Philip Schaff.

The American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 8) online

. (page 35 of 39)
Online LibraryPhilip SchaffThe American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 8) → online text (page 35 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

gade convert, bore them special ill-will. Yet when this
warrior came to treat with Governors Morris and Denny
at Easton, the Brethren were of aid in furthering the nego-
tiations, and in 1758 their missionary, Frederick Post,i as
agent of the government, traveled as far as the Ohio and
rendered signal service in promoting the security of the.

Similar experiences were being made meanwhile in the
Southern settlement. It became known from its stockade
as the '' Dutch Fort," and many refugees found their way
thither from the open country, so that, when an interval
of peace was enjoyed, another settlement was plotted in
the neighborhood — Bethany — to accommodate those of
them who wished to remain permanently.

Especially melancholy were the effects of the war upon
the hitherto promising Indian missions. Ranch's begin-
ning at Shekomeko in 1 740 had branched out into Chris-
tian Indian villages at Pachgatgoch, Wechquadnach, and

1 The MS. " Journal of Post's Tour " is in the Bethlehem Archives. (See
also " The Pennsylvania Archives," vol. iii., pp. 520-524.)

2 " Hostile Indians declared: * If the great God were not the God of the
Brethren, we should soon have made an end of the whites.'" — "Minutes
of the Elders' Conference at Bethlehem," January 12, 1756, MS.


Potatic, in Connecticut. Within four years sixty Indians
had been baptized. Men Hke Mack, Biittner, Pyrlaus,
Shawe, Bruce, Post, and Powell were associated in the
work, and undertook toilsome and dangerous journeys as
far as the Mohawk Valley. In 1745 Spangenberg, Zeis-
berger, and Schebosch, with Conrad Weisser as interpreter,
had penetrated to Onondaga to renew the covenant of
friendship established by Zinzendorf, and had obtained a
concession of land in the Wyoming Valley, whither a part
of the Shekomeko congregation migrated after the pas-
sage of the antagonistic acts of the New York Assembly. ^
Thence they had removed to Gnadenhiitten, to be nearer
the Brethren at Bethlehem ; and at the time of De Watte-
ville's visitation about five hundred Indians were reported
to be in connection with the church.2 During the years
1746-48, Martin Mack, Joseph Powell, John Hagen, and
Anthony Schmidt had founded an outpost at Shamokin,
by the request of Chief Shikellimy. From this point a
withdrawal had become inevitable. Though Nain had its
counterpart in Wechquetank, just beyond the Blue Mount-
ains, the entire missionary enterprise was now in a precari-
ous state, owing to the spirit of hostility aroused against it
among the white colonists, the disastrous effects of which
were to be felt at a later period.

So long as Zinzendorf lived, by the force of circum-
stances and in virtue of a formal commission given him
by the representative men in 1743, the guidance of affairs
both in Europe and in America devolved upon him in the
last resort. But in 1754 the germs of a collegiate govern-
ment appeared in the appointment of a Board of Adminis-
trators, which was given charge of the general finances of

1 Reichel, " The Early History," etc., pp. 209-212.

2 Plitt, " Geschichte der erneuerten BrUderkirche," MS., $ 242.

464 THE MORA VIANS. [Chap. v.

the church and its missions. The Synod of 1756 made a
further advance by changing this board into a Board of
Directors, responsible not to the count personally, but to
the church. And these initiatory steps were taken none
too soon. For on May 9th, after a brief illness, the great
benefactor of the resuscitated Unitas Fratrum entered into
his rest and reward. He had eccentricities, and, being
but a man, made mistakes; but he has left an imperish-
able name, as one who recalled the church of Christ to the
obligation of its missionary commission. He had sacrificed
rank, wealth, and the joys of the home circle, and had
spent his powers for his Saviour's cause, though it entailed
being misunderstood, reproached, and maligned. Correctly
estimating the highest aim in life, he never faltered in its
pursuit, and was a great man as Heaven counts greatness.

It was impossible to call a General Synod, owing to the
operations of the Seven Years' War. Hence an ad interim
Conference was organized for the oversight' of the work at
home and abroad, the Board of Directors still continuing
to administer the finances.

Spangenberg was naturally needed as a member of this
Conference. On his leaving America in the summer of i 762
his duties were shared between Bishop NathanaelSeidel and
Frederick William von Marschall ; and a radical change fol-
lowed — the abrogation of the "Economy," which mode of
hfe had been meant at the outset to be of only temporary
duration. The individual members now bought or leased
from the church most of the land and the stock and fix-
tures of most of the various manufactories and trades, and
began to do business on their owm account. As yet, how-
ever, neither the congregations as units, nor the American
division of the Unity as a whole, owned any real estate.
The church at large remained proprietor of all that indi-
viduals did not purchase, and certain enterprises were still


carried on as part of the financial system under the control
of the Board of Directors, which had its agents in Amer-
ica. Thus arose an intricate set of accounts, and thus was
confirmed the tendency to regard the American field as a
mere outpost for the organization, whose center of vitality
was on the continent of Europe.



One immediate effect of the abrogation of the '' Econ-
omy " was the founding of a boarding-school for boys at
Nazareth. In November, 1756, a spacious stone building
had been completed as a residence for Count Zinzendorf
and the Brethren immediately associated in labor with him.
Never used for its intended purpose, it was now utilized
for an academy ; and under the brilliant principalship of
the Rev. F. C. Lembke " Nazareth Hall" attained imme-
diate success. At the close of 1764 one hundred and six
scholars were enrolled, with sixteen instructors. But from
this time a gradual decline set in, owing to financial straits
caused by a renewal of the Indian war. This contest had
broken out afresh in i 763. Again the Brethren were falsely
charged with supplying the savages with powder and ball.
Wechquetank and Nain had to be vacated, owing to the
hostility of frontier sentiment, whose violence culminated
in the massacre of the Connestoga Indians, and their in-
habitants removed to a temporary place of safety on Prov-
ince Island, in the Delaware, and afterward in the barracks
at Philadelphia (January, 1764 — March, 1765), where close
confinement and unsanitary conditions caused fifty-four of
their number to fall a prey to small pox and other fevers. 1

Meantime, on August 28, 1764, a General Synod con-
vened at Marienborn. Its outcome was the formation of
a theocratic republic, in the administration of whose affairs

1 De Scliweinitz, " Life and Times of David Zeisberger," pp. 224 seq.



the use of the lot played a most important part. In this
republic a General Synod was made supreme, the executive
being a board elected by and responsible to it, and modi-
fied in I 769 into what was known as the Unity's Elders'
Conference. Local management was to be in charge of
Elders' Conferences of each congregation, responsible to
the central authority.

Especially perplexing for the Synod of 1764 was the
financial problem in its relationship to the Zinzendorf
estates ; for although other moneyed members of the
church had placed large sums at its disposal, ^ the count,
while exercising unlimited authority, had regarded every
financial obligation of the church as his own, and had
absolutely devoted all he possessed to the furtherance of
its enterprises. Before the law his heirs were now the
owners of the Berthelsdorf and Hennersdorf estates, includ-
ing Herrnhut, with all its important buildings. And yet
the debts of the church had been contracted for the Unity
by Zinzendorf largely without the positive sanction of
others. Hence the church had a moral claim which it
was difficult to define. The outcome was an agreement
of all concerned that the heirs should be paid a capital of
$90,000 and the church become the owner of the Zinzen-
dorf estates and give tTie heirs a release from all the debts
contracted for the church by Zinzendorf's authority. They
amounted to $773,162, and were not wholly expunged
until 1 80 1.

Next year David Nitschmann, the syndic, was dis-
patched to America, to make known the significance of
these transactions and to communicate the measures taken

1 Especially Counts Von Promnitz, Von Seidlitz, and Reuss, Barons Sigis-
mund Augustus von Gersdorf and Frederick de Watteville, Jonas Paulus
Weiss, De Benning, Schellinger, Spangenberg, Dinah Raymond von Larisch,
and Mary Crispe Stonehouse.

468 THE MORA VIANS. [Chap. vi.

by those at the head of affairs. The Synod which he, as
a representative of the directing board, convened for this
purpose at Bethlehem, on May 30th, was noteworthy for
the enthusiasm with which the ministers and delegates, one
of the latter being an Indian, pledged to do their part.

