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Celebrating 250 Years of Salem

  • From the Moravian Archives


    Exactly where was Br. Christoph Schmidt’s brickyard in Bethania? That is an interesting question that hasn’t been answered until now. Frankly, we hadn’t considered Bethania as an industrial center, but rather a farming community that provided wagoners whenever Bethabara needed goods transported to Charleston or Bethlehem.

    Shortly after the Schmidts arrived in Wachovia on November 4, 1755, he set to work making bricks in Bethabara, instead of continuing the weaving trade in which he had been trained in Europe. They were among the first Moravian couples to move to the new town of Bethania on April 10, 1760, and evidently he took his newfound trade with him, so that when bricks and roofing tiles were needed for the building of Salem in 1766 they came from Bethania.
    And then Mo and Martha Hartley, resident archaeologists at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, declared that years ago they had seen a map of Bethania with “brick house” marked on it

    That got us to searching at the Moravian Archives, and bingo! It isn’t a map but instead Christian Gottlieb Reuter’s 1763 survey booklet of the land Christoph Schmidt rented in Bethania. On Br. Schmidt’s lot “IV.h.” in Black Walnut Bottom just above Bear Creek, Br. Reuter has written “Ziegel Scheune” — brick barn. Here it is, along with town lot No. 23a, where the Schmidts lived (just below the Opizes on lot 22) and the orchard lot No. 23b, which the Schmidts also rented.

    (Brother) Br. Schmidt’s brickyard also appears on Br. Reuter’s well-known May 6, 1766, map of the Bethania Town Lot (2,000 acres). There in the bend of what is now Bethania Road just beyond the old service station in the Bottom on the left going to Bethania, Br. Reuter has placed a tiny square. We had never noticed it before. Now we know it is Br. Schmidt’s brickyard, where Salem’s first bricks and roofing tiles came from.

    Isn’t it neat what industrial enterprise you can find in farming community Bethania when you are busy celebrating the 250th anniversary of Winston-Salem.

    Okay, you Bethania history hunters, now is your chance to dig up the town’s first industrial center. (But be sure to do it under the careful supervision of (Old Salem) archaeologists Mo and Martha Hartley).

    Source: 250th Day By Day (Moravian Archives)


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    Illuminate Salem

    In celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the founding of Salem, NC, enjoy a concert each night on Salem Square followed by a magical light show that tells the story of Salem. Bring your family and a picnic blanket and experience the story of Salem in a most unique way.

    These evenings are presented with support from Flow Automotive Companies.

    Musical performances (made possible by generous support from Salemtowne Retirement Community):

    Following each musical performance, a light show created by Norman Coates of the Winston Salem Light Project will be projected on the Single Brother’s House. The twenty-minute show, which utilizes photos, video, words, and music, will tell the story of the town of Salem beginning with its founding and continuing through its 250-year history in a unique and visually stunning way.

    Illuminate Salem is FREE and open to the public, but the donation of nonperishable food items for Sunnyside Ministry is encouraged.

    This event is being held in conjunction with our 250th Anniversary Community Day on August 13.


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    Where Salem’s founders came from

    Source: Records of the Moravians In North Carolina, Volume I, Adelaide L. Fries, M.A., Ed., 1920


  • Keeping time in Old Salem an act of 'constancy'


  • Dozens become American citizens in Old Salem


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    Salem NC - July 4, 1783

    The Revolutionary War ended with the Preliminary Treaty of Peace signed in Paris on January 20, 1783. North Carolina Governor, Alexander Martin, made the official announcement to the North Carolina General Assembly on April 19 and the Assembly instructed the Governor to designate July 4th as a day of public thanksgiving. Only the Moravians heeded this directive and thus, their celebration of peace on July 4, 1783, is the earliest documented celebration of Independence Day in the United States.

    The Moravian towns in Wachovia all celebrated the day in various ways, which included church services, lovefeasts, prayers, instrumental music, hymns of thanksgiving, and ringing of bells.

    Salem had the most extensive celebration and the Salem Diary for Friday, July 4, 1783, described it well.  In part it says:

    According to the order of the government of this State we celebrated a day of thanksgiving for the restoration of peace. The congregation was awakened by the trombonists. At the beginning of the preaching service the Te Deum was sung… At two o’clock there was a happy Lovefeast, during which a Psalm of Joy was sung with thankful hearts…In the evening…the congregation again assembled in the Saal, and the choir sang…Then the congregation formed a circle in front of the GemeinHaus, and from there passed in procession through the main street of town, with music and the antiphonal song of two choirs…Hearts were filled with the peace of God, evident during the entire day and especially during the procession, and all around there was silence, even the wind being still.

    Pictured is artist John Clymer’s painting of the original 4th of July celebration in America, which took place here in Salem in 1783. The painting was commissioned by the American Cyanamid Company as a tribute to Winston-Salem on its 200th anniversary in 1966.

    A special thank you to John Foltz for sharing with us your program from the 1966 celebration, which included this piece featuring the Single Brothers House.


  • Archaeology Interns Unearth Pieces of History at Old Salem

    Grateful for a wonderful team of archeologists who have put in a tremendous amount of effort (in intense summer heat) to help us uncover more information on the early innovators of Salem, NC.


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    It will be the sixth year that Old Salem has held a Naturalization Ceremony on the same spot where the first official July 4th celebration in the U.S. took place in Salem in 1783. Each year, dozens of people from 27 different countries have become new American citizens during the annual Naturalization Ceremony on July 4 in Salem Square.

