The Salzburgers Come to Georgia – Historiographical Essay

Salzburgers Come to Georgia

In 1733, Salzburgers, from what is now Salzburg, Austria, began their journey to the New World in search of freedom from religious persecution from the hands of the Roman Catholic Church their. Their journey was a long one, from the beginnings of the Reformation, to setting sail to Savannah, Georgia, but it is also one of the least written about historical migrations. Two authors, The Rev. P. A. Strobel and George Fenwick Jones stand out in their tails about the settling of Georgia by the Salzburgers. Strobel, in 1855, published “The Salzburgers and their Descendants” as a historical reference specifically for the use of the Lutherans in Georgia and South Carolina. George Fenwick Jones, published in 1984 by the University of Georgia Press, wrote “The Salzburger Saga.” Lastly, Jones wrote, published in 1994 also by the University of Georgia Press, “The Georgia Dutch.” These three book chronicle both the struggles and triumphs of the Lutheran refugees who hailed from Salzburg, Austria.
Strobel, in his book, begins by stating the nature of religious persecution of all who have come to the Americas[1]. He then narrates the struggles of the Salzburgers, which he states had been “victims of religious persecution,[2]” and of their willingness to simply “depart[3]” their homeland to have the ability to worship as they desired. He goes on to say, that after religious trial, even their children were taken from them, no “less then six hundred[4]” of them. Finally, he explains that how, after the Archbishopric of Salzburg[5] had noticed that many had renounced the Catholic faith, even greater persecution began.
Next, he moves to the chartering of the Colony of Georgia by King George II[6], and the fact that it included a provision of “refuge for the distressed Salzburgers[7].” Although, he explains that there was not any immediate funds and effort to relinquish the Salzburgers from the plight, the “Society for the Propogation of Christian Knowledge” was able to convince the “Trustees” to feel the need to help, and a “liberal grant of money” was soon dispensed in their cause[8].The invitation was given for fifty families to move to Georgia in December of 1732[9]. The Salzburgers were promised fifty acres of land to them and their “heirs forever,” as long as they obeyed orders of the Trustees and became citizens of Georgia[10]. Once this order came forth, preparations were begun immediately; the first wave of emigrant Salzburgers began on their journey in 1733[11]. As they journeyed from town to town, they met both excited supporters as well as those who shut their doors to them, but they carried on[12]. The total number that set out on the journey was “seventy-eight persons,” including “forty-two men[13].” On November 27, 1733, they were met in the city of Rotterdam by, as Strobel says, “by their chosen teachers, the Rev. John Martin Bolzius, and Rev. Israel Christian Gronau[14].” These men would be the spiritual fathers of the Salzburgers as they made their trip to the colony of Georgia. He then further mentions that, upon reaching England in December of 1733, they would soon debark to their new home[15]. Finally, on December 28, 1733, after an “appropriate sermon,” and “singing a hymn,” the sails were set upon the ship, and they were off to their “distant,” new home[16].
Just as Strobel ends the previous chapter with a note of the religious ceremony, he also begins the next one. He explains that no Salzburger knew anything of the oceans, and while they were thrust into “its bosom,” they continuously sprang forth with Psalms[17] while the two “pious teachers” conducted worship daily[18]. He goes on that, “after a perilous passage of one hundred and four days, they reached Charleston, S.C., early in March, 1794[19].” Once they arrived, they met with James Oglethorpe, and after a couple of days, they “entered the Savannah River[20].” On March 12, 1734, the Salzburgers reached Savannah[21] and soon began to search for a location for their new home[22]. The “corps of observation” was sent out, and went thirty miles into the frontier and found a place on “the banks of a river of clear water[23],” with “valleys of rich cane land[24].” Strobel once again points out, by stating how the Salzburgers who accompanied this group, bowed there head in solemn blessing and then sprung forth in songs of thanksgiving to God, just how devout and religious these German people were[25]. After they had given praise, they “set up a rock” and named the place Ebenezer, and the foundation was laid for the “COLONY OF SALZBURGERS[26].”
For Strobel, as a Lutheran minister, the religious background of the Salzburgers is most important. For him, every event is met by thanksgiving and praise, even in these peopleโ€™s afflictions and persecution. First, while still in Europe, the seeds are sown for the migration to Georgia by two men, who, under great duress and pain, simply would not bow the knee to their Roman Catholic oppressors. (30) For Strobel, the fact that these people, being the first Lutherans and the first Germans, brings to Georgia a new religious community, were, even with trials, tribulations, and uncertainties ahead, will eventually become a hallmark in the history of Georgia. Yet, even beyond that, it enabled Georgia to be seen as a place of refuge for those suffering from religious persecution.
In “The Salzburger Saga,” by George Fenwick Jones, he immediately praises Rev. Strobel’s book, “Salzburgers and their Descendants,” yet maintains, due to the era it was written in, it is “woefully obsolete” in the face of the newer historical records[27]. He also notes that Strobel’s book is lacking true historical sources, and backs up the claim that his viewpoint had mainly a “religious message[28].” For Jones, instead of playing good versus evil, he brings in the necessary historical context from a more critical view. He begins, in his chapter titled “The Expulsion[29]” by giving a simple, yet necessary background of Salzburg. He backs up the claims of Roman Catholic persecution of the Protestants[30], but explains this becomes possible because of the lack of central government to back up the deal agreed upon. This was because the German states, although seemingly united, were also very independent under the rule of their respective pronces. Although Emperor Charles VI agreed with the Roman Catholic position, he needed the support of the Protestant princes to maintain what fragile authority and power he had[31]. Jones elaborates that, after the Lutherans showed great resilience for their faith, the Roman Catholic resolve against them was strengthened[32], and thus the great persecutions, as mentioned by Strobel, began to occur[33].
