preserved in Salem Archives begins in Bethlehem, and gives the events of the journey in detail. There is necessarily much repetition, so only an outline of the trip is here given.9 Beginning with November 17, the Diary is translated in full.]

On Sunday evening, October 7th, 1753, the colonists were the center of interest in the Singstunde,10 and received the blessing of the Church for their new undertaking.

Oct. 8, they arose early, and after morning prayer conducted by Christian Seidel they set out from Bethlehem on foot, their wagon having started several days before.

The first part of the way was over familiar territory, the nights being spent with neighbors, or at one of the numerous stations already established as preaching places by the Brethren. At the Missellimer Mill “the people were fairly civil” when lodging was requested the first night; next morning a man met them asking that some one come to bleed a sick servant, and Br. Kalberlahn responded. Br. Jacob Muller was not at home at noon, but his young son took them across the Tulpehocken Creek in a canoe, which almost but not quite upset. At Heidelberg Schoolhouse they received a warm welcome, as also at the home of the Loesch family, where they spent two nights and a day, while their wagon, which awaited them there, was made three inches narrower, it having been found that it was too wide for the usual track in the road. “Mother Loesch” busied herself with preparing a plentiful supply of bread and meat for the journey, [two of her sons were in the party,] and “Father Loesch” sent his own wagon with them as far as the Susquehannah. Friends were also found at Quittopehill and at Xander’s, some game was shot, and there was a narrow escape from injury when a large tree fell across the team, fortunately coming down between the pairs, and hurting neither the horses nor the teamster who rode one of them.

Their first woodland camp was made on the evening of the 12th, sleeping in their blankets around the fire. Br. Erich undertook the cooking, and a watch was set. Br. Gottlob hung his hammock between two trees, and rested well in it.

Next day the Susquehannah was crossed at Harrison’s Ferry, [Harrisburg, Pa.] the men riding on the horses and in the wagons, for the river was so low the ferry-boat could not be used. Here the Loesch wagon turned back, taking several friends who had come thus far with them, and the Brethren entered less well-known territory.

Roads became worse, and the wagon was so heavily loaded that not only could no one ride, but the men often had to push to help the horses up some steep hill. Rain came on, and that night the tent was put up for the first time, and they “were fairly dry under it and slept a little!” Rising about midnight they went on, passing Carl Isles [Carlisle] “which contains about 60 houses and is chiefly inhabited by Irishmen,” and about 4 A.M. they set up their tent for a Sunday rest. “After breakfast the Brethren shaved; at noon we dined on pork and dumplings&” in the afternoon various people visited them.

Oct. 16th they crossed the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland; “from the Susquehannah here the residents are chiefly Irish, and have good lands, but one can buy little or nothing from them,” from others the party had bought oats and hay for their horses.

Next day they crossed the Potomac, and on the 18th passed through Friedrichstown, [Winchester, Va.] Perhaps there is nothing more significant of the toilsomeness of the way from Friedrichstown on than the care with which the Diarist notes the water supply. Water every mile or two meant reasonable comfort, but no water for seven miles meant thirst for man and beast. The problem of food and forage too was ever with them. When grass could be found the horses were turned out to graze at night with one or two of the Brethren to watch them, but not infrequently some of the men had to help a farmer thresh oats before they could buy them, and often it was difficult to find a man who had either bread, meat, or grain to spare. Now and again they would unexpectedly meet an acquaintance, perhaps some one whom they had known in the Old World; sometimes people were surly, usually they were filled with wonder at sight of the large wagon, the strong horses, and the men bound for a far distant region.

The daily routine began with very early rising, perhaps Br. Grube would awaken them with the singing of a familiar hymn. Breakfast was usually of broth, and often several miles had been covered by sunrise. Then came a long morning of travel, incidents varying with the badness of the road and the state of the weather; a short noon rest beside a stream; more miles on the way, and a night camp beside a house if one could be found, if not beside some stream again. Sometimes the horses would stray over night, delaying the morning start; sometimes the wind drove the smoke into their tent so that sleep was difficult; but discomforts are mentioned briefly, and a friendly word from a passerby, a pretty place to camp, bright sunshine after a storm, are just as carefully recorded; and night by night one of their number “held evening prayers, and then we slept in the care of Jesus.”

Oct. 21st they crossed the Shenandoah, and approached the mountains. On the 24th they passed Augusti Court House [Staunton, Va.] “and there the bad road began.” “It was up hill and down, and we had constantly to push the wagon, or hold it back by ropes that we fastened to the rear.”

Two days later rain added to their difficulties. At night the water ran through their tent so that they were soaked. Next morning was clear, but the roads were muddy and “for the second time we had to take off half our load in order to climb a hill, for it was so slippery the horses could not keep their footing, but fell constantly to their knees.”

The approach to the James River was dangerous. “The road to it ran down so very steep a hill that we fastened a small tree to the back of our wagon, locked the wheels, and the Brethren held back by the tree with all their might, but even then the wagon went down so fast that most of the Brethren lost their footing; no harm was done, and we thanked the Lord that He had so graciously protected us, for it looked at times as if it could not possibly be done without accident, but in spite of stump and stone we got down safely.”

Oct. 30th “the weather was bad, it rained and snowed, but we kept fairly dry under our tent. Our horses had strayed off and it took several of the Brethren nearly all day to find them, and we were glad when we had them back for we had heard that in this neighborhood horses were often stolen, and that might have happened to ours. As the Brethren came in cold and wet through and through we had a cup of tea all round, and enjoyed it together.”

