Moravian Artisans in North Carolina: A Brief Study Relative to the Firearms Trade.
In 1920 the North Carolina Historical Commission publication of the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. These records were transcribed and edited by Adelaide L. Fries, the Archivist of the Moravian Church in North America, Southern Province. Because the Moravian Church had always placed a strong reliance upon record keeping, both in Pennsylvania and North Carolina as well as elsewhere, these records and diaries provide an absolutely invaluable window into the past. Searching through the volumes compiled by Fries, one can obtain a fairly clear picture of what the Brethren were trying to achieve on their large land tract they named Wachau, or “Wachovia” once anglicized, and how the surroundings influenced the tradesmen working there. One can also get a fairly clear picture of how the towns of the Wachovia estate – Bethabara and Salem being the two primary villages prior to the Revolution – differed from the Moravian towns of Pennsylvania. Wachovia was located on the fringes of the settled lands in North Carolina when the first of the Brethren arrived from Pennsylvania in November of 1753. The first town, Bethabara, was essentially considered a temporary community which was to provide initial shelter, food, [via farming] and income [via artisans and trade] while the centrally-located and carefully-planned town of Salem was being organized.
Obviously, within the grand scope of the Records… which Fries compiled, the subject of the gunmakers working in Bethabara and Salem seems a rather mundane and small one indeed. However, there are genuine pearls of information to be found that directly pertain to locksmith/gunsmith Andreas Betz, his apprentice Joseph Muller, the gun-stocker Johan Valentine Beck and locksmith/gunsmith Johan Jacob Loesch Jr. The records also help to flesh out the daily lives of the Moravians in North Carolina and provide a backdrop against which the aforementioned tradesmen can be more clearly viewed. Of course much is still open to question and interpretation, however by utilizing the records as a valuable tool in attempting to answer the questions that arise concerning almost every aspect of work of the early smiths, the interpretations formed thereof can hopefully be less vapid and not based solely upon multiple layers of speculation but on the voices of the early Moravians themselves.
From the first, it was blatantly obvious that the Brethren lacked the raw manpower to accomplish all that they wished in a completely insular manner. From the Bethabara Diary, October 26, 1755: “Three men came today, they are Germans from the New River, but now living on Town Fork. Two of them undertake to make us 3000 shingles in three weeks, the third will fell and trim 100 trees, the pay to be a pair of shoes each. During their stay they will be lodged in the strangers’ cabin.” (Fries v1, 139) This reliance upon “strangers,” or non-Moravian laborers, is a constant thread that runs throughout the entirety of the records. In the Diary of Bethabara and Bethania, 1762, the entry for November 21 reads, “Four more outside day-laborers have come to work for us, so that now we have fifteen of them.” (Fries v1, 251) The Memorabilia of 1756 notes that for that year, the number of “Strangers staying over night” was 360, and although this figure (Fries v1, 129) does not represent laborers only – many of these overnight guest were simply travelers or those utilizing the services of the blacksmith – it does illustrate that by a very early date there was a considerable amount of traffic through Bethabara.
It would appear the smithy was a highly successful enterprise from the start; Johanna Miller Lewis reached this conclusion in regards to the first blacksmith, George Schmidt (Lewis79), and Fries’ transcription of the Records… provides ample evidence of this. As early as May 20, 1755, the Diary of the Brethren and Sisters on the Wachau states that “Five strangers were here today; two for work at our smithy. They had shot a deer, of which they only cared for the skin, so they offered us the meat, which we took.” (Fries v1, 129) Again on July 22: “A so-called Dunkard or Bearded Man came to the smithy. He has just come from the New River with his entire family… When his work at the smithy was finished he went back to his people at Town Fork.” (Fries v1, 133/34) It is also evident that locksmith Andreas Betz [he having traveled from Bethlehem with Schmidt in 1754] was working alongside George Schmidt in the blacksmith shop, as on November 11, 1755 when Schmidt left on a trip, “Br. Betz took charge of the smithy, Br. George Schmidt having left.” (Fries v1, 148)
One would assume that there must have been a dire necessity for gunsmithing work almost immediately, not necessarily in terms of commerce but simply in order to maintain the firearms of the Brethren themselves; while Moravians professed strong objection to the use of arms in war, they had no qualms whatsoever against utilizing them as tools for survival. From the Bethabara Diary of June 11, 1764; “As Br. Holder went for the cows today he shot three young bears, their mother, and a deer, more than he has ever shot at one time before.” (Fries v1, 288) Johanna Miller Lewis states in Artisans in the North Carolina Backcountry that Jacob Loesch Sr. wrote a letter to Bethlehem requesting permission to establish a gunsmith shop in Bethabara, and permission to do so was received later that same year. (Lewis 40) It would appear, however, that someone in Bethabara was operating as a gunsmith prior to that time, as the Diary on December 15, 1756 reads as follows: “A bear hunter brought his gun to our gun-smith. He complained that neither he nor his companions had seen a single bear, all the hunters say the same this year.” (Fries v1, 173) While the gunsmith was not mentioned by name, locksmith Andreas Betz was the only man present who was noted as being possessive of a degree of experience within the realm of gun repair. Exactly what Betz was capable of doing is not known, however one must recall the 1757 entry of the Bethlehem ledger of the Locksmith and Gunstocker (quoted elsewhere) whereby Abraham Seiner purchased a gun from the Bethlehem shop to send to his son in Wachovia; this would seem to suggest that Betz was a repairman and not capable of constructing a complete firearm, but this possibility is admittedly speculative.