He explains that the “emigration of the Salzburg martyrs was a triumphal march[34]” that enraptured all of the Protestants of Germany. The British, as champions of Protestantism[35], attempted to help all groups of Protestants who were being persecuted; therefore, organizations had been founded within the British Empire to do so. First among these, Jones explains, was the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which was founded to “bring the gospel to the poor of Britain and her colonies[36].” Not only did this society affect England and her colonies, but it also touched lives throughout Europe. Samuel Urlsperger, a Lutheran minister in Augsburg who was concerned about the fate of the Salzburg Lutherans, greatly influenced the Society to help the Salzburgers[37]. The Society both worked closely and shared members with the Trustees who established the colony of Georgia[38]. This body, as Jones explains, was a philanthropic group of men, whose aim was to create a colony beyond South Carolina to house the poorer people of England and to be a place of refuge for the Protestants who were being persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. He explains that many donations were given for the cause of the Salzburgers, and in 1732 the Trustees commissioned Urlsperger to get three hundred Salzburgers for the new colony of Georgia[39].
While the Salzburgers made their way to England, and eventually to Georgia, Jones says that they were put under the charge of a man named Philipp George Friedrich von Reck, who was a young noble man[40]. This was done while they were in Augsburg, and he remained with them throughout their journey. On October 31, 1733 the Salzburgers leave Augsburg and head on what is called the “Romantic Way[41].” Once they reached Rotterdam, the Salzburgers were met by their ministers Bolzius and Gronau. Jones explains that these two ministers not only traveled with the Salzburgers, but ministered to them for the rest of their lives, therefore becoming cemented into the history of these Salzburg emigrants[42]. At Dover, the Salzburgers were met by a Georgia Trustee, Thomas Coram as well as Henry Alard Butienter, who was a Court Chaplain. While they were there, the German emigrants swore allegiance to King George, earning the rights of native born Englishmen[43].
After having both Christmas and New Years celebrations, the Salzburgers boarded the ship Purysburg and headed their way to their new home in Georgia[44]. Jones expounds upon the fact that the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean was full of troubles and trials. The ship sat sail on January 8, 1734 in bad seas, which caused sea sickness. The Salzburgers were tightly packed on the ship, many times five to a single bunk. Their food became bad, and the water also, being stagnant, became spoiled[45]. Jones mentions also that, the good reports in Bolzius’s travel log are due to his optimistic behavior[46]. This being the case, it explains Strobel’s lack of information concerning the conditions of the Salzburgers while they were aboard ship. Jones, having clear historical accounts, can make the case of the conditions, while Strobel, with only the diary of the Lutheran minister, can only account for what was written down by him. Beyond the historical ramifications, concerning Strobel’s account of the emigration of the Salzburgers, Jones points out that the accounts of the journey, written by both ministers, were heavily edited by Urlsperger. He did this for both promotional and inspirational purposes[47]. Knowing this, this backs up Jones’s claim that the sources that Strobel had were not completely accurate.
Finally, on March 5, 1734, the Salzburgers sight South Carolina[48]. Jones explains however, though they had reached the New World, they had to remain on board while Bolzius, Gronau, and von Reck went ashore[49]. While in Charleston, they met both the governor of South Carolina, Robert Johnson, and James Edward Oglethorpe, who was the founder of Georgia. Oglethorpe was on a return trip to England, but because of the arrival of the Salzburgers, he decided to delay his trip so that he could “conduct the Salzburgers to Georgia[50].” One March 12, 1734, the Salzburgers were welcomed into Savannah. Interestingly enough, Jones makes reference to the fact that they were fed breakfast by a Jew from Frankfurt, who had arrived in Georgia when it was founded[51]. Jones remarks that the Salzburgers were free to select a place to live, but that in the end, by “leading them to an area about twenty-five miles northwest of Savannah,” Oglethorpe made the choice. He also points out that he did this due to military considerations[52].
Jones says that the Salzburgers were thrilled with the site of their new homeland[53]. The new settlers named their new homeland Ebenezer, meaning “Stone of Help[54].” Jones goes on to explain that Strobel’s assertion that a stone was raised at the site is implausible. He cites this do to the fact the Ebenezer, which is located on the coastal plain of Georgia, has no stones.
In his book, “The Georgia Dutch,” Jones repeats the same as in his previous book. However, he further more proves his more humanist approach, by using the term “Neanderthal[55],” as well as being strictly historical. This again is distinctly different from Strobel’s religious approach.
Again, he begins by giving the historical background of Salzburg, but even more broadly, he gives the historical background of Europe in general. His book not only talks about the Salzburgers, but the Germans who came to Georgia in general, to include the Palatines and the Wurttembergers.
He explains how Martin Luther’s reforms “quickly” reached the citizens of Salzburg and many became converts.[56] Although the city remained Roman Catholic, the people outside of the city, such as the miners, retained their Protestant faith in secret[57]. Eventually, however, in October of 1731, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Anton Leopold Eleutherius, signed what Jones called his “notorious Edict of Expulsion[58].” This edict required all Protestants who did not have property to leave within three weeks, and those who did have property to leave within three months[59]. This, as he explains, went against the Treaty of Westphalia, which was signed after the Thirty Years War, which gave a ruler the right to expel the Protestants, but gave the Protestants the right to stay in their location for three years[60].

