Minister. John J. Zubly was born in St. Gall, Switzerland, to Reformed Protestants David and Helena Zubly. While Zubly was still a gymnasium student, his parents left in 1736 for the Swiss immigrant enclave at Purrysburg in South Carolina before settling in Georgia. Zubly set out to join them after his ordination at London’s German Reformed Church on August 19, 1744.
Zubly preached for a time among the Salzburger community, where he met Anna Tobler, whom he married on November 12, 1746. They had one child, who died. His second wife was Ann (Pye?). The Reformed congregation in Vernonsburg, near Savannah, petitioned the Georgia trustees to appoint Zubly as their pastor; the congregation then chose another, who remained even after the trustees finally approved Zubly’s appointment. Zubly then traveled among German communities in the South Carolina lowcountry and Georgia, preaching whenever possible there and among the German Lutheran community in Orangeburg. In 1757 he accepted a call to pastor the Wappetaw Church on Wando Neck northeast of Charleston. Known for his erudition, Zubly occasionally lectured at the Independent Meeting House in Charleston and in 1759 published a collection of sermons dealing with a Calvinist understanding of the meaning of death. Later he wrote in opposition to the appointment of an Anglican bishop for the colonies. His learning led the College of New Jersey (Princeton) to confer on him both M.A. and D.D. degrees.
Zubly, however, is noted more for his political writings and involvement in public affairs, which came in 1760 after he accepted a call to the Independent Church in Savannah. There he also acquired considerable land and slaves. As tension between the colonies and Britain intensified following passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, Zubly penned several tracts sketching for a Georgia audience inclined to Loyalist sentiment various perspectives emerging in colonial political circles. Consequently, in July 1775 he was elected to the Georgia provincial congress and then selected to represent Georgia in the Continental Congress.
Although Zubly appreciated colonial opposition to British imperial policy, some of which he believed was oppressive, he remained convinced that nothing should sever ties between colonies and mother country. Hence he opposed moves toward independence, returning to Savannah in October 1775. With independence sentiment in Georgia growing, Zubly was branded a Loyalist, taken into custody by the Georgia Committee of Public Safety, and in late 1777 banished from Georgia, with much of his estate confiscated. Zubly came to South Carolina, but he returned to Savannah in 1779 after the reestablishment of a royal colonial government. Distrusted by both ardent patriots and Loyalists, Zubly remained in Savannah until his death. He is buried in Savannah’s Colonial Park.
Hawes, Lilla Mills, ed. Journal of the Reverend John Joachim Zubly, A.M. D.D., March 5, 1770 through June 22, 1781. Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1989.
Martin, Roger A. “John J. Zubly: Preacher, Planter, and Politician.” Ph.D. diss., University of Georgia, 1976.
Miller, Randall M., ed. “A Warm & Zealous Spirit”: John J. Zubly and the American Revolution, a Selection of His Writings. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1982.
Seamon, Janice Louise. “John Joachim Zubly: A Voice for Liberty and Principle.” M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1982.