An important advance was now made in North Caro-
Hna. Here Marschall had assumed charge in 1763, and
now plotted Salem, as originally designed in the begin-
ning of Wachovia. Through the influx of Brethren from
Europe it speedily became for the operations of the church
in the South what Bethlehem was in the North, Ettwein,
Marschall's assistant, carrying the itinerancy as far as

The eighteenth General Synod at Marienborn, in i 769,
confirmed the principle that the British and American
provinces of the Unity were to be regarded only as out-
lying subordinate branches, semi-missionary in character.
They were to be managed by boards known as Provin-
cial Helpers, appointed by and responsible to the Unity's
Elders' Conference and not to the congregations whose
general interests they superintended. The representative
principle was very partially recognized, if at all. For a
period of about eighty years from this time no American
Provincial Synod was empowered to convene — a state of
affairs disastrous in a land whose national life was becom-
ing dominated by the just spirit of independence. A com-
plicated financial arrangement was suffered to link the
several congregations and the provinces as such with the
Unity as a whole. Rules demanded, possibly, by the
vexatious alliance of church and state in Europe were
made binding in the land of religious liberty, and became
shackles. The excessive application of the use of the lot,
consequent upon an exaggerated conception of the head-
ship of Christ over the church, and the ascetic regulations


of the choir system intensified the exckisiveness ; and the
abnormal dread of incurring the charge of proselytism led
to a refusal to follow natural and lawful methods of church
extension, now recognized and employed by the Moravians
as by every other body of evangelical Christians. Had
the American congregations been permitted to pursue a
natural course of development after Christian Gregor, John
Loretz, and Hans Christian Alexander von Schweinitz,
early in the seventies, on commission from the general
board, solved the most knotty problems involved in the
Unity's former ownership of the real estate in America,
with a foothold in no less than nine of the colonies, the
Moravian Church might have risen with its opportunities
and have become a valuable factor in the national life.
As it was, the wonder is that it at all held its own.

Even so, however, the negotiations of these Brethren were
most opportune at this juncture, for had not a separation
of congregational and provincial property been effected
from that of the Unity, and the nominal proprietorship
and administration of the latter devolved upon naturalized
or native-born citizens henceforth, alien ownership might
have become a serious matter after the War of Independ-
ence. Typical of the agreements entered into by the vari-
ous settlements was that with the congregation of Bethle-
hem, in accordance with which it acquired from the Unity
almost four thousand acres and the buildings and busi-
nesses still belonging to the church by assuming $87,000
of the debt of the Unity and agreeing to pay a certain
sum annually toward the joint necessities of the American
Province, North — administrative wants embraced in what
was now known as the Sustentation Diacony.^ Similar
arrangements were also made in the Wachovia district.

1 De Schweinitz, " Financial History of the American Province," pp. 19

470 THE MORAVIANS. [Chap. vi.

In November, 1774, the site for a new settlement was
surveyed in New Jersey, near the present town of Oxford,
on land purchased from Samuel Green, a member of the
church. Known first as Greenland, it in 1775 received
the name of Hope. In 1773 and 1775 the Wachovia set-
tlements received additions in the founding of Friedberg
and Friedland. To the former the members at Broadbay,
Me., soon migrated.

These years were also marked by an effort to renew mis-
sionary labor, akin to the first efforts of the Brethren in
America. On the invitation of the under-secretary of
state in London, Lewis Miiller and John George Wagner
proceeded via Savannah to his estate at Knoxborough in
order to preach to the slaves. Brosing, from Wachovia,
joined them in 1775, and a favorable commencement was
also made at Silkhope, the estate of a Mr. Habersham.
But Miiller died of fever the same year, and the outbreak
of the war compelled a relinquishment of the post.

In the North the Indian mission had meantime taken
mighty strides under David Zeisberger.i At the close of
the French and Indian War the survivors of confinement
in Philadelphia very naturally desired to shun the propin-
quity of whites. With Zeisberger and Schmick as their
spiritual guides, at the suggestion of Chief Papunhank, a
convert, they sought his former home at Machwihilusing
(Wyalusing), on the north branch of the Susquehanna,
and commenced to build a new village, which they named,
in fond anticipation, Friedenshiitten — " tents of peace."
This was in 1765. The indefatigable missionary leader
now pressed on, and in 1767, with Gottlob Senseman,
began a new mission at Goschgoschiink, on the left bank
of the Alleghany, and two years later John Roth com-