Another characteristic of the early settlement was the need for every man present, regardless of trade, to assist in a huge workload of varied tasks. Lewis recounts an incident drawn from the Records… whereby George Schmidt, the blacksmith, fell off a roof while shingling it and dislocated his leg in 1754 (Lewis 79) In the Bethabara Diary on June 14, 1755, the diarist states, “We put all of the brethren to work making bedsteads, and completed as many as we need, that is twenty-three.” (Fries v1, 132) It would appear, in fact, that during the earliest period of the settlement ca. 1753 – 60, the men selected to populate the Wachovia tract were selected primarily to provide a somewhat varied skill-set in order to provide for the needs of the Brethren in the building of the town first and foremost. There is also ample evidence to be found within the Records… to indicate that multiple wagons traveled back and forth between Bethlehem and Bethabara each year carrying additional settlers and supplies. Being as the well established lock and gunstocker’s shop in Bethlehem could readily supply new guns, and being as a number of the Brethren who initially traveled to Carolina obviously took firearms with them, the need for someone in Wachovia who could actually stock new rifles and muskets was probably very slight. It is likely that the 1758 request to provide Betz with his own gunsmith shop separate from the smithy indicates an increased need for repair work, possibly among the arms of the Brethren themselves but also very likely amongst the increasing number of strangers utilizing the services of the Moravian tradesmen. Whether or not anyone else was working upon guns with Betz during this early period is unknown but is not likely as I could find no mention of it in the records. Also whether anyone – including Betz – was capable of stocking a new gun in Wachovia is unknown, although there may be evidence yet to be found in any ledgers preserved in Salem. It would seem probable that one of the woodworking artisans may have accomplished the task should the occasion have warranted it [probably Betz himself likewise] and in fact there is an interesting comment to be found within a touching diary-type letter which was written in Bethabara by Rev. John Jacob Fries on May 30, 1754: “I made the top of a table for myself, and 31st cut wood for feet on the Table. They shall be Lyons Claws; is that not too much? One day I am a Joiner, the next a Carver; what could I not learn if I was not too old?” (Fries v2, 531)
Trade in Wachovia seemed to grow quickly. The concept eventually to be put into place in regard to the plan for Salem [once constructed] was of a centrally located town to be populated by artisans; these artisans would provide for the Brethren’s needs and thus avoid a reliance upon outside craftspeople, while at the same time drawing consumers to the town and providing a source of income for the church. A store and tavern were in fact very quickly established at Bethabara to provide immediate, initial income. Furthermore, the first three volumes of the Records… are packed full of entries spanning the 1753 – 1779 period which detail numerous wagon trips to Charlestown [Charleston, South Carolina], Pine Tree Store [according to Fries: “Pine Tree Store was probably in Lancaster County, South Carolina, not far from the North Carolina line.” (Fries 299) The town of Camden, S.C. was formerly known as Pinetree Hill] and the Cape Fear River [Bethabara Diary Nov. 23, 1759: “The purchase of land for a storehouse on a piece of land at Springhill on Cape Fear River has been undertaken for us…” (Fries 214) as well as Petersburg, Cross Creek [Fayetteville, NC] and Wilmington. Most of this trade revolved around deer skins, some possibly obtained by Moravian hunters but mostly purchased in raw form through outside hunters and subsequently processed by the Moravian leather-dresser and tanner. John Jacob Fries’ diary (see above) noted: ‘I spoke with Br. Losch, and told him that I did esteem hunting as unprofitable, and that I would seek to put an end to it till a Br. comes from Pennsylvania who does not do it by way of amusement but as his business.” (Fries v2. 531) Other staples such as butter, soap and salt were traded and sold likewise. Meanwhile, wagons continued to repeatedly make the trip between Bethlehem and Wachovia throughout this period as well, and in addition to the Brethren themselves, the early 1760s saw a dramatic increase in the number of people (non-Moravians) who passed through the Wachovia tract. Fredric William Marshall, who in 1763 had been appointed Oeconomus [essentially an administrator of the Oeconomy, or business affairs] of Wachovia, wrote from Bethlehem on February 1, 1764:
