Bethabara Park hopes to find settlers' families
In late 1753, 15 Moravians set out from their Pennsylvania settlement in the hopes of establishing another religious community in the western part of the Piedmont. They would call it Wachovia, after the estate of Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, who had given the Moravians religious asylum in the town of Herrnhut, Germany.
In Wachovia, the men set up the community of Bethabara, meaning "House of Passage," intended to be a temporary center from which to colonize the Wachovia Tract.
It was these small beginnings which helped form the bustling town of Salem, now part of Winston-Salem.
Almost 250 years later, Bethabara is a historical site to which many pay tribute.
It's the site of a restored 1788 Gemeinhaus, the only German colonial church with attached minister's living quarters in the United States. It's also home to a reconstructed 1756 palisade fort - one of only two reconstructed French and Indian War forts in the Southeast and the only one on the original site.
With its 250th anniversary approaching, Historic Bethabara Park is planning a celebration, and staff members are inviting the descendants of those early settlers to participate in the festivities.
But finding these families is no easy task.
Judi Wallace, community relations director for the park, says it would be nice to find descendants of the original 15 who built the community.
"(But) people move away," she says.
She says the park merely wants to get the word out, realizing that locating family members "is a lot of genealogical work," Wallace says.
Fortunately, though, "Moravians always kept meticulous records about family history," she explains.
And that's a fact she's banking on, hoping that people will take a look at their family trees and realize their ancestors helped build Winston-Salem to what it is today - a center for medicine, agriculture, industry and education, traits the original 15 settlers brought.
Wallace says Bethabara officials are inviting descendants of the blacks and Catawba and Cherokee Indians who helped build the community, too.
To help locate these descendants, Bethabara employees are compiling a list of those in "The Stranger's Graveyard," where non-Moravians were buried, and those in the Moravian graveyard as well.
Wallace says the celebration, to be held Nov. 15, will include a re-enactment of the last part of the original settlers' trek from Pennsylvania on the Great Wagon Trail.
The trail will be dedicated by city officials, followed by the Moravian's first hymn and a proclamation.
The park will also provide food and recreation during the event.
Guests of the anniversary celebration will be encouraged to participate in games that settlers would have played - such as "town ball," similar to baseball, and lawn bowling.
The following day, Nov. 16, guests will have the opportunity to participate in a traditional Moravian "love feast," which consists of a plain sweet bun, and coffee, tea or chocolate, in Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University.
Historic Bethabara Park, which opened in 1970, is located at 2147 Bethabara Road.
For more information, call 924-8191, or visit the Web site www.bethabarapark.org.
Are you related?
The following are the family names of the 15 original Moravian settlers of Bethabara:
Bernhard Adam Grube, minister from Germany; Jacob Loesch, warden, born in New York; Hermannus Loesch, farmer from Pennsylvania; Hans Martin Kalberlahn, physician born in Norway; Hans Petersen, tailor from Denmark; Christopher Merkly, baker from Germany; Henrich Feldhausen, carpenter from Holstein; Erich Ingebretsen, carpenter from Norway; Jacob Lung, gardener from Germany; Friedrich Jacob Pfeil, tanner from Germany, and Johannes Beroth, farmer from Germany.
The following four men came with the first settlers, but returned to Pennsylvania: Johannes Lischer, scout and messenger; Nathaniel Siedel, led the group to Bethabara; Gottlob Konigsdorfer and Joseph Haberland.
Some names may have been anglicized. For example, Loesch may be spelled Lash.
The park staff is also interested in finding descendants of the families of Henry Banner, Hans Wagner, Adam Spach and Michael Hauser, who were living in the Bethabara area when the Moravians arrived.
They hope to find descendants of blacks, Catawbas and Cherokees, who also did much to build early Bethabara.
People with any information about descendants of these families are encouraged to call Historic Bethabara Park at (336) 924-8191, or e-mail the information to Michele Gillespie, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A more complete list of family names is available by fax or e-mail. Call the park and leave your name, fax number, telephone number and/or e-mail address, or stop by the visitors center at Historic Bethabara Park, 2147 Bethabara Road, Winston-Salem.
Staff writer Erica Kinnaird can be contacted
at 888-3578 or email@example.com.
©High Point Enterprise 2003