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The Salzburgers of Colonial Georgia
bonzerwolf

In 1731, twenty thousand Protestants were expelled by the Archbishop Firmian of the Province of Salzburg (presently Austria) because they refused to embrace certain religious beliefs and they continued to follow the teachings of Martin Luther. Sixteen thousand went to East Prussia, two hundred to Holland, three hundred to the United States of America, Georgia, and three thousand five hundred settled in various locations.

The Trustees of the Colony of Georgia in 1732 extended an invitation to Salzburgers to come settle in the new colony in America. Reverend Samuel Urlsperger, Pastor of St Anna’s Lutheran Church in Augsburg, Germany, working through the “Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge” in England, made arrangements for the group of Salzburgers to travel to Georgia. In 1733, the first exiles arrived at St. Anna’s Lutheran Church. From AugsburgGermany, they traveled down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, Holland. It was at Rotterdam that the group was met by Lutheran pastors, Johann Martin Boltzius, age 31, and Israel Christian Gronau, age 27. The Pastors and their congregation of thirty seven (37) families boarded the ship, Purysburg, to make the trip to Dover, England. Upon arriving at Dover, the Salzburgers celebrated Christmas and New Years. In search of religious freedom, they re-boarded the Purysburg and left England for their long journey to America on January 8th, 1734. This was the “First Salzburger Transport”. The word transport refers to the ‘traveling group’ and not to the vessel.

Having spent eight weeks crossing the ocean, the American coastline was sighted on March 5th, 1734. The ship was off the shore of Charleston, South Carolina. Pastors Boltzius and Gronau were allowed to go ashore, while the others remained on the vessel.

As the Purysburg continued its trip down the coastline to Georgia, March 11-12, 1734, the ship grounded on a sand bar increasing fear of a shipwreck. Finally, on March 12th, 1734, the first Salzburgers landed at Savannah. General James Oglethorpe and the inhabitants of the City welcomed the Salzburgers. A tent was erected and a breakfast of rice soup was served to them.

The Salzburger exiles were led by General Oglethorpe to their new homes at Ebenezer (meaning “stone of help”). The settlers suffered severe hardships at this site which was located on Ebenezer Creek several miles inland from the Savannah River. Due to sickness and deaths of many of them, as well as the infertile soil, they requested of General Oglethorpe that he allow them to relocate their settlement to the banks of the Savannah River. In 1736, they were allowed to move to the present site at New Ebenezer located where Ebenezer Creek runs into the Savannah River.

The town of New Ebenezer was laid out similar to Savannah. By 1741, the town had grown to a population of twelve hundred. The Salzburgers were successful in agriculture, raising cattle, lumbering and silk culturing. These early settlers built the first saw mill in Georgia on Ebenezer Creek (1735), the first orphanage was built at New Ebenezer (1737), the first rice and grist mill in Georgia (1740), organized the first Sunday School (1734), constructed the first Church of any denomination, and a successful silk industry(1741). The first governor of Georgia, John Adam Treutlen, was from New Ebenezer (1777).

From 1767 to 1769, the Jerusalem Lutheran Church was built from bricks made of clay from the area. The walls of the Church are twenty-one (21) inches thick. Some of the original panes of glass can be seen in the windows of the Church. The congregation of this Church was originally formed at St Anna’s Lutheran Church in Augsburg, Germany in 1733. The congregation remains active today. The Jerusalem Lutheran Church is the oldest surviving intact building in Georgia.

Transports continued to arrive until 1752. The population of Ebenezer continued to grow until the Revolutionary War. During this period, Ebenezer was burned by the British and the town never recovered.

Presently at the Town of Ebenezer, one will find the Jerusalem Lutheran Church, the Cemetery, a Salzburger home built in 1755, and the Old Parsonage built in 1835. The Georgia Salzburger Museum is, also, located at the settlement.

The Salzburgers of today are the descendants of these brave men, women, and children who left their homeland (Austria and Germany) to live in Georgia due to religious prosecution by the Catholic Church.

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