    The Ceremony is conducted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff and begins at 10 a.m. with special music, the Pledge of Allegiance, and speeches by several dignitaries. This year the keynote speaker will be Kay Hagan, former United States Senator for North Carolina. Perhaps the most moving and inspiring part of the event is the administration of the Oath of Allegiance and the presentation of certificates to the new citizens.

    Admission to the Naturalization Ceremony is free. Streets around Salem Square will be temporarily closed to vehicles during the event.


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    From Relish (Winston-Salem Journal)
    Photo credit: David Rolfe/Journal

    Archaeologists digging for answers in Old Salem

    By Kathy Norcross Watts Special Correspondent                                                

    Two 5 foot by 10 foot excavation units being dug on Lot 38 in Old Salem hold artifacts that further document the innovative and artistic heritage of Moravians — and it is this heritage that forms the foundation for today’s “City of Arts and Innovation.”

    The work is meticulous. Archaeologists carefully remove the dark dirt with trowels and shovels, snipping roots along the way. Shovels full of dirt are sifted through screens to capture bits and pieces of history.

    “People think treasure is gold doubloons and things like that,” said M. O. Hartley, director of archaeology at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. “For an archaeologist, the treasure is in the broken fragments; the meaning is in all of those fragments and their relationship to one another. That’s why we take the ground apart so carefully. It’s in the relationships that the story is.

    “The reason we want to look at Lot 38 is because that’s where (Rudolph) Christ built his experimental kiln,” Hartley said. “He built several kilns over there. We’ve seen a part of one of them partially exposed in 1975 when they were reconstructing the Van Vleck house.”

    Early test excavations found kiln furniture, Hartley said. Part of the technology includes “setting tiles” which are flat tiles that have been ribbed so that the pots don’t adhere to the kiln during firing.

    “In the mix above where we think the floor is, they found a setting tile that has been salt glazed: salt glazing means stoneware,” Hartley said.

    Finding stoneware is important because records indicate one of Christ’s innovations in pottery was toward stoneware, Hartley said. But Moravian pottery before and after his time is lead-glazed earthenware. Hartley said that they hope Lot 38 will answer what Christ was doing…

    Read the complete story at journalnow.com


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    Town Builder Nils Petersen

    Born April 3, 1717, in Danish Holstein, Nils Petersen lived more than 87 years, and was the last of the Town Builders to die. In his old age he loved to tell the rising generation stories of the founding of Salem. He was the Town Builders’ cook and Diary writer back then in 1766, and together with Gottfried Praezel he held morning and evening prayers for the company.

    Petersen never married, but passed his days in the Brothers House, which he had helped to build, superintending the distillery, one of the industries carried on for the support of the house. When Salem Congregation was organized he was elected to the Aufseher Collegium (board of trustees) and “by the choice of his Brethren and of the whole congregation” he remained a member for 30 years. During the same period he was by turn business manager and spiritual leader of the Single Brethren, and “his industry, faithfulness, and punctuality” won for him the love and high esteem of all.

    In 1774 he was considered for ordination, but he lacked two skills essential for Moravian ministers at the time, for Br. Petersen had “no gift either for singing or speaking.” And so he remained a “silent, priestly Brother.”

    Though increasing deafness finally forced him to resign his official positions his general health remained good, and he rarely missed a church service, saying that though he could hear little “he could still feel the presence of the Savior, and could rejoice to be with the assembled congregation.” His last months were a gentle slipping away. “If weakness is illness then am I indeed ill” he often said with a smile, as he eagerly awaited the summons home, which came November 4, 1804.

    Pictured above: Gravestone of Nils Petersen in Salem God’s Acre

    Source: 250th Day By Day (Moravian Archives)


Thursday Night Music in Old Salem tonight! We welcome Dana & Matt to the West Street Patio (Adjacent to the The Flour Box Tea Room and Cafe at137 W St. SW) beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Details www.oldsalem.org/events/event/thursday-night-music-in-old-salem/

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Onion bread, fresh out of Winkler Bakery, being buttered and wrapped ...

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Tomorrow (July 27) marks our final July Noontime Organ Recital performance. We welcome Raymond Ebert, Organist Emeritus, Centenary United Methodist Church, and Wake Forest University Carillonneur to our 1800 Tannenberg organ.

This FREE recital takes place at noon in the James A. Gray, Jr. Auditorium of the Old Salem Visitor Center (900 Old Salem Road). www.oldsalem.org/events/event/tannenberg-organ-recital-series/

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For our Boy and Girl Scout leaders, save the date for our fall Scout Day on November 5, 2016. Take advantage of discounted admission (if booked in advance) for a wonderful day filled with hands-on activities and demonstrations. Bring your troop to celebrate 250 years of Salem, NC!
Details: www.oldsalem.org/events/event/scout-day/

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The Town of Salem

Experience early American history in the unique Moravian settlement of Salem. Original structures, gardens, tours, artifacts, hands-on workshops, fun family events and shopping.


Stroll through award-winning restorations that create a landscape reminiscent of early Salem where utility, practicality and beauty united. Tours, workshops and plants for your garden.


View history through objects and material culture. Tour a wide range of early southern artistry, craftsmanship and stories found in the world class collection of decorative arts from the early American South, 1660-1860.

Old Salem Museums and Gardens, 600 S. Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101 Phone: 336-721-7300 | visitwinstonsalem.com