The Controversy Surrounding 'Rifle Gun Number 42.'        

(part II, continued)


            Was there a conflict between Beck and Betz, and Beck's move in late 1766 purposely due to him not being able to effectively practice his trade in the same shop as Betz?  Lewis notes that, "If the church leaders discovered their artisans were not producing competitive goods, they remedied the situation as soon as possible.  For instance, even though Andreas Betz had worked as a gunsmith since 1758, gunstocker John Valentine Beck's arrival six years later signals that the Moravians required a more specialized artisan to help create a higher quality product to compete with the firearms being produced by the Bruner family and others in Salisbury."  (Lewis 75-76)  This is an interesting interpretation by Lewis, and an unsupported one, although Beck - having been specifically trained as a gunstocker - would probably have been possessive of a higher degree of skill at this aspect of the trade than would Betz.  There are no notations in the North Carolina records, however, to indicate that a conscious selection of Beck was specifically for this purpose.  The only indicator of this interpretation by Lewis is that Beck was destined for Salem (still under construction), this being the North Carolina Moravian's carefully-planned 'city on a hill' which they intended to be self-supporting and a magnet for 'strangers' in the role of consumers only.   Freidrich Marshall, letter from Bethlehem, July, 1765:  "This town [Salem] is not designed for farmers but for those with trades, but until the town has so grown that each resident can support his family with the money earned by his handicraft or profession it will be necessary, as in Lititz, for each to have an out-lot..."  (Fries v1, 314)  It is not known what type of relationship Beck may have had with Andreas Betz, he having been well-established in Bethabara since 1754 [after leaving Bethlehem, locksmith Betz and blacksmith George Schmid arrived together in 1754].  Within a "Catalogue of the Inhabitants of Bethabara in Wachovia" dating to April 1766, George Schmid and Daniel Hauser are listed as blacksmiths; Andrew Betz and Joseph Miller were Gun-Smiths; Valentine Beck was Gun-Stocker and Tin-Man.  (Fries v1, 344)  Finally, in February, 1767, Betz - who had instigated the occasional headache amongst the church elders in both Bethlehem as well as Bethabara - secretly married Barbara Bruner/Brunner, a daughter of George Bruner in Salisbury and not a member of the Moravian church.  Betz left the congregation and moved to Salisbury, where he eventually operated a successful mercantile [it has been noted that he sold a number of Bethabara and Salem-made products, serving somewhat as an ‘outlet’ for the Brethren] as well as continued gunsmithing.  (Fries v1, 357)  [Brothers George and Henry Bruner were from Lancaster County, PA, and had moved to Salisbury ca. 1750.  Henry and George were both gunsmiths.]

Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, February 11, 1752:


"The ordinary Day of our sitting Present the same Members as above
J. Brownfield related, "That he had been this morning informed by Br. Kleist that some Weeks ago Br. Andreas Betz made himself a Wolf-Trap in the Lock-Smith's Shop & promised Br. Kleist to pay for the Iron he used therein.—After a while he brought a Piece of Iron & said it was given him by Br. Richter (the Shepherd) It seemed to be a part of such an Iron as we use in breaking Stones & might probably belong either to Bethlehem or John Jones. — We fear'd if 'twas the latter's property, it might bring the Congregation into some Trouble or at least Suspicion, there- fore desired we might consider of it.  Br. Kleist being sent for, came & bore Witness to the same effect. We then Agreed that Br. Pezold, speak with Richter (the Shepard) about this Matter & acquaint us of the Issue thereof."  (MAB)


Moravian Archives Bethlehem, March 4, 1752:


"Br. Richter the Shepherd's Case, was again considered of. Br. Pezold reported, that he had reproved Richter sharply for having not enquired of John Jones whether the piece of Iron he found by his House belong'd to him or not? Also for suffering And:s Betz to cut off some of it. That he had sent Br. Richter with the said Iron to J. Jones (who said it was his) ordered him to beg Pardon & say that the Brethren were exceedingly displeased with him for his Misbehavior & took not the least Part in it. Therefore we Agreed 1st That as Br. Richter hath been obliged to do Penance in the manner afore- mentioned, we will proceed no farther in it & especially as J. Jones declared himself quite satisfied..."  (MAB)


