The Moravians in Georgia, 1735— 1740

Author: Adelaide L. Fries

The Voyage.

In the year 1735 a voyage across the Atlantic was a very different thing from what it is in this year of grace 1904. To-day a mighty steamship equipped with powerful engines, plows its way across the billows with little regard for wind and weather, bearing thousands of passengers, many of whom are given all the luxury that space permits, a table that equals any provided by the best hotels ashore, and attendance that is unsurpassed. Then weeks were consumed in the mere effort to get away from the British Isles, the breeze sometimes permitting the small sailing vessels to slip from one port to another, and then holding them prisoner for days before another mile could be gained. Even the most aristocratic voyager was forced to be content with accommodations and fare little better than that supplied to a modern steerage passenger, and those who could afford it took with them a private stock of provisions to supplement the ship’s table.

And yet the spell of adventure or philanthropy, gain or religion, was strong upon the souls of men, and thousands sought the New World, where their imagination saw the realization of all their dreams. Bravely they crossed the fathomless deep which heaved beneath them, cutting them off so absolutely from the loved ones left at home, from the wise counsels of those on whom they were accustomed to depend, and from the strong arm of the Government under whose promised protection they sailed, to work out their own salvation in a country where each man claimed to be a law unto himself, and where years were to pass before Experience had once more taught the lesson that real freedom was to be gained only through a general recognition of the rights of others.

On the 3rd of February, 1735, the Moravians arose early in their London lodging house, prayed heartily together, and then prepared to go aboard their vessel, "The Two Brothers", Capt. Thomson, where the Trustees wished to see all who intended to sail on her. A parting visit was paid to Gen. Oglethorpe, who presented them with a hamper of wine, and gave them his best wishes. After the review on the boat Spangenberg and Nitschmann returned with Mr. Vernon to London to attend to some last matters, while the ship proceeded to Gravesend for her supply of water, where Spangenberg rejoined her a few days later. On the 25th of February they passed the Azores, and disembarked at Savannah, April 8th, having been nine and a half weeks on shipboard.

The story of those nine weeks is simply, but graphically, told in the diary sent back to Herrnhut. Scarcely had they lifted anchor when the Moravians began to arrange their days, that they might not be idly wasted. In Herrnhut it was customary to divide the twenty-four hours among several members of the Church, so that night and day a continuous stream of prayer and praise arose to the throne of God, and the same plan was now adopted, with the understanding that when sea-sickness overtook the company, and they were weak and ill, no time limit should be fixed for the devotions of any, but one man should pass the duty to another as circumstances required!

Other arrangements are recorded later, when, having grown accustomed to ship life, they sought additional means of grace. In the early morning, before the other passengers were up, the Moravians gathered on deck to hold a service of prayer; in the afternoon much time was given to Bible reading; and in the evening hymns were sung that bore on the text that had been given in the morning. Spangenberg, Toeltschig, and Seifert, in the order named, were the recognized leaders of the party, but realizing that men might journey together, and live together, and still know each other only superficially, it was agreed that each of the ten in turn should on successive days speak to every one of his brethren face to face and heart to heart. That there might be no confusion, two were appointed to bring the food to the company at regular times, and see that it was properly served, the following being "the daily Allowance of Provisions to the Passengers on board the "Two Brothers", Captain William Thomson, for the Town of Savannah in Georgia.

"On the four beef-days in each week for every mess of five heads (computing a head 12 years old, and under 12 two for one, and under 7 three for one, and under 2 not computed), 4 lbs. of beef and 2-1/2 lbs. of flour, and 1/2 lb. of plums.

"On the two pork days in each week for said mess, 5 lbs. of pork and 2-1/2 pints of peas.

"And on the fish day in each week for said mess, 2-1/2 lbs. of fish and 1/2 lb. of butter.

"The whole at 16 ounces to the pound.

"And allow each head 7 lbs. of bread, of 14 ounces to the pound, by the week.

"And 3 pints of beer, and 2 quarts of water (whereof one of the quarts for drinking), each head by the day for the space of a month.

"And a gallon of water (whereof two quarts for drinking) each head, by the day after, during their being on their Passage."

Another Moravian was chosen as nurse of the company, although it happened at least once that he was incapacitated, for every man in the party was sick except Spangenberg, who was a capital sailor, and not affected by rough weather. His endurance was severely tested too, for while the breeze at times was so light that they unitedly prayed for wind, "thinking that the sea was not their proper element, for from the earth God had made them, and on the earth He had work for them to do," at other times storms broke upon them and waves swept the decks, filling them with awe, though not with fear. "The wind was high, the waves great, we were happy that we have a Saviour who would never show us malice; especially were we full of joy that we had a witness in our hearts that it was for a pure purpose we sailed to Georgia," — so runs the quaint record of one tempestuous day.

A more poetic expression of the same thought is given by Spangenberg in a poem written during the voyage, and sent home to David Nitschmann to be set to the music of some "Danish Melody" known to them both. There is a beauty of rhythm in the original which the English cannot reproduce, as though the writer had caught the cadence of the waves, on some bright day when the ship "went softly" after a season of heavy storm.

"Gute Liebe, deine Triebe
Zuenden unsre Triebe an,
Dir zu leben, dir zu geben,
Was ein Mensch dir geben kann;
Denn dein Leben, ist, zu geben
Fried’ und Segen aus der Hoeh.
Und das Kraenken zu versenken
In die ungeheure See.

"Herr wir waren von den Schaaren
Deiner Schaeflein abgetrennt;
Und wir liefen zu den Tiefen,
Da das Schwefelfeuer brennt,
Und dein Herze brach vor Schmerze,
Ueber unsern Jammerstand;
O wie liefst du! O wie riefst du!
Bist du uns zu dir gewandt.

"Als die Klarheit deiner Wahrheit
Unsern ganzen Geist durchgoss,
Und von deinen Liebesscheinen
Unser ganzes Herz zerfloss,
O wie regte und bewegte
Dieses deine Liebesbrust,
Uns zu hegen und zu pflegen,
Bis zur suessen Himmelslust.

"Dein Erbarmen wird uns Armen,
Alle Tage wieder neu,
Mit was suessen Liebeskuessen
Zeigst du deine Muttertreu.
O wie heilig und wie treulich
Leitest du dein Eigentum;
O der Gnaden dass wir Maden
Werden deine Kron’ und Ruhm.

"Wir empfehlen unsre Seelen
Deinem Aug’ und Herz und Hand,
Denn wir werden nur auf Erden
Wallen nach dem Vaterland.
O gieb Gnade auf dem Pfade,
Der zum Reich durch Leiden fuehrt,
Ohn’ Verweilen fortzueilen
Bis uns deine Krone ziert.

"Unser Wille bleibe stille
Wenn es noch so widrig geht;
Lass nur brausen, wueten, sausen,
Was von Nord und Osten weht.
Lass nur stuermen, lass sich tuermen
Alle Fluthen aus dem See,
Du erblickest und erquickest
Deine Kinder aus der Hoeh’."

(Love Divine, may Thy sweet power
Lead us all for Thee to live,
And with willing hearts to give Thee
What to Thee a man can give;
For from heaven Thou dost give us
Peace and blessing, full and free,
And our miseries dost bury
In the vast, unfathomed sea.

Lord, our wayward steps had led us
Far from Thy safe-guarded fold,
As we hastened toward the darkness
Where the sulphurous vapors rolled;
And Thy kind heart throbbed with pity,
Our distress and woe to see,
Thou didst hasten, Thou didst call us,
Till we turned our steps to Thee.

As Thy Truth’s convincing clearness
Filled our spirits from above,
And our stubborn hearts were melted
By the fervor of Thy love,
O Thy loving heart was moved
Us Thy righteous laws to teach,
Us to guide, protect and cherish
Till Thy heaven we should reach.

Without merit we, yet mercy
Each returning day doth bless
With the tokens of Thy goodness,
Pledges of Thy faithfulness.
O how surely and securely
Dost Thou lead and guard Thine own;
O what wonderous grace that mortals
May add lustre to Thy throne.

In our souls we feel the presence
Of Thine eye and heart and hand,
As we here on earth as pilgrims
Journey toward the Fatherland.
O give grace, that on the pathway,
Which through trial leads to heaven,
Without faltering we may hasten
Till to each Thy crown is given.

Though our path be set with danger
Nothing shall our spirits shake,
Winds may rage and roar and whistle,
Storms from North and East may break,
Waves may roll and leap and thunder
On a dark and threatening sea,
Thou dost ever watch Thy children,
And their strength and peace wilt be.)

Before the vessel sailed the Trustees had followed up their request to Spangenberg by requiring the forty Swiss emigrants to promise submission to his authority, and consequently numerous efforts were made to be of service to them. It was disappointing work, in a way, for attempts to give them religious instruction were met with utter indifference, but their material needs were many. There was a great deal of sickness among them, and four died, being buried hastily, and without ceremony. The Moravians themselves were not exempt, several being dangerously ill at times, even Spangenberg was prostrated, from having, he supposed, stayed too long on deck in the night air, tempted thereto by the beauty of a calm night in a southern latitude. But having work to do among the Swiss on the following day, he roused himself, and soon became better. Two of the Moravians were appointed nurses for the sick Swiss, and by the use of the medicine provided by the Trustees, supplemented by unwearying personal attention, they were made as comfortable as possible.

Nor were the crew forgotten. From the day when the Moravians helped lift the anchor as they sailed from the coast of Dover, they busied themselves in the work of the ship, always obliging, always helpful, until the sailors came to trust them absolutely, "even with the keys to their lockers." When the cook was suddenly taken sick they nursed him carefully, and then appointed two of their number to carry wood and water for him until his strength returned, and it is no wonder that such accommodating passengers were well regarded.

Captain Thomson was disposed to favor them, but when they realized that they were receiving a larger share of food and drink than went to the Swiss, they courteously declined, fearing it would breed jealousy. His kindly feeling, however, continued, and when Toeltschig was ill he brought a freshly killed fowl from which to make nourishing broth, and on another occasion, after a severe attack of sea-sickness, they all derived much benefit from some strong beer which he urged upon them.

There were a few cabin passengers on the ship, and on one occasion Spangenberg was invited to dine with them, but their light jesting was distasteful to him, and the acquaintance was not pursued.


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Chicago: Adelaide L. Fries, "The Voyage.," The Moravians in Georgia, 1735— 1740, trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in The Moravians in Georgia, 1735—1740 Original Sources, accessed March 31, 2023,

MLA: Fries, Adelaide L. "The Voyage." The Moravians in Georgia, 1735— 1740, translted by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in The Moravians in Georgia, 1735—1740, Original Sources. 31 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Fries, AL, 'The Voyage.' in The Moravians in Georgia, 1735— 1740, trans. . cited in , The Moravians in Georgia, 1735—1740. Original Sources, retrieved 31 March 2023, from