1 Loskiel, part iii., pp. 1-89; De Schv/einitz, " Zeisberger," pp. 307-381.


menced Schechschiquanunk, on the Susquehanna. In-
tolerable persecution of his converts by the heathen wing
of their tribe compelled Zeisberger to move, and after a
temporary stay at Lawunakhanuck, in 1770, in sixteen
canoes, his people, passing the present Pittsburg, pushed
into the wilderness and settled Friedensstadt — " city of
peace " — in Beaver County. Before this trouble had arisen
at Friedenshiitten. In 1768 the Iroquois disregarded their
covenant with the Moravian Indians, and, though it was no
longer theirs, sold land including the settlement to Penn-
sylvania at the treaty of Fort Stanwix. No wonder Zeis-
berger therefore in I 770 thankfully accepted the offer of a
tract on the Tuscarawas River, Ohio, accompanied as it was
with the assurance that it should never be "sold under
their feet to the white people."

Delight at the charms of the new home and its treasure
of abundant limpid water won for it the well-deserved
name of Schonbrunn — " beautiful spring." Heckewelder,
not long after, bringing thither the major part of the peo-
ple of Friedensstadt, a second village was founded about
ten miles below, and named by the sadly suggestive name
of Gnadenhiitten. A third station followed in 1776,
Lichtenau — " meadow of light " — in Coshocton County,
but was abandoned three years later for Salem, five miles
below Gnadenhiitten, on account of the frequent passing
of war-parties. And now for a time the hearts of the
missionaries were made glad. Numerous bands of Indians
from all parts visited these villages, and several noted
chiefs yielded allegiance to the Prince of Peace. Though
the church at Schonbrunn was able to accommodate five
hundred persons, it often proved too small. Hundreds of
acres were under cultivation, and cattle multiplied. The
blanket was laid aside, and the tent gave place to the neat

472 THE MORAVIANS. [Chap. vi.

log cabin. Colonel George Morgan, Indian agent for the
Western District, expressed his astonishment at the degree
of civilization attained.

At the beginning of the struggle for independence the
Brethren were for the most part conservatives or neutrals.
Some, however, took the patriotic side, like Von Schwein-
itz, who in time induced Ettwein to accept the independ-
ence of the colonies as a providential development of his-
tory. And even before the change in his convictions, the
sturdy courage and strong good sense of Ettwein secured
for him the friendship of Henry Laurens, Samuel Adams,
Hancock, and Washington among the patriot leaders, whose
services proved of value to the Brethren in trying times. ^

Opposed as they were on conscientious grounds to all
oaths, an early effect of the hostilities was the cessation of
the evangelistic itinerancies. None who declined to take
the oath of the Test Act was allowed to proceed north or
east of Easton. Thus communications with the authorities
of the church in Europe also became very uncertain.

From December 3, 1776, to March 2^, ^77 7, and from
September, 1777, to June, 1778, the general hospital of
the American army was established at Bethlehem ; and at
another tirrte the buildings at Lititz were requisitioned for
similar purposes. At the Bethlehem hospital Ettwein be-
came chaplain.

Though cheerfully responding to requisitions for supplies,
their conscientious scruples with reference to bearing arms
also involved the Brethren in serious trouble, and brought
on a very heavy financial burden. When notified that un-
less all males above sixteen years of age presented them-
selves for military duty on a certain day they would be
taxed three pounds and three shillings for each man under
fifty years, they paid the tax. As time wore on, however,
1 " Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society," pp. 257, 258.


the sentiments of the younger men changed, and by them
the new order of things was accepted with satisfaction.

Meantime the development of the internal administra-
tion of the congregations progressed. Many of the diffi-
culties arising from the circumstances of the times were
adjusted by Bishop John Frederick Reichel, a member of
the Unity's Elders' Conference, who officially visited the
American congregations in the spring of 1779. An im-
portant transaction of a conference of ministers over which
he presided in April, 1781, previous to his return, was the
adoption of the Brotherly Agreement, as the basis of the
statutes of the various congregations — a fundamental bond
of their union still.



