Reports of the Undertaking of several Helmstaedt Professors in behalf of NC
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Last Updated 02/26/01

Reports of the Undertaking of several Helmstaedt Professors in behalf of North Carolina

At the request of the Evangelical preacher in North Carolina, Mr. Adolph Nüssmann, several professors of Helmstaedt have united in the task of editing a series of textbooks for the German youth of that distant country. With the proceeds anticipated from this undertaking they expect to pay the transportation for two or three Evangelical preachers, with a supply of donated books, as far as Charlestown. This whole enterprise grew out of the following very natural conditions.1

In 1772 two delegates from North Carolina asked one of our Society, who was at that time stationed at the court in London, for his good offices. About sixty families, adherents of the Augsburg Confession, desired a preacher from the King’s German possessions. They also tried, if possible, to obtain a school teacher. But they were especially anxious for such books by means of which a current of fanatic writings, then flooding that country, might, at least in a measure, be checked. The King supported this venture with considerable gifts in money. At the same time a call was issued to the Consistory of Hanover to assist this cause as much as possible.

On the twentieth of September, 1772, in the Royal Chapel of St. James, a drive for this same purpose was proclaimed.2

At that time Mr. Nüssmann had already accepted the call. Arrangements for his own provision were however by no means made secure. Nevertheless because he was so interested in the instruction of the youth he urged that they should at once send a school teacher with him on his journey. He even promised the latter his share of the salary which he, according to the assurance of the delegates, had a right to expect. The date of departure was moved forward. The preacher and the teacher were to travel via Hamburg with their donated books. The boat was [92] already near the English coast when it was driven back into the Elbe by a storm and was declared unseaworthy.

Nüssmann left his companion with the effects, which were to follow him on the next ship sailing from Hamburg, and hastened to London via Holland where he was expected. The second court preacher of that place had previously brought his wife over to London in this same ill-fated ship, and only after some time later did both realize the danger in which they were hovering, because even at that time the boat was said to have been leaking somewhat. Observations of this kind under similarly dangerous conditions tend to bind souls together. Nüssmann lived several weeks with him. He paid the transportation for the latter as far as Charlestown and the passengers together with their effects were put on board. It was, however, not until October 14, 1786, that he received via Copenhagen the first letter from his friend. It was dated May 11, of the same year.

In this letter, written at Dutch Buffaloe Creek, in Mecklenburg County, Mr. Nüssmann expressed a desire for co-workers, because in that neighborhood there were so many families who longed for a sermon. In this letter he furthermore demanded of us young men, into whom (as he expressed it) we should instill determination, courage, and a genuine apostolic spirit, in order, even under great difficulties, to spread the Gospel in those growing states. After he believed himself to be forsaken by both London and Hanover, he associated himself more closely with the German Evangelical preacher in Charlestown, Mr. Frederick Daser, in order that the one might especially look after the state of North Carolina and the other after the states of South Carolina and Georgia with regard to their common needs, making a special plea for them among their friends in their mother country. At the same time he expressed himself to the effect that since his assembly had appointed him as third commissioner for the erection of an academy in Salisbury, he would also endeavor, as much as possible, to relieve the greatest needs of his forsaken countrymen here.

He urgently requested that we, for the present, might at least still provide transportation for two preachers as far as Charlestown, since after that, all things necessary would be arranged for. This request seemed worthy of our careful attention. Meanwhile, however, we informed him that we could neither bind it upon any one as a duty, nor try to persuade any one, until the one or the other organization had stated how much it was willing to pledge for the most necessary support of its prospective pastor. If this had been done we declared ourselves ready to make a careful and conscientious selection of the young men whom we had observed, at the same time taking due account of their examinations.

Even more urgently than the immediate sending over of several assistants he desires in this same letter a catechism for North Carolina written under the supervision of our University.

[93] One more anxiety, (as his words go) I have, which I must disclose. No greater vexation has amazed me than the various kinds of catechisms that are floating about here in this country. God knows how anxious I am to educate thoroughly the youth of this place, especially those of the age for religious instruction. The need is obvious, and much more urgent than in Germany. Poorly instructed children are at once led astray when they come in contact with unbelievers or with those of false beliefs. In this country there ought to be a catechism which would stand up under the severest test, that might serve as a safe guide for the children, and one that would furthermore reflect credit and honor wherever it was seen. The most respected people of all congregations offer the same complaint; for the evil is obvious to all

If you now wish to render a genuinely true service to our local youth as well as to the entire Evangelical Church of this section please formulate for us an entirely different catechism, have the same printed and send it to us. In my humble judgment the arrangement might be as follows:

Part I: An introduction to the Christian doctrine, which would recount in story form the history of the Old Testament, the life-work of Jesus Christ and the more important events of the Christian Church, somewhat like Seiler’s Catechism, which was printed in Bayreuth in 1780, and which later accidentally came into my hands.

