Christian Triebel

Birthplace: Goldlauter, Hanneberg
Residences: Goldlauter, Hanneberg; Bethabara, North Carolina; Salem, North Carolina
Trades: Carpenter, Gravestone Cutter
NC Work Locations: Bethabara, Salem, Bethania, all in Forsyth County

Building Types: Residential; Religious; Public;
Styles and Forms: Half-Timber,

Christian Triebel (November 6, 1714-April 16, 1798) was a founding member and the first master carpenter in the Moravian community of Salem, in central North Carolina. His work is indicative of the “Old World Skill,” that was the trademark of the early workers in Salem. Triebel was one of the first to train the first generation of North Carolina carpenters. During the pre and post-Revolution periods Triebel was responsible for raising some of the oldest buildings standing in Salem today.

Christian Triebel left Europe in November 1754 and arrived in Wachovia on October 11th 1755 after a brief stint in Nazareth Pennsylvania. Triebel went to work in the new town shortly after. In Bethabara he built the millhouse and several other buildings.[1]

Triebel was quite the character. In his own memoirs he recants his early days as a hooligan in Henneberg. However he found God through the Moravian Church and became a peaceful individual, though gruff in attitude. Brother Traugott Bagge reflected on Brother Triebel’s character in 1766, “Br. Triebel is surely a faithful brother on his part, and although he often has much to object to and expresses himself somewhat roughtly, it must be said that he has worked very hard at his trade, made harder because he has always been alone and that is just now for us and for him the most difficult thing in Salem. Otherwise I regard him as one of the most faithful in the Choir.”[2]

He was one of the original eight builders who left Bethabara to construct Salem. Here in 1766 he prepared the lumber and framed the First House with his apprentice Rudolf Strehle. For the Second House he pulled help from the nearby settlement of Bethania for aid in framing the two-storey house.[3] His memoirs remark in his involvement in the Third House, Fourth House, and Fifth House.[4] In 1768 he is mentioned preparing the lumber for the Schmidt House.

His memoirs mention he had a hand in most of the main buildings and houses in Salem, though either too humble or too numerous to name. It is likely safe to guess he spent time on the Builder’s House Site, Miksch House, Brewery, T. Bagge Merchant, and the Anna Catharina House.

In 1769 Triebel worked with master mason Melchior Rasp on the Gemeinhaus. This was one of the major buildings in Salem as it served as the religious gathering place for the Moravians. Noted on beginning on the 6th of November 1769, this Congregation House was essential to the Moravian way of life. This house was not only a place of holy meetings, but also a house to fulfill the needs of the community.

In 1772, Brother Triebel advised an outside carpenter on the 15 foot high Muddy Creek Bridge and served as oversight for the Moravians for this conduit. This bridge helped to open up Salem to trade with Bethabara, Bethania, and the Great Wagon Road. The Aufscher Collegium mentioned explicitly how difficult trade would be without this bridge.[5]

Triebel was also a gravestone cutter by trade. In June of 1772 the Aufscher Collegium sent Brother Utley to secure several stones.[6] While it is not mentioned much in his records, it is mentioned he was the main maker and seller of these markers. In the Moravian tradition these stones were simple square or rectangle markers, documenting the name and lifespan of an individual.

In 1774 he built his own house at his own expense at the modern corner of Academy Street and Main Street. This house was approved by the Collegium on the condition he housed the night watchmen in an upstairs room. He did so for several years before the night watchmen moved out. Later he would open it to the town.

In later years Christian Triebel served mainly as the pipe maker for the town of Salem. He had the only wood boring tools in the area.  On April 15th 1773 he installed a water pump at the T. Bagge Merchant Shop. And in July of that year was appointed as one of the overseers of the Waterworks that would feed freshwater into Salem. He also was the main pipe maker for the surrounding towns as well as he is noted in installing pumps for Peter Hauser’s House in Bethania, and constantly involved in the upkeep of the mill in Bethabara. He also laid the pipes for Brother Steiner’s Mill in Salem in 1774.  It is noted in May 1775 that he began further additions to the waterworks in Salem when new outside help arrived bearing news of the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.[7]

In April 1775 he signed the contract to build a sawmill in Salem. This building took him a lot of time and money to build, as it was from his own expenses.

In 1776 while working on the mill in Bethabara he was involved in an incident when vagrant militia rode through the tavern and beat up several of the town members over their bill. This left him out of work for nearly a year and darkened his outlook towards much of the Revolutionary cause.

He is next mentioned working on the Bethabara Gemeinhaus repairing the wood shingles with his apprentice Strehle. He then was repairing the Sister’s Woodshed after a bad storm knocked it off its foundations in March of 1778. In October 1778 Triebel broke his leg severely in a fall working on the Bethabara mill. This injury stayed with him for the rest of his life.

In 1780, he donated his house to the community to serve as the Boys School while the building was being constructed. Over time his entire house was donated in order to serve the young men of the community. Triebel even donated his land and garden to the cause. Also in 1780 he entered a contentious period with Johann Gottlob Krause who wished to buy Triebel’s wood boring equipment and replace him at pipe making. Triebel refused to comply with Krause’s wishes and was reprimanded by the community. However, they did accept these were his tools and Triebel continued making pipes.
This included the piping for the Salem Tavern in 1784. Triebel bored the pipes that provided water to the second tavern. He was also responsible for providing the wood for the tavern, as well as the window sills used as well.[8]
This was the last major project he was mentioned in. By then he was nearing seventy years old and suffering from his leg injury years prior. In his memoirs it is mentioned he was forced to give up his trade around 1786-88.[9]
Christian Triebel was one of the original eight builders who raised the framework for the Salem community in North Carolina. He had a hand in nearly every early building in Salem, as well as lasting efforts in Bethabara and Bethania, N.C.

[1] Christian Triebel memoir

[2] Bagge to Home 21 november 1766

[3] Auf. Col.

[4] Triebel Memoir

[5] Auf Col. 6/29/72

[6] Auf Col.

[7] Auf Col.

[8] Auf col.

[9] Memoirs