Lutherans in Exile, Y’all

In 1731, in the city of Salzburg, Austria, an Edict of Expulsion was issued.  Count Leopold von Firmian, a Roman Catholic archbishop and also the prince of Salzburg, declared that all citizens of that city must become Roman Catholics, and if they chose not to do so, they must leave.  It was especially a slap in the face of the Lutherans because he issued that edict on October 31….Reformation Day.  I don’t think Count Leopold expected the results he got.  Over 20,000 Protestants, mostly Lutheran, chose to leave Salzburg.  Most of them moved to Prussia.

20030657_Auszug der Salzburger Protestanten
Salzburg Protestants Driven out of Austria

A small portion of these exiles came to the attention of the King of England, George II, who granted them some land in the British colony of Georgia in the New World.  About 300 Salzburgers left England in 1734 and according to Concordia Historical Institute, this group arrived on the Georgia shores on March 17 after a very difficult ocean-crossing.  The leaders of the group were Rev. Johann Martin Boltzius and Israel Gronau.

Johann_Martin_Boltzius

They were met in Georgia by James Oglethorpe, the original founder of the Georgia colony.  He assigned them a piece of land up the Savannah River and not far from the city of Savannah.  The Salzburgers named their new colony, Ebenezer.

That piece of land turned out to be a swampy area and not very hospitable.

Early Ebenezer Georgia

After two years, they talked Oglethorpe into granting them a better piece of land.  They called this land, New Ebenezer.  Here is a map of how they planned to lay out their new city.

New_Ebenezer
New Ebenezer, Georgia

This new colony established a new Lutheran congregation called Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church.  This group gained a good reputation for their milling expertise.  There were grist mills, saw mills, and textile mills.  They gained special notoriety for several silk mills that were established by them.

The settlement thrived until the Revolutionary War, when it was badly damaged by the Revolutionary troops.  It is understandable why this group of immigrants maintained a certain level of loyalty to the British Empire during those times.  After that war, this town never really recovered.

In 1769, the congregation in New Ebenezer built a new church.  That Jerusalem Lutheran Church remains there to this day and is still used by the congregation.

Jerusalem_Lutheran_Church,_Ebenezer,_GA,_US
Jerusalem Lutheran Church, Georgia

This church is said to be the fourth oldest building in the state of Georgia.  It also claims to be the oldest, continuously-used Lutheran church in America.

In an article I found online on a site which tells the story of the Salzburgers, you can find this quote:

“When once they knew only their small Alpine farms and quaint villages in the homeland and were surrounded by friends and family, they were suddenly an ocean away in a harsh and hostile environment.”

These people at one time had similar feelings that our ancestors would later also experience in Perry County.  I think this story is an important one in the history of the Lutheran church in America.

If you visit Jerusalem Lutheran Church’s Facebook page you can see that there is a group of people there who regularly gather for food and fellowship.  They call this meeting, “Theology on Tap”.

Jesusalem Lutheran Theology on Tap

A group like this might have success here in the Lutheran churches of Perry County.

When once they knew only
their small Alpine farms and quaint villages in the homeland and were surrounded by friends and
family, they were suddenly an ocean away in a harsh and hostile environment.

When once they knew only
their small Alpine farms and quaint villages in the homeland and were surrounded by friends and
family, they were suddenly an ocean away in a harsh and hostile environment.

When once they knew only
their small Alpine farms and quaint villages in the homeland and were surrounded by friends and
family, they were suddenly an ocean away in a harsh and hostile environment.

When once they knew only
their small Alpine farms and quaint villages in the homeland and were surrounded by friends and
family, they were suddenly an ocean away in a harsh and hostile environment.

 

 


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