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Last Updated 05/24/00

Records of the Moravians in North Carolina
edited by Adelaide L. Fries and others


[In 1752 Europe was taking a very brief breathing space between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven years War. Francis of Lorraine, husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, was Emperor of Germany, but Frederick the Great of Prussia was rapidly becoming the dominant figure in the Empire. King Augustus III of Poland was also Elector of Saxony, Louis XV was King of France, and George II was King of England.

The English colonies in America were still in the pioneer stage, though the number of settlers was steadily increasing. Gabriel Johnston was Governor of North Carolina until July, when he died, his office temporarily filled by Nathaniel Rice, ranking member of the Governor’s Council. Several counties had been more or less definitely erected in the eastern part of the Colony, but the western, beginning at the watershed between the Cape Fear and the Yadkin, was all known as Anson until the spring of 1753, when the part of Anson lying in Lord Granville’s territory became Rowan County.

The Renewed Unitas Fratrum was no longer a handful of refugees, clustered on the estates of Count Zinzendorf, in Saxony, but, as already noted, it had spread to various parts of Europe, to mission fields, and to America. The settlement in Pennsylvania had become important. Several permanent congregations, and a number of preaching places, had been established, and an extensive and successful mission work was being carried on among the Indians; and at the head of the American branch of the Unity stood Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg, who was requested to go to North Carolina to select the land for the proposed settlement there.

The Spangenberg Papers, preserved in the Salem Archives, are in two sets. The first consists of Spangenberg’s field notes, written in almost microscopic script on small sheets of papers, 23 in number. The wrapper in which they are filed states that they were found in a box which Spangenberg left with Bishop Ettwein, and that Ettwein passed them on to Frederick William Marshall. The second set consists of fair copies of the first, incorporating marginal notes, and was evidently prepared for the use of the Church Boards. In each set, as preserved, there are some sheets not found in the other. In the following translation the original field diary has been used, except where it is necessary to supplement it from the set of copies.

In view of the apparent differences between this translation and that printed in the Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. V, two facts should be stated. In the first place there is so such thing as a “literal translation” from one language to another,—the very difference in the construction of sentences forbids that. To give easy, graceful, cultured German a word for word translation would result in strained, unnatural English, that made a mock of the original. The translator, therefore, must needs interpret the thought of an author into equivalent phrases, copying as closely as he can the style and the word values of the author; and naturally no two translators will use exactly the same words. The editor of this volume did not compare her translation of the Spangenberg Diary with that in the Colonial Records until after this version was complete, therefore verbal differences are many, though the meaning remains the same. In the second place, before this translation was made a number of additional sheets had been found in the Archives, which belonged with those used by Rev. R. P. Leinbach, and these sheets give much new material for this translation.

The exploring party left Bethlehem, Pa., August 25, 1752, on horseback, going to Philadelphia, then down the east coast of Chesapeake Bay, taking a boat across the Bay to Norfolk, and again on horseback to Edenton. There they were joined by Granville’s chief surveyor, William Churton. From Edenton they followed the beaten track westward to what is now Guilford County, then went south-west to the Catawba River, following it up from the last settlement into the “bush.” They went up Little River, surveying tracts in what is now Alexander County, but instead of crossing the Brushy Mountains they came back to the Catawba, following it to its head waters, and taking up other pieces of land that seemed to them desirable, but nowhere finding 100,000 acres in one tract, as they wished. From the head waters of the Catawba they planned to go across the head waters of the Yadkin, but the hunter who had been engaged as guide lost his way, and took them too far to the west, across the crest of the Blue Ridge, and then northward, until they reached what proved to be the head waters of New River. Finally they laid their course south-east by the compass, and taking the mountains as they came they happened upon what was doubtless Lewis Fork of the Yadkin, which brought them down to the river a short distance above where Wilkesboro now stands. There they measured off two pieces, and heard of the tract later known as Wachovia; and on the “three forks of Muddy Creek” they made their final survey. No account is given of the return to Pennsylvania, but as two papers are dated at “Lüneberg Co. Va.” it is evident they took the “lower” or middle road across Virginia.

The leader of the party was Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg, affectionately termed “Br. Joseph” by his associates. Hermann Loesch was the only one who became a resident of North Carolina.]

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