Season 2, Episode 4

They Shall Not Be Forsaken

By Stuart Marshall

This story begins in the 1730s with the first Moravian missionary efforts in the South and picks up in the 1750s when Moravians first met Cherokees and Native other groups in North Carolina. By 1801, Moravians finally succeeded in establishing the Springplace mission to the Cherokees (in modern-day Georgia)—but the period of 1752–1801 is often overlooked. Bethabara became a major destination for Cherokee leaders, and their interactions with Moravians there were important building blocks in what would later become a close bond. From the Anglo-Cherokee War through the Revolution and beyond, near-constant conflict prevented the Moravians from reaching out to Native people as they had envisioned. With the establishment of Springplace, Moravians in Wachovia were finally able to fulfill some of these goals—though not without further challenges.


Casey Landolf

Kait Dodd


Announcer/Reader 1: James Landolf

Reader 2: Maggie Pelta-Pauls

Researched by

Stuart Marshall



Transcript for They Shall Not Be Forsaken


Announcer: This is Moravian Mornings, a podcast discussing the history of the Moravians who settled in Wachovia.


Casey: Good morning, everyone. The 1801 establishment of the Springplace Mission to the Cherokees stands out as the most well-known event in the history of southern Moravians and Native Americans. But the story doesn’t begin there. Bishop Augustus Spangenberg and other Moravians believed it was their duty to bring the gospel to non-believers and worked for decades and had made plans to establish missions among Native nations. The Moravians’ relatively sympathetic view of Native people did not always have the endorsement of colonial authorities, and their attempt to establish peace was often destroyed by the outbreak of conflict. I also want to quickly state that everything we are presenting is from the Moravian perspective as those are the sources we are looking at.


Kait: Because of their unique worldview and record-keeping practices, Moravian documents offer some of the most detailed accounts of early interactions between colonists and Native people. Obviously, these documents are from one perspective, so we take these things with a grain of salt. This week we are going to talk about this complicated story. Grab your coffee, and let’s get started with our last episode of season two.


They Shall Not be Forsaken:

Casey: When Moravians first came to North America, they immediately attempted to build missions to Native Americans. In 1735, Moravians began a settlement near Savannah, Georgia, where they built a mission and school for the Yuchi (yoo-chee) Indians, but had to abandon this colony by 1739 due to the war with Spain.[1] In the 1740s, Moravians established a mission at Shekomeko (shee-ko-mee-ko)  in New York, ministering to Mahicans and Wampanoags. They were forced to leave by colonial authorities, so they established a new mission at Gnadenhutten, Pennsylvania, where they also had Delaware converts.[2] When Moravians set their course for North Carolina in the 1750s, it seemed to open up new possibilities.


Reader 1: Sept. 15th [1752] [Spbg. Diary.] The Indians in North Carolina are in a bad way. The Chowan Indians are reduced to a few families, and their land has been taken from them. The Tuscaroras live 35 miles from here, and are still in possession of a pretty piece of land. They are the remnant of that tribe with which Carolina was formerly at war, and part of them went to the Five Nations [or Iroquois Confederacy], and united with them. Those that are still here are much despised, and will probably soon come to an end. The Meherrin Indians, living further west, are also reduced to a mere handful. It looks as if they were under a curse, that crushes them. Still further west live the Catawbas, who will probably be our neighbors. They are still at war with the Six Nations.…South-west from here, behind South Carolina, are the Cherokees, a great Nation.”[3]


Casey: As Spangenberg’s party traveled through North Carolina, they wondered about a future with their Native neighbors. If they had settled in the Catawba River Valley, they would have been neighbors to the Catawbas who were then living along the boundary between the Carolinas. For a time, Spangenberg considered buying Tuscarora land near Edenton, and wondered if the Moravians would be called to minister to the small population of Tuscaroras nearby.[4]


Reader 1: September 25th, 1752: “We also visited the Tuscaroras, who live on the Roanoke.…The Tuscaroras are few in number, and they hold with the Six Nations against the Catawbas, but suffer much on this account. They live in great poverty, and are oppressed by the whites….Hitherto no one has tried to teach them of their God and Saviour; perhaps that is well, for the Lord has His own time for all. If it will be the duty of the Brethren to work among them I do not know, but I rather think so, and should like to hear what the Brethren think.”[5]


Casey: As the Moravians continued their surveys, they began to realize that they were more likely to buy land farther west. Near the Blue Ridge Mountains, they surveyed what appeared to be vacant land. They discovered it was the hunting grounds of the Cherokees, whose towns were farther away, but occupied a vast area of territory. Spangenberg’s party had a favorable impression of the Cherokees they encountered, but they wondered if it was wise to settle in this contested space. This early interaction seemed to foreshadow a future bond with the Cherokees.


