There was a homecoming this past Labor Day at Ebenezer: Seven very old books present in Effingham County’s early Salzburger community, held by Newberry College in South Carolina for many years, were returned to their place of origin. The Rev. John Derrick, director of alumni affairs and church relations at Newberry College, formally presented the old volumes to the Georgia Salzburger Society at its annual meeting in Jerusalem Lutheran Church on Sept. 3. Martha Zeigler, curator of the Georgia Salzburger Society’s museum, where the books are now displayed, received the historic old volumes from Pastor Derrick.
In September 1989, while on campus at Newberry College, these old books were identified by the late Rev. Raymond Davis, a researcher of various topics of Salzburger history and culture, and Dr. Hermann Winde, a church scholar visiting from Germany. The names of two early Lutheran pastors at Ebenezer, Christian Rabenhorst, who came from Germany in 1752, and Johann Ernst Bergmann, who came in 1786, appear in several of the books, clearly identifying the old volumes as coming from early Ebenezer.
The odyssey of the old books
During the late 1700s, these old books were held in the town of Ebenezer, a center of learning and education in the colony of Georgia. Around 1840, when the center of German Lutheran education in the region of Georgia and South Carolina had shifted from Ebenezer to German-American communities near Columbia, S.C., the books were given to a Lutheran school and seminary in Lexington, S.C. When Newberry College was founded in 1856, the old books became part of the college’s library holdings.
Finally, this year, a decision was made by Newberry College officials to return the books to Ebenezer, where they could be viewed and appreciated at the place of their historical beginnings.
A rare classic
Among the old books is a classic, a 1608 Latin edition of the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic story of ancient Rome. Inside the front cover is this inscription:
“C. Rabenhorst 1764 (?) ex donatione W - - ek possidet.” The translation is “Possessed by C. Rabenhorst as a donation from W - - ek 1764.” Christian Rabenhorst, a Lutheran pastor at Ebenezer, came to Georgia in 1752. There are inscriptions in his handwriting at the end of the book in Latin and French. These notes and the inscription on the inside of the front cover indicate that Pastor Rabenhorst was an accomplished scholar, who, in addition to his native language, German, could read and write in Latin and French. In Georgia, he also became fluent in English.
An Old English Bible
Another interesting volume is an old English language Bible, published in 1746 in Leipzig, Germany. An old black letter inscription at the beginning indicates the owner was another pastor who came to Ebenezer from Germany, Johann Ernst Bergmann.
These words are transcribed as “Johann Ernst Bergmann from Pehritzsch by Eilenburg 1786.” Pastor Bergmann arrived at Ebenezer at the end of that year. Dr. Juergen Groeschl, archivist at the Francke Foundations in Halle, Germany, wrote of Pastor Bergmann’s place of origin in Saxony: “Eilenburg is near Leipzig, and Pehritsch still exists and is written in the same way today.”
An old medical book
Among the old books is another very interesting old volume with a German title that translates as “Surgery with everything that pertains to Oral Medicine.” This book, published 1739 in Frankfurt and Augsburg, even includes instructional illustrations.
The leading candidate to have been the owner of this work is Ludwig Mayer, a medical doctor identified as a surgeon in early Ebenezer records. Mayer, who came to Ebenezer in 1741, was from Memmingen, a town located near Augsburg. In viewing this old book, one wonders: Might this be the oldest existing medical book in Georgia?
These volumes are also in the collection:
A Bible commentary in Latin, published in 1720, which was owned by Pastor Bergmann: “Daniel, and the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.”
A 1735 sermon and commentary in German, published in Halle, Germany, Der Geburth des Heligmachers, which translates as “The Birth of the Savior.” This work, by Siegmund Jacob Baumgarten, a professor of theology, was one of two Christmas Day sermons preached by the author in the school church at Halle.
Another volume owned by Pastor Bergmann: “Plain Directions for Reading the Holy Bible,” published in 1708 in London.
A little book in Hebrew, published 1730 in Halle, Germany, whose owner is not known.
All seven of these old volumes are now displayed as a special exhibit in the Salzburger Museum at Ebenezer (open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m.).
This was written and researched by Vince Exley, with information from and several translations by Dr. Juergen Groeschl, Archivist, Francke Foundations, Halle, Germany. Photographs by Barbara R. Scott. This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: email@example.com.