Building Wachovia, Episode 2

The Era of Spangenberg

By Casey Landolf and Maizie Plumley

Born on July 15, 1704, Augustus Spangenberg spent the first decade of his life raised by his father, a Lutheran minister. During this time, he lost much of his faith and thought rather poorly of himself. The young Spangenberg went on to attend the University of Jena, where he was taken under the wing of Dr. Buddeus. Under his influence, Spangenberg decided to study theology instead of law like he had planned. While at the University of Jena, Spangenberg became associated with the Moravian Church and Count Zinzendorf. Spangenberg eventually began work with Count Zinzendorf in the Moravian Church. During his lifetime, he led the Moravian Church in expanding in North America, becoming the chief founder of the Moravian Church in the United States, and under his leadership, the church gained respect from universities. Commissioned by the Unity Elders’ Conference, he wrote an eight-volume work documenting the life of Count Zinzendorf and the Idea Fidei Fratrum or “Exposition of the Christian Doctrine,” the doctrine taught in the Moravian Church.


Casey Landolf

Maizie Plumley


Announcer: James Landolf

Reader: Maggie Pelta-Pauls

Spangenberg: Seth Payne

Researched by

Casey Landolf

Maizie Plumley



Transcript for The Era of Spangenberg


Announcer: This is Moravian Mornings. A podcast discussing the history surrounding the Moravians who settled in Wachovia.


Casey: Good morning! Welcome to the second episode of our Building Wachovia series. This week we are going to discuss Augustus Spangenberg. Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg was a German theologian, minister, bishop of the Moravian Church, and Count Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf’s successor. He assisted in the survey of land in the Yadkin Valley that would eventually be the location of Wachovia. Spangenberg is, if not a central figure, the central figure when discussing the beginning of Wachovia. In a broader picture, he was the chief founder of the Moravian Church in the United States. Spangenberg had a significant influence on Moravian mission work, and his contributions include his work titled The life of Zinzendorf, which consisted of eight large volumes, and his work for the Moravian Church, “Exposition of the Christian Doctrine.”


Maizie: Spangenberg did a lot for the Moravian Church, and we found it difficult to condense everything into an episode of Moravian Mornings. We tried our best to present what we think is most important, but there is a decent amount of information we did not have time to go over here. Just like our last episode on Count Zinzendorf, we again don’t discuss much of the Spangenberg’s church views just because that could be a whole episode by itself. Alright, everyone. Grab your coffee, and let’s learn about the Moravian Church’s chief founder in the United States, Augustus Spangenberg.


Early life

Casey: Augustus Spangenberg was born July 15th, 1704, in Germany, and his father was actually a Lutheran minister. His mother passed when he was roughly a year old from some type of illness, and his dad tried to attend to his and his three siblings’ education as best he could. Sadly, his father passed when Spangenberg was 10 in 1714 and Spangenberg was left in poverty.[1] He would go on to enter the University of Jena in 1722. I’m not sure how Spangenberg afforded university during this time since he was of a lower economic standing, but I do know that when he was attending the university, he was receiving an annual stipend from someone named Baron De Fritsch. I’m assuming if universities were not free around this time, this stipend would have been going towards his tuition. Anyway, between the years of his father passing and him entering university, it seems like he lost much of his faith and thought rather poorly of himself for this.


Spangenberg: “I remembered what the Lord has done for me, and how great and merciful had been his goodness, while at the same time, my own ingratitude stared at me in the face. I looked upon myself as the vilest sinner, and thought the most wicked transgressor was a better man than myself. This broke my heart, and so completely overwhelmed my spirit, that I could have sunk into the earth with shame and confusion.”[2]


Casey: This changed during his time at the University of Jena. He was taken under the wing of Dr. Buddeus, who was a professor at the university.[3] He found his faith again, and the young Spangenberg was really influenced by Dr. Buddeus, so much, in fact, that he decided to study theology rather than studying law like he had planned.


