Friedberg, The First Two Hundred Years 1773 – 1973
Born in Pfaffenhofen, Germany on January 20, 1720, Adam SPACH was baptized in the Lutheran Church, but came of age in Manokasy, Maryland. Here he came in contact with the Moravians and helped found the Graceham Church. In 1752 he married Maria Elizabeth HUETER and soon after their wedding they met Nathaniel SEIDEL and learned firsthand of the Moravian settlement in North Carolina. In May of 1754 they left for Wachovia. Their plan was to settle close to where they could farm and enjoy the spiritual, economic, and educational advantages of the projected settlement.
He immediately sought out the leaders and chose the land just south of the Moravian purchase in what is now the Arcadia Township of Davidson County. In a few years he and his neighbors had a community going in spite of Indian disturbances which forces them to move into the Bethabara stockade at times. They were anxious for the Moravians to come and hold worship services in their community south of the Ens Creek of South Fork. Finally in 1759 Ludolph Gottlieb BACHHOF came to hold service for the interested families: Adam SPACH, George HARTMAN, Johannes MULLER, Michel FABER, Christian FREY, Peter FREY, Martin WALK, Christian HARTMAN, and Christian ZIMMERMAN.
The first public service was held at the home of Adam SPACH on Tuesday November 24, 1759 at 6:00 p.m. The service consisted of a liturgy of evening prayer, a sermon on the opening verses of the Magnificat Luke 1:46-47 and closed with a singing hour of Singstunde.
Walking to Bethabara on Wednesday, BACHHOF must have been encouraged for he returned on Advent Sunday December 2, 1759, and again on Christmas Day to hold a service the morning of the 26th. In his diary he records serveral more trips in 1760, but our diaries do not record more visits until January 24, 1766 when Rev. John ETTWEIN and Rev. LORENZ came to decide about a site for a meeting house and a graveyard. On May 6, 1766, Br. Peter FREY, Sr. was the first person laid to rest in “God’s Acre”. Br. GRAFF consecrated the land with prayer and a sermon on the text “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it bringeth forth no fruit.”
The exact parcel of land for the project and the manner of paying expenses was worked out in December of 1766. The land was surveyed on January 6, 1767 and the site of the log building (thirty four by twenty eight) was laid out between the present road and the west side of the Graveyard. The building came under roof within the year but was not finished until two years later. Regular visits for worship continued until Saturday March 11, 1769 a lovefeast was held and on Sunday the 12th the building was consecrated and two children were baptized. The group asked that a society or church be organized and the slow process finally came to conclusion when in January of 1770 Brother and Sister Bachhof were called from the work in Bethania to become the lay pastor and teacher and live in the two downstairs room and hold school and worship services upstairs in the hall. The Society was formally organized by Br. UTLEY and Br. Marshall on February 4, 1770 with eighteen couples and one married sister, or thirty seven members, pledging to support the work. The Bachhofs were happily received at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday February 17. Regular services began the following day and followed the general pattern of 9:00 a.m. worship (liturgy, general or seasonal), 10:00 a.m. Sermon, 11:00 a.m. Children’s Class (explanation of Bible passage, doctrinal subject or expansion of the sermon) then at 12:00 noon the Society members came together for business and a sharing of news from the mission fields or other areas, reading of sermons by ZINZENDORF (always called the “Blessed Disciple”) or other leaders, or the memoirs or prominent Moravians.
The school began on February 27th with younger boys in morning and afternoon and older boys in the evening. On the 28th the younger girls came in the morning and the older girls came in the afternoon. Thus, each group had two sessions a week. Brother Bachhof used Wednesdays and Saturdays for visiting when the weather permitted. Singstunden were held several times a week in the evenings.
On Maundy Thursday a group of Society members made the long walk to Bethabara together with their lay pastor. They attended the reading and Holy Communion Services and returned on Good Friday to observe the Reading in five installments. On Easter morning they began the liturgy at the schoolhouse at 9:00 a.m. and concluded their affirmation of faith in Christ’s Resurrection around the three graves in God’s Acre. The regular and special services of the year were all held but of special mention was the first Christmas Candle Lovefeast held on the 25th at 6:00 p.m. The Christmas Reading Service was first, then came the Lovefeast with the singing led by the violin of Br. Peter VOLZ. The children received Honey Cakes and a special verse for each. The Watchnight consisted of an English service at 7:00 p.m., a memorabilia service in German was next and in the third session there was an address on the text for the day. At midnight all rose to sing “Now Thank We All Our God” and then to fall on their knees to begin the new year in prayer.
The life of the pastor and his people is full of rich examples of life in early Friedberg. The Diaries which will soon be published tell much of the woe and weal of everyday life. Still waiting for this to happen.