Bishop Nathanael Seidel died on May 12, 1782,
and Ettwein, his successor at the head of affairs, was con-
secrated a bishop by John de Watteville, with the assist-
ance of Hehl, on June 25, 1784. De Watteville and his
wife had arrived at Philadelphia a few weeks before, after
having suffered shipwreck at Barbuda while on their way to
visit the missions on the island of Antigua. He was com-
missioned to communicate to the American congregations
the transactions of the General Synod of 1782, at which
it had been impossible for an American delegate to be

By this Synod the connection of the American congre-
gations with the governing board in Germany had been
strengthened, and the dominance of European, and espe-
cially of German, Moravian conceptions confirmed. With
the abrogation of the Test Act and the assured separation
of church and state in the young Republic, there was no
reason why the Unitas Fratrum in America, after recover-
ing from the financial distresses of the war, should not have
entered upon a period of new life and extension. But
now operations were cramped by the unwise retention of
regulations out of keeping with the national life. • Pain-
fully minute attention was given to the development of
subjective phases of piety in the exclusive settlements, to



the cramping of energies in other directions. The finan-
cial demands of the church's work were met by the pro-
ceeds of business enterprises carried on for its benefit,
rather than by the voluntary gifts of the people. The use
of the German language in worship was perpetuated, to
the loss of members in the cities and the keeping of
strangers at a distance. Persons who lived away from the
settlements but sought the fellowship of the church were
formed into societies ^ sustaining only a quasi-connection
with it, and not into regular congregations — a usage that
had little meaning or purpose in a land free from govern-
mental ecclesiasticism. The laymen had practically no
voice in the general management. There was a defi-
ciency of well-qualified ministers. Men of mature years,
who were sent from Europe, however scholarly, could not
readily adjust themselves to the conditions and spirit of
American institutions or appreciate the opportunities which
offered. Administrative affairs of highest importance had
to be referred to a foreign executive board.

The year 1787 was marked by the resuscitation of the old
missionary society of 1745, under the title of the ''Society
of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among
the Heathen," its headquarters being at Bethlehem, with
Ettwein as president. Von Schweinitz as treasurer, and
Jacob van Vleck as secretary. A charter was obtained
from the Assembly of Pennsylvania in February, 1 788.
Ettwein communicated to General Washington an account
of the organization of the society, and received a kind and
appreciative reply, in which the following sentence occurs :
"So far as I am able of judging, the principles upon which
the Society is founded, and the rules laid down for its gov-
ernment, appear to be well calculated to promote so laud-
able and arduous an undertaking ; and you will permit me

1 Holmes, " History," vol. ii., p. 143.

476 THE MORAVIANS. [Chap. vii.

to add that if an event so long and so ardently desired
as that of converting the Indians to Christianity and
consequently to civilization can be effected, the Society
at Bethlehem bids fair to bear a very considerable part
in it."i

There had been the more need for committing the in-
terests of the missions among the Indians to the care of a
legally incorporated society, because in 1782 the flourish-
ing settlements on the Tuscarawas had been destroyed by
American militia. Soon after the close of the War of the
Revolution, a petition had been presented to Congress,
setting forth the great loss to the church through this raid,
and asking for an indemnity. Action had been taken in
the years 1785 and 1787, to be supplemented by an act in
1 796, reserving the sites of these settlements — in all, twelve
thousand acres — for the benefit of the Christian Indians and
their children forever, and making the tract over to the
Society for Propagating the Gospel as their trustee. The
distracted state of the country, however, caused the sur-
veying of the land to be postponed till 1797, when it was
effected by General Putnam, John Heckewelder, and Wil-
liam Henry. In October, i 798, the venerable Zeisberger
and a portion of the converts returned and established a
new mission station at Goshen, a few miles from the pres-
ent New Philadelphia. Since the entire reserve could not
be used by the Indians, the society admitted white set-
tlers to the Gnadenhiitten and Salem tracts, applying the
income thus deriv^ed for the benefit of the Indians. John
Heckewelder was appointed agent for the society, and
Louis Hiibner became pastor, to be followed by George
Miiller. A second congregation was soon formed across
the river from Gnadenhiitten, and named Beersheba.

During the period covered by these transactions, the

1 MS. letter in the Bethlehem Archives.


inner life of the congregations was largely uneventful.
The Wachovian congregations pursued the even tenor of

Online LibraryPhilip SchaffThe American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 8) → online text (page 35 of 39)