Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Records of the Moravians among the Cherokees

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Records of the Moravians among the Cherokees

Article excerpt

Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Volume 3: The Anna Rosina Years, Part 1: Success in School and Mission, 1805-1810. Edited by C. Daniel Crews and Richard W. Starbuck. (Tahlequah, Okla.: Cherokee National Press, 2011. Pp. [xvi], 863-1462. $50.00, ISBN 978-0-9826907-4-1.)

Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Volume 4: The Anna Rosina Years, Part 2: Warfare on the Horizon, 1810-1816. Edited by C. Daniel Crews and Richard W. Starbuck. (Tahlequah, Okla.: Cherokee Heritage Press, 2012. Pp. [xx], 1463-2078. $50.00, ISBN 978-0-9826907-5-8.)

In 1753, Moravians, members of a Pietistic Protestant group from Germany, settled in the Piedmont of North Carolina. These colonists were energetic missionaries and unflagging record keepers; the Archie K. Davis Center in Winston-Salem now houses the documentary archives of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church. The facilities are inviting, and the staff is welcoming, but scholars of southern history have not been able to make good use of the resources available there for one simple reason: most documents were written in old German script. To make these records more accessible, donors have sponsored several translation and publication projects, including that of the records of Moravian relations with their Cherokee neighbors.

The southern Moravians established a mission among the Cherokees in 1801 at Springplace, which was then located in the Cherokee Nation and is now in northwestern Georgia. In 1805 Anna Rosina Gambold and her husband, John, assumed leadership of the mission. These two volumes include material from the couple's correspondence, records, and diaries interspersed and arranged in chronological order.

The mission was small and struggling when the Gambolds arrived, but Anna Rosina's devotion to the well-being of Cherokee children won the friendship of important Cherokees--though converts remained few. In part, the couple wrote about the hardships they endured while working to grow the mission, but because Springplace was located near the home of James Vann (the complicated and troubled Cherokee leader and businessman whose story is told in Tiya Miles's The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story [Chapel Hill, 2010]), the missionaries were also privy to political conflicts and witnesses to the economic, social, and cultural change experienced by Cherokees during the early nineteenth century.

During the years covered in Volumes 3 and 4, the expansion of the new United States during the early republic period, the War of 1812, and early talk of the removal of the Cherokees were background to the personal struggles of the missionaries. The Gambolds' world was at once intimate, unfamiliar, and far-flung, and their sincere desire to understand the Cherokees in order to change them is matched, ironically, by the missionaries' affection for them and belief in the decency of the Cherokee people (despite the cultural differences and personal indiscretions the Gambolds sometimes found to be appalling)--These records document the history of a single Moravian mission while revealing the shared, flawed humanity of all involved. …

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