In 1771 several important events took place. One was the visit of Christian GREGOR on September 29 when nearly all of the ninety people of the community filled the Hall for a Lovefeast. At the request of a number who had come from Pennsylvania the name of their home church ”Heidelberg” was given to the area. However, Adam SPACH and others who had come from elsewhere felt this showed favor so Br. MARSHALL on December 19th gave the name Friedberg to the town and Friedland to the Broadbay, Maine colony to the east. The word Fried is the German equivalent of the Hebrew Salem so all three words mean peace. Berg is the word for “hill”. Friedberg therefore means Peace Hill or Hill of Peace.
On January 19, 1773 the leaders in Salem took pity on the Friedberg People and brought Holy Communion to them for the first time. This was of utmost solemnity and importance to all. Then on April 4, 1773, Friedberg was officially recognized as an official congregation of the Worldwide Unity of Brethren following action of the Synod in Herrnhut. The final step was completed on October 17 when Br. BACHHOF was ordained a Deacon. He had first Communion on November 28th. Now Friedberg had its own ordained pastor, was an official congregation and had a growing educational program. The nineteen years of prayer, planning, and hard work achieved fulfillment.
During these years the medical staff came regularly to the community to perform minor surgery, give medicine, or to let blood. This was a wonderful blessing for these pioneers.
A near disaster struck on November 16, 1775 when during school session a heavy windstorm tore the roof off the heads of the students and Br. BACHHOF. He sang hymns and spoke of the Savior to calm his class. No one was injured. In a short time families arrived and immediately began to make repairs. The next morning the roof was back and everything repaired.
The tribulations of the American Revolution were great on this congregation of pacifists. By order of the King of England, Moravians did not have to bear arms, but this was offset by cruel and harsh taxes and conscription of food and horses. The American patriots also used the well-run farms of the community for food. Seeking to be fair and not take sides meant they had to pay double.
Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was published, Friedberg lost their founding pastor as on September 21, 1776 he went to be with his Lord, and his remains are among the first fruits of our God’s Acre.
Soon after, BR. VALENTINE BECK, another lay pastor, began his pastorale of nine years through the war and under the shaky Articles of the Confederation.
In February 1777 a cellar was dug behind the School House and paved with four loads of stone. A small room was built above the cellar to give the family with children more room. A garden fence and gate were added to help with the food supply. Br. Beck did good work and was ordained in July 1778. Just before Christmas of that year the Becks lost most of their material possessions as the schoolhouse was plundered by destitute soldiers in the area. In July of 1782, after a brief but harsh illness, his wife died and a year later Br. Beck went to Heidelberg, Pennsylvania and married a single sister selected by the Provincial Elders’ Conference and approved by the lot.
The war ended in 1783 and Friedberg, along with Salem, celebrated the 4th of July as proclaimed by Governor Martin.
The next pastor was the able minister and musician Rev. Simon PETER. He was called to help the growing community build their first real church. On Christmas Day of 1785, a few months after his arrival, the congregation voted to build. Plans were drawn for the new log church to be just a bit larger than the School House, 30’ x 35’, and to be located next to it and connected by a passageway. On February 19, 1786 Count Johannes DE WATTEVILLE, husband of ZINZENDORF’S daughter, BENIGNA, preached at the cornerstone laying. A brief period of dissension was overcome and progress on the church continued for over two years until its completion including the fine cabinet work done by Jacob KRAUSE.
Each year the Friedberg community celebrated their annual Festival in commemoration of the Lovefeast and the dedication held in the School House on March 11 and 12 of 1769. In 1786 and 1787 Rev. Peter got musicians from Salem to come out to make the Festival more meaningful with beautiful orchestral and chorale music. His brother J. F. PETER was among those who came. On March 12, 1788, the formal dedication of the completed church was held with much dignity. The music of the choir and orchestra was “very sweet coming down from the gallery”.
The next Pastor was the former Indian missionary Martin SCHNEIDER, who came in June of 1791. The school house rooms were refurnished and new stone steps were built at the west door of the church where the sisters entered. Later the school room upstairs was divided into two rooms.
Rev. John GAMBOLD, another Indian Missionary, was the next pastor. He lost his wife a few months after arriving in 1804 and was replaced soon after by Rev. C. D. BUCHHOLZ. During his term a new well was dug to supplement the falling spring. Rev. C. D. RUDE came next and served the longest pastorale in the first century, fifteen years. The 50th Golden Jubilee Anniversary was celebrated in 1819 with a great deal of special music. The church had grown from the original few families to a total of 338. Another new church was needed. The noted pastor, missionary, musician, and translator, Christian Frederick DENKE was called. He came in 1822 and shortly after a Building Committee was elected and the work begun. The new church and parsonage was planned to be built across the road from the previous two buildings and the cornerstone which still sits under our present church was laid on February 5, 1823. In July of the year Br. DENKE was able to secure the first organ brought to Bethabara by the Moravians. It served Friedberg for sixty more years before being sold. The music during his pastorale was much improved with the organ to help.
