Season 1, Episode 3
Bethabara, Bethania, and Salem
By Casey Landolf and Maizie Plumley
The first three settlements in Wachovia were Bethabara, Bethania, and Salem. Why were these towns established, and how were they established? What made them unique?
Announcer: James Landolf
Transcript for Bethabara, Bethania, and Salem
Announcer: This is Moravian Mornings. A podcast discussing the history surrounding the Moravians who settled in Wachovia.
Casey: We’re going to discuss the 2 Bs, Bethabara and Bethania, using the 5 Ws, and shortly discuss Salem. Many know more about Salem, now called Old Salem, than the towns of Bethabara and Bethania. For those who don’t know, Old Salem is a living history museum that interprets the history of the Moravians that settled in the area. It’s a historic district in Winston-Salem, and that’s where part of Winston-Salem’s name comes from, and many students throughout the Piedmont triad area visit the museum on school trips or at least hear about it in school.
Maizie: Those who visit Old Salem often leave with the impression that there are no other Moravian settlements in the area and that there was nothing before Salem. This could not be less true, and since the creation of these lesser-known towns is crucial to the development of Salem, we think it’s important to discuss their histories since they really are the foundation of Moravian history in the area. We’ll also discuss Salem as well for those who are new to Moravian history!
Maizie: In North America, the Moravian’s central town of Bethlehem was founded in 1741, in Pennsylvania. In 1753, the Moravians purchased a 100,000-acre tract of land in the Piedmont of North Carolina from Lord Granville, one of the last Lord Proprietors of North Carolina. After the land was surveyed and a location for settlement selected, fifteen Single Brothers from Bethlehem traveled down the Great Wagon Road to the site.
The journey lasted from October 8 to November 17, 1753. These fifteen Single Brothers were chosen because they each possessed skills that would allow for the settlement to succeed.The first settlement, meant to be only temporary, was named Bethabara, or “House of Passage” in Hebrew. After the initial settlement began, eleven of the fifteen settlers stayed to live and work in Bethabara. These men had various skills and held various positions in Bethabara, from a doctor to a shoemaker and carpenter, which would be needed in forming the town. While the settlements in Pennsylvania were meant to mostly support missionary work, the North Carolina settlement was meant as an economic venture for the Moravian Church. Several money-making ventures were attempted the first few years, from growing silkworms (silk cloth) to grapes (wine), but none were successful. Bethabara became a profitable venture when the town began taking part in the fur trade, purchasing furs from trappers in exchange for goods made by Bethabara tradesmen. Moravians would then sell the furs in the port cities of Wilmington, NC, and Charleston, SC.
Bethabara was only meant to be a temporary settlement. Its purpose was to create a foothold in the Piedmont of North Carolina for the Moravians. After that foothold was established, the Moravians would establish a new, permanent town, a Gemein ort or “central town” in Wachovia. This town would be known as Salem, but plans changed due to the French & Indian War. Cherokee and Shawnee attacks forced a delay in building the central town of Salem, as the Moravians built stockades around their town and mill, becoming a refuge to settlers along the Yadkin River whose homes were attacked by the Cherokee during the Cherokee War of 1759.
In Bethabara, the Moravians lived under an economic system they called the “Oeconomy,” a semi-communal institution controlled by the Moravian Church. Under this system, the Moravians retained resources they brought with them, which were considered their private property, except for land, cattle, and cash. The Moravian church owned all parts of production in the town except for the labor itself, which the Moravians provided in exchange for food, housing, clothing, medical care, and education for their children.
The Oeconomy system ended in Bethabara in 1801 and land was then leased by the Moravian Church and the Moravians kept the profits they made. By maintaining ownership of the land, the Moravian Church was able to regulate who lived in Bethabara, keeping non-Moravians from moving in and attempting to keep competition out by only allowing one tradesman of a certain trade in the town. The church also regulated the price of goods and services provided by tradesmen in order to prevent one person from owning a great deal more than another. This was also the economic model that Salem started out with, never having a communal economy like Bethabara.
By 1856, the lease system came to an end in the main town of Salem, as elders were reluctant to cancel the leases of those who violated the rules and regulations and the growing influence of outsiders on Moravians. When the lease system ended, non-Moravians were able to move into the towns. This was also when the Church relinquished all governance of the town and Salem became a secular town.
Casey: Bethania gets its name from the biblical town of Bethany, a village near Jerusalem that was recorded as being the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. During the French and Indian War, Bethabara’s population soared due to the growing number of refugees seeking shelter and protection within the town. There are two reasons for the creation of another town: to ease the burden of the ever-growing population of Bethabara and to also make sure that Bethabara would not become large enough to compete with the still-unstarted central town of Salem.