James Oglethorpe, along with other gentlemen, decided, because of the “sad state of the urban underclass” in England, to create the “Trustees for Establishing a Colony in Georgia.” Once Georgia was established, due to the Spanish, and thus Roman Catholic, neighbors to the south in Florida, it was decided that all emigrants to Georgia must be Protestant[61]. Eventually, on October 12, 1732, the Trustees were advised by James Vernon and Dr. Bundy that the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge wanted the Salzburgers to be granted “asylum” in Georgia[62].
Because of this petition from the two gentlemen, the Trustee’s made several resolutions in favor of the Salzburgers.[63] Unlike in his previous book, “The Salzburger Saga,” Jones recounts all of these resolutions in full. First, they acknowledge the “deplorable state” of the Salzburgers, and then draft seven articles on their behalf[64]. These articles enabled payment for the Salzburgers, gave seed allotments, allotted three lots for each man, ordered them to obey the orders of the Trustees, made them citizens when they arrived and settled[65], and lastly gave them protection to freely exercise their religion[66].
Once the articles had been issued, the Trustees worked closely with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to raise funds for the migration of the Salzburgers[67]. By May of 1733, Jones points out that the Society was in contact with Urlsperger, who would become the man responsible for the Salzburgers. By the end of April, 1733, they had collected “between three and four thousand pounds,” and Urlsperger was vigorously campaigning to the Salzburgers to come to Georgia[68]. However, Jones also mentions that by 1733 the main “expulsion” had already ended, but even so, there were still some Salzburgers left in southern Germany[69]. He had mentioned before that the majority of the people thrown out had gone to Prussia[70]. By August of 1733, Jones writes that Urlsperger was able to convince seventy eight Salzburgers to go to Georgia, yet only fifty seven in the end were willing to go. Once they set out, they remained at Augsburg until von Reck was given charge of them, and then he marched the Salzburgers towards Britain[71]. Again, as before in his previous book, he notes that at Rotterdam they met their Lutheran ministers, Bolzius and Gronau, and he elaborates that Bolzius would serve the Salzburgers for the “next thirty years[72].” He points out that the cost of traveling from Augsburg to Rotterdam was paid by the “Society”, while the remaining costs were paid by the Trustees[73].
Unlike his previous book, Jones does not give a detailed account of the Salzburgers’ voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. He picks up when the transport carrying the Germans reached Savannah on March 12, 1734.ย  Again, he mentions they were met by the Jew, Benjamin Sheftall, and he explains this because “good German[74].” Also, he makes mention that Sheftall promised to continually help the Salzburgers[75].
The Salzburgers stayed briefly in Savannah while members of the Salzburgers and the colony of Georgia searched for a place for them to reside. Again, he mentions that “theoretically” the Salzburgers could have chosen to live anywhere they wished, but because of military purposes, Oglethorpe led them to their future home[76]. Once they had arrived, the Salzburgers named the place Ebenezer. He mentions the legend of them setting up a stone, but again mentions that this is impossible because there are no stones on the coastal plains on Georgia[77]. Lastly, he mentions that, once they arrived and settled, they began to clear the forests and build houses, and once this occurred, von Reck returned to Europe, “convinced that Ebenezer was a true paradise[78].”
Contrary to Strobel’s reckoning of the history of the Salzburgers, Jones’s books are more historical in their nature and form. Where as Strobel continually mentions the religious qualities of the Lutherans from Salzburg, Jones mentions them only in the context of their historical record. Also, for Strobel, the Roman Catholic Church was pure evil, and persecuted the Salzburgers simply because of this fact. For Jones, he recognizes that for the Roman Catholic Church, the newly converted Protestants, in both Germany and throughout Europe, were a threat, both politically and economically.
Historically speaking, it is obvious, due to the amount of sources available, that Jones’s books are more credible. Strobel is left to “hand me down” accounts from the Salzburgers themselves, as well as church records, and minister diaries. On the contrary, Jones has access to the records of Georgia, as well as other types of records. However, this does not diminish the importance of Strobel’s work, for it was the first major publication concerning the Salzburg peoples who came to Georgia.
If I would have written these books, it would be very difficult to have written them any different then they have been presented. As a Salzburger myself, I found all three books, and their accounts of the Salzburgers, to be fascinating. Many of these histories are still passed on today by word of mouth, and it is amazing how accurately they correspond with these three books. However, if I were to rewrite these books, I would condense them into one volume, and take the religious fervor of Strobel, and the empirical nature of Jones, and clash them. By doing this, I believe it would be possible to not only capture the historical importance of the emigration of the Salzburgers, but also the religious fire that burned within them.