The cedar trees were planted to beautify the graveyard. The work on the large new building went on with great sacrifice as times were hard. The parsonage section was finished first and in June 1825 the Denke’s moved to their new quarters. Contrary to the pastor’s warnings of danger the new method plastering was used to decorate the church. A number of out buildings were completed and kitchens for the church and parsonage were built from the logs of the old church. Flooring from the old church was used in the three- sided gallery. The benches were made by one family and the other families contributed to the cost. The cost mounted and in order to finish everything the congregation had to mortgage the property to borrow money for the remaining bills. But the great day of dedication arrived on July 28, 1827 and a great procession of over 1500 people, clergy, musicians, members, and visitors formed at the site of the old church and to the chorales of the trombone choir, marched in order to the new building for a most impressive celebration.
With the new facilities and with the new spirit of the times the Charity Sunday School was begun on September 30, 1827. This had a profound influence on the people over the years. Br. Denke also began a new tradition of the Mayfeast to replace the old March Festival. This was held on the Saturday nearest the 12th which was the date the Brotherly Agreement was first signed in 1727 in Herrnhut. Numerous improvements were made on the buildings with a covered walk between the church and diener’s kitchen and four acres of land north of the church was purchased.
During this time Br. Denke lost his wife and companion of many years but soon married a teacher from Salem, where they retired in 1833.
April 21, 1833 Rev. A. H. SCHULZ was installed by his father who was president of the Provincial Elders Conference. Br. Schulz was a deeply spiritual man and worked hard to win the hearts of the people to a more serious relationship with the Lord. His work was hampered by the continued debt on the building; so finally in 1835, thirty-nine and one half acres of land were sold to pay off the debt.
During the decade of 1825 – 1835, a number of families began to feel the pains of continued population growth as land became more and more difficult to obtain. Under the leadership of Br. Martin HAUSER a good number of young couples joined in moving to Indiana and Illinois to found two Moravian communities there.
The years leading up to the Civil War were ones of little change except in language. In about twenty years the prominence of German in Church School and home fell until by 1857 it became nearly obsolete.
The war years brought hardships and suffering to all of the country and although little fighting occurred in the area the economy was destroyed and the crushing defeat was felt by all for years afterward. But a real revival swept through the congregation in 1866. The growth of the church and community was slow to respond to the needs of the time, but during the long pastorale of Br. James B. HALL the congregation began to show new life. The grounds and buildings were greatly improved with remodeling. The preaching places of Advent and Enterprise built their first permanent buildings and regular Sunday Schools and Worship Services began to be held. The need for a larger church then prompted the decision to build a separate parsonage and use the parsonage area for expansion of the church, the parsonage was completed in 1900 and the sanctuary expanded shortly thereafter.
It is interesting to note that when the newly remolded church was used the traditional “kiss of peace” used in communion services (between one’s own sex) was replaced by the “right hand of Fellowship”. The common cup soon gave way to the individual cup and wine was replaced by grape juice. Changes were taking place. Growth of Friedberg, Advent, and Enterprise soon made it possible for new pastors to serve the chapels and the Friedberg pastor to concentrate on one congregation. Rev. Samuel TESCH led the congregation in a large expansion program in the 1930’s with a new Christian Education wing and a large balcony and vestibule added to the building. The sanctuary was totally redesigned, and the direction changed once again. In 1938 these extensive additions were completed and dedicated. These facilities served throughout World War II and the Korean War until 1957 when a new modern parsonage was built, and the old parsonage became an annex for Christian Education. A new era of growth began in the community. The year 1967 marked the dedication of the large Christian Education Building and the adjoining Fellowship Hall build under the leadership of Rev. Henry Lewis. These new facilities greatly expanded the program of music and youth as an assistant in Christian Education and Music, Br. Raymond EBERT, joined the staff. A weekday Kindergarten was begun in 1967 renewing the Friedberg School which had served one hundred and fifty years before closing in 1922.
In 1972 two important committees began to work. Under the leadership of Rev. John GIESLER, a 200th Anniversary Committee secured a grant of $4,000.00 to study the past, present, and future of our community. This resulted in the translation of the diaries from 1759 – 1773 by Donald LINEBACK, the securing of many priceless photos and articles of age and value, and a great increase in community interest throughout our area, and even to several items of national publicity. A musical program of unique quality and interest was held under the direction of Dr. Thor Johnson in October 1973. It consisted entirely of music composed by Friedberg pastors or their families. A twenty two piece orchestra and a one hundred voice choir was featured. Twelve first modern performances and premiers were included.
The other important committee is the Planning Council which has been working on plans for a new sanctuary, music department, a historic Friedberg Room, and other needed facilities. Their plans were adopted by over 90% of the Special Church Council meeting in June 1973. Work will begin soon in this needed area as well as the incorporating of many historic features still surviving in the present church.
Last but not least is the fact that the history of Friedberg would not be complete without mentioning the work of over twenty men from our congregation who have gone into full time service for the Lord in the Christian Ministry. This work is still going on with five men now serving and the promise of more to come.
This history article was written by Rev. John Giesler for Friedberg’s 200th Anniversary in 1973. It is re- printed for Friedberg’s 250th Anniversary. Jimmie Snyder, Chair, Friedberg History Committe