We see the name “Wachovia” all over GuilfordCounty as it is the name of our most successful banks. There is also a Wachovia Drive near Freeman Mill and Coliseum Blvd. Of course, to our west in Winston Salem there is the WachoviaCenter and several streets with name Wachovia, and a WachoviaArborChurch.
The name Wachovia was associated originally with the purchase of a tract of almost 100,000 acres of unoccupied land by Moravian Germans mostly from Pennsylvania in 1852. Indeed, most of the interior of North Caroline was settled not by families coming up from the coast but by people moving down form the already populated northern colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland via the “Great Wagon Road,” which itself followed the well worn pathway of the “Great Warriors Path” used by the Iroquois in their hunting, trading, and raiding trips southward.
Pennsylvania had become the destination of choice for various German immigrants (Lutheran, German Reformed, and Moravian) as well as the Presbyterian Ulster Scots, all of whom held in common that they had experienced persecution and trouble in their homeland and were drawn to the opportunity of religious liberty in the new Pennsylvania colony. So popular a destination was it that by the middle of the 18th century land prices had risen greatly and there was simply not enough land left for the steady flow of immigrants.
On the Moravians part, they traced their origins to the great preacher of Bohemia (present day Czech Republic) John Hus, who led one of the significant pre-reformation reform movements in the early 1400’s. Eventually Hus was condemned by the church, declared a heretic, and burned at the stake in 1415.
Hus’s followers, called Hussites, turned Hus’s religious reform movement into political and military revolt against the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire. Though this led to increased independence for the Czech region (Bohemia, Moravia, and Slavakia), it did not lead to the purity of Christian life and doctrine Hus had hoped for. So in 1457 the Hussite “denomination” officially broke from Rome and formed, the “Unitas Fratrum” (Unity of Brethren) which was able to negotiate some recognition from the Catholic Church. It thrived for almost two hundred years throughout the Czech region.
However, the complex war known as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) resulted in the complete devastation of the Bohemian/Moravian homeland and the end of the organized “Unitas Fratrum.” The Hussites went underground for over a hundred years and suffered many persecutions. Many fled.
Around 1722 some of these “Hussites” or “Moravians” or “Brethren” ended up in acquaintance with a young Christian nobleman named Count Zinzendorf in Dresden in SaxonyGermany. Zinzendorf was moved by their plight, and soon many hundreds of Brethren and other persecuted Christians found refuge on the great estate. There they worshipped together, founded a community called Herrnhutt, and before long they covenanted together to form a new fellowship which came to be known as the “MoravianChurch.”
Moravians left Saxony in great numbers as missionaries to all parts of the world. Many came to the New World for that purpose as well, to do mission work amongst the Indians and white settlers and t develop communities that exemplified their ideals. Their first major settlement was in Pennsylvania and was given the name “Bethlehem.” They also founded Nazareth and Lititz, PA.
Meantime vast stretches of inner North Carolina were still unsettled. Although the Lord Proprietors had sold their interest to King George II in 1729, one proprietor, John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, had not. His piece was a 60 mile wide piece of land running from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and lying between North latitudes 36° 30' on the north and 35° 34' on the south, the former being current NC/VA border, the latter running just above Seagrove in Randolph County.
Earl Granville was anxious to populate his territory and approached Bishop Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg (also known as Brother Joseph) head of the MoravianChurch in Pennsylvania, about the prospect of buying and settling some of Granville’s property. So in 1752 Bishop Spangenberg led a small party via EdentonNC to look over and survey land toward the mountains. After much exploration and many difficult travels Spangenberg decided that the Moravians would purchase just under 100,000 acres of land in present day Winston Salem.
This land they named Wachau-the-Aue for “meadowland, as the land resembled a valley in Austria where many of the Moravians had once lived. Later this was Anglicized to Wachovia.
The next year Brother Joseph led twelve men from Bethlehem down the Great Wagon Road to Wachovia, where they laid the foundations of the first settlement there, which they named Bethabara, a Bible name in the King James Bible in John 1:28: