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Halle group calls upon Ebenezer
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Sabine Proeschel, left, takes a look at the ceremonial pineapple given to her by Francis Hutto, right, of the Georgia Salzburger Society in front of the Johann Martin Boltzius statue. Hutto explained the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Nearly 280 years ago, the people who would be Effingham County’s first European residents gathered in Germany to begin a trek that took them to The Netherlands, England and eventually to the new settlement of Savannah. Last week, a group from Halle, Germany, made the trip to see where those original Salzburgers established their new homes.

“For me, personally, this is history come alive,” said Sabine Proeschel, the city of Halle representative on the trip. “Understanding the process of what the settlers went through is understanding what America is all about. To see this and for the wonderful people to illustrate it is just amazing. It means a lot to me.”

The original civic and religious leaders for the Salzburgers, Johann Martin Boltzius and Christian Gronau, were teaching at a Halle orphanage when they were assigned to accompany the Salzburgers from England to the Georgia colony. Boltizius’ detailed letters and diaries have provided historians and genealogists with an intimate and often revealing look at the Salzburger settlements.

The trip from Halle was part of the Halle Opera soloists performing Handel’s “Messiah” on Friday evening with the Savannah Philharmonic. Gregor Handel, the composer of renownded “Messiah,” was a Halle native.

The visitors toured the Jerusalem Lutheran Church, the brick edifice that is the longest-serving Lutheran church in the U.S. and the oldest building in the state. They also visited the Salzburger museum that once housed the Ebenezer settlement’s orphanage. Friday’s inclement weather prevented a stop at the original Ebenezer location, which the Salzburgers left for a new home on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River in 1736, two years after landing in Georgia.

Halle and Savannah signed a sister city agreement in October 2011, and Proeschel said the visit last week was “just awesome,” even as a storm swept over the visiting delegation Friday morning.

“I love the city. It’s got beautiful architecture,” she said. “I can understand why it’s such a big tourist destination. It’s so different from any other American city I have been to.

“We’ve been to the beach and seen some sunshine and now we have some rain, so it’s all fine. We’re very happy.”