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Celebrating 250 Years of Salem

  • Hearth cooking at Old Salem


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    Five things you might not know about Moravian music

    1. Christian Gregor is known as the “Father of Moravian Church music” and was responsible for the first Moravian hymnal, The Choralbuch, in 1784.
    2. Many early American Moravian clergy were also composers and wrote hymns that are still popular today. This includes “Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord,” composed by Bishop John Christian Bechler (1784-1857).
    3. Perhaps the most well-known Moravian hymn, “Morning Star” is sung annually on Christmas Eve. Another famous Christmas song, “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” was originally sung in a Moravian Church in 1821.
    4. Haydn’s Creation was performed for the first time in the U.S. in a Moravian Church (Central Moravian in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) in 1811.
    5.  Among the most famous Moravian musicians of all time is Andy Griffith, who, as a kid, sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy.


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    Christmas Decor in Salem

    The Moravians maintained their early Christmas traditions as the Salem community matured. Our period of interpretation of these Christmas traditions begins today and continues through January 1, 2017.

    Every decoration placed inside or outside a building matches the period of the building and is based on documentation, says Joanna Roberts, assistant director of interpretation. “If you go to each building, you’ll see this progression of the Christmas decorating and celebration. We really make a big effort to make sure the decoration is correct for the building you’re in. In some buildings, it’s going to be sparse.”

    The transition is evident from the 1771 Miksch House (the first family home in Salem) to the Vogler House, built in 1819.

    “The visitors like the simplicity and the purity of it,” says Brian Coe, director of interpretation in the education division.

    “We’ve stripped away all those additions, all those years, and gotten back to showing you what the original Christmas was about.”


  • Did you know

    November is election month, which turns our minds to politics. Coincidentally, this month in Salem’s history includes a tie to the government. In November of 1781, the North Carolina State Assembly gathered for a meeting in Salem. Sixty-three assemblymen and other officials were in Salem for three weeks, attending services and patronizing local trades and businesses. They were unable to reach a quorum, however, so they disbanded and departed. They tried again a few months later in January 1782 but were still unable to muster a quorum.


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    From the Moravian Archives

    After a weekend of church services in Bethabara Br. Johann Michael Graff visits Salem on Monday, October 27, 1766, and finds all the Single Brethren well and happy. Br. John Beroth still has his boys at work clearing Main Street of the felled trees. The dayworkers who cut the trees but left them where they fell still haven’t returned to finish their work. And probably aren’t likely to if they owe money to the Bethabara store.

    Source: 250th Day By Day (Moravian Archives)


  • Moravian History Speaker Series: When German Met English

    Tonight in Old Salem

    Heart Religion and the Creation of an American Identity in Wachovia, North Carolina

    The story of how Wachovia’s Moravians became American usually begins like this: Children of the founding generation succumb to the temptations of American ways and lose the religious idealism of their pious parents, who had come to North Carolina to create a religious haven where they could practice their pietistic faith.

    But the real story was actually more interesting than this tale of outside forces undermining a devout religious community. The impetus for change came not just from outside Wachovia but from within the Moravian movement itself. By 1772, Wachovia was home to an arresting blend of settlements, where Moravians of multiple ethnicities lived in diverse communities encompassing three congregation towns (Salem, Bethania, and Bethabara) and three farming congregations (Friedberg, Friedland, and Hope). Acculturation in Wachovia, as a result,was not a “melting pot” where an ethnic minority assimilated into the dominant culture. Instead, acculturation proceeded in two directions: English-speaking Moravians took on the traits of the dominant German Moravian group, at the same time that German-speaking Moravian stook on traits of the English.

    Speaker Scott Rohrer is a historian of early America whose research focuses on religion’s influence on society and the American Revolution. His 2005 book, Hope’s Promise: Religion and Acculturation in the Southern Backcountry, explored the impact of Hope and the two other farm settlements on Wachovia.

    $5 per person ($3 for college students with ID). Pay at the door, no registration required.


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    Did You Know?

    The town of Salem had one of the first organized fire departments in America. In 1785, Salem imported two fire engines from Germany. Shortly thereafter, Brother Stotz was named “Fire Master” and the town organized the first fire company in the state. In 1804, the “Market-Fire Engine House” was built on Salem Square—and today displays a reproduction of an early fire engine. On many event days as well as Science Alive and other School Tour days, Old Salem’s costumed interpreters recreate a “fire brigade.” Participants pass buckets filled at the pump at the corner of the Square down a line to the fire engine. The fire engine is then filled with water from the buckets. Today the fire engine is deployed to spray children and visitors on hot days, but back in early Salem, the Moravians were able to use the engine and hose to target fires accurately and forcefully.


  • Vogler Gunsmith Shop at Old Salem


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    Learn about the “Little Red Man”—and more legends of Salem’s past—at one of our guided Legends & Lanterns tours (October 28 and 29).

    Note: The Widow’s House and the Single Brothers’ House are one in the same. The building was re-purposed as a home for widows after the Single Brothers closed it as a choir house in 1823. It remained such until 1960.


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Nothing says Christmas in Winston-Salem quite like the line for Home Moravian Church's annual Candle Tea ...

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You can almost smell the aromas coming from this image. ...

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Only the finest accommodations for our incoming president!

Tonight, incoming Old Salem Museums & Gardens president Franklin Vagnone will spend the evening in the historic Tavern Museum (circa 1784, location of George Washington’s overnight visit to Salem in 1791), which is normally only open to visitors during regular museum hours, as a part of his "One Night Stand" blog series. Read about his past stays at historic house museums at bit.ly/1qcqWh0 or follow him tonight on Twitter at twitter.com/FranklinVagnone.

Learn more about his selection as the 11th president of Old Salem Museums & Gardens: www.oldsalem.org/?p=10119

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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