This resulted in Bishop Spangenberg being sent to Bethabara in 1759 to start the development of the town that was to be located three miles away. Spangenberg is one of the surveyors who selected the Wachovia tract, and he also oversaw the towns in this area as well. Eight married Moravian couples were selected to move to Bethania, and unusual for a Moravian town, eight non-Moravian, refugee families were selected soon after to live there as well. These non-Moravian families selected were “society” members, where they were associated with the Moravian church, but they were not yet members. Though being a “society” member didn’t mean that one had to convert, this is often the first step that non-Moravians took to convert. All eight non-Moravian families were selected due to having this status within the community. All non-Moravian families also had to sign a contract before they were allowed to move to Bethania.
Just because Non-Moravians were allowed to live in Bethania does not mean that everyone liked the idea of Moravians and non-Moravians living together. Before I discuss this quote, I need to quickly discuss who Count Zinzendorf is. Nikolaus Zinzendorf invited religious refugees from Moravia and Bohemia to settle on his estate in 1722, effectively founding Herrnhut. Zinzendorf formed the modern Moravian church. Many of the sermons and hymns he wrote are still widely used today, even outside of the Moravian church. Wachovia was actually named in honor of Zinzendorf’s ancestral lands in the Wachau valley.
It’s stated in the first volume of Records of the Moravians in North Carolina that “it is said that Zinzendorf did not approve of the settlement of Bethania, with its mixture of Brethren and friends, and his idea that the Unity of Brethren was ordained by God to be a company of workers rather than a denomination caused the Brethren to hold back in the days when with their good organization, their competent ministry, and their pure Gospel, they might have swept whole sections of America into their church.” There were quite a few factors that played a role in allowing non-Moravian families to live in Bethania. A major one was that there simply wasn’t enough of a Moravian population to defend a second town during this time. There was also the hope that by accepting non-Moravians into the town, this might draw more people to the religion, as well as protect the town. All of the non-Moravian families who moved to the town would convert after the Bethania church was organized, though that wasn’t mandatory.
The non-Moravian families were allowed to live in Bethania on trial runs, and they could be expelled if their conduct were found to not be acceptable for the standards of living in the town. This trial run would last for three years, and at the end of the three years, if they wished to stay in Bethania and received permission to do so, they would be granted a new contract. I’m actually not sure why or how any of the families were selected to live in Bethania. I would assume the Lot, but we are speaking with the director of Historic Bethania next week, so Maizie and I will definitely be sure to ask her.
I’ve already discussed how Bethania differed from Bethabara in that the town did allow non-Moravians to live there. Bethania also differed from Bethabara in another way. The residents of Bethania were not part of the Oeconomy system. Upon establishing the town, Spangenberg made sure that this new community would not provide any competition against Bethabara, so there is no tavern, no store, no apothecary, and no structures that could be seen as having the chance of diverting visitors from Bethabara was allowed to be built. Residents had to travel to Bethabara to exchange their farm products for other goods, so Bethania was primarily just a farming and residential community. And when Salem was established, Bethabara was only allowed to keep its mill, tavern, and a branch of its store. It became primarily a farming community, similar to Bethania. Along with being a farming community, Bethania did also participate in trade, enough to become kind of self-sufficient a while after being established. During the 1800s, it really became a small and thriving industrial town. There was also no church in Bethania when it was first established, so the Moravians of Bethania remained a part of the Bethabara congregation until a congregation was created in the town. The next and last town to be established after Bethania is Salem, which is more commonly known in the area.
Maizie: The search for a townsite for Salem began as early as 1759, but the proposed town did not receive much attention from the Moravians until the mid-1760s, as the Moravians had been preoccupied with the French & Indian War and the Cherokee War of the late 50s and early 60s. Several townsites were given as options, and at least 6 were mapped out by Christian Reuter in 1765, but as each townsite was brought to the lot for approval, site after site was rejected.
Because Bethabara had become such a prosperous town, with travelers, hunters, peddlers, and cattle drivers stopping by, and Military authorities camping in the area, there was doubt that they should even start a new town. Church Elders in Bethabara were unsure as to what to do about the situation and looked to authorities in Herrnhut, who took the question to the Lot. After receiving a “yes” answer, the Moravians began building the town of Salem.
Founded in 1766, Salem, at first, was only home to Single Brothers as they completed structures like the Gemeinhaus and Single Brothers’ house. By 1772, Salem had 60 inhabitants and as tradesmen began to move to the town along with their families, by 1774 Salem was considered the leading commercial center of the Piedmont. Rather than stopping at Bethabara, Travelers now stopped at Salem. Salem was considered a town for those with trades, where they earned a living making and selling goods and services.
As Bethabara’s population declined, it became a small farming community. At this time in Bethabara, the Moravian Church Elders exhibited a great deal of control over the town’s economy, like we discussed before. All tradesmen had to sell their wares at a fixed price, and were given a certain salary by the Church. This was different in Salem. Tradesmen were allowed to set up their own household and could do whatever he wanted with the salary he earned, while in Bethabara, the Church Elders decided how the revenues would be spent and tradesmen were provided food, clothing, and shelter, rather than money.
In Salem, a board of overseers known as the Aufseher Collegium was set up to regulate trades, superintend financial arrangements, suppress unwelcome competition, and discipline craftsmen who repeatedly fell short of certain agreed-upon standards of conduct. As the Moravians interacted more with “outsiders” in Salem, in order to sell goods, their mindset began to change, and the board of overseers began to have a hard time controlling the townspeople. New generations of Moravians in Salem began to adopt a more Southern American mindset over the old Central-European mindset of their parents and Grandparents. Outsiders began to encroach on the community, tradesmen began to push boundaries and limits, and the Aufseher Collegium was hesitant to punish the offenders. By 1856, the Church relinquished control of the town, and a secular body governed Salem.
Outsiders were allowed to come into Salem more freely, including those living in the nearby town of Winston, which caused the towns to overlap. In 1913 Winston and Salem merged to form one single town, Winston-Salem. While the Moravians let the outside world into their town, they still maintained their religion, and there are still many Moravian churches in existence today.
Casey: Bethabara and Bethania are National Historic Landmarks. Bethabara operates as a living history museum, and Bethania provides tours of a restored 1770s Moravian farmstead home. The Wolff-Moser House at Bethania is one of the earliest known rural Moravian farmstead houses in North America.
Maizie: Next week, we are going to be speaking with the director of Bethania, Michele Williams. Until then, let us know what you think of this week’s episode, and again, if anyone has any questions they’d like us to answer or even questions to ask Michele, email us or message us on our Instagram.
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 Moravianmornings@gmail.com or message us on our Instagram page, also titled Moravian Mornings. Thanks for listening. Auf Wiedersehen.
 Katherine Faull, Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997), XIV.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina: Pluralism on the Southern Frontier (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1989), 28-30.
 Ibid., 23, 28-29.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922), 73-74.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 11.
 Ibid., 23-24.
 Ibid., 129-133.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, 105, 245; Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 136-137.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 33.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 170-171.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, 40-41.
 The Oeconomy in Bethabara was abandoned upon the move to Salem around 1766. There was a resistance in Bethabara to end the Oeconomy system, which is why it didn’t technically end until the early 1800s. Johanna Carlson Miller Lewis, “Artisans in the Carolina Backcountry: Rowan County, 1753-1770,” (Williamsburg, VA: W&M ScholarWorks, 1991), 56, 110-111. 123; Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 173.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 203
 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), 32.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 206.
 Ed. Daniel Crews, Bethania: A Fresh Look at Its Birth, (Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Church in America, Southern Province, 1993), 14-16.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 14.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume II: 1752-1775 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1925), 539.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 203.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, Thorpe, 46, 202.
 Ibid.,, 46.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 206.
 Daniel Crews, Bethania: A Fresh Look At Its Birth, 16.
 Page 46 of The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina by Daniel Thorpe states that that Lot was consulted when choosing which Moravian families were to move to Bethania.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina, 69.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ernest Eller, Bethania in Wachovia, bicentennial of Bethania Moravian Church, 1759-1959 (Winston-Salem, NC: Bradford Printing Service, 1959), 21.
 Daniel Thorpe, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina,
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 298.
Other information on this can be found in James Hunter’s The Quiet People of the Land: A Story of the North Carolina Moravians in Revolutionary Times.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 298.
 Daniel Crews and Richard Starbuck, With Courage for the Future, 53.
 Ibid., 83.
 Ibid., 82.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I. 567, 678, 713; Daniel Crews and Richard Starbuck, With Courage for the Future, 83-84.
 Daniel Crews and Richard Starbuck, With Courage for the Future, 255-258.
 Ibid., 324-325.
 Ibid., 483.
Crews, C. D. (Ed.). (1993). Bethania: A Fresh Look at Its Birth. Winston-Salem, NC: Moravian Church in America, Southern Province.
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.
Eller, Ernest. Bethania in Wachovia, Bicentennial of Bethania Moravian Church, 1759-1959. Winston-Salem, NC: Bradford Printing Service, 1959.
Faull, Katherine, trans. Moravian Women’s Memoirs. Women and Gender in North America Religions. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.
Fries, Adelaide, ed. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771. Vol. I. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922.
Fries, Adelaide. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume II: 1752-1775. Vol. II. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1925.
James, Hunter. The Quiet People of the Land: A Story of the North Carolina Moravians in Revolutionary Times. Chapel Hill, NC: University of NOrth Carolina Press, 1976.
Lewis, Johanna. “Artisans in the Carolina Backcountry: Rowan County, 1753-1770.” Dissertation, W&M ScholarWorks, 1991. https://doi.org/https://dx.doi.org/doi:10.21220/s2-3kw4-kw88.
Thorpe, Daniel. The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina: Pluralism on the Southern Frontier. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.
Sensbach, Jon. A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
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