Betz's departure from Bethabara left a void which Beck was utilized to fill:  "In February George Holder went from Salem to take charge of the sawmill near Bethabara and Beck moved back to that village, the departure of Andres Betz necessitating his return to the gunsmith's shop there."  (Fries v1, 351)  Beck, who had just moved from Bethabara to Salem two to three months previous, was thence sent back.  Joseph Muller did not leave the congregation with his master Andreas Betz, so it would appear that he continued to work in Bethabara, possibly under Valentine Beck, possibly in the smithy with George Schmidt or possibly in his own gunsmith-shop.  By 1766/67, it would appear that these various trades were permitted their own separate shops, for a 1766 map of Bethabara (Fries v1) indicates buildings for the gun-stocker, gun-smith and black-smith.  Unfortunately, the Records... are somewhat silent in regards to Joseph Muller's work.  Lewis paraphrases a letter written to Bethlehem from Br. Lorenz Bagge in which he (Bagge) noted that Muller had not seemed to have learned much along the lines of gunsmithing from Betz (Lewis 91), so perhaps Betz himself was more repairman than capable of actually constructing a gun.  Or perhaps he was irresponsible or lazy:  a letter from Br. Gammern in Bethabara to Nathanael Seidel in Bethlehem noted, "The gunsmith trade makes great talk but has turned out only two guns since I am here.  The smithy is practically still..."  (Lewis 83)  Muller seemingly stayed on in Wachovia - first at Bethabara and then ca. 1771/72 at Salem -  until January of 1774, when he followed Betz's lead and married outside of his faith:  he left the Moravian  congregation and relocated near Bethania.  (Lewis 91)

A moment should be taken to address the issue of one additional man who was believed to have been involved with smithing in both Bethlehem and Salem.  Niels/Nils/Nicolaus Lund arrived on the ship Hope along with John Valentine Beck in 1761.  He was a locksmith (see Hillanbrand and below) and apparently was present in Bethlehem or one of the outlying farms/missions ca. 1761-1773, although I have not been able thus far to uncover records pertaining to this man.  However, in the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, he is initially mentioned in the Salem Diary on May 15, 1773:  "The Brn. Martin Ebert, Marcus Hoens, and Niels Lund, arrived from Pennsylvania, bringing letters and Nachrichten.  The two former came to buy land; but Lund will remain here."  (Fries v2, 758)  The next mention of him appears in the Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium for March 30, 1775, at which point the boy Gottlieb Strehle was apprenticed to Lund; no trade is listed, however.  Two months later, in the Salem Diary on May 28, there was related an incident concerning an escaped slave:  "The same negro met Br. Lund on the farm of the Single Brethren..."  (Fries v2, 873)  This was in the neighborhood of Bethabara, or between Bethabara and Salem, so it is not clear what exactly Lund was doing but all of the Brethren, regardless of profession, were forced by necessity to perform a wide-ranging variety of tasks.  Meanwhile, on within the Bethabara Diary for 1775 on April 22, "Br. Nils Lund came to fasten the locks on the tavern doors."  (Fries v2, 901)  This is the first mention of Lund in the capacity of a locksmith.

There are no additional mentions of Lund until the following year, 1776, at which point something terrible seems to have happened.  In the Salem Diary entry for May 16, the following notation is made:  "It caused much sorrow that the locksmith, N--- L---, was found to be guilty of gross sin, and had to be given the consilium abeundi, after the Aufseher Collegium had paid him for the stock in his shop."  (Fries v3, 1063)  [The consilium abeundi was essentially an order of expulsion from the church and the community.]  There is no specific mention of exactly what the man did.  However, Lund must have left Salem and traveled next to Friedberg for in the Friedberg Diary for 1776, on May 20, Br. Ludwig Gottlieb Bachhof wrote:  "N--- L---, who spent yesterday at Christian Frey's house, came to me, and told me that yesterday he had been dismissed from the congregation in Salem, on account of indiscreet behaviour.  Now his heart was full of unrest and anxiety, for he did not know what to do, he did not wish to go entirely over to the world, and was too weak for farm labour.  I told him that I could not recommend him to any one, but suggested that he go to Salisbury and try whether Andreas Betz could give him work."  (Fries v3, 1113) 

