Excerpts From Moravian Diaries
Edited by Adelaide L. Fries, M. A., LITT.D.,
Submitted by Carolyn Spence
Archivist of the Moravian Church in America, Southern District, Volume IV, 1780 – 1783 reprinted 1968; Volume V, 1784 – 1792 reprinted 1970; and Volume VI, 1793 – 1808, reprinted 1970, for the Department of Archives and History, State of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC by Litho Industries. Inc, Raleigh, NC.
4 May 1804 (Brother Abraham Steiner reporting of his visit to Deep Creek in Surry County, and to the mountains in Ashe County from Moravian Diaries)
I left Hope (Moravian Church in Salem). On the way to our acquaintances on Deep Creek a certain Mr. Reafield asked me whether I were the preacher who preached last year in his neighborhood, and when I said yes he asked me to preach at his house, and asked me to set a time so that he could notify the neighbors. I could not do it this time because of my further journey, but promised to think of him when I made another visit to Deep Creek. When I reached the home of Br. George Lang he asked me to hold an evening service in his house, which I did, and also on morning prayers. A large number assembled for the preaching announced for today, which was principally because there were no services being held by other denominations in this neighborhood. . . .
In company with JACOB ROOP I set out for ASHE COUNTY, crossed the Yadkin at the Old Island Ford, at about twenty-six miles from Lang’s house reached Elk Spur, climbed the mountains, and thereafter saw nothing but mountains around us. In the evening I left my companion, after he had showed me the way to DANIEL HAPPUS, a relative of the Langs; riding a mile further I reached and lodged there. This plantation is forty or forty-two miles from the home of Friedrich Lang. The people were very happy over the visit, which they had not expected , for Br. Lang’s children had moved away.
DANIEL HAPPUS and his WIFE asked for the baptism of their two-year-old child, but I explained that it was against our rule to baptize children of that age, and they were satisfied, though they would have been glad to have it done, as their other children had been baptized at Deep Creek by the Brethren.
I rode with DANIEL HAPPUS to JOSEPH MILLER, who formerly lived in Salem and then near Bethania, and who had belonged to the Brethren. He received me with love and friendship, and was happy see a Brother again, which he had long wished, that he might open his heart to him. His family circumstances are pitiful, because of his wife.
In the evening there was a short service at the home of HAPPUS, and then the evening was spent in profitable conversation. A Bible was brought out which Mr. Happus bought recently in Petersburg for ten dollars; it had numerous fine copper-plates, about which I talked a little to a family.
Toward noon a fair number of people gathered, mostly German or those who understood German, but some were English so I preached in the English language on John iii: 14,15. After the service JOSEPH MILLER had a confidential conversation with me. He regretted that he had lost the happiness of belonging to the Brethren, which at the time he had not recognized or appreciated. . . .
By request I went several miles further and visited a certain HEINRICH WAGNER, who formerly lived on Deep Creek. He and his wife, elderly people, received me affectionately. In a meeting with a few persons I spoke of the Gospel and Epistle for this, Ascension Day. I spent the night there, and on the 11th, after breakfast, as I was leaving they almost wept aloud, thanked me for the visit, and begged that I would come often. I returned to Mr. HAPPUS, and after a touching farewell with his family, and many requests that I would visit them often, I set out again. Mr. HAPPUS sent his son to show me the path over the mountains into the road leading to Ashe Courthouse. Mountainous as the country is it is well settled. Many of the families formerly lived near Bethania, and others on Deep Creek. Many of them are of German stock but in their houses English is generally spoken, especially by the younger people.
The people are of various denominational connections; the strongest party is the Baptist, which has its own preachers. Others belong to the English Church, Presbyterian, Methodist German Lutheran, and Reformed, but these have no preachers, and it is seldom that one goes to them. Yet there are among them those who make addresses, though they are not ordained preachers. Some belong to no denomination. Among them are many who appear to seek the kingdom of God and wish assurance of salvation. There is an unholy strife between the Baptists and the other denominations concerning the baptism of’ children, indeed the neighborhood of Deep Creek is not free of this. It is distressing how they quarrel and fight over baptism and the method and manner of baptizing. I take every opportunity to beg them not to lose sight of the kernel in fighting over the shell, and commend to them Christian love, which Paul told the Corinthians was better than all knowledge and all gifts.
My host, DANIEL HAPPUS, and his wife have for some time belonged to the Methodists. He told me he had joined them in order to be associated with a Christian denomination, but they seldom have services here, and must go to the neighboring county of GRAYSON, in Virginia, to attend meetings.
All the days that I was here it rained, which was the reason that we could not hold more services, as I and the others had wished.
[A second visit by Moravian Bro. Abraham Steiner in 1805 to what is now Alleghany County.]
19 Oct 1805 In Huntsville I had to wait some time for company, and for DANIEL HAPPUS of’ ASHE COUNTY, so it was night before I reached the home of Br. and Sr. Friedrich Lang, on Deep Creek. I found both of them well and contented.
20 Oct 1805 The Methodists had their quarterly meeting in the neighborhood, with a lovefest today. The Baptists also had a meeting today, so only a few of those two denominations came to the preaching at Br. Lang’s house; but a goodly number of people gathered and to them I preached on the words: He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. I John v: 12. . . It was a cold, raw day.
21 Oct 1805 I went further with my guide, DANIEL HAPPUS. He had come largely for the purpose of meeting me, having heard that I was coming, though the letter which I had written to him was lost. My horse was a little sick from eating too much new corn, so we climbed the mountains at Elk Spur, from which it is eighteen miles to the home of Mr. HAPPUS. As we rode through the dark night Mr. Happus called to one and another house announcing the service tomorrow at his house.
22 Oct 1805 Toward noon the neighbors gathered from four miles around, some coming even as much as eight or nine miles. . . The people here are not accustomed to singing, but among those who had come from a distance there was one young man who was willing to lead in common metre. I showed him several hymns in our hymn book which could be sung to that tune, but he was afraid to try words with which he was not familiar, and suggested that he would line out and the singing of hymns that he knew by heart. To this I assented, and he led two good hymns, one before and one after the sermon. DANIEL HAPPUS, HEINRICH WAGNER, SR. and WILLIAM ALFORD, announced another preaching Friday in the house of HEINRICH WAGNER JR. HEINRICH WAGNER SR., and his WIFE are strict Lutherans, and since they have learned that the doctrine of the Brethren agrees with that of the Lutherans they have had a high regard for the Unity.
25 Oct 1805 I rode with the elder WAGNER four miles to his son HEINRICH’S house. The day was so raw and cold that one could scarcely get warm, it had snowed the preceding day. The house was fairly well filled, and a Mr. CHAPEL, who lives six miles from that place, led the singing. There were several reasons why more did not come. Yesterday, some distance away, there was a public auction, at which announcement was made, but at the same time there was so much brandy available that a number of persons were still there today to finish the brandy. Today there were various corn-huskings in the neighborhood; we passed one only a half mile away where many persons were gathered. The surveyor was in the neighborhood, and a number were busy in securing and measuring of their land. About which disputes had arisen. Some had business at court in the adjoining GRAYSON COUNTY. Then the weather was so cold, and many had no shoes and could not go out of the house. So altogether there were excuses enough for not hearing the Gospel.
26 Oct 1805 It snowed nearly all day. It had been planned that tomorrow I should go across the PEACH BOTTOM MOUNTAIN, eight of nine miles from here, to preach. Now word came that few would be there, partly because the weather was so very bad and partly because the presence of the surveyor had plunged the entire neighborhood into bitter conflict. My friends therefore advised me not to go, which was quite evidently wise, for during the night there was a hard storm.