Part II: The fundamental truths of Christianity; perhaps according to pedagogical methods of Mr. Jacobi, who is also very popular in your country; however, without questions, which are not very practical, and are furthermore exposed to the ridicule of the sectarians.

Part III: Moral teachings, repentance, faith, gratitude and duty, likewise according to Mr. Jacobi’s method. The moral teachings should be paramount, should constitute the greater part, and should seem very obvious and pronounced. This would convince our secretarians that we are seriously concerned about a real Christianity.

The ten commandments might be related with some explanations in their proper place in the history of the Old Testament. Still you know all this better than I can tell you. Nevertheless I wanted in a measure at least to express my thoughts [on this matter]. But you may arrange this as it seems best to you. Since you are a Professor of Dogmatics and Ethics, and at the same time train students in the teaching of the catechism, this undertaking would fit well with your regular work, even though you should in the end have to compose an entirely new catechism; and to bring the love and religion of Jesus into the wilderness will certainly furnish you with inspiration. On the title page and also in a short preface, which should be drawn up under your supervision and also that of the entire University, the intention for southern America might receive special mention. The ready and willing reception of the same would manifest its uniformity in doctrine with the entire Evangelical Church in general, and it would lay the foundation for the Evangelical Church at this place. A few other short treatises would be necessary, of which G. G. will speak in the near future, because I at present am too fatigued to write any more, due to a violent fever which since Easter morning has emaciated me, so that I have not regained my strength, even though through the goodness of God I am now rid of the fever.

[94] One more need I must mention. I know I can not easily exaggerate my confidence in you. I have been missing very badly the following books: A good paraphrase of the New Testament; a good practical work on Ethics; a good church history; a German dictionary; a geography, for example, the one by Buesching, and a few others for the instruction of the children; for example, Du Fresnoy, which is provided with maps, a small atlas, and something like a scholarly history, especially of the last fourteen years. My book, Home Treatment of Diseases, by Tissot, which has rendered me great service, was lost during the time of the war.

This faithful report of the needs of his library, when compared with another somewhat more gloomy passage of the letter, brought to his friend’s mind vividly and in a natural way, the plan agreed upon between them in detail fourteen years ago in London. It emanated originally from the late Council to the Consistory, Goetten, in Hanover and at that time was also actively supported by him. Nüssmann had likewise developed into a catechist under the direction of Goetten. It was Goetten from whom he received for his missions, his elaborate, carefully planned, written pastoral instructions which were furthermore, as far as information about them was obtainable, very well adapted to all local conditions. Prominent among the projects of Goetten was the plan, that above all things the establishment of a North Carolina Church Library would be [seriously] considered.

In this same letter the following words especially engaged and stimulated our thoughts:

In these remotest parts, where blindness, ignorance, superstition and fanatic enthusiasm rage, the teachers are separated by distances of 70, 80, 100 to 200 miles.

Also the description which he gave of the conditions of the Evangelical Church of that place:

For the want of instructors and school teachers it has become completely degenerate, and must, if help does not come soon, revert completely to a state of heathendom. Thousands of homes with numerous children, but widely scattered, are forgetting Christianity. Their children know still less of it and the next generation will be veritable heathen. There are no teachers there capable of instruction; and those which are there destroy more than they build up. I have labored as faithfully as I was capable of doing, and as the Lord gave me strength. But one arm is too short. With sadness I observe every day something lacking, now here, now there, and now every where. Nevertheless my greatest concern was for Buffaloe Creek, which from the very beginning had received God’s word. One must here still represent something like an apostle, rather than an instructor, of the congregation. If one would restrict his activity to one congregation, one could, of course, accomplish much good; but the injury to the whole would be all the greater.

[95] Mr. Nüssmann’s demands seemed so just and so urgent, and the fulfillment of the same seemed so closely akin to our academic calling, that it was merely a question of how we might in the best manner achieve that which might be expected from us. For to do this absolutely in the manner proposed to us by him, was impossible. After serious deliberation we came to the agreement, that the shortest way would be to work out several manuscripts with one common purpose in view. The various reports announced so far contain the following:

I. A Catechism.
II. A Book of Questions on the Catechism.
III. A Biblical Manual for Everybody.
IV.A Selection of Biblical Narratives, supplemented by a Short History of Religion.
V. The Most Common and Practical Knowledge of Reasoning (Logic).
VI. A Manual of Civic Information.
VII. A Geographic Compendium.

To be sure, in the working out of these seven manuscripts with which we hope to be helpful, there as well as in our native land, we have tried to accomplish at the same time several combined purposes. The first two manuscripts, which are already printed, the “Catechism” and the “Book of Questions,” for example, besides the purpose for which they were produced, will for the present also be used at the local Catachetic Institute and also for the weekly instruction of the class prepared for confirmation, which is likewise connected with this Institute.3

The entire proceeds, however, of these two, and one half of the proceeds of the remaining five books go into the fund. With this we expect to carry out our plans, which we even now shall be able to do, as soon as the conditions from America are met to our satisfaction.

As a proof of the Christian brotherly spirit with which up to this time our undertaking has been supported by noble Germans and even by foreigners the following list of names may serve:


His Highness, Duke Ludewig Ernst of Brunswick and Lueneburg.
His Highness, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick and Lueneburg.
His Highness, Hereditary Prince of Brunswick and Lueneburg, 4 copies.
His Highness, The Bishop of Luebeck, Duke and Official Administrator of Oldenburg. 25 Rententhalers.

This lengthy list includes some 400 names from throughout northern Germany, as well as several from Oxford, London, and Vienna. Numbers of them subscribed their sums for one or more specific types of publications: catechism, questionbook, Biblical manual, Biblical narrative, works on logic, a “manual of civic information,” and a “geographic compendium.” The subscribers included nobility, clerics, government officials, a convent, several villages, and “a small farmer,” among numerous other occupations and bodies.



Rev. Mr. Lavater.

As a gift to the Rev. Mr. Nüssmann the following books were sent (Apr. 10, 1787.) through the kindness of the Rev. Mr. Nicolai in Bremen:

Seiler’s Larger Book on Religious Devotion.

Old. Test. Part I, and New Test. Pt. 1 and 2 (gifts of Mr. Seiler).
June 20, 1787, through the kindness of Mr. Wilmerding, a merchant of New York, addressed to Prof. Dr. Kunze, a pastor of New York :—3 copies of the Anspach Hymnal (intended for church libraries of North Carolina, a gift of the Court pastor, Mr. Junckheim, assistant judge of the provincial court, Mr. Uz. and the publishers.)
We have furthermore in our possession, the following:
3 additional (total 4) copies of Seiler’s Larger Book on Religious Devotion, with promise of its continuation.
New Test. Translation & Notes by Mr. Seiler.
Holy Scriptures—Old. Test. in Outline and New Test. in Luther’s Transl. with notes, 4 copies.
Smaller Book on Religious Devotion. 4 copies.
Smaller Catechism. 3 copies.
Religion for the Immature. 4 copies.
The Psalms, from the Hebrew.
Isaiah, from the Hebrew.
Educational Principles for the training of future teachers of the public schools and of the young people.
Provisions for a Liturgy.
Prayers for Sundays and Church festival days.
(These as gifts from the Publisher Mr. Bohn in Hamburg, partly for church and partly for school libraries.):
Pyles Paraphrase of the Acts, in paper binding, 2 copies.

[105] Feddersen’s Ethics. 25 copies.
Bueschings Preparation. 2 Copies.
Trapp’s Interviews with Young People. 2 copies.
Matermeier’s Astronomical Handbook. 2 copies.
Masheim’s Religious Addresses.
(Gifts of Prof. M. in Goettingen):
Blumenbach’s Handbook for Natural History with Copperplates.
Erxleben’s, Elements of Natural History (edited) by Gmelin with Copperplates (Gifts of M. L. in Helmstaedt.)
Esmach’s Elements of Natural History (by the Author.)
Tietmann’s Christian Ethics (by the Author.)
Dr. Rienhard’s Sermons, Based on Principles of Jesus. 2 copies.
(Gift of Rector Rudolphi in Koenigslutter):
Spalding’s Usefulness of the Ministry as a Career.
Wernet’s Observations on Morality & Religion and Public Worship.
Reutenberg’s Sermons, 2 Pts.
Sturm’s Sermon on the History of a Family, Book I.

(Gift of the editor):
Wiedeburg’s Humanistic Magazine of 1787. Nos. for New Year, Easter, St. John’s Day and St. Michael’s Day.