Spangenberg: “These words of the late Dr. Buddeus made such a deep impression upon my mind, that I at once resolved to study theology, with the firm determination faithfully to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and, for his sake, willingly to bear even sufferings. As soon as the lecture was ended I retired to my room, and, shutting the door, prostrated myself before the Lord, and promised, amidst a flood of tears, to dedicate myself to his service.”[4]


Maizie: To put everything in context, this is happening roughly around the same time that Zinzendorf forms the Moravian congregation on his estates in Germany.[5] As Spangenberg continued his studies at Jena, he developed the dream to become a missionary, and every day, he came closer and closer to this wish.[6] Around 1726 and the time he started developing a relationship with the Moravians, he received his MA, and he began to teach lectures at the University of Jena.[7] I actually think he might have done this unpaid. There was a part in Karl Ledderhose’s “The Life of Augustus Spangenberg” that led me to assume that. Oh, he actually states that he had no salary at Jena.[8] A series of events started around 1726/27 that led to his involvement with the Moravian Church. He first read an account of the Moravians suffering in Moravia, and their emigration to Zinzendorf’s land.[9] Following this, Spangenberg entertained a Moravian Brother at his house, “which afforded many an opportunity for spiritual conversation.”[10] From this Brother, he learned of Herrnhut. This same year, Count Zinzendorf visited the University of Jena, and Spangenberg attended an address made by the Count, though he did not speak.


Spangenberg: “I was present, and kept silence- but my heart rejoiced.”[11]


Maizie: Only a few months later, in the spring of 1728, Spangenberg entertained three Moravian Brothers who were passing through Jena on their way to England. During this, he along with some of his friends at Jena assisted with translating some of the Brothers’ documents to help them with their mission in England, and it is in this way that Spangenberg further learned about the Moravian Church.[12]


Spangenberg: “By this means, we obtained a clear insight into the history and constitution of the Brethren’s Church. We feasted upon the precious fruit which was offered to the English churches.”[13]


Casey: July of 1728, Count Zinzendorf again visited Jena, along with some of the Moravian Brethren. Spangenberg’s relationship with the protestants further developed, and he became closer to them. Around this time, a Moravian covenant emerges at Jena, and Spangenberg assists them with the school they set up in the town.[14] Zinzendorf again visited in 1729, and in 1730, Spangenberg visited Herrnhut, and by this time, Count Zinzendorf found Spangenberg’s counsel to be valuable. He even sent him his diary and other papers relating to Herrnhut.[15] Ok, now I’m going to lead us up to Augustus Spangenberg beginning his work relations with the Moravians. 1731, he is offered a position to teach at the University of Halle. He initially declines, but eventually he takes the job. He began work there around the fall of 1732 and taught there until April 2nd of 1733, and he’s basically fired. The teachers at Halle did not like the Moravians and Zinzendorf. Spangenberg hoped to change their opinions, and long story, short. This did not happen, and Halle fired Spangenberg within a few months of him taking the position, around 6 or 7 months, I think.

They actually asked him to renounce his connection with Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, and all past grievances would be forgotten at the university. Obviously, Spangenberg did not do this, and he openly declared that he would never do so.[16] Where was Spangenberg to go after this event? Herrnhut, of course. He arrived probably around late April. Zinzendorf was not there when he arrived, but when he came back to Herrnhut on May 5th, he and Spangenberg “agreed, that it would be best for Spangenberg to follow the rule of the Brethren, to be still, and wait upon the Lord…”[17] Zinzendorf made him his assistant[18], and this is how Spangenberg, now almost 29, came to be in the Moravian Church.


