Records of the Moravians among the Cherokees

By Denson, Andrew | The Journal of Southern History, May 2012 | Go to article overview

Records of the Moravians among the Cherokees


Denson, Andrew, The Journal of Southern History


Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Volume 1: Early Contact and the Establishment of the First Mission: 1752-1802; Volume 2: Beginnings of the Mission and Establishment of the School: 1802-1805. Edited by C. Daniel Crews and Richard W. Starbuck. (Tahlequah, Okla.: Cherokee National Press, c. 2010. Pp. [xxviii], 426; [xii], 427-862. $50.00, ISBN 978-0-9826907-0-3; $50.00, ISBN 978-0-9826907-1-0.)

In 1800 Moravians from Salem, North Carolina, established a mission to the Cherokees at Springplace, in present-day northwest Georgia. For more than thirty years the missionaries operated a model farm, kept a small school for Indian children, and labored to interest their neighbors in the Moravians' particular brand of Christianity. Though the Moravians won few converts, they became keen observers of affairs in the Cherokee Nation and left behind a superb collection of documents on nineteenth-century Cherokee history. Rowena McClinton recently made some of the riches of that collection available through her fine edition of the mission diary (The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees [Lincoln, Neb., 2007]). Now, the Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Cherokee National Press have begun an ambitious effort to publish even more of the mission records in a proposed six-volume compilation of letters, missionary reports, and other documents.

These first two volumes cover the Moravians' early contacts with Cherokees, efforts to interest tribal leaders in a mission, and the early years at Springplace. While some of the records have been published before, much material appears in print and in English translation for the first time. The documents include several excellent travel narratives, detailed correspondence between missionaries and Moravian leaders at Salem, and descriptions of the missionaries' official meetings. These records illustrate vividly the difficulties Moravians faced in their early work. Cherokees expressed virtually no interest in Christianity during these years, which the missionaries found deeply discouraging. …

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