“The settlement of the Tract and its lots is a difficult proposition, but I must say this: the migrations of men are like the movement of a flock of sheep, where one goes the flock follows, without knowing why. In 1762 a crowd of people from the Jerseys and some from the settlement beyond the Lechah [Lehigh River] moved to Yorktown and Virginia. In 1763 the stream turned and many settled beyond the Lechah and across the Blue Mountains [long ridge along the ‘upper townships’ of Northampton and Berks Counties in PA], as if that were the delectable land, until the war broke out, although the best pieces had already been taken. So last year also many men moved to North Carolina.” (Fries v1, 294)
It would appear that hunting – via accomplished hunters – was a profitable activity on the Carolina frontier by the early 1760s, as the Bethabara Diary in February of 1765 noted that “Again today many people came to the store with skins for sale. Br. Gammern will soon be at a loss how to pay for them in cash, even though the people always spend a good deal of their money at once in the store.” (Fries v1, 300) These dealings with strangers would appear to have been quite beneficial to the Brethren, for they were not only able to buy skins which they could process and resell at a profit or trade to advantage [March 15, 1765: “Five wagons set out for Charlestown, loaded with 9400 lbs. of deer skins.” (Fries v1. 301), but additionally they then turned around and sold products of the store to the same strangers, thus reaping the very money they had previously paid for the skins.
As many years went by the fluid volume of people continued to grow, some passing and some electing to lease land upon the Wachovia tract; from the Wachovia Memorabilia of 1769, it was noted that “From Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Broad Bay 48 have come to settle in Wachovia.” (Fries v1, 386) From the Memorabilia of 1770: “Nine more families have come from Broad Bay to Wachovia; also one family from Pennsylvania; about 50 persons in all… Our numbers were increased this year by four Brethren from Europe…” (Fries v1, 398) In the Bethabara Diary of 1770, on May 31: “Eight families from Pennsylvania, 42 souls, with three wagons, stopped for several hours in our Tavern, then went on to the Catawba River.” (Fries v1, 413); on September 20, “A Col. Donaldson, of Virginia, and his party spent the night here. He has been ordered to take a present, worth £2500 Sterling, to the Indians in South Carolina, according to Treaty…” (Fries v1 415); on September 21, “There were unusually many strangers in our town today, especially a number who do not wish to be under the law, and are moving to Holston River.” (Fries v1, 415)
Simple settlers were not the only people passing through Bethabara [and subsequently Salem as that town began to take shape]. Non-Moravian artisans were also passing through these congregation towns, some to destinations unknown as well as some seeking work. The Diary of Bethabara and Bethania on September 15, 1762, noted: “Michel Marr, a journeyman potter, born in Coburg, came here to work.” (Fries v1, 250) It is likely that a strong demand for the wares of the Brethren as well as a shortage of labor amongst them eased the typical restrictions [certainly more strongly-enforced in Pennsylvania] upon ‘strangers’ actually working in the shops with the craftsmen. These strangers would have been housed separately, out of the homes of the Brethren, however. In Bethabara, a cabin was specifically constructed to house these outsiders [see above entry of October 26] and was utilized for that purpose until 1766, at which point it was converted into the shop of the gun-stocker Valentine Beck.[See “Map of Bethabara,” Fries v1. This cabin was located immediately adjacent to the ‘Strangers’ Store.] This acceptance and reliance upon day-laborers as well as various outside journeymen or other craftspeople is a relatively common theme throughout the records of Bethabara and Salem from the earliest years of the Brethren on the Wachovia tract right through the remainder of the 18th century. One particularly interesting man was discussed by the Collegium in February 1783:
“A single man, Immanuel Dresen, who has worked for two years in Salem, would like to become a resident. He was born Feb. 2, 1754, on the Rhine, was brought up a Catholic, and learned from his father the trade of a silver-smith. He also worked as a watch-maker. For a year and a quarter he was with the Capucins on trial but did not take vows. He worked at his trade at Neuwied in Maestricht, then France. From there he went to Spain as attendant to a gentleman, was seized as a soldier and taken to Africa, deserted with twenty-five other men and took ship for Lisbon, where he delivered himself to a Captain of a ship bound for Philadelphia, and served to pay his transportation. He went to Long Island in the American service; then served with the English, and was captured with Tarleton’s Corps at the Cowpens. Being in great need, he went into retirement, working first at Friedland, then here.”
Dresen was subsequently (April, 1784) granted the permission he sought, however by the following January (1785) the Brethren had become quite disenchanted with him as the Salem Diary notes that “The single Emmanuel Dresen was informed by the Aufseher Collegium that he could no longer stay here. His conduct has not at all agreed with the declarations he made a year ago when he received permission to become a resident.” (Fries v5, 2072) One has to wonder what impact upon the Moravian artisans such transient individuals must have effected.
It is certainly likely, based upon the large body of surviving work, that the Moravian artisans quickly developed a wide reputation for fine products. It can be safely said that the strong demand placed upon the artisans of Bethabara and Salem was due in part to this good reputation, and in part due to the scarcity of such artisans within this frontier region for much of the 1750-1790 period. Particular attention has been hitherto focused upon the pottery, the first master potter being Gottfried Aust who had been European-trained and moved to Bethabara from Bethlehem in 1755. (Bivins 36) This is probably due to the fact that during the period of the first three volumes of Fries’ work, 1753 -1779, Aust’s pottery was enormously popular and in-demand, and made an equally enormous amount of money for the congregation. Thus, there are frequent mentions of this pottery throughout the Bethabara and Salem Diaries. [Two excellent books further detailing this work, and that of his successors, were written by John Bivins: Moravian Decorative Arts in North Carolina and The Moravian Potters in North Carolina.] On a number of occasions, it was clearly sales of Aust’s pottery which were drawing large numbers of strangers to Bethabara and subsequently Salem. From the Bethabara Diary on May 21, 1770: “There was a unusual concourse of visitors, some coming 60 or 80 miles, to buy milk crocks and pans in out pottery. They bought the entire stock, not one piece was left…” (Fries v1, 412) This was not an isolated occurrence but rather occurred on a fairly regular basis, on many instances the strangers nearly coming to blows in their desire to get pieces of earthenware before it was all sold. In addition to the journeyman Michael Marr, mentioned above, it would appear that the Moravian artisans were very much willing to entertain other such craftsmen and learn from them aspects of the trade which might render a better or more desirable product. An excellent example of this awareness of changing winds in the outside world again related to potter Aust, this time in 1773 following Aust’s move to Salem. From the Salem Diary in December, the following entry is taken: “The wagons returned from Charlestown today. With them came… a potter, William Allen, who asks for work, and would like to stay with the Moravians. Br. Aust will give him a trial.” (Fries v2, 762) As will be clarified, this particular entry mistakes the man’s name as was subsequently corrected in the Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium [a supervisory board of elders which addressed the financial dealings of the congregation] on December 8, 1793:
“There was a discussion concerning a journeyman potter, by the name of Ellis, who arrived today from Charlestown, coming of his own accord. He had been in Pine Tree, and was on his way to Charlestown, when he met Br. Bagge, and asked if he might not come here, and was told he might do as he liked, but no promise of work could be given, that would have to be arranged with Br. Aust. He understands how to glaze and burn Queens Ware, so the Collegium approves Br. Aust’s suggestion, which is , that a kiln, suitable for burning such ware, be built on the lot occupied by Br. Ludwig Meinung, which adjoins Aust’s, where the man can work under supervision. He shall receive food and clothing, and a douceur for his work, and we will learn all we can from him about glazing, of which Br. Aust already has some knowledge. It should be noted that two and a half years ago Br. Aust learned something of the art of making this ware from a traveling potter, though he had not tried to draw it from him; and that Ellis should come of his own accord makes us think that the Almighty means that this art should be established here.” (Fries v2, 762-63)
This matter was further noted by Oeconomus Marshall’s biannual report to the UEC of December 1773:
“It looks as though it would soon be necessary to make the English Queensware or Tortoise-shell, that is, a fine pottery resembling porcelain; the former is lighter than straw color, and the latter is mottled, like a tortoise shell. The matter began with a gentleman who was traveling through, and who would have liked to stay with us; we gave him lodging for some days, and some clothing, and in return he told Br. Aust how the work was done, and gave him receipts, which he knew because he had been the superintendent of a factory which made such pottery. Recently, with the wagons from Charlestown, there came a young man who had worked in that same factory. He came without invitation or encouragement, and has asked for work here. He looks promising, and we can use him so we have given him permission to stay, though only on the same terms as other day-laborers, who can be dismissed at any time. A special kiln is being built, but only a small one, and we will see how it goes; for some time our pottery has been turning out a good product not very different from Queensware.”
