Introduction-German Tracts of the Lutheran Church
North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
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Last Updated 02/26/01

by Boyd and Krummel

[Towards the middle of the eighteenth century German immigrants made their appearance in North Carolina. They came from Pennsylvania and settled in the Piedmont region, in the area including the present counties of Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, Alamance, Stanly, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Stokes, Davie, Davidson and Rowan. Their outstanding characteristics were loyalty to their native language and customs-German being used in the churches for many years,-skill in the industrial arts and agriculture, and a disinclination to participate in politics. Their numbers we do not know, but according to the census of 1790 there were approximately eight thousand. Their religious heritage was German Reformed and Lutheran. They organized and built churches but ministers were few, the only pastors prior to 1773 being of the German Reformed church. Often the members of the two denominations worshipped together and often, also, services were conducted by the laity. With this situation the Lutherans were not satisfied, and in 1772, after unsuccessful efforts to secure pastors and teachers from Pennsylvania, they sent two commissioners to Europe, Christopher Rentelmann, from Organ Church, Rowan County, and Christopher Layrle of St. John's Church, Mecklenburg, (now Cabarrus County) to apply for aid to the Consistory of Hanover. Passing through London the commissioners received encouragement from the royal court; a call for aid was issued from the Chapel of St. James and King George III himself made a contribution. From Hanover the Reverend Adolph Nüssmann, formerly a member of the Franciscan Order, was secured as pastor and Gottfried Arend as school master. These worthies arrived in North Carolina in 1773 and located in Orange County. Soon Arend was ordained a minister and took charge of the churches in Rowan, Nüssmann transferring to Mecklenburg (now Cabarrus County). It was the hope of these men and their parishioners to secure further aid from the Consistory of Hanover, but the Revolution interrupted all communication with the fatherland. In 1787, however, effort was made to renew relations; the hope being to secure more pastors and also books for religious and secular instruction. Communication was opened, however, not with the Consistory of Hanover, but with [82] the Reverend Johann Caspar Velthusen, Professor of Theology in the Julius Charles University at Helmstaedt, Duchy of Brunswick, who, as court preacher at London in 1773, had been interested in the missionary movement of that time in behalf of North Carolina.1 Under his leadership a missionary society was organized to aid the Lutheran churches in North Carolina, and soon additional pastors arrived, Reverend Christopher Bernhardt in 1787, Carl August Storch in 1788, and Reverend Arnold Roshen soon after. However, the aid sought and extended was not confined to the sending of ministers. Text books, lay and religious, were asked for and under the leadership of Velthusen eight text books were prepared and published for use in the Lutheran schools of North Carolina. Thus the Lutheran Church was given a broader foundation and in 1803 the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of North Carolina was formally organized.

Concerning these matters the pamphlets here reprinted in translation give much information. They include the four formal reports of the Helmstaedt professors concerning the text books prepared for the youth of North Carolina and also two reports of Nüssmann concerning the status of the Lutheran churches in North Carolina. Space permits only the publication in this issue of the reports on the text books; those concerning the churches will appear in the issue of April 1930.]


“Text Books for the Youth of North Carolina. Outlined by a Society of Helmstaedt Professors. First Number: Catechism and Question Book. Leipzig. Siegried Lebrecht Crusius. 1787.”


Most Illustrious Duke, Gracious Lord and Sovereign.

Your Serene Highness, with the energy peculiar to your great soul, has in a special way most graciously promoted an undertaking for which only the desire to serve our brethren could have inspired the courage necessary for its execution.

In Germany Providence has already begun to prosper the new enterprise. If the man who is soliciting from our university this support (in which cause we are now associated with him for a limited time) will find in America the same Christian, brotherly spirit, which in Germany is achieving so much beyond our expectations, the good results for our Evangelical congregations in North Carolina, perhaps also for other adjacent sections, may be greater than we are now able to foresee.

However the outcome we will calmly leave to Providence through whose dispensations this work has fallen to our lot.

From the list of names enumerated in this, the first number of a series of text books, our brother in that distant land will be able to recognize the German spirit in which they must rear their children, if the latter shall at some time become worthy of their noble ancestry.

Most Illustrious Duke!

It reacts upon us with thrilling inspiration when we imagine how now soon a thousand voices of these German children on the outposts of the civilized world will join with us in imploring the Almighty to prolong the beneficent life of the most kindly Ruler, who as the Defender of Germany is great, and as a Father to the oppressed, in a very exalted sense of the term, is immortal. With a feeling of the most reverent and grateful devotion we shall remain unto death,

Most Illustrious Duke,
Most gracious Sovereign & Lord,
The most humble and obliging
Admirers of
Your Ducal Highness,

The Editors.                                   

Sep. 12, 1787.


1Velthusen 1740-1814 was a personage of note in Lutheran circles. From 1759 to 1764 he studied Theology at the University of Gottengen and from 1770 to 1773 was connected with the Court Chapel in London. In the same year he became superintendent at Gefham, Duchy of Lueneburg and 1775 was appointed Professor of Theology at Kiel. Three years later he passed on to a similar position at Helmstaedt, and in 1787 to a professorship at Rostock. In 1791 he became general-superintendent of Bremen and Verden. He was the author of eighty books and monographs and also contributed frequently to periodicals.

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