Working for the Moravian Church: Georgia and Pennsylvania

Maizie: As we’ve said, Spangenberg did a lot for the Moravian Church, holding a number of different positions and helping to oversee and lead the development of the Moravian Church. We’re going to give a general summary of some of the things he did, but we are mainly going to focus on Wachovia. In 1735, about two years after joining the church, Spangenberg left for North America to organize Moravian work in Georgia, and work was begun on the Moravian settlement in Savannah, Georgia. Due to various reasons, this colony failed. During this time, he arranged for the group to move to a site in Pennsylvania. The settlement in Savannah intended to serve as a refuge in case the Moravians faced prosecution in Germany, and as a mission center for Moravians in North America, resulting in Spangenberg’s founding of the North American branch of the Unitas Fratrum in 1741 and the establishment of the Moravian communal community in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[19]


Working for the Moravian Church: England

Casey: I’m going to skip forward by a few months. On November 10th, 1742, Spangenberg established a congregation of the Moravian church in London, after it was sanctioned by the lot.[20] Spangenberg continued his work for the Moravian Church, traveling to England and Germany, and returned to North America in 1744 after he was consecrated bishop at Herrnhagg to oversee the Moravian settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Internal politics caused Spangenberg to lose a lot of his influence and he was eventually replaced with Bishop Nitschmann. Spangenberg returned to London, where he wrote in defense of Zinzendorf during an upheaval concerning pietism. In London, there was a conference held on November 29, 1751 where it was decided to accept an offer of land in North Carolina along the Yadkin River from Lord Granville. This land would need to be surveyed, and Spangenberg was chosen as one of the Moravian Brothers to take part in this difficult task.[21]


Working for the Moravian Church: North Carolina

Maizie: August 25th, 1752, nine months after the conference in London, Spangenberg, accompanied by five Moravian Brothers, set out from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to survey the tract of land in North Carolina, and they would arrive in North Carolina a little over two weeks later..[22]


Spangenberg: “Edenton, September 10, 1752: Yesterday we arrived in Carolina. On the entire journey from Bethlehem the Lord has kept us in good health, and has guided us with His eye. Letters from My Lord Granville to Mr. Corbin had given us good introduction, so that all were ready to welcome us so soon as we reached our lodgings.” [23]


Maizie: The party reached the site that would come to be named Wachovia. Fourteen sections of land were surveyed. When examining the meadows, Spangenberg came to think of the home of Zinzendorf in Austria. These lands had been given the name “Wachau,” with “wach” meaning a stream, and “aue” meaning a meadow. It is in this way that the tract of land in North Carolina came to be called Wachovia.[24] In his diary, Spangenberg discusses the land after surveying, suggesting each of the 11 tracts be given a name to appear on the deeds that would be given to them by Lord Granville.


Spangenberg:January 25th, 1753: Luneberg County, in Virginia: The eleventh is the entire district of Carguels Creek, and is richest in water of any place I have seen, and well fitted for cattle raising. Why should we not call it Wachau, and so renew that name? What we should call the fourteen pieces which compose the Wachau I do not yet know; perhaps we could use the names of the creeks in each piece.” [25]


Maizie: While in Wachovia, Spangenberg made sure to also inquire about the laws and customs of the area.[26] Measurements were completed in mid-January, and on February 12, 1753, Spangenberg and those in his company completed the journey back to Bethlehem, and on their arrival learned the news that Count Zinzendorf’s only son, Christian Renatus, had passed away in May of the previous year. He remained busy in Pennsylvania until Zinzendorf  urged him to quicken his departure, and on May 27, Spangenberg left North America for London.[27] He would not return to Pennsylvania until March of 1754. While in London from 1753 to 1754, Spangenberg found Count Zinzendorf in “financial embarrassment.” It’s mentioned in Karl Ledderhose’s “Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg” that “at this time his counsel was truly valuable,” which leads me to believe that he had to help the Church out of this financial difficulty.[28] While in London, he was also appointed as Ordinary, or Bishop, over all the American congregations in Pennsylvania, so in March of 1754, he, along with 51 Brothers and Sisters sailed to Pennsylvania, and here, I think it was in Bethlehem, Bishop Spangenberg lived until 1762 when he returned to Europe.[29]