(From the Author):
Lentz’—Foundations of Christianity.
Short History of Revealed Religion (by an anonymous donor).
Nature’s Arena, with Copperplates. 8 vols. 4 Parts.
Miller’s Historical and Moral Expositions.
Stapfer’s Ethics, 6 Pts.
Buddei’s Moral Theology.
Cramer’s Pamphlet on the Hebrews.
Spoerl’s Pastoral Theology.
Reimarus’ Natural Religion.
Seckendorf’s de Lutheranismo.
Roden’s Playlets for Children.
Herme’s Handbook of Religion.
Walch’s Dogmatic Science of God.
Giseke’s Sermons, Pt. I.
Mielck’s Sermons, 2 Pts.
Langemak’s Observations on the Psalms.
Langemak’s Sermons, by Kuehl.
Longemak’s Sermons of the yr. 1769.
Wolfrath’s Truths of Faith.
Hymnal of the Augsbung Confession, in Austria.
Bengel Gnomon’s New Testament.
Balduin’s—Epistles of Paul. (presumably in Latin.)
Rollin’s Histoire Ancienne; 5 Vols.
Furthermore there has been promised to us the shipment of several books to Senior D. Gerling in Hamburg. The announcement concerning these may be expected in the further issues of these reports.

[106] However much books, for which we have not made a special request, would now prove a burden to us, we nevertheless are anxious to receive several larger works on Natural History in order to arouse and develop a love for that special field among the German preachers of that country. We therefore request such wealthy and well wishing friends, to whom our undertaking appeals, to come to our aid the more readily, since the introduction of such books into the German church libraries of that country is the only means of securing rare things of nature from this new world for the museums of Germany.

The special favors of sympathetic friends, scholars, mail officials and bookdealers, through whom our efforts and expenses, connected with the details of our enterprise, have been decidedly reduced in many ways, are too numerous to be mentioned individually here. However the silent acknowledgement of the heart is also an expression of gratitude.

Our cash receipts to date are 865 Rthlr. 10 Ggr. Of this amount about 339 Rthlr. 15 Ggr. were gifts, which are kept separate from the bank account and are to be used only for the sending out of preachers. Included in this sum though are also 22 Rthlr. 12 Ggr. received from the sale of several books for the general fund.

Advance subscription at the rate of 12 Ggr. per copy can still be made for the five remaining books, which we expect to publish next Easter or at the time of the Spring bookmarket.

Helmstaedt Sep. 12, 1787.

J. C. Velthusen. H. P. C. Henke.          
L. Crell. G. S. Kluegel. P. J. Bruns.      


1 For other circumstances in connection with the church organization of North Carolina, irrelevant to our present purpose however, we here refer to the article found in the Hanoverian Magazine of the year 1786. [See appendix to this document. Editors.]

2 The surplus left in London in the year 1773 with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel amounted to 94 Lbs. Sterling, as we learned from the German foreign office of that city. We had some hesitation about accepting Mr. Nussmann’s offer, according to which we would have been able to defray a part of the printing expenses with this money originally intended to increase his salary. From the report made by the Hanoverian court preachers in the year 1772, which I now possess, we see the fact confirmed, which I, the writer, still recall very vividly, viz.: that this society, which I in consequence of a verbal agreement with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Cornwallis, deposited the funds which had come into my hands, had promised the delegates a contribution of money on the condition that they should first have solicited help from their most intimate friends of their own faith and country. I also recall that various individuals of the exalted clergy had promised assistance under similar conditions; and [I furthermore] find it noted in the sermon, in which I on Sep. 20, 1772, announced the collections in the court chapel. This fact is also specifically mentioned in that printed sheet by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the Bishop of London (Dr. Tarrik at that time) who was then the general superintendent, or overseer, of the American churches.

3 With this purpose in view the editor of the present catechism, instigated at Nussmann’s request, has at once had reprinted a threefold literal outline, which, however, has no connection with our common undertaking or fund.

     (1) First Catechism, with several Children’s Prayers.
     (2) Second Catechism, with Questions, and with the five principal articles accompanied by Luther’s explanation.
     (3) An Index of Statements for the Catechism.

4 (N. 1, signifies Catechism. N. 2, Questionbook. N. 3, Biblical Manual, N. 4, Biblical Narratives. N. 5, Logic. N. 6, Manual of Civic Information. N. 7, Geographic Compendium. Where no number is indicated all seven publications are understood.)

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