It would appear that Ellis worked with Aust for approximately five months, teaching him as it were, and left Salem sometime in early May as recorded in the Salem Diary at some point between May 5 and 14, 1774: “The potter from Pinetree made a burning of Queensware, and one of stoneware, so that the process is now fairly understood here. As all the vessels had to be made by hand on the potter’s bench, instead of with instruments on a potter’s wheel, they were not delicate enough for porcelain, but they will serve as a side-line for our pottery, and can be further developed. The good man found our town too narrow for him, so for the present had bid us a friendly farewell.” (Fries v2, 817)
Here, then, is a clear example of what is erroneously believed not to have happened within the Moravian congregational towns in Pennsylvania and North Carolina as well as many other ‘backcountry’ or frontier settlements. Bivins had investigated the matter in regards to this particular incident and noted that “The introduction of the more technical aspects of this delicate ware came at the hands of William Ellis, a journeyman potter from the Staffordshire orbit in England. Arriving in Wachovia in 1773, Ellis had left the ill-fated pottery of John Bartlam in Charleston, South Carolina, where an attempt had been made to establish the production of in earthenware in America.” (Bivins 37) Generally, many think that there was a very large time lag between the introduction of new creative and decorative forms in Europe and their adoption by American artisans, but this is not an accurate view of the matter. Most American artisans did tend to work much more conservatively or in a less-refined ‘folk’ style in comparison with their European counterparts, however the continuous movement of people – as has been illustrated herein – rendered the world quite a small one indeed.
Returning to the realm of firearms, given the large number of outsiders whom the Brethren encountered on almost a daily basis, it is somewhat silly to think that the varied artisans were not well-aware of what was happening within the sphere of their trades elsewhere in the colonies. Certainly the continuous migration of settlers from Pennsylvania, a good portion of them assuredly armed, must have moved more than people-only from one place to another; surely no inconsiderable number of rifles made the journey likewise. A particularly interesting visitor arrived in Bethabara on August 25, 1765: “Later a chaise came in, bringing Freidrich, Wilhelm, and Henrich Antes, of Pennsylvania, brothers of Sr. Reuter.” (Fries v1, 308) The diary notes that the Antes’ visited for two weeks, leaving “well-satisfied” on September 5. At this point in time William Antes was visiting Bethabara while Andreas Betz and his apprentice Joseph Muller were working as gunsmiths and Valentine Beck was working as gun-stocker. Speculation could of course run rampant as to what may or may not have occurred during this visit. However, one has to suspect that at the very least Antes may have spoken with fellow artisans Betz, Muller, and Beck, possibly discussing work or stylistic trends popular in Pennsylvania and vice-versa. Unfortunately no cameras were present.
As has been previously discussed, Betz departed Bethabara in 1767: “A certain man, whom we have endured with patience for some years, has moved away of his own accord and he himself must bear the responsibility of ceasing to live amongst God’s people.” (Fries v1, 350) This left Beck and Muller working in Bethabara, Beck with his own gun-stocker’s shop and Muller working in the gun-smith’s shop. It is possible they themselves might have had an outsider or two working with them periodically, or possibly another Brethren, but this is only briefly suggested via the records. After Beck had moved to Salem in 1772, the Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium note on June 10: “Inquiry was made as to whether the Single Brother Christ might work again for Br. Aust, as Br. Beck has not enough work in his gun-stock business. Br. Beck may hire him to Br. Aust, just as he has often had to hire day laborers.” (Fries v2, 700) This seems to indicate that Peter Christ [see elsewhere] had at some point previous worked for Br. Aust [Peter’s brother Rudolph Christ was Aust’s apprentice] and probably had only been temporarily working with Beck. Meanwhile that same year, Muller [following a move to Salem? Bivins noted on page 2 that “By April 1772, Salem was ready for occupancy, and a large group moved there from Bethabara, leaving this first settlement a small rural community.”] received some help of his own as the Collegium noted on October 19, “in Br. Petersen’s absence Br. Merkly announced the arrival of two Single Brethren from Pennsylvania… Br. Klotz is a sickle and nail smith. For the present he will find work with the gun-smith…” (Fries v2, 705) It would appear that by 1773 at least, if not sooner, the trades relative to firearms were somewhat fragmented into separate shops in Salem: Gunstocker Beck worked in his own shop in Salem, blacksmith George Schmidt operated a very considerable smithy which according to Bivins had “two fires” or two forges (Bivins 65). The locksmith Niels Lund apparently had his own shop [Aeltesten Conferenz, March 16, 1773: “This morning the Aufseher Collegium was informed by Br. Bonn that in the locksmith’s shop he heard various reports…” (Fries v2, 766] and Muller – prior to his departure in 1774 – was operating as “gun-smith” although it is not clear whether he worked within a specific shop of his own, on in either the smithy or locksmith shop.
