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Celebrating 250 Years of Salem

  • George Washington's visit to Old Salem

    From WXII last week, a bit more about Salem’s most famous visitor.


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    One of Salem, North Carolina’s most famous guests was President George Washington, who paid a historic visit to the town 225 years ago. In 1791, Washington toured the southern states to complete an inaugural promise of visiting every state that ratified the constitution. As part of the tour, he wanted to create a bond between citizens and the federal government. In an age long before phones, television, radio, and the internet, face-to-face interaction was essential. In addition, Washington felt that in-person visits were fitting for a President of a Republic, as a representative of the people, and were a way to distance the new government from a monarchy. As one of the newer states, North Carolina was an important stop on his tour.

    He arrived in Salem on May 31 and was greeted by a brass band—trumpets, French horns, and trombones. During his visit, he studied the waterworks system, visited the choir houses and schools and the “place of worship,” and spoke to the townspeople. Washington was familiar with the Moravians, two of his nieces attended the Moravian school in Bethlehem, and admired their order, discipline, structure and self-sufficiency.

    Old Salem is celebrating this momentous visit at their Spring Festival: A Visit with George Washington on May 21. There will be hands-on activities, historic demonstrations, and a visit with George Washington, himself, as re-enacted by Dean Malissa. Malissa is the official historical portrayer of George Washington at Mount Vernon. His scholarship and research about Washington, combined with his natural charisma, allow him to embody President Washington and bring the man and his history to life. In addition. Old Salem will have historic fire engine drills, hearth cooking, make and taste opportunities, and much more for the whole family! For more information, visit oldsalem.org.


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    Did you know?

    That Old Salem is growing a cucumber in its gardens from seeds that trace back nearly 150 years. Uncle Jim Schutt’s heirloom cucumber seeds were donated to Old Salem in 2014 by a family with deep Moravian roots. A family heirloom from at least the 1870s, and likely earlier, this cucumber has been grown over multiple generations. In this family, cucumber seed was saved at the end of the summer, and the seed cucumbers were “laid under a tree for a bit.” They didn’t realize it was special to save seed but “thought everyone did.”

    Seed saving is an important part of the Old Salem Horticulture Program’s commitment to sustainability. Traditionally seed saving was part of every growing season; however, lifestyle changes have diminished this ancient practice. Older plant varieties offer many advantages over the newer hybrids, including taste and scent. For example, many of the heirloom flower varieties have wonderful fragrance that has been lost in the process of hybridization.

    You can buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds at Old Salem’s Garden Shop at T. Bagge.


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    #moravianarchives #oldsalem25 #moravian #onthisday


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    Trades in Salem

    Although only Moravians lived in Salem, it was an important center for commerce and trades in the region. Moravian and non-Moravian visitors and neighbors came to Salem to purchase goods and services, and their support was critical to the success of the community. Many of the Moravians who settled in Salem were talented artisans who created objects for everyday use as well as decorative items. At the age of 14, many boys moved into the Single Brothers’ House and, following the traditional apprenticeship system practiced in Europe, worked with craftsmen in the town to learn a trade.

    During a trip to Old Salem today, visitors can see a variety of historic trades being practiced just as they would have been in the18th and 19th centuries, including: Tailor: The tailor made garments for the men of Salem and had the difficult balancing act of trying to stay in tune with the latest fashions while also following the directions of the Moravian elders about what attire was appropriate. At times, when the tailor had more work than he could handle, Sisters were enlisted to help with the sewing, although this sometimes caused minor tensions between the tailor and the Sisters. Shoemaker: A visit to the shoemaker’s shop in Old Salem offers a glimpse into the tools (lasts, hammers, awls) and methods used in the early 19th century to make shoes. Shoes were made from leather on a “straight last,” which means the shoes are symmetrical. Over time, they stretched to fit the contours of the feet. Potter: Salem’s pottery was held in high regard throughout the Carolinas because it was not only durable but also beautiful. Pottery-making was the largest commercial enterprise in Salem and included crafting dishes, tableware, storage jars, and more. Salem’s potters also experimented with a variety of glazing techniques including tinglazing (faience), which was rarely used in America at that time. Joiner: Woodworkers were essential to life in early Salem and were skilled in carpentry and cabinetmaking. They made tables, chairs, shelves, desks, case goods, window sashes, and doors for the residents. The Joiners’ products reflected their German origins in their proportions and simplicity of form. These craftsmen took great pride in producing items that were beautiful and used finely grained wood, turned and carved details, and elaborate moldings.


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    April 1772

    Sister Oesterlein begins looking after little girls in a “school room” of the Gemein Haus. From this humble beginning Salem Academy and College of the future will grow.

    Source: The Founding of Salem, 1766, a Time Line (Moravian Archives)

    Learn more about the history of Salem College & Academy here.


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    Five Brethren went from Bethabara to Salem on April 7, 1766, to fell trees and hew logs for the dayworkers cabin. As soon as he can, Michael Ranke will transport building stones to the site and also draw the logs together about where the horse trough stands.

    Surveyor Reuther has also gone to Salem to once again measure the fall of the springs. He finds that the upper spring on the east side of the ridge could be led to the street behind the high knoll which has been proposed for Salem Square. That’s the block to the north of today’s Salem Square.

    Source: 250th Day By Day (Moravian Archives)


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    Of the eight pioneer settlers of Salem, February 19, 1766, six remained there as residents, and when life’s race was run were laid to rest in the Salem “God’s Acre.”

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

    On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, God’s Acre in Salem will serve as the location of a very special tradition for local Moravians, the 244th Annual Easter Sunrise Service. You can read about this service here at homemoravian.org.


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    Thanks to the Moravian Archives, we know that by March 13, 1766, Salem’s original settlers have planted one apple tree and 40 peach trees. 


We'll see you this evening on the West Street Patio (adjacent to the The Flour Box Tea Room and Cafe) for Thursday Night Music in Old Salem featuring Evan & Dana!
Details: www.oldsalem.org/events/event/thursday-night-music-in-old-salem/

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Let your kids unplug this summer and connect with history during one of our Summer Adventure summer camps! Old Salem offers camps for children in grades 1-12 with a wide variety of activities to engage in. Space are filling, so reserve your spot today!


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Old Salem Museums & Gardens added an event. ...

Talbots Shopping Event for Old Salem

May 31, 2016, 4:00pm - May 31, 2016, 8:00pm

Our friends at the Winston-Salem Talbots invite you to an evening of shopping and refreshments, with a portion of proceeds benefiting education and restoration at Old Salem Museums & Gardens! 10% of pre-tax sales made between 4-8 p.m. will be donated to Old Salem. (Be sure to mention Old Salem at checkout). As always, thank you for your support of Old Salem Museums & Gardens! For more information, contact Tabatha Renegar at 336-721-7352/trenegar@oldsalem.org.

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Enjoy this video about the 250th Anniversary Commemorative Walk that took place in February to kick off our anniversary celebrations.
Video by Video by Zachary Philip (www.zacharyphilip.com)

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As a part of Saturday's History Meets Horsepower event, our bakers have created a Gefleckt Cake, a delicious, limited-run treat featuring specks of American Heritage Chocolate. These single-serving cakes will be available for purchase Winkler Bakery this weekend! ...

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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