Casey: He actually didn’t travel to Wachovia often, and it seems he probably only did it for major matters, like to direct and plan development of the towns and to establish a proper relationship between Wachovia and the central church government in Germany.[30] I say this because the next time he comes to Wachovia is in the summer of 1759, during the French and Indian War, to assist in the development of the town of Bethania. He, along with two other Moravian Brothers, chose the location of Bethania near Black Walnut Bottom, and Spangenberg led the development of the town, conducting duties such as leading meetings and choosing Moravians who would live in the new town.[31] While in Wachovia, he also introduced the same regulations he had put in place in the Pennsylvania settlements during the French and Indian War. It would be almost a year when he departed home for Bethlehem, arriving on May 22, 1760.[32] Later this year, he learned that Count Zinzendorf had passed away in May.[33] Knowing he would be eventually called back to Europe to take the place of Zinzendorf[34], the Bishop attended his duties “with the utmost zeal,’ with his wife visiting all of the Moravian congregations in North America, superintending the breaking up of the general housekeeping, I’m pretty sure this means the Oeconomy, and appointing his successors, Nathaniel Seidel and Frederick de Marshall, and on June 22, 1762, he and his wife left North America for the last time to travel home to Europe.[35]


Reader 1: “Bethabara Diary December 8th, 1763: We were made happy by the unexpected arrival of letters from Germany… The letters were from Br. Johannes (von Watteville) and Br. Joseph (Spangenberg), and were dated Herrnhut, July 29th. We were interested to hear that on the 26th and 27th of that month a conference had been held about Wachovia affairs, of which Br. Joseph (Spangenberg) sent an outline to us, full details having been sent to Br. Frederick Marschall in Bethlehem. Br Marschall has been made Oeconomus for Wachovia; with Br. Ettwein as Vice-Oeconomus in his absence.” [36]


Return to Europe/Later Life

Maizie: And now, we enter into the Era of Spangenberg within the Moravian Church. The last 30 years of his life, Spangenberg would spend assisting and leading the Moravian Church in Europe. After his arrival in Herrnhut in 1762, Spangenberg was assigned to the College of Elders, which he would be elected to a few times before his time, which was organized “for the management of the Lord among Christians and heathen.” I think this means he was probably a member of the church governmental body, and he took on other roles during the later stage of his life. Beginning in January of 1764, he started living in “comparative retirement.”[37] This year, he was also commissioned by the brethren to write a work on Count Zinzendorf. He presided over church Synods,[38] and he was elected as a Member of the Directing Board, which would occupy most of his time. This board was basically a committee appointed to conduct the affairs of the Church from one Synod to another.[39]


Casey: He was able to remove a lot of the misunderstandings that divided the Moravian Brethren,[40] and under his guidance, the Moravians became “honoured by the orthodox party in Germany as trusted champions of the faith delivered once for all unto the saints.”[41] Under his leadership, the church gained respect from universities, which is something that did not happen under the leadership of Zinzendorf.[42] I’m not sure what exactly Spangenberg did other than keeping in touch with universities, but whatever he did, it worked. He wrote two of his most important and well-known works during this era of his life. Around 1769/1770, he finished an eight-volume work on Count Zinzendorf that the brethren had commissioned him to write years prior in 1764. Following this, the next work he was commissioned by the Unity’s Elders’ Conference to write was the “Idea Fidei Fratrum,” or “Exposition of the Christian Doctrine,” which was the doctrine taught in the Moravian Church.[43] Bishop Spangenberg lived to quite an older age given the times. Despite his age and his deteriorating health, he continued to regularly attend meetings of the Unity’s Elders’ Conference.[44] In 1791, he took up residence at Berthelsdorf, which is near Herrnhut.[45] From this year, his health gradually deteriorated, and by June 1792, he found himself no longer able to attend meetings.[46] A few months later, he passed at the age of 88, surrounded by colleagues who had assembled around his bed, and thus the Era of Spangenberg ended.[47]



Maizie: Around the time that he was learning about the Moravians, apparently Spangenberg actually made it a subject in his prayers that he wished to be better acquainted with the Moravian Church, which really shows how fascinated he was with the religion.[48] He also actually wanted to retire a few times during his time with the Moravian Church. He first wanted to retire when entering the congregation, but then Zinzendorf made him his assistant.[49] Sometime around completing the survey work in North Carolina, he stated in a letter to Count Zinzendorf that he wished to retire from active service for a bit, but obviously this also did not happen.[50]


Casey: It’s interesting to think about how the Moravian colonies in North America would have developed if Spangenberg had been able to retire. Did you know that someone else was actually selected by the Lot at one of the Moravians’ Synods to write the “Exposition of the Christian Doctrine?”


Maizie: Oh, I didn’t know that!


Casey: The Brother actually wrote it, and the leading church officials did not like it.


Maizie: Wow, that is really interesting.


Casey: I don’t have dates, but they apparently asked at another Synod if Spangenberg could write it, and the “no” slip was drawn, but the church officials were convinced that Spangenberg was the man for the job.[51] Obviously at some point, Spangenberg had to have been approved since he did end up writing it, but it’s also interesting to see how the Moravians could and did disagree with decisions pulled from the Lot. Thanks for listening to another episode of Moravian Mornings. Join us next week as we learn about one of Spangenberg’s successors in the North American colonies, Frederick Marshall.


Announcer: This has been an episode of Moravian Mornings, a Historic Bethabara Park podcast. If you have any questions or would like our hosts to discuss certain topics, please email us at or message us on our Instagram page, also titled Moravian Mornings. Thanks for listening. Auf Wiedersehen.



[1] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, The Life of Augustus Spangenberg, Bishop of the Unity of the Brethren (London, UK: William Mallalieu and Co, 1855), 1-4.

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Ibid., 4-5.

[4] Ibid., 7.

[5] Ibid., 9-10.

[6] Ibid.,, 13.

[7] Ibid.,, 15.

[8] Ibid.,, 16.

[9] Ibid.,, 11.

[10] Ibid.,, 13.

[11] Ibid.,, 13.

[12] Ibid.,, 14.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 15.

[16]  Ibid., 17-20.

[17] Ibid., 22.

[18] Ibid., 48.

[19] John Henry Clewell, History of Wachovia in North Carolina: The Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church in North Carolina during a Century and a Half, 1752-1902 (New York: NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1902), 315

[20] J.E. Hutton and M.A. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church (United States: Moravian Publication Office, 1909), 

[21] Ibid., 4-6.

[22] Ibid., 6.

[23] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922), 30.

[24] John Henry Clewell, History of Wachovia in North Carolina, 9-10.

[25] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 62.

[26] C. Daniel Crews and Richard Starbuck, With Courage for the Future: The Story of the Moravian Church, Southern Province (Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Church in America, Southern Province, 2002), 6.

[27] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, 70-71.

[28] Ibid., 71.

[29] Ibid., 72, 84-85.

[30] John Henry Clewell, History of Wachovia in North Carolina, 51.

[31] Ibid., 65-67.

[32] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, 80-81.

[33] Ibid., 81.

[34] J.E. Hutton and M.A. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church, Book 3,  Ch. 1.

[35] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, 84.

[36] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 277.

[37] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, 86.

[38] Ibid., 87.

[39] Ibid., 87-88.

[40] Ibid., 89.

[41] J.E. Hutton and M.A. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church, Book 2, Ch. II.

[42] Ibid.,, Book 2, Ch. II.

[43] Karl Friedrich Ledderhose, Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, 91.

[44] Ibid.,, 114.

[45] Ibid.,, 115.

[46] Ibid.,, 116.

[47] Ibid.,, 117.

[48] Ibid.,, 13.

[49] Ibid.,, 48.

[50] Ibid.,, 69.

[51] J.E. Hutton and M.A. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church, Book 3, Ch. 1.



Ledderhose, Karl Friedrich. The Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg: Bishop of the Unity of the Brethren. William Mallalieu and Co., 1855.


Clewell, John Henry. History of Wachovia in North Carolina: The Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church in North Carolina During a Century and a Half, 1752-1902. New York, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1902.


Hutton, J.E., and M.A. Hutton,  A History of the Moravian Church. Moravian Publication Office, United States of America, 1909.


Fries, Adelaide, ed. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771. Vol. I. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922.


Crews, C. Daniel, and Richard Starbuck. With Courage for the Future: The Story of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Church in America, Southern Province, 2002.


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