The next appearance of Lund was not until May 3, 1782, in notations relative to the Land-Arbeiter Conferenz:  "Syberberg and Nicolaus Lund have come to Friedberg, and George Hartman has taken them in.  Syberberg has made preparations to build a house."  (Fries v4, 1804)  Where was Lund between 1776 and 1782?  Did he in fact go to Salisbury to work for Betz?  This is not made clear.  More importantly, who was Syberberg, and why was Lund living with him?  This individual appears sporadically throughout the Records..., his name spelled in various ways, but very little can be inferred as to who he was other than that he apparently was not regarded very highly.  The earliest notation I was able to find in an initial search was an entry in the Salem Diary the year previous, 1781, in April:  "Mr. Silberberg and Mr. Nisbet, from Salisbury, have been here for the past days, spending Easter with us."  (Fries v4, 1691)  Being as the following year this man - from Salisbury - showed up at Friedberg with Nils Lund in tow, it likely indicates that Lund had indeed gone to Salisbury following his dismissal in 1776.  The Friedberg Diary for 1782 [kept by Valentine Beck] does not shed any additional light on the matter, noting on April 18 only that "We heard that the well-known Sieverberg and Nils Lund have moved into the neighborhood..."  (Fries v4, 1829)  Well-known?  This seems cryptic.  Nevertheless, by May 31, "Syberberg and Lund [had] moved into their new house."  (Fries v4, 1805)  Lund, born in 1728, would have been fifty-four years old at this time; there is no mention of the locksmith trade and it is not noted what he may have been doing for a living.  Nevertheless, while nothing specific is mentioned concerning what the Brethren may have thought of Lund and his partner living among them, by October of the same year (and only a few months subsequent to the completion of their house), trouble was obviously brewing.  The minutes of the Aeltesten Conferenz for October 2, 1782, note that "Dr. Rindelmann wishes to be connected with the Brethren, and he is having a hard time in Richmond.  Siverberg is moving away from Friedberg, and it can be suggested to Dr. Rindelmann that he buy Siverberg's house, move thither and practice there."  (Fries v4, 1807) 

Why would Siverberg - and Lund, if Lund was still with him - build a house in May only to sell it in October?  There very well may have been a conflict with the Friedberg congregation which was not recorded.  Whether or not Siverberg actually sold his house and moved is unknown, but the following April (1783) he remained 'in the neighborhood' and was again cause for consternation:  "Mr. Siverberg has spoken with Br. Marshall about the old Entry of 640 acres, the right to which he had bought from the Entry-taker.  The Friedberg School-house stands on this land.  While the claim of the Brethren to this Entry is probably safe, under a law of the recent Assembly, if the matter went into the courts, still to avoid a long-drawn-out affair it is good that in a recent conference of Br. Marshall with those who have part of the 640 acres Mr. Siverberg stated that he ceded his right in the same to Br. Marshall."  (Fries v4, 1850)  This seems to indicate an antagonism - again, unrecorded - between the Brethren and Siverberg.  In 1784 there is only one mention of the man, as the Aeltesten Conferenz recorded that they were monitoring Siberberg's "lottery," and had been told that one of the Brethren had spent four pounds on tickets.  (Fries v5, 2039)  Nothing additional is noted until, on August 15, 1785, Pastor Beck wrote in the Friedberg Diary that "By request I visited the sick Mr. Siverberg in our neighborhood, and repeated the visit once during the week, but found that my visit meant nothing to him."  (Fries v5, 2113)  Two months later, in October, the diarist at Salem noted:  "We heard from Friedberg of the death of Siverberg.  He once stayed here in the congregation, but since then, and to the time of his death, has continued his unrighteous business."  (Fries v5, 2087)  The entire affair is really quite mysterious, and for the present Siberberg/Siverberg and his connection to Lund must remain equally so.  There is no information as to what Lund may have been doing, or where he may  have been living, for the next ten years.  Then, suddenly, the Friedberg Diary for March 10, 1795, states:  "Today Nils Lund was buried on the plantation of Peter Volz."  (Fries v6, 2549)  The Salem Diary for March 11 offers a small degree of added elaboration:  "In Friedberg, Br. Martin Schneider held the funeral of the married man, Nils Lund, who formerly belonged to our congregations in Pennsylvania and here.  He was in the sixty-seventh year of his life."  (Fries v6, 2531)  It would appear, then, that sometime during this silent ten year interval, Lund was married and seemingly continued to live in or near Friedberg.  I am currently unaware of any additional information which may shed light on the matter.