Reader 1: November 19th, 1752: “Our surveyor and his men met a party of six Cherokee Indians, and were stopped by them, but they soon became friendly. The woods here are full of Cherokees, and we see their signs wherever we go. They are out hunting.”[6]


Kait: Spangenberg had his ideas about missionary work in the South, but when the Moravians in North Carolina set about building Bethabara, their primary concern was ensuring the survival of their settlement there and its overall economic success. The outbreak of the French and Indian War also postponed discussions of any Moravian missionary work in the South, though it did lead to an increase in interaction between Cherokees and Moravians. Many Cherokees, on their way to support British campaigns in the Ohio Valley, passed through Bethabara on their way North.


Reader 2: Bethabara Diary, May 25, 1756: “….a troop of Cherokees were marching through…Br. Jacob Loesch went to them, spoke to them kindly, asked who they were, where they came from, and whither they were going, all of which they answered politely, it appearing that they were Cherokees from the fort. We gave them a few clay pipes, for which they were grateful, and went gravely from one to the other of us shaking hands. Then we gave them food, and they camped in the woods near the mill, spending the night very quietly. Perhaps we were too many for them, for there were several at the mill, and other Brethren went over to see them; twelve Brethren stayed at the mill all night, on guard. They told us, partly by signs, that there were eight more companies on the way. They breakfasted by the mill next morning, then bade the Brethren a polite adieu.”[7]


Kait: In this diary record, we have what appears to be the first trade between Moravians and Cherokees, which would later develop more fully. The clay pipes given as presents were made by Bethabara’s potter, Gottfried Aust, and were some of his most popular items for sale. You can see some just like it in our exhibit here at Historic Bethabara. In the spring of 1758, the Moravians were overwhelmed with the troops of Cherokees passing through Bethabara, and several times were frustrated when they had to cancel normal services. They remained somewhat apprehensive that conflict would break out with the Cherokees, but were often pleasantly surprised.


Reader 2: Bethabara Diary, May 12, 1758: “In the afternoon Col. Bird and several other white officers arrived with a company of 56 Cherokee Indians, and camped between the mill and Bethabara, and we supplied them with food. They behaved so well that we were able to hold our usual services that evening ….”[8]


Kait: So many Cherokees passed through Bethabara that the Moravians gained a favorable reputation with them. In August of 1758, Reverend Johann Ettwein asked some Cherokees in Bethabara if they would be open to the possibility of two brethren going to stay with them to learn their language. They replied that this “would be a very good thing,” and conveyed that the Cherokee people knew Bethabara as ‘The Dutch fort, where there are good people and much bread.’”[9] To Ettwein, this exchange was an encouraging sign that there might be a future with the Cherokees and Moravians. Though the outbreak of the Anglo-Cherokee War again delayed this possibility, Ettwein remained hopeful and believed it was his calling to minister to Native people. He expressed genuine sympathy for Native people while also viewing them as uncivilized. His Lebenslauf memoir gives us some insight into his outlook:


Reader 1: “In August [1754], I was present at the Synod that was held at Gnadenhütten …and the Indians captured my heart….In the Indian War, in 1760, I often traveled alone to Bethania, and the thought that the Cherokees could take me prisoner was not fearful for me, because if I came among them in this way, I could preach the Gospel to them….I have had the honor of preaching publicly in churches or courthouses, in barns or other gathering places….  I even had the occasion to tell many Indians of such varied nations as the Wampano[ag]s, M[o]hi[c]ans, Delawares, Munseys, and from the six united Nations, who released them from the devil and from their sins through His blood ….  I was in the towns of the Catawbas, saw 150 Cherokee warriors in Bethabara, and spoke with their chief through their interpreter.  Moreover, I have seen Chickasaws, [Nanticokes], Shaw[nees], and Tuscaroras, and felt thereby what it might feel like to be a Heathen-messenger.”[10]


Casey: While Ettwein’s travels brought him into contact with diverse Native people from across North America, the Moravians in Wachovia mostly interacted with Cherokees. Some of the most prominent Cherokee statesmen of the 18th century passed through Bethabara—often while on diplomatic journeys to negotiate land cessions. This included Sallowie, the Young Warrior of  , who was one Cherokee leader to frequent Bethabara. He was among the allied Lower Cherokees who passed through the town in 1758, and in 1770 he returned to Bethabara, attending a service in the Gemeinhaus before leaving to meet with the Governor of Virginia.[11] Attakullakulla, the Overhill Cherokee headman, was another leader to become familiar with Bethabara. He passed along the news that some Overhills had surrounded Bethabara in 1760 but decided not to attack the town.[12] In 1775, Attakullakulla returned to Bethabara while on his way to negotiate what is known as the Henderson Purchase—a controversial sale of Native land. While Attakullakulla was in Bethabara, the Moravians asked him about establishing a mission and school for the Cherokees, and he replied that they would be welcome.[13] Though the outbreak of hostilities in the American Revolution again delayed this possibility, these early Cherokee-Moravian interactions were important building blocks in what would later become a close bond.