It is not clear just how much business the firearms trade was drawing to Wachovia, as entries in the Records… seem to give conflicting accounts. In 1767, following an important visit to Bethabara, Governor Tryon was supplied with a number of items from that town: “Four wagons from Bethania, one from Hans Shor, and two from South Fork, started for Brunswig. They took a windmill, 478 lbs. candles, 150 lbs. butter, six bee-hives, and a new gun, from here and three bushels of rye from Valentine Frey, all for the Governor, who ordered these things while on his recent visit here.” (Fries v1, 356) Unfortunately the record does not indicate whether the ‘new gun’ was a product of Beck’s shop or an imported piece sold through the store. Given the Brethren apparently supplied all of the other items themselves, and being as it was noted the Governor “ordered” the new gun, it is likely it was stocked by Beck. If so, this must have seemed quite an honor, as the Brethren found Tryon to be particularly sympathetic and friendly to their enterprise.
Conversely, in the later part of 1768, Marshall noted in this report to the UEC that”…we have a… gunsmith, black-smith, gunstock-maker… Even if these businesses are not particularly profitable, they are indispensable, and with them we can provide ourselves with most of the necessaries of life.” (Fries v2, 606) One also recalls, the aforementioned Collegium notation indicating Beck could not supply an assistant, Peter Christ, with enough work. It is possible that because of the somewhat specialized division of labor, a low demand for new-stocked guns may have funneled much of the gun business away from gun-stocker Beck [who as was noted in the list of 1766 (see elsewhere) as working as a ‘tin-man’ also] and into the shops of Muller, Lund, and or Schmidt.
Blacksmith Schmidt was definitely engaged, at the least, in gun barrel manufacture. In the Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium for March 1, 1775, it was noted that “George Schmidt is in pressing need of money to buy iron; we will buy the 80 rifle-barrels which he has finished, paying him cash.” (Fries v2, 895) This also raises an interesting question: who was boring, rifling, and finishing the barrels? Schmidt? This was gun-smith work, but the gunsmith Muller had departed Salem the year prior in 1774. Were these barrels new old-stock? Within the pages of Traugott Bagge which have been preserved in the Salem Archives, an interesting letter can be found. It was written by Archibald Cary in Virginia on February 6, 1776, and reads thusly:
“Sir, I have not the Honor of being known to you, but perhaps from the public Character I have long moved in my name you may have heard of. I am directed to purchase a Quantity of Arms, and having oft heard that Arms are made very good in your Town, have sent the bearer Mr. Hopkins, to purchase a large Quantity; and any Bargain he makes with you, assure yourself shall be fully and duly comply’d with. I have given that Gentleman dimensions of the Arms I want, but have ordered him to purchase such Muskits as you may have should they not be exactly of the size I want others made to. I hope Sir if it is in your Power to furnish me, you will do so And by that means, lay this Country as well as myself under a great obligation.
I am Sir Your Hble. Servt. Archibald Cary.”
Fortunately, Bagge made sure to maintain a copy of his response to Carey by writing it on the back of the original letter:
“Sir, As glad as I would be to serve you in assisting Mr. Hopkins in purchasing of Arms according to your request, as much it is out of my power; The Gunsmith who lived in this Town, moved from hence 2 years ago, and carries on farming along with his business at present. He also never professed the making of Barrels to any perfection, but as to fitting up barrels for being stocked, especially rifling them, he is, a good hand, tho’ he has no journeyman nor Apprentice, & therefore never could undertake quantities to finish. The same it is with the Gunstocker here in Town, who has nobody to work with besides himself. As the Militia in this & neighboring Counties is embodying, I doubt much whether this part of Carolina will have it in its power to furnish any assistance of the kind to a neighboring Colony. Shall be glad to be serviceable to the Public & you in any other feasible Circumstance & am with regard Your very humble Servt Traugott Bagge To Archibald Cary Esqr.” (Fries v3 1347-48)
Johanna Miller Lewis noted that Muller left in January of 1774 to marry outside of the congregation (Lewis 91), and as Schmidt was selling barrels over a year later, it is natural to assume that there may have been someone else present, or possibly he himself, executing the finish-work. Bagge noted (above) that there have been no gun-smith in the town since Muller’s departure in 1774.