In conclusion, it is important, for both authors, that the accounts of the Salzburgers be recorded. For Strobel, it was both because he was a minister to possible descendants of the Salzburgers, as well as it being an inspirational message. For Jones, the story is important because the Salzburgers were one of the first settlers in Georgia, and established one of the oldest remaining settlements at Ebenezer. As they both go into great detail, the migration on the Salzburgers was a long and trying journey, but in the end, they made it, and helped shape Georgia in to what she is today.

[1] P. A. Strobel, The Salzburgers and Their Descendants (University of Georgia Press, 1953), 19.

[2] Ibid., 23.

[3] Ibid., 31.

[4] Ibid., 33.

[5] Ibid., 41.

[6] Ibid., 44.

[7] Ibid., 45.

[8] Ibid., 46.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 47.

[11] Ibid., 49.

[12] Ibid., 53, 53.

[13] Ibid., 51.

[14] Ibid., 54.

[15] Ibid., 55.

[16] Ibid., 56.

[17] Ibid., 58.

[18] Ibid., 59.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 60.

[22] Ibid., 62.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 63.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] George Fenwick Jones, The Salzburger Saga (University of Georgia Press, 1984), ix.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., 1.

[30] Ibid., 5.

[31] Ibid., 6.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid., 7.

[34] Ibid., 8.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid., 9.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., 10.

[41] Ibid., 11.

[42] Ibid., 12

[43] Ibid., 13.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid., 14.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., 15.

[54] Ibid.

[55] George Fenwick Jones, The Georgia Dutch: From the Rhine and Danube to the Savannah, 1733-1783 (University of Georgia Press, 1992), 1.

[56] Ibid., 14.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid., 18.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid., 19.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid., 20.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid., 21.

[70] Ibid., 14.

[71] Ibid., 21.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid., 35.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid., 37.

[78] Ibid.


Jones, George Fenwick. The Georgia Dutch: From the Rhine and Danube to the
Savannah, 1733-1783.
Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Jones, George Fenwick. The Salzburger Saga. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia
Press, 1984.

Strobel, P. A. The Salzburgers and Their Descendants. Athens, Georgia: University of
Georgia Press, 1953


5 thoughts on “The Salzburgers Come to Georgia – Historiographical Essay

  1. Interesting topic. And very informative Sweetie. A family devoted to God since the beginning…and still as faithful as ever. Even through a few denominational changes over the centuries. I wish we had this much information on my family..we just have the Studebaker genealogy books…huge but just a brief description on each person. My children and I will be in the next one…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    mon amour un vrai,


  2. Hey!!!! Happy Thanksgiving!! .!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and each year I like to get into the mood-extend the holiday, as it were-by reading “Thanksgiving novels.” Not surprisingly, all these stories are mostly about family and friends, about coming together to heal old hurts and giving thanks for the gift of love. . .. ::
    Have You Been Far better Off These days Than You Were 8 Years Ago?

  3. I am just now learning about the Salzburgers of Georgia. Do you know anything about the Goldwire family, many of who claim to be descendants of the Salzburgers, but some Goldwire descendants claim that Goldwires were already present in Georgia. I am a Goldwire descendant (not a Goldwire by name) and just met another one on ancestry.com, who is in the second camp i.e., that there is no real connection.

    1. It isn’t a name I am familiar with, and I don’t recall seeing them in the books that list all the descendants – however, it is possible a male Goldwire married a Salzburger early on, etc. I just don’t know. Again, I haven’t seen anything, but honestly I wasn’t looking either.

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