Next day the journey was continued over the frozen, snow-covered ground. “The farther we went the more snow we found, and travel was difficult,” for the “Upper Road” which they were following lay along the hills of the Blue Ridge, and sometimes “the road sloped so that we could hardly keep the wagon from slipping over the edge of the mountain, and we had to use the tackle frequently.” Often too they had to cut down trees to let the wagon pass, or work the road before they could cross a particularly bad place, sometimes even cut out a new track to avoid an impossible mudhole. But courage, perseverance, and hard work won through, and at last on Nov. 7th from the top of a little hill they “saw the Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, and rejoiced to think that we would soon see the boundary of Carolina, and set foot in our own dear land.”

On the 11th they met a man from North Carolina, who lived not far from the Wachau, and “he told us that it is generally known that we will soon arrive, that he had heard that we had two ministers with us, which was a good thing, for the people lived like wild men, never hearing of God or His Word.” He was also glad they had a doctor with them. All along the way people had welcomed the advent of a minister, and quite a number of requests were made for the baptism of children,— which the Brethren did not feel themselves at liberty to grant,—while others asked that on later journeys visits might be paid them, and services held.

On the 12th they crossed the Meho, and at dawn on the 13th entered North Carolina. Next day they reached Dan River, but it was swollen from recent heavy rains, and detained them for two days. Jacob Loesch, however, crossed in a canoe, and went on the eleven miles to Mr. Altem’s11 home, to order provisions.

On the 15th the Brn. Gottlob and Nathanael also crossed in the canoe, their horses swimming alongside, the plan being to go to Mr. Altem and ask his help in going to the land and finding a place for the company to stay until the settlement could be begun.

On the 16th the Dan was crossed with difficulty, in spite of the work that had been done on the banks during the delay. That night they camped beside Mr. Altem’s house, where the Brethren who had gone ahead reported that six miles from the edge of the Wachau they had found a little house which a German12 had built the preceding year and then abandoned. “We retired early, being quite worn out.”

Nov. 17th. “We rose early, having had a cold night, it looked much like snow. Some of the Brethren went ahead with axes and grubbing hoes to clear the road and cut down the steep banks of the creeks. One mile from Altem’s we crossed the Down Forck13 Creek, and came to the new road leading across our land to the Etkin.14 On the right hand side of the creek is a plantation, and the people gave us two sacks of pumpkins, and offered us a wagon-load more free of charge. Two miles from our land we crossed Buffler Creek. One mile from our land we stopped for the noon rest. The Brn. Gottlob and Nathanael had gone ahead to the next plantation, which adjoins our land, and the people presented them with a couple of bushels of turnips. At last, at half past twelve, we reached the boundary of our tract, whereat we all rejoiced; and there we were met and tenderly welcomed by Br. Gottlob and Br. Nathanael. It touched us, and we thanked our Saviour that He had so graciously led us hither, and had helped us through all the hard places, for no matter how dangerous it looked, nor how little we saw how we could win through, everything always went better than seemed possible. We wished that the dear ones in Bethlehem, now gathered in the Sabbath15 Lovefeast,16 could know that we, in less than six weeks, had safely reached our land.

“We drove three miles further on the new road, then turned to the left and cut a road for two and a half miles to the little house that the Brethren found yesterday. We reached it in the evening, and at once took possession of it, finding it large enough that we could all lie down around the walls. We at once made preparation for a little Lovefeast, and rejoiced heartily with one another. Br. Gottlob began singing, with the little verse:

We hold arrival Lovefeast here,

In Carolina land,

A company of Brethren true,

A little Pilgrim Band,

Called by the Lord to be of those

Who through the whole world go,

To bear Him witness everywhere,

And naught but Jesus know.

“The texts for the day were strikingly appropriate :—‘I know where thou dwellest,’ even in a desert place. ‘Be ye of the same mind one with another.’ While we held our Lovefeast the wolves howled loudly, but all was well with us, and our hearts were full of thanksgiving to the Saviour Who had so graciously guided and led us. Then we laid ourselves down to rest, and Br. Gottlob hung his hammock above our heads.”


9 The travel diary of the first company has been printed in full translation in “Travels in the American Colonies, 1690-1783.” On a modern map the route, beginning at Frederick, Maryland, may be traced through the Virginia Counties of Frederick, Shenandoah, Rockingham, Augusta, Rockbridge, Botetourt, Roanoke, Franklin, and Patrick, coming to Wachovia through Stokes Co., N. C.

10 A church service largely of singing, in contradistinction to the preaching services, or those in which the Nachrichten were read.

11 The name is spelled Altem and Haltem by turn. He became a firm friend of the Brethren.

12 Hans Wagner. He had moved to the Yadkin River.

13 Town Fork Creek.

14 The name of this river is variously spelled,—Adkin, Etkin, Atkin, Yatkin, and Yadkin. The last is the modern form.

15 Sabbath—Saturday. At this time the Brethren were accustomed to stop their secular work for the Sabbath afternoon, resting and holding services. It was in commemoration of the Saviour’s rest in the tomb on the Sabbath. However, when work was pressing, it was considered allowable to postpone the services to the evening or until Sunday, continuing with the work of the week all day Saturday.

16 A religious service founded in the agape, or “meal in common,” of the early Christians it is largely a song service, during which the members share a simple meal.

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