By 1775, the winds of change were blowing and many conflicts were subsequently destined to arise between the Brethren and local militias. On August 9, the Aufseher Collegium noted that “The guns in town should also not hang in sight, since we have conscientious scruples against bearing arms. The Brethren who have guns in their house shall be asked to keep them hidden.” (Fries v2, 898) The Salem Diary mentioned on July 18, 1776, some arms were willingly sent to the militia: “Several rifles were sent from here to Bethabara, for the use of Col. Armstrong; some were also supplied to the Brethren in Bethabara, at an appraised value.” (Fries v3, 1071) The “several rifles” were likely personal pieces owned by various of the Brethren, although as Beck was still in Salem in the role of gun-stocker it is possible he may have built some of them. This assistance rendered by the Brethren was a response to Armstrong’s letter on the previous day: “To Mr. Traugott Bagge, Salem. Sir, I came here last night and think Proper to acquent you that I think it will serve good end To let me have 2 or three Riffle guns from Salem, I will have them apraised, and if they are hurt or Damaged, they shall be paid for… Mart Armstrong.” (Fries v3, 1356) Arms were forcibly requisitioned by the militia as well: in the Friedberg Diary for March 26, 1776, “A scouting party took rifles and flint-locks from those of our Brethren who lived in Rowan County” and the entry for the following day noted likewise that “Same was done with the Brethren in Surry County, and John Hartman and Isaac Pfaff were obliged to take the guns to Valentine Frey’s.” (Fries v3, 1112)
In September/October 1776 as has been previously noted, Beck moved from Salem to Friedberg where he replaced Br. Bachhof as pastor of the congregation. As people moving through Salem steadily increased and regional militias from Virginia to South Carolina mustered and sought to outfit their troops, Beck’s business in gun stocking surely may have increased likewise. A letter from Johan Michael Braff to Johannes von Watteville written in Salem the following February (1777) reads, “My dear Br. Johannes…For the time being we have sent Br. and Sr. Valentine Beck to Friedberg, where they have fitted in and made good, but our trade in Salem has suffered much thereby, for he was a good tinker and gun-stock maker who drew many people to the town…Br. Beck is caring for the little congregation and Society in Friedberg.” (Fries v3, 1407) Unfortunately the generalized letter does not clarify which of these aspects of Beck’s business was drawing the most people, but it was likely the combination of both. Tin-and pewter-ware, being relatively inexpensive, was always in high demand anywhere along the frontier and among the ‘common’ farming folk. Even more interesting is a letter also preserved within the Bagge papers which was written by one John Luttrell Esq. at “Chatham,” a little investigation indicating that this would have been Colonel John Luttrell originally of Virginia and subsequently Hillsborough, Chatham County, North Carolina where he was “Clerk of the Crown” by 1770 and quite wealthy. He served in the Ninth North Carolina Regiment during the Revolution and was wounded at Lindley’s Mill in September, 1781, dying soon after. [from Luttrell – Kentucky Ancestors, BY THE Rev. Terril D. Littrell, Ph.D.] The letter reads as follows:
Sometime ago I recd, a letter from You informing me that my gun was finish’d and in your possession. The bearer waits on You for it, pray me good Sir deliver him the Gun & he will pay You the 25:12 [pounds/shillings] that You write me I am to pay for the stocking etc. I have been inform’d that the English hath left Charlestown. I should be glad if You wou’d write me whether You know anything of the matter.
I am Yr Hble Servt J Luttrell
Salem July 16th, 1779. Rec’d of Traugott Bagge the within mentioned Gun for John Luttrell Esq. by me
Test George Bievighauss George McDaniel X his mark”
Even given the rampant inflation of the war period, this would seem to have been an expensive gun. What is extremely curious is that Luttrell specifically mentioned that the piece was new-stocked, which of course then begs the question: Who stocked it? In 1779, the only gun-stocker noted in the records was pastor at Friedberg. [Friedberg Diary, May 30, 1778: “Muster was held, and some of our men attended. One of them reported that my name was on the list, but as they did not know my first name it was read as Mr. Beck, the Moravian Minister.” (Fries v3, 1275)] Is it possible that Bagge funneled this particular job to Beck in Friedberg, not wishing him to return as-yet to Salem? Or could Bagge have obtained the gun elsewhere? Was this a rifle or a smoothbore? Unfortunately this is no way to determine the truth to this somewhat mysterious matter.
