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Document Number: AJ-091
Author: Beauchamp, William Martin, 1830-1925
Title: Moravian Journals Relating to Central New York, 1745-66
Source: Beauchamp, Wm. M. (editor). Moravian Journals Relating to Central New York, 1745-66. (Syracuse, N.Y.: The Dehler Press, 1916).
Pages/Illustrations: 243 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

The Moravian writers whose experiences are given in this document belonged to a pietist German sect of Protestants. Persecuted in their homeland, as the Plymouth pilgrims had been a century earlier in England, the Moravians founded religious communities in America during the early and mid-eighteenth century.

Chief among those who moved from Europe to live among Indians in the American wilderness were Augustus Spangenberg (1704-1792), David Zeisberger (1721-1808), and John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder (1743-1823). They resided for years at a time in Indian villages throughout the Old Northwest, and established Christian Indian communities called Shoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten in Ohio. Their writings provide some of the most detailed and accurate accounts of Indian life and Indian-white relations on the frontier during the eighteenth century.

Moravian Expeditions of 1745-1766

Backed by German count Nickalaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, they started towns in Savannah, Georgia, in 1735, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania., in 1741, and in Salem, North Carolina, in 1753. From these religious settlements they sent missionaries to the Native American nations of the Ohio Valley region. Unlike the Spanish missionaries in the southwest and California or the French Jesuit missionaries in Canada and the Mississippi Valley, the Moravians did not aggressively attempt to confront Indian beliefs and practices. Instead, they tried to lead by example and demonstrate the value of their devotional Christianity through ethical actions (this pacifist approach may have had less lasting effect, since two generations after they left the Iroquois, no Indians could recall that Moravians had ever been among them).

Document Note

The journals, diaries and reports in the present volume record their efforts to reach out to the Iroquois on the northern border. Accounts by Spangenberg and Zeisberger predominate, though mention is made of the others. Heckewelder’s long and meticulous Narrative… of his work in Ohio and Pennsylvania is AJ-120.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The University of Virginia’s “New Religious Movements” website offers detailed background information at

Moravian College maintains a portal with many links to documents at

The Bethlehem Digital History project at brings together archival material, music, images, visitors’ accounts, and much more.

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