This unique settlement of Lutheran refugees from Salzburg, Austria, was included in the Lutheran Synod of South Carolina until the formation of the Georgia Synod in 1860.
Ebenezer, founded in 1734, was located some twenty-five miles up the Savannah River on the Georgia side. This unique settlement of Lutheran refugees from Salzburg, Austria, was included in the Lutheran Synod of South Carolina until the formation of the Georgia Synod in 1860. Its early inhabitants caught the imagination of many on both sides of the Atlantic because of their courage under persecution, their industry, and their singular piety, which made its impact on the surrounding society. At the time of the Revolutionary War the settlement numbered some two thousand, second only to Savannah in the colony of Georgia.
Two pastors provided both secular and spiritual leadership for the Salzburgers: Johann Martin Bolzius and Israel Christian Gronau. The extensive diaries and correspondence of the dominant partner, Bolzius, provide remarkable insight into the history of the settlement and shed light on nearby German settlements in South Carolina. Ebenezer, blessed with strong pastoral leadership, for a time regularly sent sermons and devotional literature to South Carolina German Lutherans, who were less well organized. Since the Ebenezer colony sustained a rather somber piety, the Salzburgers became increasingly critical of their South Carolina neighbors, who seemed to them more intent on economic gain than a life of discipleship. The exemplary character of the Salzburgers inspired praise from such notable visitors as John Wesley and George Whitefield, the latter characterizing Ebenezer as the biblical land of Goshen in the midst of Egypt. Whitefield was also a benefactor, securing contributions to help support the settlement.
The Revolutionary War led to much plundering of Ebenezer property and caused devastating conflict among the inhabitants. Never regaining its earlier prosperity, the community gradually dissipated. In the last half of the twentieth century the historic Jerusalem Church was restored and nearby a Lutheran retreat center was established.
Jones, George Fenwick. The Georgia Dutch: From the Rhine and Danube to the Savannah, 1733–1783. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
–––. The Salzburger Saga: Religious Exiles and Other Germans along the Savannah. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.
Strobel, P. A. The Salzburgers and Their Descendants. 1855. Reprint, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1953.