Beck meanwhile stayed on in Bethabara until he married Anna Leinbach in 1771 and the following year bought a house in Salem:  "Br. Valentine Beck and his wife moved to Salem.  Br. Peter Christ, who works with him, moved into his Choir House."  (Feb. 19, 1772, Diary of the Salem Congregation - Fries v2, 670)  This mirrors Beck's memoir, wherein he states that "On 16 December 1771 I married my first wife, Anna Leinbach, moved to Salem on 18 February 1772, and established myself in my profession.  Moreover, the Saviour blessed the work of my hands."  (MASP)  On April 15 of 1772, the Aufseher Collegium met and among the minutes it was noted that "The Brn. Beck and Bonn wish to buy the houses in which they are living...What Br. Beck owes for the stock in his gun-stock-making business and what the Brothers House owes for the gunsmith business, shall be entered in the Administration books at the figure at which they were taken over from the Bethabara Diaconie."  (Fries v2, 695)  This is an indication that Beck was buying his business from the Oeconomy, much in the same way that Daniel Kliest in Bethlehem had bought the lock shop ten years earlier. 

It would appear that once Beck had married and moved to Salem, though, he began to express an increasing interest in the ministry, for the next month on May 19, the minutes of the Aeltesten Conferenz note that "Br. Beck shall go to Friedland the first time with another Brother, so that he may see how services are conducted there."  (Fries v2, 716)  Later that same year [1772], on November 8, the Salem diary noted that "Br. Valentine Beck held the services in Friedland today for the first time."  (Fries v2, 690)  From the "Wachovia Memorabilia" for 1774, the following statement can be found:  "The Society in Friedland has been visited every fourteen days by Brethren from Salem, especially Br. Valentine Beck, and these Brethren have held services for them."  (Fries v2, 813)  In 1776, the "Salem Memorabilia" noted that  "On Sept. 21st the Saviour called Br. Bachhof from Friedberg to Himself; his place was filled in November by Br. Valentine Beck..."  (Fries v3, 1042) and likewise in the Salem Diary for that year it was written that "Br. Valentine Beck went to Friedberg, and held services there for the first time as their pastor."  (Fries v3, 1078)  This decision had been made on October 8 by the Aeltesten Conferenz.  (Fries v3, 1077) 

Throughout the entire year of 1776, it is very evident from entries in the Salem Diary that the North Carolina militia was frequently passing-through or spending a good deal of time - much more time than the Moravian elders seemed to have been comfortable with - around both Salem and Bethabara.  It would appear that the smithy in Bethabara was indeed engaging in repair work, this being acceptable as Bethabara being home almost exclusively to single brethren; however, great pains were taken to keep - or attempt to keep - the soldiers away from Salem.  Some have concluded that Beck was ordered to cease gunstocking activity in Salem as the church elders were apprehensive that such work would draw soldiers to the town, although supporting evidence to this effect does not seem to be blatantly present within the extant records.  Certainly by the autumn of that year, however, his move to Friedberg and new vocation as pastor was a very convenient one indeed.  It would not appear that Beck ever resumed gunsmithing - there is a good body of evidence pertaining to his work as a minister at Freidberg [and subsequently Bethania] however absolutely no documentary or physical evidence to indicate that he worked as a gunsmith following his departure from Salem in 1776.  As early as September 21, 1776, the Friedberg Diary was being kept by Valentine Beck and on July 14, 1778, Br. Valentine Beck was ordained Deacon in Friedberg.  (Fries v3, 1275)

Beck's first wife Anna died in Friedberg on June 11, 1782.  (Fries v4, 1794)  He remained a widower for a year, continuing to serve in Friedberg, until July of 1783 at which time he traveled to Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] to remarry:  he married Maria Boeckel on August 26.  (MASP)  He then returned to Friedberg where he and his second wife continued to serve until the decision was made in March of 1785 that Br. and Sr. Beck should move to Bethania and serve the congregation in that settlement.  (MASP; Fries v5, 2108)  There they remained for the next five years, although it would appear that his health was beginning to fail.  Within Beck's memoir, his own account ends with his move to Bethania in 1785.  The remainder was noted by a helper, as was typical, who mentions that "Our blessed brother was destined to suffer much pain, especially during his final years, because of an injury he had sustained during the first years of his life."  (MASP)  What, exactly, this injury and subsequent cause for pain was, is not made clear.  However, in Beck's own words within the Bethania Diary [which he, as Minister, kept] of December 11, 1790, he states, "I had felt weak in my chest for several days and today was much oppressed, and could hold no services on the next day."  (Fries v5, 2316)  It would appear that he was suffering from a coronary ailment, and his memoir notes that "...he gradually grew so weak and received so many attacks at once that he had indeed a great deal to bear."  (MASP)  Johan Valentine Beck died on March 7, 1791.

One curious note regarding Beck's time at Bethania regards Andreas Betz's old apprentice, Joseph Muller, who in 1774 had left the congregation in Salem to marry an outsider and had settled near Bethania where he apparently continued to work as a gunsmith in addition to farming [see letter from Bagge to Cary].  Beck arrived at Bethania on March 15, 1785, and only four days later on March 19 the Bethania Diary (kept by Beck) notes that "The married Br. Joseph Muller, who formerly lived in Bethabara and in Salem, was re-admitted to this congregation."  (Fries v5, 2108)  A few months later on July 9, Beck states, "At the lovefeast it was announced that Br. Joseph Muller had been re-admitted to the Communion, and that his wife Catharina would partake for the first time."  (Fries v5, 2110)  Was it mere coincidence that Muller, a gunsmith and formerly well-known to Beck during his time at Bethabara and Salem where he (Beck) had been 'Gun-Stocker,' was received back into the church only four days after Beck too over as pastor at Bethania?  It does seem a bit too coincidental, but nothing more can be said with any certainty.  No further mention of Muller can be found until March of 1789, at which time the Bethania Diary mentions that "Joseph Muller and his wife were asked about the report that they are going to move to Cumberland, and he told us frankly that he planned to do so; his wife said nothing, only looked at him and smiled."  (Fries v5, 2287)  During this period of time - the latter years of the 18th century immediately following the War - there was a very large movement of people westward into Tennessee and Kentucky.  Mention of this can be found variously throughout the Records... for this period, where it was also noted that the congregations (the outlying congregations of Bethania, Friedberg and Friedland particularly) were losing communicants somewhat noticeably to this westward drift.  It would appear that Joseph Muller likewise was planning to take this course, although he did not do so immediately.  As of April 29, 1793, he was still present as his daughter Sarah [Muller] was baptized there (Fries v6, 2489); on December 23, 1802, one Joseph Miller remained yet at Bethania as the Diary notes that "By request we visited our sick neighbor, Joseph Miller."  (Fries v6, 2718)  [Note:  was this the same man, the name slowly being anglicized from Mueller to Muller to Miller?

Sometime between 1793 and 1804 Muller/Miller must have finally moved, however, for there is no additional mention of him through this period until 1804.  During that year, Brother Abraham Steiner made a trip to the northwest into the mountains, and a record of his trip was included in the Records... as the "Report of Br. Abraham Steiner of his Visit to Deep Creek in Surry County, and to the Mountains in Ashe County, in the month of May, 1804."  Steiner's diary entry for May 8, 1804, notes:  "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 to 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."  (Fries v6, 2965-2966)  The following day, Steiner stated:  "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..."  (Fries v6, 2966)  This is all that can be found in the Records... regarding Muller's whereabouts, however Adelaide Fries inserted a footnote at this point which reads as follows:  "Ashe County deeds show that Joseph Miller had bought five hundred acres of land on New River, of which he sold 159 acres to his son Joseph Miller, Jr., in August, 1802.  [Author's note:  it is not clear whether or not he was actually living on this land at the time, hence the confusion above re: the 1802 Bethania Diary entry.  However, the 1800 Federal Census shows a 'Joseph Miller' of age 45 or upwards in Ashe County, North Carolina (M32 Roll 29, 83) so it is probable he had already relocated and the sick 'Joseph Miller' of Bethania in 1802 was a different man.]  The younger Joseph Miller moved back to Stokes County, North Carolina, and from there sold the 159 acres to Abraham Mitchell in 1811.  The elder Joseph Miller sold the rest of his Ashe County tract to William Edwards in May, 1806.  The Ashe County records give no clue as to his further movements."  (Fries v6, 2966)  It is currently believed that Muller moved further west into either Tennessee or Kentucky, and subsequent census records do in fact note a small number of individuals named 'Joseph Miller' [no Muller or Mueller names that I could find] in Kentucky and Tennessee of the right age.  I have opted to leave this trail for future researchers.