During the year 1777, a flurry of people and letters flew back and forth between Pennsylvania and Wachovia. The Brethren, a large number of them retaining strong ties with the Moravians in Bethlehem, made sure to keep abreast of what was happening there as the theater of War moved from New England and the coast into Pennsylvania. Some of this information contained within the Salem Diary was of a personal and myopic level, as can be seen in a simple but sad entry for June 12, 1777: “We hear that a young Johann Schneider, who was brought up in the School for Children in Nazareth, has been killed in service in Canada.” (Fries v3, 1153) Other entries evidenced much concern for what was happening to the entire congregation in Bethlehem: “Br. Heckewalder received a letter from Johan Muller, which reported that in Bethlehem the Single Brothers House had been cleared out for the chief army hospital; Thirty Single Brethren had gone to Christianbrunn and the rest were divided among the families. One hundred wagons had come loaded with stores for the Continental Army, and 1500 men to guard them…” (Fries v3, 1168) A few days later, on November 11, they received additional confirmation of this: “A gentleman came to our tavern last evening…He reports that three weeks ago he passed through Bethlehem, that he counted 1200 wagons in and near Bethlehem, that no more fences were standing in or outside the town, that all of the handicraftsman had stopped work, that nothing more could be bought there, in short that this hitherto fair town looked like desolation.” (Fries v3, 1168) Six days later, November 17: “A German from Allentown, near Bethlehem, confirmed the reports given under the date of the 11th.” (Fries v3, 1169)
As has been previously discussed elsewhere, Bethlehem’s location and the importance of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, during the 1777-78 period probably rendered it a hotbed of all manner of activity. Such martial activity was extremely stressful to the Moravians there, as was the local militia in Rowan County to the Moravians on the Wachovia tract. July 18, 1778: “This morning Phillip Stolz’ brother passed with his wagon; he said he passed through Bethlehem four weeks ago, but the Brothers House was so full of soldiers, Regulars and Militia, that the tavernkeeper Jost had advised him not to stop over night…” (Fries v3, 1236) It is somewhat ironic that much accurate information regarding what was happening in Bethlehem, approximately 500 miles north of Salem and a three to four week journey, should be contained in the records kept in North Carolina. This only serves to better illustrate the speed with which settlers, artisans and information traveled, even to and from a ‘backwoods’ location such as Wachovia. As conservative as the Moravians were, they were not in any way an isolationist sect and would seem to have promoted a sense of high accomplishment and possibly even competition amongst their artisans. Competition within the congregation themselves was of course strictly controlled: “In a Gemein Ort [closed congregation town] no one can start a business, open a store, or begin a profession, until the Congregation has recognized and installed him as a Master-workman. If a business, store, or profession, is already being carried on in the town all other Brethren who wish to work in it, whether they come from Europe or Pennsylvania or grow up here, shall be considered as journeymen under the Master-workman, and shall be personally responsible to him.” (Fries v2, 724) [This philosophy would seem to mimic one of the stipulations set forth in a rather lengthy ‘Brotherly Agreement’ composed in Bethlehem in 1762, just as the first steps towards semi-privatization of the Oeconomy were being taken: “No resident shall practice another trade than the one that he has begun with the knowledge and will of the Committee, nor shall he impinge on any other business in the settlement.” (Moravian Archives, Bethlehem)] However, it was not desirable to lose business to outside artisans and as the Records… have demonstrated, the artisans as well as the church elders did not take issue with utilizing the knowledge of traveling journeymen or others to better their commercial crafts provided the situation was monitored closely.
Furthermore, as John Bivins has pointedly noted in Moravian Decorative Arts in North Carolina, “…here again is opened before the student of decorative arts: the irresistible urge to identify the material culture of the Moravians in some vague fashion with the social and religious mores that the ancient church had adopted over the centuries. To be sure, the Moravians approved of restraint and conservation in daily life…This does not mean, however, that because the Moravian artisans had accepted the doctrine of the church, they sought to embody stylistic restraint in their work.” (Bivins 3) Bivins goes on to infer that the most essential force behind the growth of Moravian communities such as Bethlehem, Nazareth or Salem, was the constant drive for self-suffiency as well as a thriving system of trade. These craftspeople, most initially recruited from Europe, were paramount to the church goal of a series of congregational towns basically modelled after Zinzendorf’s estate-town of Hernnhut; the products of their hands would thence be used to fund the towns themselves, to fund the German headquarters of the Unitas Fratum and to fund the ever-expanding missions scattered around the world. As is best stated by Bivins, “the ultimate result was a series of towns – often on the frontier where relatively few trades had been extent – that could boast of a full compliment of artisans prepared to fashion many articles that otherwise would have had to be imported.” (Bivins 3) What the Moravians were able to accomplish, therefore, was to bring the initial light of accomplishment via well-trained artisans to otherwise marginal areas: Northampton County, Pennsylvania ca. 1740 through the 1760s and Rowan County, North Carolina ca. 1750s through 1770s. These tradesmen, particularly in terms of the gun-smiths and gun-stockers, were likely not the only skilled men of their professions in either region [or at least we must assume, based upon a combination of tax and land records in conjunction with unsigned surviving pieces], but it is likely that the steadily-rising, good reputation of the Moravian products instigated a drive for accomplishment among local non-Moravian artisans who wished to remain employed by the local populace.