In the year 1799, Moravians in Wachovia saw themselves at a turning point, and were frustrated that the many decades of conflict had delayed their plans of reaching out to Native people in the South. In a Salem meeting, one brother was insistent on the matter:


Reader 1: “The chief reason for which our Lord planted our congregations here in Wachovia was that we might preach the Gospel to the heathen, especially the neighboring Cherokee and Creek Indians. It has been our constant desire to watch what goes on in these nations, and see whether the hour has come in which this plan of the Saviour can be carried out. Sixteen years ago our Br. Martin Schneider, now pastor of Friedberg, was commissioned to visit the land of the Cherokees, and so did. He was kindly received, and they expressed a wish that Brethren might live among them and teach them about the Great God. Soon thereafter a great war broke out among the Indians, and nothing more could be done in the matter.…the matter was taken up to see whether the time had now come to visit the Cherokees again …. After full deliberation, our Lord decided that our Br. Abraham Steiner, in Bethabara, should be called for the task…”[14]


Casey: By 1800, Moravian missionaries from Wachovia and Pennsylvania accepted the invitation of some leading Cherokees to start their mission. The Lot was used to determine the location.[15] In addition to Springplace, Cherokees came to know Salem as an important destination. It became a regular stop for Cherokee leaders on their way to Washington, D.C., to represent their Nation.


Reader 2: Salem Diary, March 11, 1809. “Five Cherokee Indians were here on their way to Washington. They were shown everything in town that was worth seeing, and were treated with love and friendship. In the church, in the Boarding School for girls, and in the Sisters House they were entertained with music and song, to their great delight. In the evening they attended the singstunde.”[16]


Casey: Among the Cherokee leaders who were fond of Salem was John Ross. He was one of the most prominent statesmen of the Cherokee Nation throughout the 19th century, most notably serving as Principal Chief during Cherokee Removal and in the Civil War. John Ross often visited Salem and thought highly of the Moravians. He had his daughter, Jane, enrolled at the Salem Female Academy, where she stayed until the family was forced to leave for Indian Territory.[17]

As for Springplace, it was overrun in 1833 by white settlers who came to claim the land. The missionary Heinrich Gottlieb Clauder (clouder) sent the news to Salem:


Reader 1:

“Br. Clauder described the increasingly confused and distressing situation of the Cherokee Nation …. The advice of our missionaries who were formerly there is for Br. Clauder to tell the Cherokees that it is understood that they shall not be forsaken by us… in the land of their sojourn they can rebuild together… ”[18][18]



Kait: We can only imagine the pain that the Moravians felt when they were forced to leave –especially when we consider how much opposition they faced from the beginning of the eighteenth century, how their plans were constantly destroyed by the outbreak of conflict, and their eventual success with Springplace. After a century of attempts to establish a permanent mission in the South, Moravians were driven away by settlers claiming Cherokee land. By this time, Moravians had formed such a close bond with the Cherokees that some of them followed the Cherokee Nation to Indian Territory, where they established the New Springplace mission.[19][19]


Casey: Thanks for joining us for the last episode of season two. We’re so happy to have had the opportunity to present some of this history. As of right now, this is the last season that will be developed for this podcast. Episodes will continue to be available on most podcast streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and episodes are also available to listen to on Historic Bethabara Park’s website, If you’re ever looking to learn more, please come visit us at Historic Bethabara Park, visit Bethania, where you can tour the Wolff-Moser House, one of the earliest known rural Moravian farmstead houses in North America, or visit Old Salem. Thank you so much for listening!


Announcer: This has been an episode of Moravian Mornings, a Historic Bethabara Park podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Auf Wiedersehen.



[1] War of Jenkins’ Ear. See Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple’s Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World, (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 53-66; History of Moravian Missions, 81.

[2] “Moravian Indians in Pennsylvania 1745–1773,” Bethlehem Digital History Project,

[3] Vol 1, 36.

[4] Vol 1, 53.

[5] Vol I, 45.

[6] Vol 1, 51.

[7] Vol 1, 166.

[8] Vol 1, 189.

[9] Vol 1, 191.

[10] Johann Ettwein Lebenslauf (1802), Bethlehem Digital History Project.

[11] Vol 1: 413; Vol 1: 399; Vol 2: 614.

[12] Vol 1, 232.

[13] Vol 2, 855.

[14] Salem Diary, October 20, 1799, Vol 6; see also Vol 5.

[15] Rowena McClinton, The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees, Abridged Edition, 2-3.

[16] Vol 7, 3073.

[17] See Edmund Schwarze, History of the Moravian Missions Among Southern Indian Tribes of the United States (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Times Publishing Company, 1923), 293.

[18] Vol 8, 4094-4095.

[19] See “Moravians,” Oklahoma Historical Society,



Bethlehem Digital History Project (multiple articles).


Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple’s Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World. University of North Carolina Press, 2013.


Fries, Adelaide L., ed. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volumes 1-8.


McClinton, Rowena. The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees, Abridged Edition.        Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.


Music (

Allegretto (green pastures) by Dee Yan-Key (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike:

Grand Piano Theme – Echo – Loopable by Lobo Loco (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives:

On my Way to Work by Lobo Loco (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives: